Scuba Dive in Florida
Scuba diving is an amazing experience. Whether you are just starting out or have 20 years of adventure behind you, it’s always fun. As long as you aren’t going to dive in a muddy lake. Featuring almost 1200 miles of coastline with clear blue water and wonderful weather, it’s no surprise that Florida is rated as one of the top scuba diving destinations in the world. Let’s explore the Sunshine State:
Planning to Scuba Dive in Florida
There are thousands of spot for diving and snorkeling. You can make your trip an entire scuba diving vacation, or just one stop of your tour of Florida. Here’s what you need to decide to plan the perfect scuba diving escape:
- Decide what type of scuba diving you want to do. There are so many forms from reef diving, to spearfishing, to plain-old (but still exciting) snorkeling. Obviously, if you are just starting out, don’t plan on going cave diving
- How much time do you have and how much money can you spend? We think time is the more important factor. 3 days would be good, a week would be ideal. Money is actually less of a barrier than you might think. Because there are so many dive spots, dive shops, and scuba diving charters, prices are pretty competitive. You can take lessons and hire a scuba diving professional on the cheap for a local tour, or buy a luxury scuba diving vacation package from a resort hotel.
- Pick where you want to dive. Once you know the kind of scuba diving you want to do, and how much time and money you can spend, the best scuba diving locations become easier to decide.
- Choose your vacation accommodations. Because dive shops and dive charters are more competitive, it is better to pick the resort / hotel you want to stay at first. Especially because many area have special scuba diving vacation packages that take first come first serve reservations.
- Select a dive charter – now you can search for the best stores for scuba diving gear, top-rated instructors, and scuba businesses that offer charters to the best dive spots in the area.
- Have the time of your life!
Scuba Diving Beginners: Visit one of the larger Florida scuba diving destinations (in the list below), and take a set of lessons. If you like it, you can spend a couple days at it. If not, there are plenty of other things to do: lying on the beach, fishing, and going to Disneyland just to name a few.
Top Florida Dive Spots
- Southeast Florida – the main “go-to” scuba diving destination for novices and scuba diving professionals alike among Florida diving sites.
- Florida wreck diving – Would you believe there are over 60 wrecked ships in the area? This is kind of the stuff of dreams and movies; being able to dive into a shipwreck in Palm Beach that is hundreds of years old.
- Florida reef diving – From Fort Lauderdale to Jupiter, there are a ton of artificial reefs you can dive in. The reefs are full of marine animals like groupers, eels, and sharks. The coral ranges in color from inky black to bright pink. You haven’t seen anything until you have seen an underwater reef.
- South Florida spearfishing – if you like hunting, you will probably love spearfishing. It isn’t legal in all parts of Florida, but it is here. Hire a scuba diving charter and get dropped in the best spots.
- Florida Keys scuba diving, among the most famous in the world, is a particularly popular destination. Don’t spend less than a week here. The two most famous reefs here are the Duane and Speigel Grove. The Florida keys also feature the National Marine Sanctuary, a reef conservation program that is critical to keeping our reefs healthy for future generations.
- Northeast Florida – From Melbourne up north through Jacksonville, the two best things to do up here are spearfishing and coral reef diving. All of the best locations are further off shore than other Florida dive spots, so you won’t be doing as much snorkeling. But the local say the extra time is worth it.
- Northcentral Florida – if you are bit more experienced, this is where you go for underwater cave diving. Not for the faint of heart, and pretty much the most dangerous type of scuba diving in these caverns. But for the adventurers, it is quite the adrenaline fix.
- Northwest Florida – commonly called the “Panhandle of Florida”, you can find the latest and largest artificial reef in the world – The USS Oriskany, just off the Pensacola shore. Freshwater diving is also available here.
Types of Scuba Diving Available in Florida
Besides more straightforward diving with the traditional scuba gear of wetsuit, compressor, regulator, and mask, there are many more specialized types of scuba diving.
- Cave Diving (Cavern Diving) – While it takes great experience to cave dive, the pluses are immense: underwater caves don’t have the waves and wind that can cause seasickness in many a diver. You can see hundreds of feet because of the crystal clear water. You get an idea of how the earth forms with beautiful cave formations. And last but not least, you become part of a small, elite group of cave divers in Florida.
- Shark Cage Diving – this can sound silly until are actually doing it. Imagine a large metal cage, with bars big enough to stick your hands through, but too small for the sharks. Then imagine you inside it. Typically an expert diver is in a cage next to you with shark bait to attract these beautiful predators. Suddenly, you have a combined sense of fear and awe as a huge shark appears. Photography begins.
- Ship Wreck Diving – Classic, but probably the most fun. Something about going to an old ship full of fish, history, and maybe a bit of treasure. Florida has hundreds of ship wrecks, so there is certainly a lot of opportunity.
- Spearfishing – Why hunt in the freezing woods when you can spearfish in warm water? Enough said.
- Liveaboard Diving – For serious diving enthusiasts, liveaboard diving takes scuba dive charters to the next level. You live on a ship for a week or month at a time, cruising to one top dive spot after another. In between, you have luxury accommodations and fine diving galore.
- Freshwater Scuba Diving – Freshwater diving offers an entirely different marine ecosystem from saltwater diving. It is also popular in the heart of Florida in places like Ocala and Orlando, in lakes, rivers, and old quarries.
- Underwater photography – breath-taking pictures are the norm when you take photos while scuba diving. Shots of coral, tropical fish, and group photos will hang on your wall forever. There are also plenty of specialty underwater photo contests.
Scuba Diving Lessons & Certification
We can’t stress enough that you need to take scuba diving lessons to have the safest and most enjoyable time. If you aren’t a Florida resident, think about taking your first lessons near home. There are more local diving schools than you might think, even if you are a couple hundred miles away from the coast. Your instructor should be certified by PADI or another one of the top scuba certification agencies. If you want to continue to education, you can take courses directly from PADI and become a divemaster. Florida scuba diving lessons can combine learning with experience, but you need to decide how much time you want to spend learn vs. actual diving. But one step (or fin) at a time.