Have you heard about the Sandals Elite Diver Program? This is a non-PADI course specific to Sandals Resorts that offers special perks to those who qualify for the program and successfully complete the application.
Some links in this article are affiliate links that may earn me a commission if you purchase through them.
While the Sandals Elite Diver program has been around for awhile, it’s a somewhat open secret, and Sandals Resorts does not tend to promote it heavily. They do not (currently) mention is on any of their websites, so some mystery surrounds the program.
Additionally, the requirements for the program and costs of the application have changed over the years. I recently discovered that the new criteria are not consistently applied across resorts, so understand that your experience may vary slightly if you go through the application process.
Want to know about the Sandals and Beaches Resorts SCUBA programs in general? This article shares all about what you need to do to SCUBA at Sandals or Beaches Resorts.
What are the perks of the Sandals Elite Diver Program?
The Sandals Elite Diver provides those divers with specific discounts, as well as priority booking, and private dives, among other benefits.
When you are approved as a Sandals Elite Diver, you have lifetime benefits. This isn’t a program you need to renew each year, which help to justify the time and energy and expenditure to make it happen.
Specifically, when you travel to a Beaches Resort or Sandals Resort, you are able to prebook your dives prior to arrival. Rather than checking in upon arrival and signing up for your dives at that point – and potentially missing a day of SCUBA diving – you can arrange everything via email before you go.
Sandals Elite Divers also have a guaranteed spot on the dive boat, which for certain resorts during high season is a real benefit. I vacation with Beaches and Sandals Resorts because of the all inclusive diving they offer, and I would be disappointed to miss out.
When you arrive, you do not need to do the pool orientation in many cases, and the pool orientation is free if you do require one.
Additionally, you receive a 5% discount on any additional certifications you wish to complete at Sandals or Beaches Resorts, so you can continue your education. The discount extends to the dive retail shop for any gear you need to replace or wish to purchase.
My favorite benefit, however? You get a free private dive on each trip. This is not always available, however, particularly during the high season, but it’s a fantastic benefit with more details shared below.
What does a free private dive mean?
The private dive does not mean you are on your own boat going to your own dive site. Instead, you are assigned your own divemaster and go to the same dive site chosen by the team for that day, but you dive your own profile.
If you know that you want to do a deep dive or look for sharks or focus on a wall, let your divemaster know in advance, and they will do their best to accommodate you. As with all diving, nothing is guaranteed, however!
The nice part is that your dive focuses on your air consumption and DCL since you have no other companions. That means you may be able to dive longer than in a group dive in addition to focusing on your interests.
Generally, a private dive at Beaches or Sandals Resorts costs $100 for a one tank dive and $150 for a two tank private dive, so this is a lovely benefit to enjoy.
Note that this is note valid for a night dive or other specialty paid dives, as that requires a minimum of five divers and a special boat that costs $100 per diver, including Elite divers.
The free private dive as part of the Sandals Elite Diver program is based on availability. When I made my first visit in high season after enrolling in this program, the resort was slightly short on dive masters and they had several people signed up to take classes that week.
There simply was no availability for a dive master to take me on a private dive that time. While I was disappointed, I understand the current challenges with staffing and the high occupancy rates during high seasons.
Where can I take advantage of the Sandals Elite Diver Program?
The Sandals Elite Diver program is not a PADI certification, so this is not something that you can utilize outside the Sandals and Beaches Resorts.
That said, you can use it at any Sandals Resort or Beaches Resort going forward. This is not location specific, so you can earn it at Sandals Ochi and use it at Beaches Turks and Caicos, for example.
Grand Pineapple is currently closed, but when and if they reopen that part of the Sandals and Beaches Resorts family, you can utilize your status there, as well.
Why should I become an elite diver?
If you plan to dive regularly at Sandals and Beaches Resorts, especially during high season, this is a great program. The guarantee of boat availability means that even if you travel during high season, you can still dive when you wish.
The convenience to book your dives in advance so that you don’t miss that first day of diving is another great benefit, but again, this works only for those who plan to dive regularly at Sandals Resorts.
The program does have a cost, both for the application fee and for the additional courses that most divers do not have, so if you do not dive regularly or do not vacation regularly at these resorts, then this may not be the program for you.
The program is a lifetime membership, however, so if you visit three to four times and dive regularly, the combination of the convenience of scheduling your dives in advance and the benefit of the free dive can pay for itself.
If you plan to continue your diving education to get rescue diver certified or a DAN specialty course or another certification, the 5% discount also helps to pay for the program fee.
I also completely understand and respect that Sandals and Beaches Resorts both offer all inclusive diving, and there are many who resent this program as limiting divers who do not have the Elite Diver membership from being able to dive as readily. That is a valid concern that at some point Elite divers may prevent some from diving during their holiday during peak season, but I don’t make the program and simply aim to explain how it works.
Who qualifies as an elite diver?
To become an Elite diver, you must both meet the eligibility requirements and pay the application fee. The dive instructor staff at the resort fill out the application for you, and the fee gets charged for your room.
You must be an advanced open water certified diver, and you also require deep diver certification and peak buoyancy certification – not the single dives that are a part of the AOW course but the PADI certification.
You must also have dove within the past year and have an approved medical form. You do need to also update your medical form each year prior to arrival to be able to book your dives; just email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some resorts may still allow you to book your dives in advance if you do not do this, but do not count on it.
The program previously had required the O2 certification and CPR certification, but those requirements have been dropped. That said, I have spoken with people who have been told be resorts that those are still required, so this change is rolling out slowly and not consistently across resorts.
You do not need your rescue diver certification, but the rescue certification includes more in depth training and in the past has been sufficient in place of the other specialty certifications. Verify that this is still the case before you make assumptions, as it is no longer stated on the application.
Once you show the proof of these requirements to the dive staff, they can easily fill out the form and submit the $200 application fee. Again, note that some resorts may not consistently charge the same fee yet.
While you can fill out a pdf of the form before you go on vacation, it still needs to be signed off by the aquasports manager on resort, so there is no benefit to doing so.
How long does it take to get my elite diver package?
All the applications get processed in Jamaica, so the applications must first go there. The processing time varies, but the expected time is 4-6 weeks.
Once your application is processed, they do not contact you with an update. This would be a fantastic addition to the program – just a quick email when they receive the application and again when they finish processing it.
Instead, they ship your package with your Elite Diver card via DHL, which means you receive it quickly once it’s on its way.
However, my package never arrived, and I have heard from others that they did not receive them for more than a couple months. If this happens, reach out to email@example.com to check in on your application.
It took a few follow ups to a few different people within the Beaches Resort where I got certified, but once I got confirmation, I had my Elite Diver package within days.
I also strongly recommend that you save your receipts for any certifications you do onsite, as well as your application receipt just in case anything happens so you do not need to repeat the process.
What is included in my Elite Diver welcome package?
When you receive your DHL package, you have your Elite Diver card, as well as additional letters.
The letters include a printout of every Sandals and Beaches Resort, along with the emails for the dive shop managers and administrative assistants. The printout also includes the international phone number for each dive shop.
In addition, the welcome letter walks you through your Elite Diver perks as described above.
The package used to include an Elite Diver dive log and card holder when the program first launched, but that is no longer a part of the program.
How do I utilize the elite diver perks?
As part of your welcome package, you have the email addresses and phone numbers for each of the dive shop personnel. Simply contact them one to two weeks before your trip and let them know that you have an upcoming vacation.
To make it easy for them, include your full name and member number, as well as the days you wish to dive. If you have not updated your medical form, this is a great opportunity to send them an updated (signed) copy, as well.
Not every dive shop will respond to your request. That said, everyone I’ve spoken with has had their spot reserved on the roster upon arrival.
Can my family use my Elite Diver status?
The short answer is no. This is set up for an individual, not a family or a group traveling together.
Each person who wants to take advantage of the perks – especially the prebooking – needs to be an Elite Diver.