Scuba Diving in South Florida: The Ultimate Guide in 2022
When it comes to scuba diving, South Florida is a promising destination for numerous reasons. First of all, it offers excellent water visibility along with crystal-clear waters and a calm surface. Besides, this location also boasts a flourishing ecosystem as well as stunning seascapes.
Although it is true that summer offers the most reliable diving conditions, you can dive in South Florida all year round. Morning adventures give you fantastic opportunities to scuba dive with sharks and manatees, while some dive spots are perfect for underwater photography.
It is not an easy task to decide which is the best dive site; hence, I have compiled a list of top choices for different needs. In addition, I have also attached a detailed guide about when to go as well as where to stay when scuba diving in South Florida. So, let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Top 6 Mind-Blowing Dive Sites in South Florida
There are endless diving destinations across South Florida, and each site has its own upside and downside. To help you make a better decision, this section will comprehensively review the top 6 best dive spots in South Florida, along with their own key features.
1. Blue Heron Bridge
Located off Riviera Beach, this dive spot is an excellent decision for all experience levels, thanks to its ideal weather conditions and accessible entry points. In addition, this pristine location is also favored by most snorkelers due to its shallow depths.
Blue Heron Bridge comes with an abundance of tropical life, including reef fish, octopi, flounder, skates, and rays. It provides sea creatures with nutritious sea grasses where nudibranchs, seahorses, eels, and mantis shrimp make their home.
In the meantime, the underwater world attracts a lot of giant critters as well. Some popular larger fish can be quickly listed, such as snappers, barracuda, batfish, frogfish, pipefish, etc. You will also have frequent encounters with green sea turtles without scuba diving in Hawaii.
With a wide range of oceanic animals to see, Blue Heron Bridge is truly incredible for wide-angle photography. For macro photographers, schools of vivid angelfish are a fabulous backdrop to capture fantastic footage. See cost-efficient underwater cameras in case you have no item.
Besides, although dives in Blue Heron Bridge mainly range between 5 and 20 feet, this place can serve nitrox divers perfectly. If you love technical diving, do not forget to wear a pair of scuba fins to extend your bottom time. Use a dive computer to avoid staying underwater too long.
In case you have never used a dive computer before, see the following article to get a comprehensive guide: How to Use a Dive Computer.
Excessive dive time leads to many dangers like heat loss and gas narcosis. Learn more details by reading my article: How Dangerous Is Scuba Diving.
In general, the diving conditions of Blue Heron Bridge are fantastic, with warm waters all year round as well as a unique terrain protected from swells during winter months. However, this dive site offers high tides; thus, you should make sure to check the weather report before any visit.
The following video gives everything you should know when planning a dive on Blue Heron Bridge.
2. Hog Heaven
Hog Heaven is a barge lying off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, now functioning as an artificial reef. This wreck is at about 50 to 65 feet under the surface; hence, it will be highly accessible by entry-level divers with proper gear.
When entering the wreck, you will effortlessly spot diverse marine life, including spiny lobster, parrot fish, barracuda, snappers, angelfish, and so on. Additionally, the barge is covered with colorful and beautiful corals, which draw hawksbill turtles to visit.
In addition, you can even find flatfish on the sandy bottom while it is simple to realize vibrant sponges growing from rocky surfaces.
See how fascinating wreck diving in Hog Heaven is with the following video.
3. 1000 Mermaids
1000 Mermaids was named after a project that aims to boost ecotourism as well as responsible diving. The project will place 1000 statues which will replenish a dying reef off Riviera Beach when completed. These artificial reefs play a vital role in fostering the growth of corals.
Until now, there are more than 20 statues of real people that have already been submerged at 45 feet in the water. This offers a perfect habitat for various sea animals such as barracuda and rays. Besides, this place is also home to octopuses, eels, and reef fish.
Tropical reef fish species are common sightings in 1000 Mermaids.
4. West Palm Beach
This dive site is the perfect combination of excellent water visibility, gorgeous coral reefs, and abundant sea life. Additionally, it also offers an ideal breeding ground for different oceanic creatures such as sharks and whales.
That’s why West Palm Beach is an indispensable destination on the migratory path of huge critters. Therefore, when diving here between May and September, you are likely to have more chances to interact with common pelagics like sea turtles, sailfish, and so on.
I believe that you will feel like visiting an underwater zoo when propelling the body through spectacular coral reefs as well as colorful schools of fish. These incredible diving experiences will be one of the most memorable of your lifetime.
When entering the clear water in West Palm Beach, do not forget to pay a visit to Breakers Reef, where you can admire rich marine life. This two-mile-long coral reef is host to a few tropical fish species, green morays, spearfish, spiny lobster, and more.
If you visit Breakers Reef between spring and summer, it is highly possible to see green, hawksbill, and loggerhead turtles. However, a significant disadvantage of this location is that it requires people to have an open water certification to be allowed to dive here.
West Palm Beach is an excellent destination to enjoy drift diving in South Florida.
5. Fort Lauderdale
With an average water temperature ranging from 72-80 degrees Fahrenheit, this dive spot is the best choice for divers during the winter months. Besides, Fort Lauderdale can outweigh other diving destinations in South Florida because it enables you to dive on a coral reef without hiring a boat.
You just need a five-minute swim from the shore, and then a magnificent underwater world will be open to your eyes. See other benefits of swimming when scuba diving with the article: Do You Need to Know How to Swim to Scuba Dive.
Always remember that the Barracuda Reef and Hammerhead Reef are the two most notorious locations to see in Fort Lauderdale, in case you have no idea of where to go.
While divers of all levels can explore Barracuda Reef, only advanced people are highly recommended to visit Hammerhead Reef. Barracuda Reef has a more prosperous marine life. Meanwhile, Hammerhead Reef will best suit coral lovers as well as underwater photography.
In case you want to take stunning pictures of sea creatures in Fort Lauderdale, keep in mind to pack a GoPro in your suitcase. That’s because I make sure the sea life here will not let you down. Nurse sharks and stingrays are rare animals, but you can find them here.
Additionally, Fort Lauderdale is a paradise for wreck diving as well. This place is home to some of the most well-known wrecks in the world, including Kay Scutti, Tracy, and Merci Jesus.
It is a pity if you skip visiting these sites where rare creatures like bull sharks, stingrays, hogfish, and lionfish make their home. The light conditions for wreck diving are often weak, so do not forget to bring a scuba light to see more clearly.
For technical divers or professional people, Fort Lauderdale provides them with excellent opportunities to challenge their limits. There are three oil rigs commonly known as Tenneco Towers at a depth of around 200 feet.
You will need at least a scuba tank to spot vibrant sponges, coral-encrusted pillars, and glorious reef fish. If you want to see more details, diving with two tanks is advisable. Also, I suggest you include a set of scuba regulators to facilitate breathing underwater.
Check the awesome video below and see what the Barracuda Reef can show you.
Jupiter is the best place to spot Goliath Grouper between August and September. That’s because this location boasts three shipwrecks: Zion, Miss Jenny, and Esso Bonnaire. These wrecks not only function as artificial reefs but also offer a mating ground for Goliath Grouper.
In addition, diving in Jupiter provides you with incredible chances to see local sawfish, reef sharks, nurse sharks, giant stingrays, green moray eels, and loggerhead turtles.
Jupiter is suitable for diving all year round, and at the same time, it is one of a few places in South Florida that gives the most transparent water. Nevertheless, this dive site is only perfect for advanced divers due to high waves and strong winds.
Watch the video below and see how exceptional scuba diving in Jupiter is. Explore Area 51’s magical underwater world.
This part will equip you with helpful knowledge about keeping your dive safe, as well as how to communicate with your buddy while diving. In addition, there is some important information about diving conditions in South Florida that you should keep in mind.
1. Diving Conditions
Water visibility ranges from 30 to 75 feet. In the meantime, the water temperature is usually 68 degrees Fahrenheit during wintertime and 87 degrees Fahrenheit in summer. Therefore, you will need to wear a 5 mm wetsuit when diving in South Florida.
Fort Lauderdale can be easily reached by taking a flight. To arrive at other dive sites in South Florida, you should hire a car for easy transportation.
2. Scuba Diving Hand Signals
Scuba diving hand signals not only facilitate communication among team members but are also really essential in emergencies.
Thanks to these nonverbal means, it is easier for you to understand what your divemaster is talking about or instructing you to escape an aggressive white shark.
Fortunately, scuba diving hand signals are easy to learn. Thanks to that, you still have exhilarating diving experiences while enjoying this pastime safely. Below are some of the most common hand signals that every diver should know before any trip.
To indicate “you want to go up,” you give your dive buddy a thumbs up and jerk it upwards so that other teammates know the direction you wish to take. If you need another member to follow you, then add subsequent hand signals.
This hand signal ensures that people do not dive beyond their limits. To avoid fatal accidents, you must always keep diving at your comfort level when below the surface.
Novice divers often do not know how deep they should go; thus, they should read my article “How Deep Can You Scuba Dive” to find out!
A thumbs down means “I want to go down” when you are underwater. Jerk your thumb downwards so that your dive mates understand you are going toward the ocean floor.
Similar to “going up,” you need to combine this gesture with subsequent hand signals to show that you need other people to follow.
Something is wrong
This is another hand signal that all scuba divers must memorize. Extend your flattened hand, palm down, and rotate it slowly from side to side to indicate that you are in trouble. To let your buddy know precisely where something is wrong, point out the source of the problem.
For example, if you have an ear equalization problem, point your finger to your ear to indicate this. Besides, the “something is wrong” signal is identical to the “so-so” hand gesture in standard conservation on the land. Remember this to avoid making a mistake when communicating.
In addition, in case you are in an emergency, it is wise to use the “emergency” hand sign first to ensure your life is not threatened.
I am OK!
The “OK” hand signal may be one of the first signs that divers of all levels learn. On land, you give a thumbs up to show that you are okay, but you cannot do this underwater. Instead, you create a circle with your thumb and forefinger while extending the other three fingers.
If you are wearing scuba gloves, it may be hard to splay the third, fourth, and fifth fingers completely. In this case, you just only need to slightly create the circle with your thumb and forefinger.
For diving in darkness or low light conditions, the “OK” hand signal can be too small to see from a long distance. Hence, you should make a fist and bop it on the head. Alternatively, you can make the letter “O” by using both hands above your head.
There are two methods to warn your fellow divers of the dangers if they keep going. The first way is to hold up a flat hand and palm forward, which is similar to what a traffic officer often does.
The other way is to make a fist, extend the arm out in front of you, and bend the hand up at the wrist. To avoid confusion in using which “stop” hand signal, you and your dive mates should decide before any trip into the blue.
See more diver communications here.
Top Diving Centers in South Florida
Below is a list of the top four reliable dive operators in South Florida. I have attached the telephone and website addresses of each dive center for your reference.
You do not need to worry if you book a tour at one of the following companies because all of them have received various positive ratings for years.
- South Florida Diving Headquarters – offers scuba training classes, affordable rental equipment, and private charters. Call (954) 783-2299 or visit https://www.southfloridadiving.com/ to get more details.
- Sea Experience – gives incredible scuba diving and snorkeling trips, diving courses for all ages, and suggests famous accommodations. Phone (954) 467-6000 or visit https://seaxp.com/.
- Pura Vida Divers – the best choice for coral lovers, offers technical dives and provides trips to the most famous dive sites in South Florida. Contact (561) 840-8750 and visit https://www.puravidadivers.com/ for further information.
- Divers Cove – operates scuba courses for kids, sells dive gear, and supports guided tours. Call (954) 473-1220 or visit its website at https://www.diverscovefl.com/ to book now!
Best Accommodations in South Florida
The following table compares the most popular options to stay when scuba diving in South Florida. In addition to star and popular amenities, each choice also comes with a link to the main website so that you can check if rooms are available or not.
|Resorts||Star||Popular amenities||Address & Contact|
|Edgewater Beach Hotel||4||Pool, beachfront, free Wi-Fi, free parking||● 1901 Gulf Shore Blvd N, Naples, FL 34102|
● (239) 403-2000
|Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach||5||Pool, beachfront, free Wi-Fi, spa||● 2800 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL 33480|
● (561) 582-2800
|The St Regis Bal Harbor Resort||5||Pool, beachfront, air conditioning, spa||● 9703 Collins Avenue Bal Harbor, Miami Beach, FL 33154|
● (305) 993-3300
|Carillon Miami Wellness Resort||5||Pool, beachfront, free Wi-Fi, spa||● 6801 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33141|
● (866) 800-3858
|Acqualina Resort and Residences||5||Pool, beachfront, free Wi-Fi, spa||● 17875 Collins Ave, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160|
● (305) 918-8000
|Santa Maria Suites Resort||4||Pool, free Wi-Fi, air conditioning, breakfast||● 1401 Simonton St, Key West, FL 33040|
● (305) 296-5678
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have questions related to my article or missed some crucial parts? Let’s see some of the most frequently asked questions below and read my short answers for them. I hope that they can help to clear your thoughts.
How Much Does It Cost to Go Scuba Diving in Florida?
Local dive operators provide you with different sets to fit all ages as well as a few particular trips. You must spend at least $70 for a complete gear package with two tanks, while it is common to pay more than $100 for a three-tank dive trip.
Do I Have to Be Certified to Scuba Dive in Florida?
Florida does not require a certification for diving here. However, if you are not a certified diver, you cannot go very far from the shore.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Go Scuba Diving in Florida?
Kids must be at least ten years old to participate in a scuba training course. If you are a student under 18 years old, you must have parental permission to scuba dive in Florida. Besides, you also must know how to swim as well as be able to swim 200 yards continuously.
Do You Need a Wetsuit to Scuba Dive in Florida?
Scuba diving in South Florida is less chilly than scuba diving in California. Hence, a 3mm wetsuit is the most popular choice among the diver community.
Nevertheless, during the winter months, the water temperature will drop considerably; thereby, you will need to wear a thicker wetsuit to keep warm. For cases, models with 5mm or 7mm thickness will be more suitable. You can also wear your wetsuit with a hood for extra thermal retention.
Scuba diving is fabulous and healthy. However, it can become a nightmare if you do not know where to go as well as what to bring. Moreover, it hides a lot of risks, which means that you must understand safety rules completely.
This article contains a few practical tips you need to maximize your safety and survival. In addition, I also suggest some excellent dive spots to visit at least once in your life. Besides, do not skip critical information about diving conditions to make your trip more comfortable.
I hope my article has equipped you with crucial knowledge about scuba diving in South Florida. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, kindly put them in the comment section below. Share this article with other divers by using one of the following social buttons.
About Scott Maldonado
Hi, I am Scott Maldonado, the founder of diveaeris.com. You are welcome to this website. Diving is so much fun, and I’ve got a flair for it. With many diving sessions under my belt, I have transformed from just an experienced diver to a professional instructor.
I will love to contribute to your development as a diver. Therefore, I will be engaging my years of experience by discussing anything related to diving on this website.
Read more about me.
10 Great Places to Scuba Dive in Florida
Drift dives along miles of spring-fed river. Shipwreck trails in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Delicate, vibrant coral reefs. Gin-clear freshwater springs and underwater caves.
When it comes to scuba diving, Florida has it all.
Here are 10 of the best places in the Sunshine State for scuba diving.
Maritime Heritage Trail, Biscayne National Park
The many shipwrecks along the Maritime Heritage Trail of Biscayne National Park, south of Miami and north of Key Largo, make it an idea place to see explore nautical history of South Florida. The oldest of the wrecks date from the 1800s to the 1960s. Tropic Scuba offers scuba and snorkeling charters to the Maritime Heritage Trail and other locations within Biscayne National Park.
SS Copenhagen, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea
The steamship SS Copenhagen ran aground on a rocky ledge in the Atlantic Ocean and sank at the turn of the century. Now the 325-foot vessel’s wreckage is part of the coral reef, which scuba divers can explore three-quarters of a mile offshore, 3.6 miles south of Hillsborough Inlet. The vibrant reef is relatively shallow at 15 to 30 feet deep and is home to a variety of marine species including sponges, tropical fish, eels, and hard and soft coral. Gear rentals are available through South Florida Diving Headquarters.
Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail
Besides having brilliant, blue-green water and miles of pristine beaches, the Emerald Coast is a treasure trove for wreck diving in the Gulf of Mexico. Twelve shipwreck sites offshore between Pensacola Beach and Port St. Joe in Northwest Florida make up the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. Five of the wrecks are near Pensacola Beach, one is off the shore of Destin, five off Panama City Beach, and one is near Port St. Joe. Dive shops along the coast can provide rentals and boat charters to wreck sites.
As unique as it is breathtaking, Devil’s Den in Williston is unlike anywhere else in Florida.
– Kevin Mims for VISIT FLORIDA
Devil’s Den, Williston
From above, there isn’t much to see of Devil’s Den in Williston—until you step down the steep staircase that leads to the glowing blue spring within the surrounding prehistoric cave. The privately-owned spring is 120 feet in diameter at the surface with a maximum depth of 54 feet. There are campsites and cabins available on the premises for divers and snorkelers who want to stay for more than the day. Rental equipment is available on site. Be sure to arrive with a dive buddy—it’s required.
Ginnie Springs, High Springs
Ginnie Springs is synonymous with freshwater scuba diving and cave diving in Florida. The property has seven springs, a full dive shop with rentals, hot showers, a large campground full of tent camping sites, and one rental cottage. Depending on skill and certification level, divers can explore the Santa Fe River, Ginnie Cavern, and the Devil’s spring system, made up of three springs (Little Devil, Devil’s Ear, and Devil’s Eye), which is open to swimmers and scuba divers alike. Not certified to dive? Ginnie Springs has instructors who can provide training and certification.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
For many, the thought of diving Key Largo likely conjures images of the famed Christ of the Abyss statue submerged in the clear waters offshore, but there’s much more to see in the coral reefs of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the nation’s first underwater park and one that spans 70 nautical square miles in the Florida Keys. To see the best spots on the coral reef, book a scuba tour directly at the park.
Neptune Memorial Reef, Key Biscayne
For anyone who has ever dreamed of seeing the Lost City of Atlantis, Neptune Memorial Reef should be at the top of the diving wishlist. An artist’s interpretation of the lost city, this artificial reef 3.25 miles east of Key Biscayne is both a massive work of art and an active cremation memorial site. It sits at a depth of 40 feet and features statues and structures—from the lions that guard its gates to intricate pillars and columns—that create an otherworldly atmosphere and unique scuba diving experience. Divers can get there with their own or rented boats (there are buoys at the site) or book a tour with one of the reef’s dive partners.
Phil Foster Park, Riviera Beach
Phil Foster Park in Southeast Florida offers easy access shore dives, where an artificial reef stretches on for 800 feet and marine life abounds. Parrotfish, angelfish, sergeant majors, rays, starfish, octopus, and more can be seen in water averaging six to 10 feet deep, with maximum depths of 20 feet. Guided tours and equipment rentals are available through Blue Heron Bridge Scuba and Pura Vida Divers.
Rainbow River, Dunnellon
A drift dive with the current along the clear, spring-fed Rainbow River in Dunnellon is among the best freshwater scuba diving experiences in Florida. With visibility up to 200 feet, it’s easy to observe the flora and fauna of the river system, from gar and turtles to otters and anhingas catching their dinner. Guided drift dives are available though Mac’s Sports Inc.
Wreck Trek, Fort Lauderdale
It’s possible to see several wrecks in one drift dive along the Wreck Trek in Fort Lauderdale, which is made up of the Jay Scutti, Merci Jesus, and Tracey wreck sites. The vessels, which vary in size, were sunk in the 1980s and 1990s to depths between 50 and 72 feet. If the conditions are right, a diver can cover all three sites in a single dive, which can be arranged through South Florida Diving Headquarters.
15 Best Places For Scuba Diving In Florida
So you’re looking for places to go Scuba diving in Florida? Look no further, we’ve got you covered!
Scuba Diving is so much fun, and is definitely something that everyone should experience in their lifetime! Its such a magical experience to explore the underwater world to see things from a different perspective, and to possibly see some wildlife that you may never have seen before!
With beautiful, crystal clear waters and great temperatures all year round, Florida is the perfect place to go Scuba diving as its the only place in the continental United States with a subtropical climate, so you will never be too cold! Scuba Diving in Florida is great for all experience levels, as many places in Florida have diving instructors with you, so you will be in safe hands!
There are so many different places to go Scuba diving in Florida, and each one is unique. Whether you’re wanting to see shipwrecks, manatees, or some amazing coral reefs, there will be somewhere in Florida to accommodate you!
Located just 6.5 miles away from High Springs and is one of the best places to go scuba diving in Florida as the waters are wonderfully clear!
Ginnie Springs is also one of the most popular springs to visit and there’s so much to do there. If you’re considering Ginnie Springs, we have a whole blog post dedicated to it here.
Whilst Ginnie Springs is on the more expensive side, it is definitely well worth the price as we think it is one of the most beautiful springs that Florida has to offer. And for that reason, we would reccomend visiting outside of it’s peak times so it won’t be too crowded.
There are three different sites at Ginnie Springs for certified Scuba Divers to explore; The Ginnie Ballroom, The Devil’s Spring System, and Santa Fe River. The Ginnie Ballroom and The Devil’s Spring systems are great for exploring amazing underwater caves, but the Ginnie Ballroom is considered much safer and better for less experienced divers. The Santa Fe River dive will allow you to see prehistoric fossils!
To learn more about diving at Ginnie Springs, you can visit the Ginnie Springs website. They even offer dive training if you have no diving experience.
Who wouldn’t want to see a sunken ship in their lifetime!? Choosing to go scuba diving in Tampa will give you the opportunity to do just that.
The U.S.C.G Blackthorn is one of the most popular dive sites in Florida and lies about 20 miles offshore in the Pinellas Artificial Reef Site #2, and is located 80 feet down.
The 180 foot long Blackthorn sank in 1980, after colliding with the S.S. Capricorn just west of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay. She capsized and sank within minutes. Unfortunately, more than 20 people lost their lives.
Three weeks later, the Blackthorn was raised and removed from the shipping lane and was eventually scuttled in the Pinellas Artificial Reef Site #2 for the purpose of diving and fishing.
It’s located super close to another sunken ship, The Sheridan, and whilst scuba diving around the ships are fine, it is not recommended and very dangerous to go inside the ships as visibility is so poor.
You will see a tonne of wildlife at this scuba diving location in Tampa! Goliath grouper, snapper, mackerel, schools of spadefish, and even whale sharks have been reportedly spotted in the area!
Christ of the Abyss
Key Largo is known as the dive capital of the world, so another super popular place to go scuba diving in Florida, mainly because there are a lot of things hidden underneath the water here, including Christ of the Abyss.
in 1965, a nine foot tall bronze statue was lowered into 25 feet of water off the coast of Key Largo. This statue is the third of it’s kind, and is located in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
The original Christ of the Abyss state is located in the Mediterranean Sea, just off San Fruttuoso on the Italian Riviera. It’s said that the statue is to represent Christ in the new world below the waves, and serves as memorial for all of those who have lost their lives at sea.
The statue that you can see when scuba diving in Key Largo only sits 8-10 feet below the surface, so it can also be seen by those who go snorkeling. If you’re looking for some good snorkeling spots, check out our places to go snorkeling in Florida post!
However, you will get the best views of the statue by going scuba diving, and will also get a better look at some of the marine life that call these waters home, such as angel fish, nurse sharks, and moray eels.
If you want a truly special scuba diving in Florida experience, we highly recommend going to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Less than 1% of the National Park is on dry ground, making the Dry Tortugas an underwater paradise.
Situated 70 miles from Key West, the remoteness has allowed nature to thrive here. The water is crystal clear, and the corals are absolutely beautiful, with some coral structures rising 50ft from the bottom straight up! There are fish species at the Dry Tortugas that you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
Some popular spots to go scuba diving in Key West at the Dry Tortugas are the Maze, the Bat Caves, Dante’s Inferno, Texas Rock, and the Windjammer Wreck which is regarded as one of the most beautiful shipwrecks in the world.
It is VERY important to remember not to touch another when you’re scuba diving at the Dry Tortugas. All of the corals, reef fish, and artefacts are protected and it is super important not to touch any of them, and to take care not accidentally brush up against any coral as it will probably kill it. It’s also important to watch out for sea urchins and lionfish which can cause a lot of harm to you.
The coral at the Dry Tortugas is some of the most vibrant in Florida Keys, and we definitely want to keep it that way!
For more information about the Dry Tortugas National Park, you can read up about it on our blog post.
Crystal river is another great place to go scuba diving in Florida! It’s actually a well-known place to swim with manatees up close, but that is ONLY allowed with snorkeling and NOT scuba diving!
Even though you won’t be getting up close and personal with manatees, don’t worry! The diving in crystal river is still phenomenal and there are multiple dive locations to choose from depending on what you want to see!
Magnolia Springs is a cave system that was shut down in 1963 after it collapsed. It has a depth of 35 feet, and you can only dive to the entrance room, but there is an abundance of sea life to observe, including manatees if you’re lucky!
Big Spring, or King Spring, is the main diving spot that consist of caverns that are great for some underwater photography. You will get the chance to spot some mangrove snappers, sheepshead, and tarpon from this location.
Biscayne National Park
If you’re looking to go scuba diving in Miami, then Biscayne National Park is for you!
The best way to experience Biscayne National Park is by being on, or in, the water as 95% of the park is underwater. The Park preserves Biscayne Bay and it’s beautiful offshore barrier reefs.
Scuba diving in Florida is great here if you are a fan of shipwrecks! The Maritime Heritage Trail gives you the opportunity to some of the parks many shipwrecks, six to be exact!
The shipwrecks span across many centuries, from the Arratoon Apcar which sank in 1878, and Erl King that sank in 1891, to the Mandalay that sank in 1966. There’s such a wide variety of shipwrecks and all of them are spectacular to see for yourself.
You’ll also see a lot of wildlife when scuba diving at Biscayne National Park. On top of the gorgeous coral reefs, you may be lucky enough to see Dolphins, Turtles, and even Pelicans!
It is important to note that access to the Maritime Heritage Trail is only available by boat, so it’s great if you have your own but boats can also be chartered to get to Biscayne National Park.
There are so many beautiful National Parks in Florida, Biscayne is just one of them!
Panama City Beach
Did you know that Panama City Beach is actually the Wreck capital of the south? With over 150 dive locations and over 50 wrecks sunk as artificial reefs, there is plenty to explore.
Panama City is also a great place to be on land too! With beautiful white sand beaches perfect for sunbathing, outstanding seafood, and the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the world, Panama City shapes up to be a perfect day out! If you want to see what else Panama City has to offer, check out our things to do in Panama City blog post for some inspiration.
Some of the best dive scuba diving in Panama City spots include the Black Bart Dive Site, an oil ring ship that sank in 1993. Divers can investigate the wheelhouse, the deck, and the cargo holds that many different types of sealife are now calling home, many of them coming from the nearby Warsaw Reef.
The most recent sunken ship you will find in Panama City when scuba diving is the El Dorado Dive site. Hurricane Michael blew this ship ashore in 2018 at Hathaway Bridge. In May of 2019, she started her second life as a dive site. Even though it hasn’t been a dive site for very long, many different types of fish have moved in, making it a great place to see some wildlife!
The Florida keys are known for being some of the best places to go scuba diving in Florida, and Key West is no exception!
The diving sites at Key West truly are a site to behold. With colourful coral, barracuda, turtles, blue tang, butterfly fish, and many more, those looking to see some wildlife will absolutely love it here.
We all know that there are many sunken ships across Florida, but have you ever heard of a ship being intentionally sunk before? The USNS General Hoyt. S Vandenberg is the second largest ship ever to be intentionally sunk! It’s a retired navy ship to got a second life to intentionally create a dwelling for coral and fish. The Vandenberg is 522 feet long and sits 165 feet down.
There’s plenty to see at this dive site, including cargo holds and stairwells. This dive site is best for more advanced divers.
Other than scuba diving, there are so many things to do in Key West that you could easily make a long weekend out of it! If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our things to do in Key West post.
If you love warm waters, then choosing to go scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale is an excellent decision!
Thanks to the Gulf Stream, Fort Lauderdale waters remain warm all year round with temperatures at 72 degrees in winter and 80 degrees in summer, making it the perfect location to go scuba diving in Florida during the winter months!
Greater Fort Lauderdale is also the only place in the continental US where you can dive on a living coral reef straight off the beach! Yes, that’s right, you won’t need a boat! This coral reef is just a five minute swim from the shore of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and Hollywood.
Fort Lauderdale is also a wreck heaven. Over the past 20 years, the artificial reef programs in Broward County have placed 76 artificial reefs on the ocean floor, making it the largest warm water wrecks collection in the western world.
Some of the most popular wrecks include the Kay Scutti, Tracy, and Merci Jesus which can actually all be seen together if the current is right. These wrecks are a great place to see stingrays and schooling reef fish. Hog Heaven is a wreck where you could spot a hogfish or a lionfish if you’re lucky!
If wrecks aren’t up you’re alley, don’t worry! Scuba diving in Fort Lauderdale will also give you the chance to see some fantastic reefs!
The Barracuda Reef is one of the most popular reef dives in Fort Lauderdale and is suitable for all types of divers. Depending on the season, the likelihood of seeing turtles, lobsters, moray eels, and nurse sharks is high!
For more advanced divers, the Hammerhead Reef is much deeper and perfect for coral lovers. the finger-like structure of the coral makes a perfect backdrop for underwater photography, and you never know, some stingrays and parrotfish might make the occasional appearance too!
Blue Springs State Park
Yes, you can even go scuba diving near Orlando too! Blue Springs is actually one of your favourite State Parks in Florida too!
Located just 29 miles away from Orland, Blue Springs State Park has one of the biggest manatee conservation efforts in Florida, with numbers getting up to 485!
For more experience divers, there is actually a hidden cave at Blue Springs State Park that can reach depths of 117 feet! Only certified divers are allowed at that depth, but open water divers are allowed at 60 feet.
The amazing crystal clear waters with give you breathtaking views of fish, sea turtles, and the possible manatee. It’s a very special experience.
Water temperatures are usually around 72 degrees, which makes it the perfect location to cool off on those hot Floridian days,
Blue Springs is one of the most beautiful natural springs near Orlando, but there are many more too! if you want to see other natural springs near Orlando we have a blog post just for you!
Jupiter is very quickly becoming a popular place to go scuba diving in Florida for more advanced divers.
A ripping current from the Gulf stream brings in all sorts of ocean life, from reef fish to giant stingrays. You may even have shark encounters, see some sea turtles, and even swim by some rare species! One thing is for sure, every dive in Jupiter will be different.
Jupiter is some of the bluest water in the western Atlantic thanks to the warm water from the Caribbean, which also means that the water is always warm, making scuba diving in Jupiter all year round!
There are so many different dive sites in Jupiter! One of the most popular is Area 51 and is known for its amazing marine life. Loggerhead turtles love to hang out in this spot, as well as reef sharks and Goliath grouper.
The Tunnels are great for spotting different types of sharks such a reef sharks and nurse sharks. There are a lot of natural swim-throughs here too! To spot some green moray eels, head to the Scarface spot where you have the chance to spot the resident green moray eel with a scar across his face, hence ‘scarface’!
To see some amazing ship wrecks, the Jupiter Wreck Trek is an excellent dive site which will allow you to see three wrecks in one dive! The Zion, Miss Jenny, and Esso Bonnaire are all mating grounds for Goliath Grouper, where hundreds gather in the months of August and September!
Blue Grotto Dive Resort
Located in Williston, Blue Grotto Dive Resort is an excellent location for scuba diving in Florida for beginners as only open water diving cirtification is needed. Blue Grotto is actually the safest cavern dive in the area!
The Blue Grotto is a freshwater spring and cavern. There are three areas to explore in the crystal clear water that provides excellent visibility!
The Cavern lets you dive down 100 feet and if you’re lucky you may encounter Virgil, a friendly soft shell turtle who lives in the grotto. More experienced divers are allowed to go deep diving in the lower cavern, but a dive torch is recommended.
The newest feature of Blue Grotto is The Cave, which is truly one the most spectacular untouched beauties that Florida has to offer! It remains as close to its natural state as possible, mostly untouched. The rock formations are fragile and are covered by an undisturbed layer of silt. If you love cave diving, this is definitely a place to go as not many people get to see this natural wonder.
Fort Walton Beach
What’s not to love about Destin? The sand doesn’t get much whiter and the water doesn’t get much more beautiful. No wonder it gets dubbed The Emerald Coast!
Whilst Destin is mainly known for its fishing, what some people don’t know is how much fun scuba diving in Destin actually is! With so much fish to support the bustling fishing scene, you know there are going to be a lot of fish to see under the water too!
Basically, if you’re a scuba diver who wants to see a tonne of fish, go scuba diving in Destin. Destin-Fort Walton Beach is the perfect place to see a whole lot of lionfish.
Given Destin’s military past, history buffs will absolutely love scuba diving in Destin! There’s a whole load of sunken M60 battle tanks and barrel barges along Wreck Alley. Plenty of Amberjack, flounder, spadefish, stingrays, and sea turtles now call these sunken relics home.
For coral lovers, scuba diving in Florida doesn’t get much better than Looe Key!
Looe Key is named after the HMS Looe which sank on the reef in 1744. Now, Looe Key Reef has been named in the top 10 diving sites for 10 years, and you can totally see why. Over 150 species of fish, including angelfish and yellowtail, call this reef home. There are around 50 different species of coral present, including the beautiful fire corals, after 7,000 years of growth. Much of the reef is protected, meaning the reef life here is super healthy.
Not only is it an incredible spot to go scuba diving in Florida, it is also really accessable. There are three ferries running each day to get to the site and can easily accommodate all levels of divers.
Now, Devil’s Den may not look like much from the surface but don’t be fooled! Step down the staircase and you will be lead into a cave with an underground spring inside! This makes it one of the most unique ways to go scuba diving in Florida!
The water is crystal clear and the temperature remains a steady 72 degrees all year round. This spot is super popular with scuba divers as the depth can get to 200 feet. If you’re planning to go during summer and peak times, head there early to avoid disappointment.
For up to 50 feet, there will be beautiful sumbeams streaming through the water overhead making Devil’s Den a great photo opportunity! The deeper you go, you will find guppies, catfish, turtles, swim-throughs to explore, and fossil beds dating back 33 million years! Remains of camels, dire wolves, and saber-toothed cats have been discovered here!
And that is our list of places to go scuba diving in Florida. There are no end of places to go scuba diving, you really are spoilt for choice! And with such a wide variety of diving sites to see, we know you will have the most incredible time! Happy Diving!