Artificial reefs are increasingly used worldwide as a method for managing recreational diving since they have the potential to satisfy both conservation goals and economic interests. In order to help maximize their utility, further information is needed to drive the design of stimulating resources for scuba divers. We used a questionnaire survey to explore divers’ perceptions of artificial reefs in Barbados. In addition, we examined reef resource substitution behaviour among scuba divers. Divers expressed a clear preference for large shipwrecks or sunken vessels that provided a themed diving experience. Motives for diving on artificial reefs were varied, but were dominated by the chance of viewing concentrated marine life, increased photographic opportunities, and the guarantee of a ‘good dive’. Satisfaction with artificial reef diving was high amongst novices and declined with increasing experience. Experienced divers had an overwhelming preference for natural reefs. As a management strategy, our results emphasize the capacity of well designed artificial reefs to contribute towards the management of coral reef diving sites and highlight a number of important areas for future research. Suggested work should validate the present findings in different marine tourism settings and ascertain support of artificial reefs in relationship to level of diver specialization.