Scuba neophytes and schooled snorkelers alike can dive into a sea of inspiration at Aqua Safaris, a full-service scuba center minutes from the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. With the four-week scuba certification course, budding aquanauts receive four three-hour classroom sessions, four three-hour pool lessons, and up to five ocean dives. All scuba equipment is included, but students will need to purchase their own snorkeling gear, a logbook, a training textbook, and bellyflop insurance. After four weeks, you'll be fully certified and ready to flap your fins at any waterhole across the world.
The team at Tropical Adventures Scuba and Travel teaches classes, repairs equipment, and plans diving trips, all with a focus on building an active scuba community. Seasoned instructors with NAUI and PADI certification lead beginners from the classroom to the ocean, where they meander through kelp forests and master the art of underwater basket weaving. Experts coordinate travel to premier international and local dive sites such as Catalina Island, aiming to make the three to five yearly trips affordable and fun. The crew also recommends new and used gear for purchase or rental, including Oceanic booties, Tusa masks, and radar equipment that helps divers avoid traveling mermaid salesmen.
Captain Aqua's enthusiastic instructors plunge developing divers and nascent Neptunians into the exhilarating realm of scuba in the introductory Try Scuba course. In the pool’s safe confines, the resident pros—with more than 50 years of combined diving experience—guide amateur aqualetes through the basics of breathing underwater, an experience as eye-opening and electrifying as Flipper's shrill rap battles with Shamu. Though prospective fin jockeys must provide their own towel and swimsuit, Captain Aqua's furnishes other necessary aquatic accouterments. Students should bring a mask, snorkel, and fins if already owned; otherwise, they are available to borrow, free of charge. Call Captain Aqua's to schedule a class, for updated info on class times and dates, or to show off a recently learned whale mating call.
Since 1961, Bamboo Reef has been unlocking the depths of the ocean by training scuba adventurers, outfitting them with gear and repairing equipment on the fritz. Skilled instructors guide swimmers during diving classes that range from paddling in an 82-degree pool to advanced night navigation in the Pacific's dunk tank. Refresher and specialty courses continue students’ aquatic education after they’ve mastered the basics of gliding through the deep blue. Bamboo Reef also coordinates dives off the shores of Monterey, Carmel, and international coasts that count toward specialty, advanced, and master diver ratings as well as black belts in underwater kickboxing.
The water wizards also rent and sell gear from brands such as Aqua Lung and Mares. Professional technicians—who maintain more than $10,000 in parts inventory—stand at the ready to repair all major brands of scuba equipment.
Aquarius Dive Shop has been a place for aspiring scuba divers to shop, train, and earn certifications for years, as current owner James Vincent knows all too well. He got his own Open Water, Advanced Open Water, and Rescue Diver certifications through the shop before he owned it. The training actually put James on the path to becoming a PADI Dive Master, and he now leads open-water excursions of his own.
So why did James buy the place that trained him? Well, he wanted to help provide ever-richer opportunities for new divers to learn in a safe, controlled environment. Today, James has two other expert divers on his teaching team, each with their own specialties and favorite color of sea anemone. Bruce Sawyer, a true veteran of the submariner's world, boasts more than 2,000 dives at locations around the world. Brandon Bianchi, on the other hand, provides life-saving training as an Emergency First Response Instructor.
Breakwater Cove serves as the first diving spot for many of Monterey's aspiring scuba divers. Glenn's Aquarius II Dive Shop sits right on the shore of the Cove, providing those divers with rental equipment, guided trips, and the expertise of certified instructors. The owners even set up a webcam outside their shop with eyes on the ocean, so divers can stop by their website to see weather, water, and wind conditions.