Understanding diver preferences and perceptions of environmental attributes can help inform dive tourism management. We interviewed 190 recreational divers and examined their preferences for marine life in the Abrolhos National Marine Park, eastern Brazil. We also assessed divers' perceptions of changes in fish abundance when they revisit the dive site. Marine life preferences changed according with the divers' experience level. Novice divers preferred encounters with megafauna, whereas experienced divers preferred to see cryptic species. Individual perceptions of decline in fish abundance were influenced by longer time interval between visits. Visitors elicited the end of fish feeding, and illegal fishing, as the main causes of decline. Strategies to limit decline in the quality of marine life attributes, such as zoning and visitation limits based on carrying capacity estimates should be also based in divers' preferences and perceptions. Therefore, understanding divers' motivations and preferences will help maximize visitors' enjoyment and guide the dive industry into a more sustainable mode in the future.