How to Choose the Best Dive Shop for Your Vacation

Checking a dive shop’s site and a travel app isn’t usually enough to verify a safe shop that will mesh well with you and your diving style. Use these questions to choose the best dive shop for your vacation.

A cursory check of a dive shop’s web site and skimming a travel app isn’t enough to verify good dive standards and find a shop that also meshes with your diving style. Talk to the staff in person or via phone/email, using the questions below to choose the best dive shop for your vacation.

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Research the shop’s reputation

Unfortunately, bad dive shops abound. Ask around for recommendations and then review the shop in detail.

  • What do your dive buddies say about the shop?
  • How well-reviewed is the shop on travel sites such as TripAdvisor and Undercurrent?
  • What do people on dive-centric social media sites and forums such as Scubaboard say about the shop?
  • Are official complaints lodged against the shop, such as those in the consumer alert from the Better Business Bureau recently in the news for a Florida shop?
  • How do the local dive clubs rate the shop?
  • Do multiple trusted sources recommend the instructors?

Keep in mind that even the best dive shops have bad days and a diver occasionally leaves unhappy, regardless of how the dive shop performs. If someone writes a bad review, evaluate its validity in comparison to other reviews.

Confirm whether the shop can deliver your ideal dive experience

What excites me as a diver is probably different from what excites you. Ask the questions important to you, verifying that the answers match your specific preferences.

  • How does the shop conduct dives and what is the dive schedule?
  • What is the maximum number of people per dive? How many DMs per diver?
  • Does their boat type and the distance to the dive sites work for you?
  • Do the dive sites/types match your experience and preferences at the time of year you’re there? Do they require a minimum number of divers to dive specific times or sites?
  • How are dive-site requests handled?
  • Do they have the brand and size of equipment you prefer if you’re renting?
  • What constitutes acceptable facilities and amenities to you, and are they available at the shop?
  • Will the shop meet your specific needs and avoid things you dislike? For instance, I hate smoking and unhappily discovered it common for the captain and DMs to puff away on my small dive boat in between dives at one shop.
  • Do YouTube videos from different visitors depict a day of diving at that shop which you’d enjoy?

Determine the dive shop’s approach to safety

Accidents occur, but an unsafe shop sometimes presents warning signs.

  • Is everything clean and well-maintained upon close inspection?
  • How experienced is the shop and the staff? You can also verify the shop’s dive agency and instructor’s affiliation via an agency’s site such as PADI’s Pro Chek tool.
  • How new is their rental gear and how often do they service it?
  • Can you review the latest certificates and are they up to date?
  • What is the shop’s safety record?
  • What emergency equipment does the shop maintain?
  • Where is the closest hyperbaric chamber and are processes in place for emergencies? Some great dive sites are far away from help, but the shop should have a plan in place for problems. 

Establish whether the shop makes you feel comfortable and eager to dive with them

Jaded staff and a shop fixated on quick cash do not create an enjoyable dive environment. A good dive shop will make you feel happy.

  • Is the shop enthusiastic about local diving?
  • Are they helpful in answering your questions?
  • Does the staff make you feel wanted?
  • Are they flexible?

An ideal dive shop should make you feel welcome, safe and excited to dive. If you have any doubts, even if it’s just a funny feeling, find another shop.