Although Florida is known for Disney and its unrelenting humidity, it is also home to the only living coral barrier reef around the Unites States of America. The states east coast is facing the open Atlantic Ocean while its waters of the west coast belong to the Gulf of Mexico. Florida is surrounded by white sandy beaches, and the warm tropical waters are inviting for all kinds of water adventures. Just 5miles (8km) off Florida’s east coast is the Gulf stream, which is responsible for the incredible diversity of marine life in the water, which you can enjoy when scuba diving in Florida.

What makes Florida scuba diving so famous is that the ocean has a high diversity and abundance of fish. Preserving the reef is one of the state’s priorities, and one can enjoy them on different scuba diving sites in Florida. Bring your scuba gear, and you will be able to spend more time in the water, enjoying the best diving in Florida. Here is a list of the best places to scuba dive in Florida.

best scuba diving in florida

DIFFICULTY

Beginner

DEPTH

15ft to 20ft (4,5m to 6m)

VISIBILITY

165ft (50m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Shore or boat

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Turtle and sharks

RENOWNED FOR

Incredible high diversity of marine life

Enjoy an incredibly, in marine life diverse, drift dive powered by the Gulf Stream off the coast of West Palm Beach. This dive location offers the best diving in Florida, all due to the high diversity of marine life, which comes with the Golf Stream. The Golf Stream is the world’s second-largest oceanic current that flows nearly 3mph (4,7km/h), just one mile (1,6km) off the coast. Going with the flow, you’ll be able to enjoy a vibrant reef and mysterious shipwrecks. Owing to the Gulf Current, one can experience a high diversity of marine species, including an abundance of turtles, especially between May and September, as well as sharks, goliath grouper, or sailfish. At just 20ft, you will encounter angelfish, octopus, seahorses, and in summer, with warmer water, even manatees. It is basically like an underwater Zoo and has therefore gotten much attention in the Diving world, harboring the best dive spots in Florida.

Off west palm beach, there are several excellent diving spots, including Breakers Reef, a two-mile-long shallow coral reef, as well as “ship reefs”, a corridor just 10min away from Palm Beach. With the right tide, you can enjoy the famous Blue Heron Bridge. It is considered one of the best shore diving in the US and makes it to the top of the list as the best scuba diving in Florida. This dive location offers an easy shore entry, and the dive site is only about 15 to 20 ft deep. Nevertheless, there is a boat zone and a non-diving zone, and to stay safe, please bring your dive flag. Dive locations in west palm beach all are either shore dives or only a short boat ride away from the beach, and most are relatively shallow.

scuba dive florida

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate

DEPTH

50ft to 65ft (15m to 20m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 150ft (45m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from stairs

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Fossils and artifacts

RENOWNED FOR

Underground prehistoric spring, spring-cave

One of the best diving in Florida can be found in Williston, Florida, and it’s called Devils Den. Florida’s only underground prehistoric spring got his name, Devils Den, from early settlers. In winter, steam is emerging from the spring-fed cave water, and early settlers believed that it was smoke of hell. However, some thousands of years ago, the roof of the cave collapsed and created a “karst window” above the warm water underground spring-cave. Nowadays, many fossils that are over 2 million years old, and ancient artifacts, of men that lived about 7500 years ago, can be found at the bottom of the cave. The Smithsonian Institute is involved in recovering these.

In Devils Den, one can find one of the best scuba diving in Florida, since it offers crystal clear water with a maximum depth of 65ft (20m). The spring is located at a depth 50ft (15m), and divers can explore the cave system of the shallower areas. Deeper areas are gated off, so caves at 50ft (15m) are not accessible. Nevertheless, there are various beautiful underwater pathways to swim through. The water has a constant temperature of 72°F (22° C), a wetsuit of 3mm is thus most comfortable.

dive spots in florida

DIFFICULTY

Intermediate

DEPTH

25ft to 60ft (7,6m to 18,3m)

VISIBILITY

100ft (30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from the boat

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Reef sharks

RENOWNED FOR

Very intact and vibrant coral ecosystem

If you are going to Florida scuba diving, you should not muss Molasses Reef. Just east of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and southeast off the shore of Key Largo stretches a colorful reef, called Molasses Reef. Here, one can enjoy one of the best scuba diving in Florida. Due to its unique habitat, the reef was made into a Sanctuary preserved area. Molasses Reef belongs to the Key Largo Existing Management Area. Due to the protection measurements of Molasses Reef, the reef is in exquisite shape, and one can encounter a high diversity of marine life. REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) has classified the Molasses Reef ecosystem as one of the reefs of the Caribbean that have the highest diversity and abundance of marine life.

Molasses Reef is probably the most famous reef in Florida and offers a shallow dive above a vibrant coral ecosystem. For a few years, more and more reef shark has been seen at the site, which is a good thing since these impressive creatures are crucial for the reef. Other marine life includes coral crabs, shrimp, green moray eels, lobsters, as well as dishes such as snappers and angelfish. The occasional sea turtle may swim by as well. Molasses Reef is full of hundreds of different species of critters. One can enjoy watching most corals of the Caribbean, such as staghorn, elkhorn, brain, fire as well as elkhorn corals. Furthermore, one can enjoy many soft corals, such as sea fans, different species of sponges, and Gorgonians. Between coral beds, one can enjoy watching skates or southern stingrays resting in sandy beds. The dive there is relatively shallow, with a depth ranging between 25ft (7,6m) and 60ft (18,3m). This is where one can find some of the best Florida scuba diving.

diving florida

DIFFICULTY

Beginner

DEPTH

20ft to 100ft (6m to 30m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 100ft (30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from a platform

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Fossils and Florida softshell turtle

RENOWNED FOR

Dark blue water, natural spring cavern

places to dive in florida

The Blue Grotto in Williston is the largest clear water cavern in Florida and belongs to the best dive sites in Florida. This cave is a gem that not a lot of people get to experience. The site has been taken care of really well, so most of the cave is still natural habitat without any human disturbance. In fact, the rock formations are fragile, and a deep layer of silt covers the surfaces within the cave. This dive location has its name from the incredibly blue color. If you are on top and look down into the cavern, you will recognize a sharp dark blue color. The nature area surrounding Blue Grotto offers a place for BBQ or a picknick between dives, making this an amazing location for day trips, with family or friends.

At Blue Grotto, you don’t have to be a certified cave diver; instead, this is one of the best places to scuba dive in Florida where you can dive with an open water certification. The cavern allows dives up to a depth of 100ft (30m) with clear visibility, and a water temperature of 72° F (23° C). The dive starts are the mouth of the cavern, which has a width of 80ft (24m) and a height of 20ft (6m). At 30ft (9m), there is a bell with a supply of compressed air where you can take out the regulator and talk to your dive buddy. A 50ft guideline can bring you from there to the crescent-shaped cavern. In the cavern, one can find many fossils along the walls, and the water is filled with an abundance of life. When diving, you will most likely see Virgil, a resident Florida softshell turtle.

DIFFICULTY

Beginner

DEPTH

25ft (8m)

VISIBILITY

200ft (60m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from the river shore

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Turtle and anhinga

RENOWNED FOR

Anhinga foraging

best scuba diving florida

One of the best diving in Florida is in the Rainbow River in Dunnellon. The riverbed is lined with long swaths of seagrass that flow with the current. Dunnellon is a small town in Florida, located about 20 miles (32km) southwest of Ocala, and not many divers make it there to dive. This is why it is such a gem. Apart from beautiful seagrass, one can experience bubbling spring beds, as well as watch otters and turtles on their keeping busy. If lucky, you may find a shark tooth or an anhinga foraging. Anhinga is a water bird that forages for fish in the water while waterbombing it. To see these birds diving underwater to catch a fish is incredible.

Rainbow River in Dunnellon is 5.7miles long, and drift divers can enjoy this freshwater paradise. Since the depth is the river is only about 25ft (8m), bottom times may exceed an hour, and that with visibility of 200ft (60m). Rainbow River is definitely amongst the most magical and best places to scuba dive in Florida.

best dive spots in florida

DIFFICULTY

Beginner

DEPTH

25ft (7m)

VISIBILITY

Up to 100ft (30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from the boat

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Stingrays, eagle rays

RENOWNED FOR

Christ of the Abyss underwater statue

Off Key Largo is hon Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is home to incredibly beautiful coral reefs and the Christ of the Abyss statue. The statue is located seaward of the Key Largo Dry Rocks. This site attracts many divers and snorkelers all year round. The dive site of Christ of the Abyss is relatively shallow, about 25ft (7m) maximum depth. One can enjoy this impressive, 4000 pounds (1800kg) bronze underwater statue while simultaneously spotting sting- and eagle rays. Big schools of fishes will pass by, and the coral formations are extremely rich in color and make this underwater landscape extra special.

Since the dive site is relatively shallow, most dive tour operators also offer snorkel tours with the same boat. This is, therefore, an ideal place to go dive and snorkel with the entire family. Even from the water surface, one can see the statue and experience its intensity. This Florida dive site is optimal for a family trip and is definitely one of the best places to dive in Florida.

best places to scuba dive in florida

DIFFICULTY

Beginner

DEPTH

8ft to 10ft (2.4m to 3m)

VISIBILITY

100ft (30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from the boat

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Porcupine fish, damselfish

RENOWNED FOR

Historically significant shipwreck

Half Moon is a shipwreck that is located in the shallow waters of Biscayne National Park. When scuba diving Florida, one should undoubtedly go visit this incredible ecosystem. Half Moon, originally called Germania, was built in 1908 as a racing yacht. The yacht was built out of chrome-nickel steel. Unknowing of the breakout of World War I, the captain brought the yacht into an English port, and consequently, the British seized it as a prize of war in 1914. It was the first German ship that was seized during World War I. Down the line, eventually, the ship sunk due to a heavy storm right off the coast of Florida. Up until this day, the yacht has great historical and ecological value.

Since the shipwreck is submerged in the Biscayne National Park, a protected area, the wreck is surrounded by a high diversity of species. Best is to go visit Half Moon on an incoming high tide. Amongst others, sea life includes spiny lobsters, damselfish, angelfish, and porcupinefish. The wreck is located on a sandbank just off Key Biscayne. It is submerged in 8ft (2,4m) to 10ft (3m) water and reaches up to 3ft to 4ft below the water surface. The shallow waters make it an ideal location to experience a shipwreck dive, especially for novice divers. The Half Moon preserve is free of charge and opens all year round. Local dive shops offer diving and snorkeling tours, an ideal place to spend the day with friends or family. Local dive shops also offer laminated underwater guides, which come in handy when exploring this historical and fascinating shipwreck, one of the best places to dive in Florida.

florida scuba diving

DIFFICULTY

Advanced

DEPTH

Up to 130ft (39m)

VISIBILITY

100ft (30m)

ACCESSIBILITY

Entry from the boat

NOTABLE SEALIFE

Massive groupers, big schools of silversides

RENOWNED FOR

Artificial reef, purposely sunk shipwreck

best scuba diving florida

Spiegel Grove is one of the most iconic wrecks, and it was purposely sunk just off Key Largo at a depth of 130ft (39m) for Florida diving experiences. Spiegel Grove was sunk by several divers in 2002 which did not go as planned, the ship sunk starboard side. Instead, the Hurricane Dennis of July 2005 eventually turned the ship on the bottom of the ocean upright, to its originally intended position. The huge shipwreck is located 6miles (3,7km) off Key Largo and spans 510ft (155m) in length and 84ft (25m) height. Spiegel Grove used to be a -S. Navy Landing Ship Dock that was commissioned in 1956 and decommissioned in 1989, and eventually turned into an artificial reef and incredible dive location. Diving this enormous shipwreck offers one of the best diving in Florida.

Today, the shipwreck attracts a good amount of marine life, with large schools of silversides and big groupers. Although the ship was extra sunk for divers to be able to explore it well underwater, one requires a wreck diver certification to be able to enter the hull. However, it is possible to experience the wreck from the outside with an advanced open water dive certification. If you are going diving in Florida, make sure to enjoy this beautiful artificial reef. Spiegel Grove belongs to the most popular artificial reefs, making it on the list of the best scuba diving in Florida.

RAINFALL

The least rainfall can be found throughout November and December, with an average of 2,5 inches (63,2mm) and 2,52 inches (63,9mm), respectively. The rainy season is between June and September, with the highest average rainfall recorded in June with 7,13 inches (181,1mm) and August with 7,2 inches (183mm).

TEMPERATURE

Lowest water temperatures are throughout January and February, with an average of 67,3°F (19,6°C) for both months. Warmest water temperatures are in July and August, with 84,7°F (29,3°C) and 86,2°F (30,2°C), respectively.

BEST DIVING MONTHS

The best months to scuba dive in Florida depend on what you would like to see. Manatees or Sailfishes, for example, are only common in the colder, dryer months between December and February. With less rain also comes better visibility. However, if you would like to spend a day diving and snorkeling with your family, it may be better to come to visit Florida scuba diving locations between the summer months, June to September. Here, manta rays, as well as sea turtles, are more common, and the climate is more suitable to spend the day in the water and relax in the sun.

TIME ZONE: Coordinated Universal Time (UTC -05:00)

CURRENCY: United States Dollars (USD)

CALLING CODE: +1

ELECTRIC VOLT: 110-120 V

PLUG TYPE: A and B

MAIN AIRPORT: Orlando International Airport (MCO)

snorkeling in florida near orlando

As always, we create our content with you, fellow divers, in mind. So, how’d we do? Did you find this informative? Did it help you make a decision? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you below. Thanks for reading and we hope your next dive is a great one!

Sophie Bader

Sophie is a product expert, degreed wildlife manager, and biologist, with a specialization in Marine Biology as well as Ecology and Evolution. Sophie has a huge passion for traveling and is originally from southern Germany. She has obtained her PADI - Open Water diving license at the age of 13. Throughout her studies, Sophie has been conducting marine conservation research on four different continents and whilst traveling, has been diving in over 10 different countries worldwide. Her key interests include marine life and its conservation, local culture, diving, writing, and teaching English to local communities.

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