Two female divers about to jump into the water and dive during their open water lessons

How Much Does Diving Certification Cost?: Overview + Prices in 5 Popular Spots

Your first step to getting to explore the underwater world to the fullest is getting certified to dive.

But first off, most people ask — how much do you need to shell out (pardon the pun) for your underwater passport?

The cost of dive certification can vary more than my mood swings when I haven’t logged a dive in a months…. joking! 

There’s a pretty wide range of costs, which depend largely on where you’re diving.

But one thing is for sure — I only really recommend getting open water certified somewhere where you have access to an ocean.

If you don’t live close to the sea, it’s often worth it to travel to get your dive certification.

Two girls sitting together with their regulator near their mouth, all the scuba gear on, about to jump into calm waters

While there may be some local dive centers that are close to you, I don’t recommend this if you want to dive in the open ocean.

Typically, with these types of dive centers, you can learn the skills in a pool (also known as ‘confined water sessions’ and then do your open water dives in a lake or quarry.

But freshwater and pool diving is a very different setting than tropical ocean diving, which is what most people who learn to dive aspire to dive.

I would recommend looking for certification courses that have the majority of the scuba diving taking place in the open ocean.

It’s OK to have 1-2 pool sessions, as these are less intimidating than other settings.

But honestly? I learned right away in the ocean when I got my PADI certification in Nicaragua, and I thought it was the best way.

No pool training, just open-water dives and getting thrown right away into the beautiful coral reefs of the underwater world: a whole new world was unlocked immediately!

Dive Certification Agencies

person in a pool during a training dive while getting their padi or ssi scuba certification

Now, let’s talk about the major players in the dive certification game!

There’s PADI, which is short for Professional Association of Diving Instructors — or, among divers, it’s earned the affectionate-ish nickname of ‘Put Another Dollar In’.

It’s definitely the big kahuna of the dive world, known for its wide acceptance and comprehensive courses, but it’s not the only one.

Other options include NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) and SSI (Scuba Schools International), and both will definitely certify you and get you prepared to dive underwater!

But it’s not as widely understood as PADI, where every dive shop will know the certification levels like the back of their hand, so that’s one thing to keep in mind.

The PADI Open Water Diver Certification is the most widely-known beginner certification, so it’s most people’s first choice when looking for scuba lessons.

Average Dive Certification Costs

Person doing a mask removal skill in the diving training courses
The dreaded mask removal skill… a rite of passage for all new divers

The average scuba certification cost varies quite a bit, so it’s hard for me to give one pithy answer… 

I mean, that’s why this is a long post that breaks down dive certification costs in different parts of the world — it varies that much.

However, after checking certification costs for this post, I’ve been able to narrow it down to a range.

Keep in mind this only covers the cost of the classes themselves, except in the instances I’ve outlined where sometimes they include accommodations as well.

However, note that these accommodations are often dorm-style, so if you don’t want to stay in a communal sleeping style accommodation, that’s something to be aware of.

The cheapest diving certification costs I found are in Bali, Indonesia where you can get certified for as little as $225 USD (price given for Amed for SSI certification, not including accommodations).

A runner up closer to North America is the Bay Islands of Honduras, where you can get certified for as little $280 USD in Utila for SSI certification or a more comprehensive package where you can do your PADI Open Water Course, extra fun dives, and all the accommodations during your licensing for a $355 USD total cost.

Both have incredible diving and good conditions for learning, with warm waters and mild currents — the perfect learning conditions!

Then, the middle-of-the-road costs tend to be in the $400-500 USD range, which includes destinations like Mexico, the Philippines, and more.

What Does Open Water Certification Include?

Group getting trained at a local dive shop with an instructor leading the group in a pool setting

You should make sure that the diving course you are choosing includes all the necessary educational materials and that those aren’t an extra added cost.

Sometimes, a dive shop will offer the chance to do e-learning or online courses before you arrive, so that you can do the educational part at your own pace before you arrive, and just focus on the dive skills once you get there.

I did that when I got my advanced open water certification in Cozumel and I was glad that I got to do independent study of the e-text books rather than sitting through it in a physical classroom session.

I would recommend that if it’s an option because it’s kind of boring to sit through the educational part while you’re on your trip! 

Note that if you do this, you typically pay the course fees individually to PADI or similar and not the dive shop. Just be sure you’re not paying twice!

Your certification cost should include all rental gear at no additional cost — be sure they give you a computer or be prepared to rent one for an additional fee.

While you technically can dive without a computer using dive tables, it’s not recommended. 

Even if you know you will be diving within NDL limits, having a dive computer is essential later in your dive travels and should be the first thing you buy (after your own mask, etc.) since it’s an important safety tool.

What to Know About Getting Open Water Certified

Two female divers about to jump into the water and dive during their open water lessons

It’s important to know that you don’t need any prior experience with scuba diving before enrolling in your open water class.

While you could have done a discover scuba dive before, it’s not necessary — you’ll get all the dive training for a solid foundation in being able to scuba dive.

Technically, you will be fully trained to have the necessary skills to plan and execute a dive with a buddy after finishing the certification process.

That said, I still recommend diving with divemasters and doing guided dives for a while until you feel really confident in the water before doing your own unguided dives.

I’ve dove over 100 times and I still always dive on a divemaster-led excursion! 

That said, it doesn’t have to be a dive shop – you can also go diving with a local diving club which you can usually find on Facebook or similar.

It’s important to know the conditions of the dive sites you are choosing, and until you’re really familiar with an area or are at a high level of diving competency, it’s a good idea to always go with a guide still.

2024 Diving Certification Costs in Popular Destinations

Utila, Honduras

Diving in Utila Honduras with a beautiful honeycomb cowfish on the reef

Getting to Utila can be a bit of a pain (first you have to fly to Roatan, Honduras and then you have to take a ferry) but you’ll be richly rewarded with some of the best diving in the Caribbean — and some of the lower cost of scuba certification on the planet!

Sea fans and hard corals, a glut of tropical fish in every color you can imagine, and a laid-back island life vibe — Utila is a diving mecca smack-dab in backpacker paradise!

Read my full guide to diving in Utila here!

Average Dive Certification Costs as of 2024:

  • Utila Dive Center*: PADI Open Water + two bonus free fun dives + accommodations for $355 USD — also includes dive computer rental and training, very important for dive safety!
  • Tank’d: SSI Open Water Diver $280 USD, accommodation not included
  • Alton’s Dive Center: PADI Open Water + two bonus free fun dives + accommodations for $350-390 USD depending on room selected

*did my fun dives in Utila with them, highly recommend!

Cozumel, Mexico

Hawksbill turtle and diver above it

Cozumel has some of the best diving I’ve ever seen, and a great variety to boot: deep dives, drift dives, wall dives, shallow dives, you name it, Cozumel offers it (and offers it beautifully!).

While Cozumel is a great place to learn to dive, it’s an even better place to get a more advanced certification like your PADI Advanced Open Water.

This is because the deep dives in Cozumel in dive sites like Palancar Gardens and Santa Rosa Wall are absolutely incredible!

Read my full guide to diving on Cozumel!

Average Dive Certification Costs as of 2024:

*did my Advanced Open Water with them, highly recommend!

Bali, Indonesia

Aggregation of pink, orange, and yellow sea fans at Pyramids dive spot, Amed with a diver above the corals

Bali, Indonesia is one of the cheapest places do your dive course, which may seem somewhat shocking to those who think of Bali as the pinnacle of luxury travel.

The reality is that Bali has such a wide range of travel options, from influencer-esque infinity pools to humble homestays, and it can be a great affordable travel destination with access to some of the most rich marine life right off the shores!

One of the reasons why a lot of diving in Bali is cheap (if you learn to dive in Amed or Tulamben) is because it’s shore diving, reducing costs since you don’t need dive boats.

Note: I don’t recommend getting dive certified in the Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Penida area. The currents are too intense here to comfortably learn. 

Even I, an advanced diver with over 100 dives, felt really scared when diving in Nusa Lembongan because of the strong currents. 

Plus, thermoclines can sometimes plunge the otherwise-warm waters to as long as 18° C or 64° F… not exactly fun open water training dives!

​Average Dive Certification Costs as of 2024:

  • Dive Concepts Amed (also Tulamben and Pemuteran*): SSI Open Water Course $225 USD for 

* I did my fun dives in Pemuteran and Nusa Lembongan with Dive Concepts and I can recommend them 

Puerto Galera, Philippines

One of my new favorite dive destinations of 2023, Puerto Galera really has some of the best diving in the Philippines, which is why it was recently crowned the Diving Capital of the Philippines.

Why? It offers a bit of everything, from wreck dives like Alma Jane to wall dives to muck dives with nudibranchs and micro sea critters galore. 

With gentle current and sandy bottom areas perfect for learning basic skills to shallow reefs perfect for your training dives, getting certified in Puerto Galera is a great choice.

It’s a little annoying to get there from Manila Airport admittedly (you’ll need to take a bus or taxi and then a 1-2 hour ferry) — but it’s worth it once you get there!

Average Dive Certification Costs as of 2024:

*I did two weeks of fun diving with them, highly recommend — they’re locally-owned, women-owned, and all female divemasters!

Koh Tao, Thailand

whale shark while diving in koh tao thailand

Another popular place for those who want to learn to dive is Thailand… but which island?

There are many to choose from, but for the healthiest reefs in the best condition while still being easily accessible, pick Koh Tao. 

Other nice islands for diving include Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe, but Koh Tao is the most popular since you can get there easily from Koh Phangan or Koh Samui.

Koh Tao is surrounded by reefs all over with calm waters making it a perfect choice for beginner divers.

And with over 70 scuba schools on the island, it’s one of the top places for certifications in the world, second only to the Great Barrier Reef area of Australia in terms of numbers of certifications issued.

That’s a pretty tall order for a small island of just 21 square kilometers!

Average Dive Certification Costs as of 2024:

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