Shore Scuba Diving 101: A Step-by-Step Guide for New Divers

Written and Reviewed By

two women scuba divers walking out for a shore dive

I remember my first shore dive in Hawaii. I was at a scuba diving camp in Hawaii at 16, getting my PADI open water certification.

We pulled up the camp van to a rocky beach, went for a short hike, geared up, and plunged into the water to start out one of the most memorable dives I’ve ever done.

long coastline of a tropical inlet

There was no need to take a crowded dive boat on the high seas, be rushed by the captain, or any of the other challenges that come with boat diving.

Since that day, I’ve made an effort to shore dive as much as I possibly could.

While not everywhere has the luxury of easy access to shore dives, we wanted to make this ultimate guide to shore diving to help you prepare for the next shore dive that you do.

And if you want to learn about our favorite shore diving destinations, we’ve also got you covered.

divers on a beach

Shore Diving Preparation

Before any shore dive, or really any dive for that matter, you’ll want to prepare properly.

The first step in preparing for a shore dive is to ask the locals or a dive shop for advice, safety tips, and most importantly area regulations. You’ll likely be renting weights and tanks from them anyway, so they’ll be happy to help.

They will know the local dive sites, water patterns, and rules, better than you ever could!

The second step to shore dive preparation is tracking and planning around water conditions. While dive shops can give you some input, having some knowledge about how tides work is imperative.

Slack tides are the ideal time to dive, and are the hour or so before and after high tide, as there will be the least amount of current and highest amount of visibility.


divers hanging out near the bottom of the ocean

In low tide, you’ll have a long walk out to the water before your swim, but all dive sites will be shallow, giving you more bottom time, the calculator will help you to gauge that. 

You can use to predict the surf and tide of most shore-diving locations around the world.

The next thing you’ll want to do to prepare for a shore dive is to notify several people that you’ll be going on a shore dive and that if they don’t hear back from you after a certain amount of time, consider alerting the authorities to look for you. It’s also highly recommended to go diving with a buddy. 

two women scuba divers walking out for a shore dive

The next thing you’ll want to do is find a reference point on the shore, that makes it easy to track where you entered the water and a compass that you know how to use in case of poor visibility. This can be anything from a building, a large tree, or a natural rock formation.

On top of a reference point, identify a few different exit points to get back on shore at the end of your dive. The same place you entered the water may not be so easy to exit from.

Lastly, you’ll want to come up with an emergency plan so that in the event of an emergency, you have a predesigned plan that you can follow.

Shore Diving Gear to Bring

two divers on the beach preparing for a shore dive

The dive gear that you take on a shore dive is pretty much the same as one on a boat, besides a few notable exceptions. First, you want to have your reef-safe sunscreen as you will be spending a lot of time on the shore and surface. 

It goes without saying a diver flag or surface marker buoy is key to bring, so any passing boats know where you’re located. In some locations, they might even be required.

Other than that, depending on your entry conditions, it could be valuable to bring dive booties, open-heeled fins, and even dive gloves. Not all shore diving locations are created equally.

If you’re entering from a smooth sandy beach, this isn’t as important. If it’s sharp rocky shores or volcanic formations covered in sea urchins, you may want to use protection.

In that case, the gear we mentioned above can come in handy.

You likely won’t be entering the water with your fins on, as they can make it difficult to walk around and navigate the shores.

shore diver applig top pick reef safe sunscreen


Dive boots are great as they still allow you to walk normally but give you extra protection against sharp rocks, corals, and even things like sea urchins. Open-heeled fins are useful considering other fins that fit you perfectly barefoot, will not fit well with dive boots on.

Dive gloves also give you a similar level of protection, and protect your hands from the same hazards we mentioned above.

A changing mat is also key for putting on and disassembling your gear at the dive site, avoiding getting sand and other debris on your gear.

Last but not least, you’ll want a dry bag to stow your gear before you can properly set it up to dry.

Dive Rite folding changing mat on white background

Entering a Shore Dive

group of divers entering a Shore Dive

Let’s start with entering a shore dive first.

Upon pulling up to your location, find a location to set up. This could be anything from a public bench, to the back of your pickup truck or a tree branch.

Put everything on besides your fins and approach the water. Walk until the water is around knee deep, so you can float in the water and place your fins on.

Now you’ll have a bit of a swim to your diving location. In calm seas, surface swimming should be fine.

In rough seas with larger waves become negatively buoyant and swim under. This will use air but will be much easier than fighting at the surface. We recommend practicing swimming if you’re going to be doing a lot of shore diving. There’s also tons of surprising benefits to becoming a better swimmer.

Once you get to the dive site, all else is the same, enjoy your dive and follow the dive plan you came up with. 

Depending on the area’s regulations and boat traffic, it may be a wise idea to deploy an SMB or dive flag.

Divers at the surface after a shore dive

Exiting A Shore Dive

Once you conclude the shore dive, it’s time to swim back to shore. Hopefully, you started your dive swimming into the current so your return back is nice and easy.

As you approach the shoreline, take your fins off at a simpler depth than you put them on initially. Continue toward the shore and time your movements so you’re not fighting the ocean.

If you packed properly, you’ll just need to make it back to your changing mat to start taking gear off.

Stay in Shape

Staying on top of your fitness is key when it comes to diving in difficult conditions.

While some shore dives can be a piece of cake when it comes to exit and entry, others can be more challenging. While diving on a boat, we choose to start the dive by swimming into the current and ending the dive going with it.

Shore divers don’t always have that luxury. We either have to plan for a time with little to no current or knowingly fight the current. Top fitness is key to safe swimming in strong currents. You can also play games and practice skills at safety stops and just keep up on your skills to make sure you feel comfortable at all times. 

some more landscape of a good place to shoredive

Advantages of Shore Diving

Shore diving has a lot of advantages compared to diving from a boat.

The first is that it’s much easier to do a trip on your time. Besides planning around dive conditions, you can really go at any time.

You can embark with a much smaller group, with no captain to order you around, or boat schedules to adhere to.

As you probably guessed, shore diving will also make your diving experience much cheaper, as the only real expenses are transportation, parking, and the air in your tanks.

Lastly, for those that struggle with sea sickness on boats, you only have to deal with potentially rough conditions upon entry and exit.

Man grilling dinner on the beach

Disadvantages of Shore Diving

There’s not too many disadvantages of shore diving that we can think of, but we’ve come up with a few. 

The first is that you may just not have access to shore dives where you live or are vacationing to. In the event of this, we recommend checking out a guide to boat diving.

A second disadvantage of shore diving is that you need to swim out and swim back. Depending on the dive site and currents this can be a lot of work and requires planning around.

You may need to cut your dive shorter than otherwise, in order to allow time for you to swim back to shore. This is increasingly important in rough conditions where swimming under the surface is much easier than at the top of the water. 

The last disadvantage if you could call it that, is that you will need somewhere to store the belongings that aren’t coming on a dive with you, like your cell phone, wallet, and car keys. 

If you’re in a remote location this isn’t as big of a deal but it’s still something to think about. I’ve had monkeys steal my shoes on the beach before, so plan accordingly!

some personal items sitting on the sandy beach

Frequently Asked Questions

Shore diving is as hard as you make it to be. If a shore diver plans properly, it can be easier than a boat dive! 

The biggest challenges when diving from the shores are planning around the tides, surf zone, and potentially exiting and entering the water.

Some dive resorts make shore diving a piece of cake, with a simple ladder or sandy beach at the entry and exit points.

Well, this depends on who you ask, but tropical islands such as Bonaire, the big island of Hawaii, and Curacao, are some of the most famous shore diving locations in the world.

Other hotspots include Australia’s Ningaloo reef, Jordan’s red sea coast, and Bali, Indonesia.

Shore diving, just like scuba diving, isn’t necessarily dangerous. Any adventure sport has its risks, but scuba diving is all about adapting to a potentially hostile environment.

We covered a few things you can do to make your shore dives safer already, but here are the things you can do:

  • Go with a buddy
  • Dive in slack tide
  • Fly a dive flag to SMB
  • Alert friends/family you’re going out
  • Use dive booties and gloves to protect skin

The best time to go on a shore dive is at slack tide. Slack tide occurs in the time shortly before and shortly after high tide. Slack tide is optimal for shore diving considering you’ll have less current to deal with and typically peak visibility.


Shore diving is an incredible alternative to boat diving that any experience diver should become comfortable with.

While you may not be able to do a shore dive near your home turf, many dive vacation destinations will.

As long as you know how to shore dive safely, simply rent a truck or van, bring some friends, fill your tanks at a local dive shop, and you’re off!

Did we miss any shore diving tips or tricks?

Let us know in the comments!

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *