When you first think of Sardinia you’re probably imagining delicious food, friendly people and ancient ruins. Not scuba diving.
But Sardinia is actually considered one of the Mediterranean’s top scuba diving destinations. And definitely deserves a spot on your diving bucket list.
This stunning island off the west coast of Italy provides an impressive array of diving from beginner to advanced, including well-preserved wrecks, archaeological remains, enticing caves, technical diving and fascinating underwater life.
Interested in diving in Sardinia but not sure where to start?
We’ve got you covered in this complete guide to scuba diving in Sardinia.
So let’s dive in.
What’s scuba diving like in Sardinia?
During the right season, Sardinia is a scuba diver’s dream with pristine waters and fascinating dive sites. From maze-like caves to historical wrecks, curious crustaceans and intriguing corals. There is a wide array of unique diving all around the island to suit every divers taste.
Sardinia is particularly famous for its shipwrecks. Because of its position in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, Sardina has been on Europe’s most travelled sea route throughout history. You can find every kind of wreck here, from ancient roman boats to World War 2 battleships, aeroplanes, submarines and cargo ships.
The abundance of enchanting caves and caverns dotted along the island’s limestone coastline is also another reason why Sardinia is considered one of the best scuba diving destinations in the Mediterranean.
You’ll find plenty of options for both boat and shore diving all around the island. As well as dedicated tech diving sites.
What can you see scuba diving in Sardinia?
Throughout the summer, Sardinia welcomes a surprisingly wide variety of Mediterranean marine life. You have the opportunity to find tuna, barracudas, huge groupers, bamboo sharks, turtles and several types of rays. As well as moray eels, octopus, squid, lobsters, scorpionfish, pipefish, seahorses and many nudibranchs.
Dolphins will frequently accompany dive boats. And if you’re really lucky, you can even spot the elusive sunfish. Your best chance is between March and June when the waters are still a little colder.
Most marine life heads to warmer waters in the winter but you’ll still find an impressive amount of macro life during these months. And stunning sea fans, sponges and red corals can be seen year-round at the majority of the dive sites.
Where can you scuba dive in Sardinia?
With over 1,100 miles of coastline, it can be difficult to know the best spots for scuba diving in Sardinia.
So to help you plan your trip we’ve pulled together our favourite areas for scuba diving in Sardinia as well as the best dive sites this island has to offer.
Archipelago di La Maddalena National Park, North West Sardinia
Established in 1994, La Maddalena National Park includes over 60 stunning islands between Sardinia and Corsica. Locals refer to this area as heaven on earth, and when you first lay eyes on the crystal clear turquoise waters and perfectly wind-sculpted islands you’ll understand why. Akin to a tropical paradise, this marine park offers more than 30 different dive sites, including shipwrecks, ancient ruins and colourful reefs.
Asinara Marine Reserve, North East Sardinia
Considered one of Europe’s most beautiful national parks, Asinara is breathtaking both above and below the surface. This area offers a seriously impressive variety of marine life and fascinating topography.
Diving is strictly controlled here in order to protect and preserve this area’s unique ecosystem. It’s well worth joining one of the guided dive tours with marine biologists to discover the rare marine species endemic to these azure waters.
Capo Carbonara, South East Sardinia
This marine protected area on the southeastern tip of Sardinia provides an interesting array of diving experiences including shipwrecks, tunnels and reefs.
Huge, stacked granite boulders have created enchanting swim-throughs and caves. Here you’ll find several fish species not commonly seen around Sardinia, including bream, damselfish and even the rare sunfish.
Capo Carbonara is also a favourite of the pods of bottlenose dolphins that cruise the south of the island.
Orosei Gulf, East Sardinia
Orosei Gulf offers many dive sites for both beginner and advanced divers, including the famous Blue Marino caves and World War 2 shipwreck, Nasello. You can explore some of Sardinia’s most beautiful underwater gardens and drift along the intriguing ridges of an ancient volcanic lava flow.
San Pietro & Sant’antioco, West Sardinia
These 2 islands off the west coast are Sardinia’s best-kept scuba diving secrets. With sightings of enormous bluefin tuna, bottlenose dolphins and manta rays, this is the best place to go for incredible wildlife.
Relatively unknown and undiscovered, the beautiful waters around San Pietro and Sant’antioco are home to ancient relics, vast underwater meadows and intriguing natural rock formations.
The Best Dive Sites in Sardinia
3 Fratelli (3 Brothers) Wreck
Resting in fantastically clear water, this well preserved World War 2 cargo ship is a dive site for wreck lovers. This dive site is also rich in schooling fish and home to many stingrays, giant groupers and scorpionfish. Lying at around 30m this dive site is only accessible to advanced divers and enriched air nitrox is recommended.
Likely one of the most famous caverns to dive in the world, Ghost cave is truly breathtaking. Just 5 meters deep, divers enter into a small tunnel that opens up into this mesmerising cave. While this site doesn’t have crazy amounts of wildlife, the structure of these caverns is 100% worth seeing.
It’s important to have good buoyancy and controlled kicks as it’s easy to kick up the silt settled on the bottom and lower the visibility.
Grotta di Nereo (Nereo Cave)
As one of the largest underwater cave systems in Europe, Grotta di Nereo is not to be missed when scuba diving in Sardinia. This stunning series of caves, arches and tunnels reach over 350m (1150 ft) deep into the mountainside.
Octopus, red and yellow corals, lobsters, shrimp, nudibranchs and Pinna Nobilis, the world’s largest mussel, are all found here as sea currents bring vital nutrients into the cave system.
Papa 1 & 2 Banks
These sandbanks, located on the east side of Tavolara island, are famous for their variety of vibrant gorgonians, including the rare yellow and red varieties. Encounter snappers, jacks and big groupers weaving between these giant sea fans and across the anemone covered walls of Tavolara It’s also possible to spot mobula rays, yellowtail tuna and moray eels here.
Grouper City or Reef
Home to a friendly colony of over 50 groupers, each weighing 30-40kg (66-88lbs), this dive site is one of the most popular dive sites in Sardinia. Get up close and personal with these grumpy looking giants as well as big snappers, barracuda, sea bass and jacks schooling above the rocky bottom.
This massive 230ft wreck, sunk by submarines in WW2, looms out of the blue as you start your descent. A seriously impressive view. Inside you’ll easily find grouper, conger eels and a variety of crustaceans. And there’s always huge schools of snapper, mullet and sea bream swirling around the outside of the ship.
When to go scuba diving in Sardinia
With hot, dry summers and cooler yet humid winters, Sardinia experiences a typical Mediterranean climate. You can dive all year round in Sardinia but conditions are best during the summer months.
Although the water can still be a little cool, May is arguably the absolute best time to go scuba diving in Sardinia. The prices are reasonable, the dive sites are relatively quiet and the visibility is excellent, up to 40m most days.
Summer (April – September)
During the summer season, water temperatures can reach 26°C (82°F) but there is normally a thermocline at around 12m (40 ft) where the temperature will drop down to 15°C (59°F).
July and August are considered the peak season in Sardinia when accommodation prices often double and dive sites can be very busy. So it’s better to avoid these months if possible.
Visibility is best at the beginning of the summer, in May and June, but the water can still be quite cold. The sea is warmest towards the end of the season in September and October, but thunderstorms are more likely.
Winter (October – March)
In the winter, water temperatures remain around 12°C (54°F), visibility is reduced and a lot of the marine life disappears. So it’s best to avoid this time of year.
But if you’re looking for a cheap deal on diving and accommodation, consider visiting at the start or end of this season when conditions are still good and prices are low.
Who to go Scuba diving with in Sardinia
There is a huge range of reputable dive centers around Sardinia., but here are a few of our favourites.
Perfectly located in the heart of a picturesque Sardinian village, Nautilus offers a wide variety of certifications and trips making them a popular option for all levels. This small and friendly award-winning dive centre boasts well maintained rental equipment, superior safety standards and fast, comfortable boats.
Orso Diving Club always provides a 5* service, from the moment you walk into the shop you know you’ll be well looked after. In addition to recreational and tech diving, Orso Diving Club also offers snorkelling, freediving and whale watching, making them the perfect choice for groups with a variety of interests.
Tavolara Diving offers a range of recreational and technical diving including introductory dives on rebreathers! A highly experienced yet down to earth team provide excellent customer service and personalised attention. They truly care about every diver and are excited to welcome all levels.
Areamare Diving Center sits in a beautiful bay facing La Maddalena National Park. With this highly eco-conscious dive center it’s not just about seeing marine life but learning more about them as well. Small groups are led by a passionate team of scuba enthusiasts eager to share their knowledge with divers. They focus on comfort and pleasure, both in and out of the water.
Where to stay when scuba diving in Sardinia
Although Sardinia is relatively easy to travel around it’s still one of the largest islands in the Mediterranean so it makes sense to stay in or near the areas you want to dive in. Sardinia offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets including hostels, hotels and full-service resorts.
If you only have 1 week, we recommend picking one area, for example, Costa Paradiso in the North, where you can enjoy both the Asinara and La Maddalena Marine parks.
But if you have more time, we recommend staying in a few different areas to really make the most of scuba diving in Sardinia. We recommend basing yourself in Orosei in the East and Cagliari the South if you want to be able to access the widest variety of dive sites.
Or if you’re looking for a more relaxed setting and untouched dive sites, consider a stay on the relatively undeveloped and beautiful island of Sant’antioco.
What else is there to do in Sardinia other than scuba diving?
Not only is Sardinia considered as the Mediterranean’s premier scuba diving location, but it also boasts possibly the best beaches in all of Europe and a great nightlife scene.
Or if you want a change from the stunning ocean scenery there’s a ton of picturesque mountain terrain to explore. Hiking and horseback riding are very popular in Sardinia. And don’t forget to visit the famous albino donkeys in the Asinara National park.
Sardinia’s rich history means there’s plenty of monuments, museums and archaeological sites to discover. Highlights include Su Nuraxi Nuraghe, a UNESCO world heritage site, the old mines of Buggerru, Nebida and Masua, and the ancient city of Tharros.
And if you’re looking to fully immerse yourself in Sardinia’s culture, make sure you plan your visit around one of the island’s summer folklore festivals. Full of rich traditional, colorful costumes and delicious food.
How to get to Sardinia
The quickest and easiest way to reach Sardinia to fly. There are 3 different airports; Cagliari-Elmas Airport, Olbia Airport, and Alghero-Fertilia Airport, with several flights per day from most countries in Western Europe and many domestic flights from other areas of Italy.
You can also travel to Sardinia by ferry from mainland Italy, Sicily, Corsica and Barcelona. And once you are in Sardinia, it is easy to travel around the island via hire car, taxi, bicycle, bus or train.