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, Sardinia boasts an unusual and extraordinary underwater world that is within everyone’s reach.
The Mediterranean is the cradle of civilization and Sardinia is positioned right in the center of it. Its surrounding seas have not only been a safe haven for the movement of ancient peoples and cultures, but also the stage of several world wars. And as a result, there’s an unrivaled variety of fascinating wrecks to explore.
Although many of these are located at unreachable depths, considered military sanctuaries, or hold dangerous cargo, there are still plenty of these underwater museums that you can explore on scuba.
The archaeological remains found here will take you back in time to the epic naval battles between ancient peoples for the domination of the seas; marble slabs, columns, wood, anchors, these extraordinary underwater museums are one of the things that make diving in Sardinia so special.
And with numerous shipwrecks still equipped for battle, armed with cannons and guns loaded with ammunition, supplies that never reached their destination, the seabeds around Sardinia are a unique insight into this region’s rich history.
Not so interested in shipwrecks?
Sardinia’s limestone coastlines if dotted with an abundance of enchanting caves and caverns that offer some seriously spectacular diving opportunities. And let’s not forget about the plethora of marine flora and fauna you’ll find in these crystal clear waters.
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 favorite 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 National Park, North Wast 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
An excellent dive spot for all levels and home to the famous Blue Marino caves, the Orosei Gulf is an area you’ll want to keep coming back to.
With vibrant underwater gardens, spectacular shipwrecks, world-famous caves and, magical drift dives across ancient volcanic lava flow, this is arguably our favorite area of diving in Sardinia.
The Orosei Gulf is where you’ll find one of the most beautiful wrecks in the whole of the Mediterranean, the KT12 as well as the wonderful Nasello.
Although the Blue Marino caves are only accessible to certified cave divers, there’s still plenty of incredible sites for those without technical qualifications.
San Pietro & Sant’antioco, West Sardinia
Located on the west coast, these two spots 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.
Tavolara Punta Cado Cavallo Marine Protected Area
Tavolara Punta Coda Cavallo MPA covers over 58 square miles of sea and around 25 miles of coastline along the northeastern edge of Sardinia. The vast meadows of seagrass, thriving corals, and unique geomorphological features make Tavolara Punta Cado Cavallo one of the most fertile and therefore important marine protected areas in the Mediterranean.
And with such rich biodiversity and exceptional beautiful underwater scenery, it’s not to be missed when scuba diving in Sardinia. Boasting an unrivaled variety of marine flora and fauna including humongous gorgonians, mobula rays, tuna, giant grouper, octopus, and much more.
The Best Dive Sites in Sardinia
KT12 Shipwreck, Orosei Gulf
Resting in fantastically clear water, this well preserved World War 2 armed German cargo ship is arguably one of the most beautiful wrecks in the Mediterranean. Sunk on the 10th of June 1943 by a British submarine, the torpedo fired completely broke away the bow of the vessel and can be found around 300m from the wreck.
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 mesmerizing 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.
Thanks to the enormous quantity of flora and fauna species, this site is considered to be one of the top 10 most interesting dive sites in the whole of the Mediterranean.
Grouper City or Reef,
A mile east of Lavezzi island, in the middle of Bocche di Bonifacio strait which divides Sardinia from Corsica, we find one of the most popular diving spots in Sardinia known as the City of Groupers. Home to a friendly colony of over 50 groupers, each weighing 30-40kg (66-88lbs). 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 looms mysteriously out of the blue as you start your descent. Lying at 39m, this is a site for deep or technical divers but it’s a seriously impressive view.
Unknown for years, this wreck has recently been identified as the French vessel known as Qued Yquem, which was torpedoed by a Dutch submarine in 1941. It’s now a truly magnificent wreck comprised of wood and metal just about held together by thousands of nuts and bolts.
Inside and underneath the various fragments surrounding the wreck 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 and above 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 favorites.
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 center 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 snorkeling, freediving, and whale watching, making them the perfect choice for groups with a variety of interests.
With over 35 years of experience, Tavolara Diving is a fantastic choice for all levels of divers. They offer a wide range of recreational and technical diving, both open circuit and closed circuit, including introductory dives on rebreathers!
Their highly experienced, yet down to earth team, provide excellent customer service for both groups and individuals thanks to their personalized approach. 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. Or you could try basing yourself in Villasimius in the South if you want to be able to access Capo Carbonara and the wrecks in the Gulf of Cagliari.
Or if you’re looking for a more relaxed setting and untouched dive sites, consider a stay in the relatively undeveloped and beautiful area of Sant’antioco to enjoy the lesser-known, but equally impressive, dive spots on the west coast.
But if you have more time, we really do recommend staying in a few different areas to really make the most of the variety of scuba diving in Sardinia.
What else To do in Sardinia Besides 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.
Alexa Worswick is a PADI and SSI scuba diving Instructor, recreational freediver and freelance copywriter. She first learnt to scuba dive in the UK aged 15 and has since travelled and dived in multiple locations across 3 different continents. After quitting her marketing job in London in 2016, Alexa is now based in Indonesia where she can pursue her passion for the ocean fulltime.