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Submerge and Explore: 10 Destinations for Best Scuba Diving in United States (2024)

Undertake an aquatic quest as we dive into the depths of the United States’ most captivating underwater realms. From the Pacific Northwest’s frigid embrace to the Florida Keys’ sun-kissed waters, the nation unfolds a tapestry of scuba diving adventures that beckon enthusiasts to submerge and explore. In this post, we will navigate the submerged wonders by taking suggestions from fellow divers on the best scuba diving in United States.

The adventure beneath the surface awaits, where vibrant marine life, historic shipwrecks, and mesmerizing coral formations create unforgettable experiences. In these underwater sanctuaries, encounters with playful sea lions and the dance of colorful fish amidst swaying kelp fronds await those who dare to take the plunge. Scuba enthusiasts can immerse themselves in a kaleidoscope of marine biodiversity, from elusive sea turtles to the graceful movements of nurse sharks.

Diving into the United States has been a longstanding desire. The country boasts numerous breathtaking dive sites, each home to diverse marine life. Scuba diving in the United States has consistently been high on my underwater scuba diving adventure bucket list.

The attraction of exploring vibrant underwater ecosystems, encountering sea life in various forms, and uncovering the ocean’s mysteries has fascinated diving in U.S. waters. The prospect of ticking off the dive destinations from my bucket list resonates with the excitement of discovering the submerged wonders that await beneath the waves of the United States.

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Scuba Diving in the United States of America (USA)

Scuba diving enthusiasts can explore a diverse range of underwater wonders in the United States, from the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest to the vibrant coral reefs in Florida. The West Coast offers remarkable dive sites, including the kelp forests of California’s Channel Islands and the iconic kelp beds of Monterey Bay, where divers encounter abundant marine life, such as sea lions, seals, and colorful fish.

Heading east, the warm waters of Florida invite divers to explore the renowned coral reefs of the Florida Keys. Here, the crystal-clear waters provide visibility for encountering colorful and vibrant coral formations and tropical fish and the chance to spot larger marine species like nurse sharks and sea turtles.

For those seeking unique freshwater experiences, the Great Lakes offer intriguing dive opportunities. Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes, boasts well-preserved shipwrecks, allowing divers to delve into maritime history beneath the surface.

Hawaii, a Pacific paradise, presents an underwater realm with marine life, including manta rays and spinner dolphins. The volcanic formations create an otherworldly backdrop for divers exploring the oceanic depths.

The United States provides various scuba diving experiences, catering to beginners and seasoned divers. With its diverse marine ecosystems, historic shipwrecks, and breathtaking underwater landscapes, the country offers enthusiasts a rich experience of underwater adventures.

10 Best Scuba Diving in the United States

Channel Islands, California

Submitted by James Ian from Parks Collecting

Situated off the coast of southern California, The Channel Islands are one of the best places in the world for diving in giant kelp forests.  Enormous golden kelp forests stretching from the seabed to the surface are a magical place to dive in.  Darting between the kelp, you can often encounter playful sea lions and bright orange Garibaldi fish.

Because there is a danger of getting caught in the kelp, this is best for more experienced divers – and always take a dive knife with you so you can cut yourself or your buddy free if needed.

Several operators run day trips to Anacapa or Catalina Islands.  Catalina, which has a couple of small towns, Avalon and Two Harbors, and can be reached by ferry, also has some dive shops, and you can do offshore diving from either town.

Channel Islands
Channel Islands, CA; Picture by James Ian from Parks Collecting

For a day trip from nearby Los Angeles, I recommend Eco Dive Center.  In addition to offering courses, they run regular one-day, 3-dive trips to Catalina or Anacapa for $189. Trips to Catalina typically leave San Pedro Harbor (about an hour south of downtown LA), and trips to Anacapa typically leave from Ventura Harbor (about an hour and a half north of downtown LA).  

Crowne Plaza Hotel Los Angeles Harbor, an IHG Hotel in San Pedro and Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach, an IHG Hotel in Ventura are solid choices to stay in before and/or after your dive trip.

 

Christ of the Abyss, Florida

Submitted by Raksha Nagaraj

Situated within the emerald waters of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Florida, this iconic underwater sculpture, Christ of the Abyss, stands as a poignant memorial and a symbol of harmony between humanity and the ocean depths.

Christ of the Abyss, a bronze statue depicting Christ with outstretched arms, was initially placed in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy in 1954. However, an identical replica was submerged in the Florida Keys in 1965. Today, the Florida installation has become a renowned diving destination, captivating adventurers with its serene and contemplative ambiance.

Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo, Florida
Christ of the Abyss; Picture by Vito Palmisano

As divers descend into the clear waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the ethereal silhouette of Christ of the Abyss emerges, surrounded by a thriving marine ecosystem. The statue, adorned with colorful corals and inhabited by many marine life, offers an immersive and spiritual experience for those exploring its underwater sanctuary.

Scuba divers, from novice to experienced, are drawn to the Christ of the Abyss site for its mesmerizing aesthetics and the sense of tranquility and connection it fosters. As bubbles rise to the surface and sunlight dances through the water, divers can reflect on the unique fusion of art, spirituality, and the marine world that defines the enchanting underwater journey around the Christ of the Abyss.

In Key Largo, Florida, you can consider staying at Seafarer Key Largo Resort and Beach or Reefhouse Resort and Marina.

Devil’s Den, Florida

Submitted by Yanitza from Next Stop Adventures

With so many natural wonders in Florida, it’s no surprise that one of America’s most prehistoric sites would be an underwater spring in the Sunshine State! 

At 120 ft in diameter, Devil’s Den is a breathtaking spring with a temperature of 72 degrees year-round and one of the most sought-after places for SCUBA diving. The impressive cave system in Devil’s Den is home to many fossils and ancient rock formations that date back to the Pleistocene Age, which adds to its majestic SCUBA diving experience. 

Devils Den, Florida
Devils Den, Florida; Picture by Yanitza from Next Stop Adventures

Whether you decide to go during the day or night, there are many nooks and crannies that you get to explore in this exciting dive. However, scuba diving in Devil’s Den is not recommended for beginners unless you are in a class with an instructor. 

You must be a certified SCUBA diver, with a certification of Open Water or above, to enter the spring, and the maximum depth you’ll reach is 58 feet. In addition to this, a dive buddy is required for admission. 

If you’re entering the spring cave, you must have either snorkeling or scuba gear, which are also available for rental on-site. 

Admission: $38 per diver, and prices vary from $15 to $25 per snorkeler, depending on the day.
Where to Stay: Devil’s Den Lodging, Cabins & Tents.

 

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Submitted by Daria Bachmann from Explore Baja California

Fort Lauderdale, city on the east coast of the US, is one of the best diving spots in South Florida, where you can combine popular water sports with other activities like beachgoing and sailing on the water. 

Fort Lauderdale’s underwater world is teeming with marine life, including colorful corals, tropical fish, sea turtles, and various species of rays. The wrecks also attract larger pelagic species. You can take a diving class or go through the whole PADI certification course with one of the diving companies in Fort Lauderdale.

One of the most popular places for diving in the Fort Lauderdale area is Lauderdale by the Sea, a small town north of downtown Fort Lauderdale. This area is known for its vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. The nearshore reefs are easily accessible, making them suitable for novice and experienced divers.

Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale; Picture by Daria Bachmann from Explore Baja California

Fort Lauderdale has several artificial reefs created by intentionally sinking ships. These wrecks provide habitats for marine life and exciting exploration opportunities. 

Some of the most popular diving sites in Fort Lauderdale are Sea Emperor, apopular wreck dive, the Sea Emperor is a 70-foot tugboat sunk in the 1980s. It lies in about 70 feet of water and attracts a variety of marine life. 

Another one is Hydro Atlantic; its 234-foot freighter was intentionally sunk in 1987 to create an artificial reef. It rests in about 170 feet of water and is known for its abundant marine activity.

Some of the places to stay at Fort Lauderdale are The Westin Fort Lauderdale, Hyatt Centric Las Olas Fort Lauderdale or Days Inn by Wyndham Fort Lauderdale.

Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas

Submitted by Raksha Nagaraj

Situated in the crystal-clear waters of the Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island offers an unparalleled scuba diving experience for enthusiasts seeking vibrant marine life and breathtaking underwater landscapes. With its diverse range of dive sites, from shallow reefs to thrilling deep-sea walls, the island caters to divers of all skill levels.

Exploring the colorful coral gardens, divers encounter marine species, including tropical fish, rays, and sea turtles. The world-renowned “Blue Hole,” a mesmerizing underwater sinkhole, attracts adventurous divers to plunge into its depths.

A Tiger Shark in Bahama
A Tiger Shark in Bahama; Picture by atese

Grand Bahama’s warm, turquoise waters boast excellent visibility, creating an ideal environment for underwater photography. The Lucayan National Park’s intricate cave systems provide a unique and captivating diving experience. Dive operators on the island ensure safety and offer guided excursions, allowing visitors to uncover the ocean’s hidden treasures.

After a day of underwater exploration, you can unwind on pristine beaches, savoring the island’s rich culture and cuisine. Grand Bahama Island is a diver’s paradise, inviting enthusiasts to discover the enchanting secrets beneath its clear waves.

You can stay at Pelican Bay Hotel, Dolphin Cove or Bell Channel Inn Hotel.

 

Kauai, Hawaii

Submitted by Jessica Schmit from Uprooted Traveler

While all of the Hawaiian Islands are paradise for divers, Kauai scuba diving is particularly excellent, thanks to the incredible biodiversity found in its vibrant coral reefs and variety of dive sites. 

In the waters around Kauai, you will find over 400 fish species, including over 100 endemic to Hawaii. Beyond fish, you can see larger sealife in its crystal clear waters while scuba diving, from Hawaiian sea turtles and manta rays to endangered monk seals and even humpback whales. 

Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai, Hawaii; Picture by Jessica Schmit from Uprooted Traveler

Additionally, there are opportunities for all kinds of divers here. For example, there are introductory dives that non-certified divers can join at Koloa Landing, one of the island’s most popular shore dive sites. Alternatively, there are bucket list-worthy sites for advanced divers, like the Forbidden Island of Niihau, which is known for its stellar visibility and plentiful sea life, including hammerhead sharks, monk seals, and manta rays, or the Mana Crack, the furthest offshore dive site in the state that’s renowned for its shark population. 

A two-tank dive with a divemaster, including all the necessary rentals, will typically cost around $210 for shore dives and over $400 for dive sites further offshore, like Ni’ihau or the Mana Crack.

Stay at The Kauai Inn or Kauai Palms Hotel when visiting Kauai.

Key Largo, Florida

Submitted by Yanitza from Next Stop Adventures

Known as the Scuba Diving Capital World, Key Largo is one of the popular destinations in the Florida Keys and is known locally as the “islands that you can drive to.” To add to the many incredible facts about the Keys, the Florida Keys Reef is the third-largest barrier reef in the world, and it’s an absolute divers paradise! 

When looking for scuba diving sites in Key Largo, places like Molasses Reef, Grecian Rocks, Christ of the Abyss, and the Spiegel Grove wreck are amongst the many favorites. 

Key Largo, Florida
Key Largo, Florida; Picture by Yanitza from Next Stop Adventures

But for those looking to dive and explore the coral reefs in Key Largo in one day, a trip to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park—America’s first underwater park, is always a great option. 

Since most of these are shallow corals, it gives you an excellent opportunity for bottom time. The crystal-clear water allows you to immerse in the beauty of the vibrant corals. Furthermore, wildlife such as sea turtles, barracudas, morays, and sharks can be seen in most of the dive sites in Key Largo. 

To get here, you can book a scuba diving tour with the park, and this gets you on a charter boat that will take you to two dive sites per trip, generally offered twice a day.

An Open Water Certification or above is required for all reservations, and depending on your selected dive sites, an Advanced Open Water Certification might be the minimum.

You can stay at Bungalows Key Largo or Hampton Inn Key Largo, FL.

Manta Village, Kona, Hawaii

Submitted by Karen from Forever Karen

Manta Village is famous for its night dives on the Big Island of Hawaii. Divers and snorkelers choose this area for a bucket list adventure to witness the night feeding of giant manta rays.

You must be open-water certified to participate in the manta ray dive. Many tour operators in Hawaii offer 2-3 day in-water courses to receive certification. You need to complete your PADI e-learning online beforehand.

Most excursions leave at dusk from Honokohau Marina and travel to Garden Eel Cove (Manta Heaven) or Manta Village (Keauhou Bay).

Keauhou Bay sits next to the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa. The former hotel at this location placed spotlights in the water for ambiance. The nightlights attracted tiny plankton, the manta ray’s favorite food. As the gentle giants came to feed, they were soon followed by the night tours.

Expect to pay USD 150+ for a three-hour excursion, on which you’ll spend 45 minutes on the dive. Tour operators use additional spotlights to attract the plankton. Divers sit on the ocean floor and view from below.

It’s important to note that you cannot touch the giant mantas and must keep cameras close to your body not to impede their swim. Diving groups often share the water with manta ray snorkelers, who observe the feed from the surface.

Manta Ray in Kona
Manta Ray in Kona; Picture by Karen from Forever Karen

Being in the ocean at night isn’t for everyone. With a blackened ocean, you’ll only see the mantas or fish when they enter the lights. However, if you embark on a manta ray dive, you’ll enjoy an experience like none other.

If you stay at the Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, you can see the manta rays from the hotel grounds.

Meadow Hot Spring, Utah

Submitted by Heather Arbour from ArboursAbroad 

When considering scuba diving in the US, you often think of scuba diving in the ocean. However, there’s a unique dive site in the state of Utah that shouldn’t be missed. 

You’ll find Meadow Hot Spring in Meadow, Utah, just two and a half hours south of Salt Lake City on I-15. This hot spring is unlike other hot springs. Meadow Hot Spring is a series of underwater caves in a meadow, offering three hot spring pools. 

The water in the hot springs fluctuates between 90-102 degrees, making it the perfect temperature for diving year-round. And while it seems strange to be diving in the middle of a meadow, the layers of caves aren’t the only thing divers find interesting.  

Meadow Hot Springs Utah
Meadow Hot Springs, Utah; Picture by Heather Arbour from ArboursAbroad 

Someone released warm water fish into the most excellent hot spring pool. So, you’ll be able to dive, explore the cave features, and find multiple species of warm water fish swimming in the hot spring pools.

Meadow Hot Springs is located on private land. However, the owners allow for overnight camping on-site. If camping isn’t your thing, the closest place to find accommodation is in Fillmore, Utah. Notable accommodations in Fillmore are Quality Inn and Suites Fillmore I-15 and Best Western Paradise Inn and Resort.

Only experienced divers should dive at Meadow Hot Springs. There have been several fatalities of people swimming and getting lost under the shelves of the caves, so you must dive here with experience and caution. In the main pool, be sure to use the rope provided to find your way out from beneath the layers of caves.

Puget Sound, Washington

Submitted by Raksha Nagaraj

Scuba diving in Puget Sound, Washington, uncovers a mesmerizing world teeming with diverse marine life and stunning underwater landscapes. Despite its reputation for colder waters, Puget Sound offers a unique and rewarding diving experience. Beneath the surface, divers encounter vibrant kelp forests, rocky walls adorned with colorful anemones, and rich marine creatures.

Visibility in Puget Sound can be surprisingly good, allowing divers to appreciate the intricate beauty of the underwater ecosystem. Hooded nudibranchs, giant Pacific octopuses, and curious seals are just a few of the captivating inhabitants awaiting discovery. The sound’s underwater topography features dramatic walls, canyons, and rocky outcrops, creating an exciting environment for exploration.

Grainyhand Hermit Crab
Green Hermit Crab, also known as the granular hermit crab, from the Puget Sound, West Seattle, Washington; Picture by Heather Burditt

Local dive sites like Edmonds Underwater Park and Alki Cove 2 cater to divers of all skill levels, with shallow areas for beginners and deeper sections for those seeking a more advanced adventure. Diving in Puget Sound offers not only a chance to witness the region’s incredible marine biodiversity but also an opportunity to contribute to local conservation efforts. As divers immerse themselves in the chilly embrace of Puget Sound, they embark on an unforgettable underwater journey in the heart of the Pacific Northwest.

You can consider staying at Puget Sound Sanctuary Entire Home or Port Ludlow Beach Cottage on Puget Sound when visiting Puget Sound.

Closing Notes

The United States is a diverse and captivating destination for scuba diving enthusiasts, offering underwater wonders that rival some of the most renowned dive spots globally. From the vibrant coral reefs of Florida and the sunken treasures in the Great Lakes to the kelp forests of California and the rugged beauty of Puget Sound, the U.S. boasts underwater landscapes that cater to all levels of divers.

Whether you’re seeking thrilling drift dives, encounters with majestic marine life, or exploring historic wrecks, the United States has it all. The sense of adventure and discovery extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, allowing divers to explore different ecosystems and marine habitats.

So, pack your gear, dive into the diverse underwater realms that the United States has to offer, and embark on unforgettable underwater adventures. With its natural beauty, marine biodiversity, and various dive sites, the U.S. is a top-notch destination for scuba enthusiasts looking to explore the depths of its coastal waters and beyond. The underwater wonders of the United States await, promising an immersive and awe-inspiring experience for divers from coast to coast.

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