Scuba Diving Florida

Scuba Diving Florida: The Complete Guide

Florida is one of the most popular tourist destinations in America and there are no prizes for guessing why. Lined by miles of beautiful coastline and playing host to a variety of quirky cities, it’s easy to see Florida’s allure.

Known to many as America’s Sunshine State, Florida is home to the world-famous Disney World. What’s more, visitors will be spoilt with a plethora of famous beaches such as Daytona Beach and Miami Beach. Florida is the ultimate family destination with something to please everybody.

Florida also plays host to some of the best scuba diving in the USA. An abundance of tropical marine life and variety in dive sites mean that scuba diving Florida is a real divers playground! There are a number of shipwrecks and reefs that are suitable for divers of all levels.

Scuba Diving Florida

What’s Good About Florida Diving?

Florida really is the ultimate destination for families with something to offer for everyone. From theme parks for the kids to relaxing beach days for the hard-working adults. It doesn’t let down divers either! Here are some of our favorite things about diving in Florida.

Pristine Diving Conditions

Florida is known for some great weather and the water conditions benefit from that too. Depending on the time of year you visit, you have options on all three of Florida’s coasts that offer a completely different experience.

This means that no matter what time of year you visit, there will be something on offer with great conditions for diving. Due to the variety you can expect a variety of tropical and subtropical climates with water temperatures ranging from 67-87°F.

Location

Due to Florida’s location on the USA’s east coast, divers get to enjoy three different climates for their diving. Diving on each of the Gulf, Atlantic, and Southern coasts offer something completely new and unique, ensuring divers will never run out of entertainment here!

Beautiful Dive Sites

There’s no lack of top-class dive sites in Florida. With a number of different tropical and subtropical climates depending on where you decide to dive, you can expect to see a vast range of different marine life and underwater landscapes.

Not only that, there’s also a plethora of wrecks and reefs to discover and explore!

Florida Scuba Certification

Scuba Certification

There is no requirement to be certified to scuba dive in Florida. In fact, there are many tour operators that cater specifically to those without any diving experience at all, making it an ideal place to get your first taste of the underwater world.

However, it’s always recommended to get scuba certified to give yourself the best, most enjoyable diving experience possible. While you’ll have a great time scuba diving Florida as a first-time diver, there’s a lot you can miss out on such as more challenging wrecks.

If you’re looking to get certified while on vacation in Florida, check out our recommended diving course package below!

In addition, becoming scuba certified will help you feel more comfortable and confident underwater. This leads to maximum enjoyment and safety from your diving experience and something worth considering.

Florida Scuba Diving Requirements

Scuba Diving Safety

While Florida has laws and regulations regarding diver down flags and vessel operators, there’s nothing specific you need to know as a diver taking an organized tour. As always, tour operators state that you must be in good physical condition and have some swimming ability. Children must be at least 10 years old to learn to scuba dive.

With that said, it’s always a good idea to have a dive buddy when you’re out scuba diving in Florida, as it is anywhere else. This is particularly the case if you’re out diving without a tour operator or guide. In this situation, it’s also good practice to make use of diver down flags.

Best Dive Sites in Florida

This versatile diving environment has everything from shipwrecks to natural and artificial reefs. Additionally, you’ll find a lot of dive walls spread throughout the area.

During my stay, I observed that there is a whole host of different opportunities on the three different coasts that all had a variety of different offerings. Whether you’re looking to scuba dive in Key West, Key Largo, Miami, the Panhandle, etc. Here are some of our favorite Florida dive sites!

Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo

Vibrant Coral

When people think of Florida, they often think of Walt Disney World and various other theme parks. But for us divers, our own Disney World may just be the first undersea park in the whole country.

Living coral reef is scarce in the United States, and there is a portion of Pennekamp sectioned off for the beauty of this gorgeous coral. This 25 mile long park is home to not only the precious living coral, but lush seagrass beds and a wide variety of other sea life.

Home to the brightly colored parrotfish, dancing damselfish, and the great barracuda, Pennekamp State Park offers some excellent chances to show off your photographic skill on your dive. Great barracuda might seem a little intimidating, however since their main source of food are tiny little fish, you should have nothing to worry about except getting that perfect shot on your camera.

Circle of Heroes, Tarpon Springs

Underwater Statue

Six-foot tall statues, all depicting the proud military heritage of the United States, grace the sea floor about 40 feet below the surface. Serving multiple purposes, this Circle of Heroes is a testament to our love for the dive, for our gorgeous sea life, and for our proud men and women who serve our country. 

This newer dive site just off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico is unique in its creation. Installed in 2019, the twelve statues stand watch within the crystalline waters of the gulf, commemorating each of our branches of the military. 

Our disabled veterans require a variety of therapeutic services, and the Circle of Heroes serves to help veterans who are also divers in this way. Due to its location, it is already helping to build and sustain a friendly ecosystem for the wildlife of this area. 

If this sounds like what you’re looking for, check out our recommended dive package below!

Panama City Shipwrecks

Shipwreck

The panhandle of Florida offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States – and one of the coolest dive spots. The Panama City Shipwrecks is pretty much exactly what the name indicates: this site allows us divers the opportunity to explore a few of the best shipwrecks found on the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail.

Some of these awe-inspiring vessels were sunk on purpose to help the Navy with their salvage and dive training. Ships like the Red Sea and the USS Strength sunk intentionally, lay to give divers awesome sites to explore and learn to dive. However, ships like the Empire Mica were sunk in battle, and have laid at the seafloor, wonders to explore for decades. 

Find more details of this tour and dive below.

Best Time to go Diving in Florida

In terms of diving conditions, Florida wouldn’t be a bad choice any time of the year. With three different climates for divers, there’s something to offer a good diving experience year-round.

As a result of the varying tropical and subtropical climates, you can expect water temperatures to vary between 67-87º Fahrenheit. If you’re not one for the chill, perhaps leave out the winter months between December-February.

Outside of the winter months, you’ll find a variation of hot and humid, and tropical climates. This largely depends on where you decide to go.

How Much Does Scuba Diving Cost in Florida?

If you’re looking at booking an experience through a tour company, you’ll find prices between $100-$250. What’s more, you’ll have nothing else to pay with gear and any fees included.

In addition, a PADI Open Water Certification will set you back around $600, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Scuba Diving Gear in Florida

Scuba Gear

There are several dive shops situated within Florida so you’ll have no issue renting equipment for your dives.

What’s more, if you choose to go with a guided tour operator as shown above, equipment rental is included in the price.

However, if you’re a more keen and experienced diver, it might be time to start buying your own gear!

Be sure to check out our buyer’s guides if you’re looking for scuba gear. There you’ll find all of our top recommendations for a range of scuba gear!

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