11 Top Places to Scuba Dive in America
We’re going to talk about one of the most exhilarating activities out there – scuba diving! Scuba diving is the form of underwater diving in which the diver uses a SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) to breathe.
Scuba diving is all sorts of fun! Diving into the unknown, seeing things you’ve never seen before, and the thrill of breathing while submerged. One of the best parts of scuba diving is finding new and exciting locations to dive. In this article, we’re talking about the best places to scuba dive in the USA!
What Makes a Good Scuba Diving Location?
Before we jump into our picks for the top scuba spots in the USA, we thought we’d look at the criteria on which we consider a scuba spot to be the best. Not only will this help you understand our decision making, it will help you to decide from our locations below. After all, the best scuba spot in the USA is really the diving spot where you will have the most fun. So, while you’re planning your trip, consider these variables in order to choose the best scuba diving destination for you.
The first metric is the most obvious. So much of what separates one scuba spot from another is the underwater sites. It may seem like an obvious metric, but it definitely is worth considering in any scuba diving trip you take.
There is so much to see in the world of scuba diving! From shipwrecks, to coral reefs, to all the different colorful fish and marine life, to underwater caves and wreck diving, and so much more! The best underwater sites will largely depend on your personal preference.
Additionally, the USA is a huge country! This means that whatever you can think up, you can probably see it at one of the scuba locations across the USA. From the Atlantic, to the Pacific, to the Gulf of Mexico, to all the lakes and rivers in between! There is so much in the USA that it’s hard to even pick our top spots. And we can’t forget about Alaska and Hawaii either!
So, before you get overwhelmed by all the choices on our list, try to settle on the type of scuba sites you want to see. This will make it so much easier to narrow down your choices. You will quickly see how many attractive options there are.
What Haven’t You Seen Before?
Building off our above point, another great way to pick the best scuba spot for you is based on what you haven’t seen before! If you’re picking a scuba spot for vacation, you probably want some spots that are different from what you have at home. For example, if you live on the Atlantic side of USA, try out the Pacific Ocean. Oftentimes, the best spots are simply the most unique! We’ve included areas from all across the USA in our list below.
Another key factor that you might not consider (especially if you live somewhere tropical) is warmth! The warmth of the water can make a big difference in how much you enjoy your scuba diving trip. While there are certainly all sorts of scuba gear to keep you comfortable in all sorts of water conditions, the temperature will still affect you at various points throughout your trip.
Be sure to check the temperature and the water conditions before planning your trip. It might just be a simple fact that you prefer the nice water off the coast of California to the frigid waters of Alaska.
We have written this list primarily for people who already know how to scuba dive. If you’re a beginner, you likely won’t be able to handle many of the spots on our list. Scuba diving requires extensive training and practice before you are able to handle more advanced dives.
However, difficulty of the dive is still a valid consideration in picking the best scuba spot for you. Even among the choices on our list, some are definitely more difficult than others.
The primary factors to consider in difficulty are the depth, the temperature, and the amount of confined space. Simply put, more depth is more difficult. It requires a better understanding of how to scuba dive, and is best left to more experienced divers. Some divers also may be quite frightened by tight, confined spaces. They are quite a bit more dangerous than the average dive, and definitely are more suited to a certain type of diver.
These are subjective aspects. You really need to consider how much these factors would add or take away from your enjoyment of the dive. Pay careful attention to these factors when choosing your ideal dive.
The Destination Overall!
Finally, keep in mind that you might not just be visiting these spots to scuba. If you are planning a vacation around scuba diving, it’s worth considering all the other things that these places offer as well! Many of the sites on our list are very attractive tourist destinations for many reasons other than scuba diving, and you may want to consider all the attractions of the destination itself in making your choice.
For example, if you’re considering Hawaii, keep in mind that there are jungles, beaches, great surfing, tropical waters with colorful fish, vast hikes, and much more! A scuba vacation doesn’t have to be all about the scuba, and there are plenty of other factors that will go into your enjoyment of the trip.
Best Places to Dive in USA
Here we go, our favourite places to dive in the USA! In this list, we’ve picked our best spots, and also been sure to include plenty of variety. We’ve included locations from all around the USA, and included all sorts of bodies of water. You’ll find different sites, depths, marine life, and everything in between! We are confident that one of these sites will be an unbelievable attraction for your next scuba trip!
So let’s get started!
1. Monterey Bay, California
First up we have Monterey Bay, California. You can probably imagine why California would be such a destination for scuba divers. The whole state is packed with sunshine and gorgeous beaches.
Monterey Bay is located just South of Santa Cruz. There are plenty of amazing spots for divers to enjoy. There is Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary, with varied marine habitats, wonderful underwater sites, and more. The weather is great and the water is often calm and easy! Monterey Bay makes for a great destination for beginner divers and experienced divers alike.
2. Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is another self-evident scuba diving destination. The Keys are a string of tropical Islands that extend off the Southern shore of Florida. They are a destination for all sorts of outdoors activities, with scuba nearing the top of that list.
There are many places to dive all along the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Key West! The dives are famous for their coral reefs, marine wildlife, and shipwrecks. Popular reefs include the Molasses Reef and Christ of the Abyss. Famous shipwrecks include the Eagle and the Spiegel Grove. Florida Keys are an excellent destination that offer pretty much anything a scuba diver could be searching for!
3. Morehead, North Carolina
Morehead is a port town in North Carolina, and is a popular destination for diving. It is sort of a hidden gem among the diving community, located a bit North of the more popular Myrtle Beach.
Morehead is a great place for shipwreck diving. In fact, the North Carolina coast has gotten the nickname “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” for this very reason. There are so many shipwrecks to see during your dive, and so much history to take in.
Additionally, thanks to the Marine Fisheries Artificial Reef Program, there are actually several fishing vessels which were sank purposefully to be used as artificial reefs, and provide habitats for the fish population. This ensures that you will see some interesting marine life as well as some wrecks!
4. Flower Garden Banks, Texas
The Flower Garden Banks is a Marine Sanctuary located in Texas, on the Northwestern shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Flower Garden Banks has become a scuba destination for its wide variety of sea-life and its extensive coral reefs.
There are clear blue waters and white sandy banks. You might see barracuda, squirrelfish, puffer fish, eels, and much more! The coral reefs are huge and vast, and protected as a Marine Sanctuary. Up to 51% of the base of some areas is covered in coral.
You might not think of Texas when you think of tropical destinations, but this is very much a tropical scuba diver’s paradise!
5. Puget Sound, Washington
Puget Sound is an inlet in the Salish Sea, located on the Northwestern Coast of Washington. Located in the Pacific Northwest, it is a great location for a vacation whether or not you are into scuba.
There are over 75 shore diving sites in Puget Sound, with the Sound itself being over 100 miles long. The water is cold, so you’ll need a dry suit, but it’s worth it for all the things you will see. There are reefs, caves, shipwrecks, underwater fjords, and more! Lots of underwater marine life too, like octopi and sea lions!
6. Lake Huron, Michigan
Let’s switch it up a bit by including a lake! Scuba isn’t all about oceans. Lake Huron is one of the Great Lakes, which means it’s huge with a lot to see. It’s located in Michigan, so you’ll probably want to go during the summer, but you’ll be surprised at all you can see in the Great Lakes.
Michigan actually has 12 underwater preserves, which ensure that you’ll see plenty of sea life on your dives. You might see sunfish, longnose gar, and more. The area is also popular for its shipwrecks. Many tours are available to see many wrecks, which are all quite close to each other. An underrated detail is that lake wrecks are better preserved due to the lack of salt water. You can soak in more history as the wrecks are closer to their original shapes.
7. Catalina Island, California
Catalina Island is a large Island just to the Southwest of Los Angeles. It is a popular destination for vacations, as it is filled with things to see. You will have an awesome vacation to Catalina even if you aren’t scuba diving! But of course, there are many popular dive sites on Catalina Island as well.
Perhaps the most popular diving destination in Catalina is the Casino Point Underwater Dive Park. It is a protected Marine Reserve, which means you are sure to see plenty of fish and marine animals. Popular sites include the Giant Black Sea Bass, Yellow Tails, Sea Lions, and Horn Sharks. There is also a giant underwater kelp forest to see!
8. Baranof Island, Alaska
Baranof Island is an island located in the Alaska Panhandle. You might not immediately think “Alaska” when you think scuba, but it is actually quite a popular destination. Just be prepared for cold water!
You’ll get to see all sorts of cold water marine life, and neat underwater formations that you wouldn’t see anywhere else! From jellyfish to giant King Crabs! There is also big kelp forest, and much more. If you’re looking for a truly unique diving experience, don’t overlook Alaska.
9. San Diego, California
San Diego is located near the Southernmost point of the Pacific Coast of the USA. As such, you might expect it to have a lot of ideal diving locations, and you’d be right!
There is a lot of preservation activity in San Diego, so you can see a lot of marine wildlife and nature. This includes coral reefs, giant kelp forests, and more! Check out some manta rays and sharks, and all sorts of tropical fish. San Diego also has its share of shipwrecks to see.
Additionally, as a vacation destination, San Diego is hard to beat. The city is alive and vibrant, and it’s full of great beach life and surfing! This is a well-rounded vacation spot if you want something beyond just diving.
10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular beach areas on the East Coast of the USA. It is a popular destination for many reasons, with scuba nearing the top of the list.
There are quite a few cool dive sites to choose from. There are many storied shipwrecks along the South Carolina coast, including The Governor, a 200-foot Civil War paddlewheeler. There are also several artificial reefs, which were meant to attract marine life. There are many barracuda and spadefish, amongst other fish! South Carolina is a great dive destination for shipwrecks, especially if you’re a history buff!
11. Big Island, Hawaii
And we can’t forget about Hawaii. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that such an awesome Pacific Island is inside the USA. You can probably imagine why Hawaii would be such an awesome dive spot. And if you’re planning a vacation to Hawaii, there are so many other neat activities you could do as well. Jungle tours, surfing, beach-going, volcanoes, the list goes on!
The Big Island has a number of really cool dive spots. Let’s not forget it’s a pretty big island after all. There are many reefs, marine life hot spots, underwater caves, clear blue waters, and much more! A few popular spots include the Touch of Grey grey reef shark nursery, Manta Ray Heaven, and Pu’uhonua Historical Park (home to many underwater lava formations).
Picking the Best Dive Site for You
We’ve given you a lot of choice throughout our list. Remember, the best dive site is simply the dive site that is best for you. So, consider our list, but also consider what you are looking for in a scuba vacation. Remember, there’s a lot out there, and a lot to see and do. Even within the USA, there are a ton of cool scuba vacations, so it’s hard to go wrong!
Be sure to consider everything else that the destinations offer. After all, scuba is only one part of your trip. The rest of your day will be spent checking out the local cultures and soaking in the (on land) sites. So, do some research into not only the scuba packages, but everything else as well!
Also, remember that we only covered the USA in this article. There are a lot of cool destinations outside the United States, and you can always give those some consideration as well. Most of the planet is made up of water, which makes for some pretty cool scuba locations all over.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our top picks for scuba locations in the United States. We included a wide variety of sites and locations, and we are sure that you can find something you will really enjoy! Scuba diving is all about getting out there and seeing something you haven’t seen before. So, have fun on your next scuba experience!