America abounds in places for a wide variety of outdoor activities, and scuba diving is no exception. With the oceans and the gulf surrounding the country, it comes as no surprise to see countless dive sites scattered throughout the adjacent waters. Gritr Outdoors, being a sporting goods store, has prepared a list of the best diving sites you can visit in the United States, without leaving the boundaries of our beloved country.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida
It’s only fair to let the country’s first undersea park open our list of the best places to scuba dive in the US. Resting on Florida’s coral cay archipelago, bathed by the placid waters of the Atlantic Ocean, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is hands down a must-visit for every scuba diving enthusiast.
As the name suggests, this state park is a true treasure grove for all coral reef admirers who seek to get a glimpse of the underwater world. The views of the marine life that made colorful coral reefs their home will undoubtedly leave an indelible impression on every connoisseur of beauty. The SeaLife Camera can make sure those impressions stay with you for as long as the image can live, which is pretty much forever.
What concerns scuba diving, the park has a PADI-5 Gold Palm facility that offers a full range of scuba courses. Equipment rental is available, and you can contact the dive shop about reservations and special rates for groups. There are tours suitable for first-timers as well as for more experienced divers. You can visit a Carysfort Reef site that harbors a first-of-its-kind lighthouse built in 1852 or explore the area surrounding the famous Christ of the Abyss – a large, two-ton bronze statue of Jesus that guards the seafloor. Many people call it the best diving Florida site, and you might as well share the same opinion after visiting it.
Related Read: Best Scuba Diving and Snorkeling Place Around the World
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Gulf of Mexico
About 100 miles south of the Texas-Louisiana border lies the Gulf of Mexico’s only marine sanctuary. Built around marine communities that crown the underwater salt domes, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has been introducing people to aquatic flora and fauna since 1992.
The sanctuary’s mission is to promote exploring and taking care of places of vibrant biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you want to admire the sights of coral colonies or get acquainted with dozens of different marine species, this sanctuary can grant you your wish. From watchful barracudas that patrol the upper layers and damselfish settlements hiding in coral piles to manta rays drifting silently atop the reef and eels lurking under corals – the views you won’t want to miss are beyond count.
The sanctuary itself has no rents or individual shops and doesn’t endorse any particular chart operator. There are several dive charters that visit the sanctuary, so you’ll need to contact the charter operators directly.
Catalina Island, California
The lone island of Catalina is a crown jewel of California scuba diving. An hour-long ferry ride separates this Pacific island from the West Coast. This relative remoteness proved beneficial for the biodiversity of the land and surrounding waters. Even though the isle itself deserves a special mention due to its mesmerizing landscape, we shall focus on diving sites since this is what you are here for.
The abundance of diving sites brought Catalina fame as one of the best places for scuba diving in California. The points include Casino Point Dive Park, Ship Rock, Farnsworth Banks, Lover’s Cove, Long Point, Blue Caverns, Yellowtail Point, Bird Rock, and Sea Fan Grotto. While traversing the thicket of the Kelp forest, you’ll come across its numerous inhabitants.
Don’t miss the opportunity to make acquaintance with imposing giant black sea basses, schools of hurrying yellowtails, reserved lobsters, and quirky sea lions. Some places can offer you the thrill of exploring sunken ships, and one site holds the remains of a wrecked plane. The Casino Point Dive Park and Two Harbors are the main bases for diving outfitters and centers. Rent is available, so nothing will stop you from delving into the turquoise waters the moment you arrive.
Monterey Bay, California
Further to the north of the previous point rests Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the next destination of our tour around the best scuba diving sites in the USA. It is located within the Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area and is thus home to countless species of flora and fauna. Since it’s one of the most spectacular marine protected areas in the country, no wonder divers took a fancy to this place. With some of the best wildlife viewing options in America, this place is the main Monterey scuba diving site.
Even though Monterey Bay is a true hotspot for divers, it is first and foremost a place of preservation, and certain rules are to be followed. For example, diving spots are restricted to thirty divers per day. Another thing to consider is the sanctuary’s location: since it’s further in the north, the water here is colder, so you’ll need a dry suit to stay warm.
You didn’t really think our “scuba diving in the USA” list could do without Hawaii, did you? Aloha state is the primary place for all sorts of water activities, scuba diving included. You won’t miss by choosing any of the eight major islands, but we suggest beginning your Hawaiian tour from the island of Oahu. The Heart of Hawaii, or The Gathering Place as it’s often called, Oahu is home to the majority of the islands’ population. As usual, there are loads of things to do on the island, but we are more interested in what it can offer divers.
The island bears another name that might pique your curiosity. The Wreck Capital of Hawaii. Ten great wrecks are scattered across the seabed of Oahu’s waters, open to uncover their stories to recreational divers. Some wrecks were nothing but an accident, while others were sunk on purpose to create new dive sites. Regardless of their origin, every site deserves your attention. Oahu abounds in places that offer classes, charters, and gear for rent, so worry not, you can get everything you need onsite.