These are the best places to hunt lionfish on vacation based on ease of regulations, number of lionfish, and quality of the dive destination. Dive operators in the United States and around the Caribbean have figured out that allowing visitors to hunt lionfish is a double win because it increases tourism and it helps the environment. Divers themselves win because they get to add a little more adventure to their already memorable vacation and usually a fresh fish dinner to go along! We aren’t the only ones to plan their vacation around places where you can hunt lionfish, so we’ve decided to compile this list of the best places to hunt lionfish as a tourist. There are a lot more spectacular destinations then we have room to list here, so if you are looking for an operator in a specific location check out our extensive list of dive operators who allow lionfish hunting here.
Placencia is a small town in southern Belize along the coast and close to the amazing barrier reef just offshore. The rustic community of Placencia is currently going through a rapid growth phase and things are only getting better. Along with the incredible water clarity and marine life, Placencia has a lot of lionfish still and some great local dive operators. We used Splash Belize by Patty Ramirez when we were there and highly recommend them for their professional staff and organization. Be sure to stop in and say ‘Hi!’ to Kaj at the Treasure Box jewelry store and see her amazing lionfish jewelry.
‘The one happy island’ of Aruba is not only a great place to visit, but also a fun place to go lionfish hunting. There are several very active groups and dive operators hunting around the island of Aruba to contact before you go and very few restrictions which makes it one of the best places to hunt lionfish. We went lionfish hunting with JADS while we were there and you can also contact Scuba Safari Aruba, Unique Sports of Aruba, Aqua Windies, or the Aruba Lionfish Initiative. Before you go take a look at some of the great lionfish hunting videos from Hunting Lionfish Aruba.
Cozumel has to be on the list because it’s one of the most popular dive destinations in the Caribbean for good reason. Beautiful reef on the leeward side of the island, incredible marine life, lots to do and plenty of affordable accommodations all combine to make Cozumel a top-notch dive destination. Much of the regular diving is done in a marine park and only the divemasters are allowed to carry spears, so much of the lionfish hunting is done a short ferry ride away on the mainland side or outside the park. Check ahead of time with Scuba Luis to set up a lionfish hunt while you are there. If you visit in the summer you can knock another bucket list item off by swimming with whale sharks offshore of the nearby Isla Mujeres.
The dive operators at Couples Swept Away and Couples in Negril and Ocho Rios are on top of their game when it comes to providing lionfish hunts to their guests. These luxury all-inclusive resorts include the diving, and after getting your PADI Lionfish Hunter Specialty they will take you out for some hands-on lionfish hunting excitement as part of your vacation. We’ve been following their facebook page here for a while, and I can tell you that with all the positive feedback I see from their visitors they are doing everything right! We’ve also heard positive reports about the South Side Sandals resort in Jamaica.
Florida Panhandle from Mobile Bay, AL to Apalachicola, FL
Florida has great diving and great lionfish hunting all around the state. Jupiter, FL is one of my favorite places to dive along with the gorgeous Florida Keys, but it is the sheer quantity of lionfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico that makes it one of the best places to hunt lionfish. Perhaps it is the numerous and scattered artificial reefs in the area that draw the lionfish in from the relatively sparse hard bottom around the area, or maybe it’s because the northern Gulf of Mexico was later in the invasion cycle than some of the eastern areas, but whatever the reason the hunters in the area are spearing ridiculous numbers of lionfish. The local charters that we have heard great things about are Niuhi Charters in Pensacola , Panama City Diving , Reef Cleaners Dive Charter , and DreadKnot Charters.
Barbados is another great vacation destination with excellent diving and plenty of opportunities to hunt lionfish. Carlisle Bay is full of excellent wrecks to visit and the nearby Garrison provides rich and interesting history to explore. When we were there we had excellent lionfish dives with Barbados Blue, run by marine biologist Andre Miller. If you’re a freediver you can also brush up on your freediving skills while lionfish hunting with Alex at Spearfishing Barbados.
U.S. Virgin Islands
With the 3 gorgeous islands of St. Thomas, St. Johns, and St. Croix there is plenty to discover and enjoy in these easily accessible islands with direct flights and no passport needed for Americans. The ease of access, spearfishing friendly environment, and limited restrictions are why the USVI make our list of best places to hunt lionfish. CORE is a local non-profit group which has been working hard to promote lionfish hunting in the USVI and are a good place to start for local info. Much of the water around St. John is a marine preserve, so St. Thomas and St. Croix will have easier access to hunting grounds. We’ve heard positive reports about lionfish hunting in St. Croix with Sweet Bottom Divers.
Go West Diving and Ocean Encounters in Curacao has been running lionfish hunts on the island for several years now and have removed thousands of lionfish from the local waters. Lots of the local divers are hunting lionfish regularly in Curacao as well and the majority of other dive shops on the island will take divers hunting. Interestingly, the Zookeeper lionfish container was designed and originally built by Allie ElHage while living and diving in Curacao.
Please know that this list is not meant to rank the locations in order, they are all great places to dive and hunt lionfish and one is not necessarily better than the others. There are also a lot of other excellent places to hunt lionfish on vacation that we did not list either because we haven’t had the chance to visit yet ourselves or the location may have other restrictions. Some great destinations require special permits, high fees, or have gear restrictions that are keeping them off this list because we want to provide you with the easiest and most accessible places to plan your hunt.
Special thanks to the intrepid travelling lionfish hunter Roger Muller and to Allie ElHage of Zookeeper for their help and recommendations in compiling this list. Do you have any recommendations for a top lionfish hunting destination? Please comment below to let us know your favorite place to hunt lionfish!