Are you planning a dive trip, but only have a few days to pack in as many tanks as possible? Don’t worry! The Adventure Junkies have you covered. We’ve compiled the best short diving liveaboard trips, perfect for a quick getaway. Best of all, our top picks from around the world include an itinerary for every budget and diving interest.
When planning for your liveaboard, be sure to set clear goals for the trip, like how many dives you are hoping to complete. Keep your travel time to and from your port of departure in mind, and don’t forget that you’ll need to wait 18 hours before flying home.
For more of our liveaboard recommendations, check out these popular articles:
QUICK ANSWER – BEST SHORT LIVEABOARD TRIPS
1. SPIRIT OF FREEDOM – GREAT BARRIER REEF (AUSTRALIA)
2. KING SNEFRO 5 – EGYPT
3. BLACKBEARD SEA EXPLORER – BAHAMAS
4. FOUR SEASONS EXPLORER – MALDIVES
5. MV GIAMANI – SIMILAN ISLANDS (THAILAND)
6. MV EMPRESS – KOMODO (INDONESIA)
7. PRINCESS II – PORT LINCON (AUSTRALIA)
8. SOLMAR V – GUADALUPE ISLAND (MEXICO)
9. MV CELEBES EXPLORER – SIPADAN (MALAYSIA)
10. SEA SAFARI VII – BALI (INDONESIA)
BOAT REVIEWS – BEST SHORT DIVING LIVEABOARD TRIPS
SPIRIT OF FREEDOM – GREAT BARRIER REEF (AUSTRALIA)
Photo Credit: Spirit of Freedom
With only 11 guests onboard, this boat offers more personalized service than any other option in the region. And, with itineraries lasting between 3 and 7 nights, it’s the perfect choice for divers looking for a quick trip to The Barrier Reef.
Cabins at multiple price points, four dives a day, courses onboard and rental equipment, make this liveaboard a top pick for divers of all skill levels. And best of all, even the shortest itineraries available visit this region’s most stunning dive sites.
KING SNEFRO 5 – EGYPT
Photo Credit: King Snefro 5 – Egypt Liveaboard
With a maximum of 10 divers onboard, this boat offers an intimate liveaboard diving experience. Perfect for small groups and families, this boat also has excellent charter options. Mini safari itineraries cover the best of the northern Red Sea including Ras Mohammed, Tiran, and local shipwrecks. Diving at the SS Thistlegorm is available to advanced divers.
This excellent budget option features affordable cabins with bunk beds and shared bathrooms. Vegetarian, vegan, and halal meals are available, and guests are welcome to bring their own alcohol for no extra charge.
BLACKBEARD SEA EXPLORER – BAHAMAS
Photo Credit: Blackbeard – Sea Explorer
Backpackers and budget travelers, this boat is for you! Dorm style cabins and buffet dining help keep costs low. But, the Sea Explorer offers plenty of perks like free beer and rum punch, nightly social events, and spacious common areas.
And, this liveaboard’s short itineraries hit all the best dive sites in the Bahamas. You can expect shark feeding, wrecks, reefs, walls, and guaranteed night dives.
FOUR SEASONS EXPLORER – MALDIVES
Photo Credit: Four Seasons Explorer – Maldives Liveaboard
No liveaboard dive destination is better known for luxury than the Maldives, and this boat is leading the charge. Three decks of well-appointed cabins and common spaces host 22 guests at most. Spa services and massages are available onboard, and suites include private bars and sundecks.
Waterskiing, wakeboarding, shore excursions, and kayaking are available on request at no extra cost. Chef-prepared meals, table service, and top-shelf alcohol add to the high-end ambiance on board.
MV GIAMANI – SIMILAN ISLANDS (THAILAND)
Photo Credit: MV Giamani – Similan Islands Liveaboard
Consistently reviewed as one of Thailand’s top boats, this may be Southeast Asia’s best value for a short itinerary. With 4 cabins, you can expect small dive groups, plenty of personal attention from the crew, and a family feel onboard.
Perks like an ice maker, mini fridge in each cabin, private bathrooms, and shaded decks make this an excellent choice for divers who prefer a little extra comfort. 4-day itineraries cover the very best of the Similan Islands, including Richelieu and Phi Phi.
MV EMPRESS – KOMODO (INDONESIA)
Photo Credit: MV Empress II – Komodo Liveaboard
Serious divers looking to explore Komodo or Lombok in a few days can make the most of their time with this down to earth option. The Empress is not a luxury vessel, and guests can expect onboard activities to center around diving. Facilities for technical divers and photographers are available, as is a recompression chamber.
Up to 13 guests are welcome onboard depending on the itinerary and dive plan. Buffet-style meals, shared cabins and bathrooms, and modest common spaces help keep these short voyages affordable and dive focused.
PRINCESS II – PORT LINCOLN (AUSTRALIA)
Photo Credit: Princess II – Port Lincoln Liveaboard
For the ultimate shark diving experience and the bonus of diving southern Australia’s Neptune Islands, book the Princess’s 4-day liveaboard great white experience. This vessel offers divers a chance to step inside the world’s only Ocean Floor Shark Cage. 12 surface cage positions are available as well, so scuba divers never have to take turns with the sharks.
Small groups, family style meals, and plenty of shared spaces to socialize, make this boat feel more like a floating bed and breakfast than a dive boat. Family pricing and specials for non-divers are available.
SOLMAR V – GUADALUPE ISLAND (MEXICO)
Photo Credit: Solmar V – Guadalupe Islands Liveaboard
Mexico’s most experienced liveaboard strikes the perfect balance between comfort and adventure. Amenities include pillowtop mattresses, prepared chef meals, and complimentary beer and wine. For diving, you can expect a recently updated dive deck, zodiac, individual photography stations, and top-notch shark cages.
This boat’s biggest claim to fame is an engine well-known to local wildlife. Sharks are known to approach this vessel, attracted by sound alone.
MV CELEBES EXPLORER – SIPADAN (MALAYSIA)
Photo Credit: MV Celebes Explorer – Sipadan Liveaboard
Serious divers can make the most of their trip with 4 tanks a day in Malaysia’s most famous scuba destination. Sipadan drift dives range in intensity from mild to wild and are a favorite with underwater photographers. The Celebes Explorer is the region’s best value for divers looking to maximize their time in the park.
Buffet style meals, casual accommodations, and a family-style atmosphere make this boat a favorite among budget travelers. Courses, rental equipment, and Nitrox are available.
SEA SAFARI VII – BALI (INDONESIA)
Photo Credit: Sea Safari VII – Bali Liveaboard
Short itineraries around Bali are a great way to explore a variety of underwater environments, all in one trip. Divers can expect fast-paced drifts, muck and macro “bug hunts,” and plenty of vibrant reefs.
This massive vessel can host almost 30 divers, with room to spare. An oversized dive deck, personal gear lockers, and camera table make this a good option for divers traveling with equipment. The Sea Safari offers accommodations for every budget, and short flexible itineraries range between 1 and 4 nights.
COMPARISON TABLE – FIND THE BEST SHORT DIVING LIVEABOARD TRIPS
5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING A SHORT DIVING LIVEABOARD TRIP
What do you have in mind for this trip? Whether your focus is on reefs, wrecks, specific wildlife sightings, or underwater photography, be sure to plan around a central goal. It’s best to research your destination and vessel ahead of time, and choose a specialty itinerary whenever possible.
Short itineraries also make good options for groups with non-divers and children. Some boats offer a variety of activities other than diving, perfect for mixed groups.
Some regions, like the Similan Islands, are excellent for liveaboard dive courses. Popular options for continuing education are the Advanced Open Water course, Nitrox, and underwater photography.
Do you have a specific dive destination in mind? More remote locations are best for longer itineraries, but some of the planet’s most exciting diving fits perfectly into a short timeline.
The Red Sea is an excellent choice for divers with 2 to 4 days to spend in the water. Itineraries around Sharm El Sheikh explore the best of Tiran, Ras Mohammad, and the SS Thistlegorm in 3 days.
The Indian Ocean and South Pacific make great dive destinations year round, and offer plenty of options for beginner divers. If you only have a day or two set aside for diving, The Great Barrier Reef might be your best bet.
NUMBER OF DIVES
When planning your liveaboard, be sure to confirm how many dives you’ll complete per day. Unless you’re diving in freezing water, 3 to 4 tanks a day is a good goal. You should also confirm whether night diving is available in advance.
Some destinations like The Galapagos Islands advertise short itineraries for snorkeling and trekking only. Similarly, many Caribbean destinations offer whale watching liveaboards that include no diving at all. Be sure to read a detailed trip description before booking, and share your expectations with the operator up front.
If you’re planning a trip that focuses on technical depths or wreck diving, keep time for off-gassing in mind.
Many liveaboard destinations have distinct diving, shoulder, and offseasons. If you’re traveling on a budget, shoulder, and end of season discounts can be a great value. And, if your dates of travel aren’t flexible, pick somewhere with excellent conditions year-round, like The Maldives.
If diving with a specific species is a priority, be sure to research whether your favorite find will be in the region. Remember that some big pelagics like whale sharks and manta rays are typically present during months with low visibility due to plankton blooms.
Need a little more inspiration? Check out PADI’s diving calendar for month by month suggestions.
Short itineraries can cost anywhere between $300 and $3,000 depending on where you dive, and whether you choose a luxury boat. Some vessels feel more like boutique spas and hotels than a liveaboard. These liveaboards combine diving with high-end accommodations and plenty of perks onboard.
If you don’t mind passing up a few creature comforts, there are plenty of excellent short itineraries for under $500. Keep extra expenses like travel to and from port, drinks, snacks, and gratuities in mind when budgeting. And, always keep some extra cash on hand, just in case.
VIDEO: SHORT LIVEABOARD SCUBA DIVING TRIP