Florida’s diving opportunities vary from salt and fresh water diving, to cave and drift diving and include almost everything in between. Whether you want to explore a wreck, admire marine life, investigate natural reefs or are looking to learn, there is something here for you.
Florida itself is made up of a number of water bodies and, depending on where in the state you are planning to visit, you can make an itinerary to take in as many differing dive sites as you wish during your holidays to Florida.
As Florida is home to more divers, dive stores and dive boats than any other diving destination, you can be sure to find the equipment and training you need to take on the beautiful sites available in the area. While it is not required by the US government for divers to be certified, most dive shops and schools require a recognisable qualification and presentation of a certificate card before embarking on your trip or hiring equipment.
For difficult dives, many operators will also require evidence of your last dive, such as the log book. Short introductory courses resulting in open water certification can be found in Florida for between $200 and $400 dollars, depending on setting and party size. It is important to note that many operators will also require your dive to be accompanied if it has been more than a year since your last dive.
Dive trip costs vary depending on whether you have your own equipment, require accompaniment, wish to have a guide and party size. Short trips, including tanks and equipment, can be found for an average of between $60 and $80 for one or two locations.
Organized dive trips are an ideal way to ensure you experience all that Florida has to offer. The type of diving available to you will differ depending on where in Florida you are staying and if you are willing to travel, as each area has its own attractions and dive seasons.
In the southeast, the gulf stream warms the coasts of West Palm Beach and Boynton Beach and here you can find artificial reefs made from various materials, including sunken ships, piles of rock and boxcars.
The dive season here is year round and you can expect to encounter varied marine life, such as barracuda, manatees, sea turtles and, in the summer, spotted eagle rays and whale sharks.There are more than 80 artificial reef systems in the area, many of which are within the sport diver limit of 130 feet. Some are much deeper, however and require more skill and technical knowledge.
Southern Florida also offers a wide variety of artificial reefs and wrecks, many of which offer a perfect starting point for new divers. There are a string of wrecks here, running from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, including an 110 foot barge, a number of freighters, a 65 foot steel tugboat and two M60 tanks.
In addition, this area offers access to a drift diving line that will carry you along at a gentle one knot along rows of unique and colorful corral reefs, amazing fish species, sea turtles and the occasional whale. Diving season here runs from May to September and the average water temp is between 22 and 25 degrees.
The Florida Keys are another popular diving destination and it is here that you can dive North America’s only natural living coral reef. The largest wreck in the lower Keys is the 210 foot Adolphus Busch freighter, which is also a popular destination for snorkelers as the tower rises up to within 40 feet of the surface.
One of the most popular wrecks in the Keys, offering a massive area for coral growth, is the USS Spiegel Grove, which is about 510 feet long and 85 feet wide. Currently, the natural growth is not abundant, but the wreck itself is definitely worth a visit, although the currents and eddies formed around its bulk make this more suitable for experienced divers.
Crystal River, located on the west coast, offers a change of pace with both fresh and saltwater springs that attract both scuba divers and snorkelers year round. The area is renowned for its manatees and many of the dive shops here offer trips specifically designed to allow you to get close to these beautiful creatures.
For more experienced divers and those with specialized training, Florida’s springs offer a wide range of fresh water diving opportunities. The dive season here is during the winter months and an extensive network of caves and caverns attracts many divers each year.
This central area in northern Florida is one of the most active and largest cave diving regions in the US and is known for strong currents fed by the North Florida Aquifer. Ginne and Peacock Springs are two of the most popular freshwater dive spots in the world and, if you are in this area, places you definitely don’t want to miss out on visiting. The Leon Sinks cave system is thought to be one of the most extensive in the world and this massive underwater cave system is also a must-see for those with cave diving experience.
No matter what your skill level or which time of year you are traveling, there is a diving experience in Florida available to test you or amaze you. Choose your destination to suit your diving needs and explore some of the most scenic and unique diving spots in the world.