Diving Vacation Dilema

My wife recently reveled to me that for my 40th birthday, she will let me go on a short trip to celebrate my transition into middle age. My first thought was Hedonism in Jamaica, but then she told me that she would be traveling with me. Blew that idea out of the water. So now, I’m trying to think of a nice diving destination to travel to for my 40th birthday and I need some help.

First up, if you know me, you would know that I’m only 38. So why am I trying to plan a trip two years away? Because I’m poor. Only dirt has less money than I do. Because of the lack of funds, my wife and I need to save up for this little trip. Hence why I’m doing some planning now.

Like everything in life, there are some rules my wife set for this trip.

  1. My wife has to go.
  2. Can’t cost a lot of money
  3. Can’t be gone much longer than 4 or 5 days

Since my wife will be going and she doesn’t dive, there needs to be something for her to do while I’m diving. This ruled out a liveaboard as I don’t think I could survive being on a small boat with my wife for 5 straight days (as much as I love her). I hate it, but this has also ruled out shore diving in Bonaire. I would have to find an insta-buddy or tag along with a dive store/group which isn’t how I picture my birthday celebration.

Because we don’t have a lot of money or time, this rules out awesome destinations like Australia or Fiji. So it would have to be someplace near the US. I’ve already listed some of the places I’d like to dive before I die, this trip, unfortunately, won’t be on that list.

I thought about visiting my friends in the Pacific Northwest and California areas and teach them how to really dive. But the idea of lugging my dry suit and thick undergarments (and dealing with all of the lead that goes along with them) doesn’t really appeal to me. I have a lot of friends in those areas and I will always have a floor to sleep on any time I want to visit, but sleeping in Lynne and Peter’s barn for my 40th birthday doesn’t excite me much. Having access to doubles and scooters does excite me though!!!

I need to be someplace warm where I can find someone to dive with and there are non-diving activities for my wife to do. I’m asking for your help. Where can a diver go with a non-diving spouse that is close to the US?

About Duane Johnson

Duane Johnson is the founder of Precision Diving and runs a scuba diving blog to help scuba divers improve their diving skills and enjoyment. He teaches recreational and technical scuba diving classes in the Chicago area. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @PrecisionDiving.


  1. Snowblind says:

    Maria la Gorda, Cuba. Amazing beach, great diving. Shorties only ;)

    • Does the US allow travel to Cuba?

      • Snowblind says:

        Sorry, I’m not american, so I’m not immersed in your national legislation HOWEVER … a quick online search provides:


        The thing is, the cuban package holiday advertised in europe is mostly the Varadero Beach thing, located on the northern coast, which is basically any beach in the world. Rent a car and drive to Maria la Gorda, it’s worth it, plus you get to experience the real Cuba, which is pretty much hidden. It is, or at least was in 2004, a secluded paradise beach. Look into it, I’d highly recomend it.

  2. amy says:

    Well… what does your wife like to do? That’s probably pretty important. :)

    When it comes to bang for buck, Cozumel is my choice. On the island you have sand, sun, beautiful beaches*, an interesting cultural experience if you are comfortable getting off the beaten path, and amazing diving that couldn’t be easier. Scootering (on land, not the underwater kind) around the island is a blast. And if shopping is your thing, well, as there are two cruize ship ports, there’s that a plenty as well.

    * The beaches are beautiful — those that are cleaned up, anyway. On the backside of the island is a string of beaches that are not cleaned up and the array of garbage that washes ashore is stunning in a very saddening way.

    You can stay at large resorts with cheap “all you can eat” style services (from food drinks to diving as well) or you can stay at smaller, more personal places and have, in my opinion, a much better quality time, often for LESS money.

    Come out to the PNW sometime, though. I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time and would love to dive with you!

  3. Lynne Flaherty says:

    Well, you wouldn’t sleep on a floor here, so long as you were cat tolerant!

    But if you are looking for warm water, what about Florida? We had a very good time diving off West Palm Beach, and there are some DIR folks there who are very hospitable. There’s kayaking with the manatees, and sunbathing, and I assume there are some restaurants somewhere . . . It’s not hard to get to nor was it prohibitively expensive. And there would be the Keys, too, as an option.

  4. Robyn says:

    Key West has shopping, diving and people watching.

    • Ben McCandless says:

      I was going to suggest the Keys too. I was just there in August as an adult leader with a scout troop, and there’s a nice variety of things to dive – countless reefs and wrecks. (The Vandenburg is off of Key West, the Spiegel Grove off of Key Largo, and the USCG Duane – can you resist? Here’s a longer list: http://www.scubadiving.com/travel/florida-florida-keys/florida-keys-wreck-guide)

      There’ll be beaches for your better half, and the various little towns have some fun shopping. Key West has a sunset celebration at Mallory Square every night, there are good restaurants, there’s some fun museums (Earnest Hemmingway’s house had a surprisingly good tour, I also went to visit Mel Fischer’s Treasure Museum, Harry Truman’s Little White House, and the Key West Light House). You don’t need to fixate on K.W. either – we spent a while in Islamorada, which was really cool. It looks like there are lots of little places to stay all through the keys, so no need shell out for big name places.

      As a plus, travel there is pretty cheap, especially as you are planning this so far out. Flying into Key West can be pretty expensive, so we chose to fly to Ft. Lauderdale and rent a car. From the airport, it’s about a 3-4 hour drive to Key West – through the keys (big sacrifice, let me tell you).


  5. Heather says:

    I second Cozumel, we’re on our 3rd trip there this year and love it! Plenty to do for non-divers, fun, safe, easy to navigate, and great diving too. Since we’re on our 3rd go round, we’ve gotten the price to pretty cheap, like about $1200 per person for 8 days with 5 days of diving. Plus it’s close enough that travel time doesn’t suck up too much of your 4-5 days. Totally not an ad, but we’ve really fallen in love with Coz this year!

  6. I Are Diver says:


    Awesome diving and fantastic historic value, and the beaches are excellent!

  7. Scot says:

    The great thing for you is that from Chicago, you can get anywhere pretty easily and much more cost effectively than from many locations. If you don’t have them already, be sure to plan well in advance to get your passports and any needed immunizations!

    My top five with your (and your wife’s) requirements:
    1. Cozumel (just love that place) Margaritas, great food, great diving, fun shopping (plan to haggle).
    2. Bermuda, just because I have always wanted to go there ; – )
    3. Bahamas, easy to get to, fairly inexpensive, lots to see
    4. The Florida Keys, there are just SO many non-diving things to do.
    5. Cuba, IF the US will ever lift the stupid travel ban.
    The planning is half the fun!

  8. steve says:

    Let me second Cozumel with a side trip to cenotes. You’ll only need one day in the cenotes and it’s a 45 minute ferry plus a short drive on the mainland.


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