La Palma offers an ideal year-round water temperature for diving with excellent visibility and an underwater volcanic landscape that is well worth a look. Dive spots feature caves, canyons and tunnels and a whole host of underwater species. You won’t find a mass of vibrant colour in the Atlantic ocean but the volcanic landscape offers an underwater wonder which both novices and experts should enjoy.
We are not divers but the detailed information below (correct at time of publishing) was kindly provided by La Palma Diving Centre (renamed Punkfish Diving), a PADI 5 Star IDC facility located in Breña Baja.
The La Palma coastline is impressive and varied which continues underwater with bizarre cliffs, canyons, arches of lava, towers of rocks, sheer walls, caves and all sorts of volcanic rock formations. All this is infiltrated by areas of black sand, the playground of many species of ray. Diving is conducted on the south, east and west coasts with dive operators mainly concentrated in Los Cancajos and Puerto Naos. Most dive centres have English speaking guides and Nitrox is available at some centres but it’s advisable to check before you book.
- Water Temperature: max 24°c – August, min 17°c – February
- Visibility: up to 20 – 30m
- Type of Diving: caves, tunnels, sheer walls, tower, aircraft wreck
- When to go: all year – June to October are preferable if you prefer warmer water
- Suit: a drysuit is preferable in winter months although a 7mm semidry should be sufficient, a 5mm wet suit can be worn all year with hood and gloves in winter
- Marine Life: turtles, rays, garden eels, moray eels, cuttlefish, octopus, lobsters, jacks, barracuda, grouper, trumpet fish, scorpion fish, parrot fish, wrasse, trigger fish, black coral, scarlet sea fan, yellow sea fan
Dive Sites on La Palma
Info kindly provided by La Palma Diving Centre
Cancajos – East Coast
The reef of Cancajos is reached through a comfortable entry from the sandy beach. In this spot, situated within a lagoon, it is possible to dive the whole year round. It is protected by a breakwater and offers the perfect basis for instruction courses and night diving. Outside the bay, the diving area stretches down to a depth of 30m. In the northern part lie the remains of a plane wreckage and Scarlet Sea Fan settles on the sand.
From here you dive in directly from the lava beach of Los Cancajos on the right hand side next to the breakwaters. If you dive along the slope of the lava mountain from approx. 35m in depth, you’ll find sea fan and black coral which reach down to a depth of more than 50m. Occasionally you may also find a streaked gurnard whose bluish “wings” are an interesting motive for taking pictures. Coming up, one orientates oneself thanks to the rocks of the breakwaters to return to the protected beach (35m).
This is the entry to the “house reef” of Los Cancajos on the left hand side. You swim directly from the beach to the rocks of the breakwaters and dive down to the left. Here you will find a narrow cut similar to a little ravine which gave name to this place (12–35m).
The Glove is a varied lava landscape with interesting rock formations, ravines and caves. Here you’ll find groupers, rays, Atlantic cornet fish, trigger fish, file fish, areas of brown garden eels and with luck you may even see a turtle. The claw is a nearly free-standing boulder which resembles a claw or a three finger glove hence the name (12–35m).
Following the slope farther down, you will come to a bizarre metal piece which is the torn-off wing of a Piper 28-140 which dropped into the ocean as a result of engine failure in 1988. The pilot was rescued. Over the years, the inside of the wing became monopolized by communities of crayfish, sea urchins and anemones and sea fans can be seen further down. This plane crash has given us the only wreckage into which you can dive. Unfortunately there is only one wing and one tail unit accessible but it is a wonderful dive with a closing ascent along a bizarre steep slope. Shoals of Canary damsel fish partly darken the “sky” (30m).
Caused by the local conditions, this dive begins with great richness of fish such as the Canary damsel fish and continues to a cleaner station and dive down to the field of the sea fan guarded by brown garden eels (14-35m).
You have to swim a little further to reach the Green Garden, an impressive steep slope overgrown with dense yellow tube sponge (Aplysina aerophoba). In a depth of 20m you float over this green looking “coating”, waiting for the first morays and sometimes a big fish to go by. The depth is only limited by air supply and abilities (20m).
Caves and Tunnels
South Cave Rock
For a cave experience there is, from the beach in a southern direction, the South Cave Rock Tunnel which is very easy to dive through. In a depth of 8m, you’ll dive through a big boulder and through a broad and partially somewhat shallow tunnel. You won’t feel confined as there is always light on one side and it can be passed without danger even by the less experienced diver. The tunnel is about 15m long and the exits are always to be seen and are easily accessible (10–15m).
Canyon with Chimney Cave
In the south of the beach in between some deep clefts in the rocks you’ll find a narrow chimney. You can dive into the cave and leave it through this chimney, easily training the buoyancy (control) because the exit is only in 5m depth (12–35m).
Cave of the Rays
The Cave of the Rays has a broad entrance near to the beach, becoming very shallow further behind with sandy soil (10m).
Cave of the Chapel
Here exists a guiding line in the 70m long cave with a sandy bottom and soil of scree in between. The entrance has a depth of 7m and ends up in two rooms where you can admire the “altar”, a ledge in a pitch-black cave (10m).
Cancajos – Local area
A little further southward from Los Cancajos you will also find dive sites which are worth seeing.
This is a rock formation consisting of light rock down to 25m depth where you will find ray, sea stars, sea slugs and arrow crabs.
The entry is very easy; pass a concrete ramp between fishing boats in the water and you’ll then find yourself in clear water. Dive down in shallow water and follow along towards the south-east over light scree with many small fish and enormous lava boulders which are very bizarre with holes and cliffs.
Finally you’ll reach the “edge of the island” where the sand bends sharply downward. You can dive a little further down and allow yourself to be intoxicated, but be careful as you can lose the feeling of the depth very quickly. On the way down, the divers are occasionally accompanied by some very nosey planehead file fish and you should see Atlantic cornet fish too. Very clear and clean water and no current complete the scene. Coming up, you can visit a small bay in the north of the entry bay where again you will see clear water and fantastic rock formations down to 5m of depth.(10 -15m)
This diving place is not far from the airport. Over a relatively broad, black sanded beach with coarse gravel and occasional big rocks which make it sometimes difficult to dive in, you will finally reach rocks of lava which reach down to a depth of 40m. (10–40m).
A little gravel and sandy beach where you can snorkel southwards for a few minutes before beginning the dive to a depth of approx. 4 to 6m. Through little canyons and lava rocks you’ll reach the Atlantic cornet fish cave after approx. 15 minutes. Diving southward, you’ll then reach a deep declining slope at a depth of 35m. After approx. 10 minutes, you’ll find a 38m deep archway which you can dive through and behind this in the deep blue an imposing rock tower becomes visible. In a maximum depth of 40–45m, you’ll dive around the “tore”, a highlight which is covered completely with black corals. Following the course upwards up to a depth of 32m, you’ll find the roof of this rock and meet many different species of fish. Changing direction to the north and reaching another 16–18m deep wall, over the edge begins the “graveyard” which you’ll cross and then come up to finishing point through a beautiful 3–7m deep canyon. (30-45 m)
The Crosses of Malpique
After a short snorkeling phase, you’ll dive down and reach a plateau in a southern direction. Continuing along a wall passing lava edges, you’ll reach a depth of approx. 18m and the area with the crosses on the plateau surface. In the year 1570, 40 Jesuit missionaries came to Puerto Tazacorte with their ship, because they were pursued by French pirates. Believing to have succeeded in shaking off their pursuers, after a short stop they continued their journey, which ought to take them over Santa Cruz to South America. But the pirates had only hidden themselves and somewhere between Punta Larga and El Faro the missionaries were captured and killed. In the year 2000, 40 stone crosses were lowered into the sea in memory of the missionaries, who have been beatified meanwhile. Native people also believed that these crosses could soothe the ocean, which occasionally can be quite uninviting here. For the hoped for canonization of the missionaries La Palma needs some more miracles – and these are still being looked for.
La Cabras is one of the most spectacular cliffs for diving in La Palma and on the Canary Islands. Black corals in 30m of depth feature many fish, combers, groupers and morays, all of which are extraordinary.
Puerto Naos – West coast
Directly from the beach you access diving waters via the sloping seabed. The slopes give suddenly way to 50m deep furrowed rocky terrain. From 35m depth black corals can be sighted. This is a diving place with an abundance of species, especially eels.
Here, parallel to the coast, extends a drop off which you actually need several dives to see it all. Along the edge you can let yourself float over the impressive depth (8–40m).
In the more distant surroundings of Puerto Naos there are a great number of other places to dive.
For full details of the dive sites visited by La Palma Diving Centre, please visit their website which also features diving information, photos and video clips.