Top Destinations for Scuba Diving in the US

Published on September 21st, 2021

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The United States offers a wide variety of locations for scuba divers. With access to both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the US has some of the best dive sites in the world. From Hawaii to Florida, from coral gardens to shipwrecks, diving in the US has something for everyone.

The vast diversity of dive spots can make it hard to decide where to go on your next diving holiday but don’t worry, we’ve made a list of the 10 top US destinations for scuba diving. This list is by no means exhaustive; however, these are our favorite dive sites in the US.

It’s time to put on your scuba gear and dive into the many options that the ocean in your backyard has to offer!

Tropical fish coming out of rocks

Key Largo, Florida

The largest of the Florida Keys; Key Largo has historically been one of the best places to dive in the world. Key Largo offers divers a lot of visibility thanks to the clear blue water that the island is famous for. Here you can explore colorful coral reefs, historic shipwrecks, and diverse Caribbean marine life.

One of the best dive sites in Key Largo is Molasses Reef, located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and features several different Caribbean species, such as hawksbill and loggerheads turtles and Caribbean reef sharks.

Another great dive site is the USS Spiegel Grove, sunk in 2002 and has a max depth of 130 feet. The USS Spiegel Grove is a fantastic shipwreck experience for divers with a passion for penetrating massive wrecks.

Two scuba divers swim among seaweed

Santa Catalina Island, California

Part of the Channel Islands that sit off the southwest coast of Los Angeles, Santa Catalina Island has some of the best diving on the West Coast. With over 60 dive sites and many aquatic life, Santa Catalina is an easily accessible slice of underwater paradise.

The dive sites around Catalina Island are surrounded by giant kelp forests that offer a truly unique experience for divers of all levels. The kelp forest is complemented by some of the most exciting marine life on the Pacific coast. This includes sea lions, leopard sharks, barracuda, spiny lobster, and spider crabs.

The most popular dive site at Catalina Island is the famous Catalina Dive Park at Casino Point. Here divers are privileged to octopus, moray eels, black sea bass, and even Garibaldi damselfish, known in the area as the Catalina goldfish. Most of the dives are shore dives, so there’s no need for a boat.

Scuba divers visited by large manna rays

Kona, Hawaii

Kona isn’t part of the continental United States, but this dive destination just had to make the list. Kona offers divers the opportunity to experience a night dive with manta rays. Seeing these gentle giants cut through beams of light on a dive is arguably one of the most jaw-dropping experiences a diver can have.

Other than this popular once-in-a-lifetime experience, Kona provides over 70 dive sites. The best of these include Long Lava Tube, Turtle Pinnacle, and Two-Step. This dive destination has everything, ranging from checking out local underwater topography, diving with exotic Pacific fish species, and going on blackwater night dives.

Tropical fish swimming near coral reefs

Flower Garden Banks, Texas

The Flower Garden Banks is a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary located 100 nautical miles offshore of Galveston, Texas. As soon as you jump into the water, you are greeted with crystal clear blue waters filled with barracudas and other exotic marine life.

At 60 feet you can see the top of the reef, as these large coral heads stretch far and wide in every direction. The reef is teeming with life and has almost 300 species of fish and over 25 species of coral. You can also spot a wide variety of crustaceans, sponges, and plants.

Eagle rays and Manta rays are often spotted drifting above the reef, so don’t forget to look up every once in a while. Along with rays, you can find a variety of sharks, including hammerheads and the occasional whale shark.

Scuba diver swims with fish among coral reef

La Jolla, California

Filled with a plethora of Southern California sea life, this shore dive is teeming with life both during the day and at night. There is so much life in these waters that you don’t even require a tank or scuba gear, as you can still spot a lot while snorkeling.

If you decide to dive, you will get the chance to explore the reefs and sandbeds between the tall kelp forests alongside many sea lions and seals. The best dive spots are reached via Kellogg park or by heading to La Jolla Cove.

During all seasons, you will see most of the fish listed on the Pacific Inshore Fish Guide; however, the best time to go is summer to fall. In this period, you might see black sea bass or horn sharks, as well as octopus, sea turtles, leopard sharks, and even occasional broadnose sevengill shark.

Scuba diver poses with sunken ship

USS Oriskany, Florida

Known colloquially as “The Great Carrier Reef,” the USS Oriskany is the world’s largest artificial reef. Build around 1945, the USS Oriskany was a massive aircraft carrier that was later sunk in 2006 off the coast of Pensacola. The ship is so huge that it provides scuba divers
with five different dive sites to explore.

This is an epic dive site for beginners to experienced divers as the ship’s depth starts at 70 feet and has a max depth of 212 feet. Not only does this aircraft carrier provide a fantastic underwater playground for divers, but it also provides a nurturing environment for whale sharks, tiger sharks, and a variety of different groupers.

Scuba divers visit a flooded mine

Bonne Terre Mine, Missouri

One of the most incredible diving experiences, the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri, allows divers to explore what was once a lead mine. Now abandoned and flooded, the mine has found a new life as an underwater park of sorts.

At this dive destination, divers have over 100 feet of visibility and can even explore a movie theater that was part of the mine. With 24 dive trails featuring mine carts, rails, and just about any mine-related equipment you
can think of, the Bonne Terre Mine is a must-dive for experienced divers.

It is important to note that you need a guide to dive into this site as it can be dangerous for divers new to the location. You can even bring non-divers along to this trip as there are also walking tours and boat tours to enjoy.

Scuba diver inspects sunken ship

Lake Huron, Michigan

Home of two of Michigan’s 12 underwater preserves, Lake Huron has 75 sunken ships for wreck divers to enjoy. From steamers to schooners to modern steel freighters and tugboats, these ships used to carry coal, iron ore, and even passengers across the Great Lakes. Due to unpredictable weather and busy waterways, not to mention the lack of lighthouses, many ships sunk and left behind exciting wrecks to explore when diving.

Fifty of the ships are in Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, where visibility can reach 50 feet. Nordmeer sank in 1966, and sitting at only 12 meters below the surface, this dive spot is excellent for divers of all levels. Thanks to the lake’s freshwater, the shipwrecks are preserved better than in saltwater, and there is plenty of Nordmeer to explore.

As well as the excitement of exploring the abandoned ships, Lake Huron has a wide variety of wildlife, including colorful sunfish and even unusual species such as the longnose gar. Clear waters, wildlife, and shipwrecks make Lake Huron a unique diving experience for all who venture into the lake.

Sunken ship at the bottom of a lake with fish swimming around

U-352 Cape Lookout, North Carolina

At Cape Lookout in North Carolina lies the remains of a German U-boat from WWII. U-352 was sunk in 1942 by a US Coast Guard Cutter and is one of North Carolina’s best-known dive sites. The wreck lies at a depth of 110 feet and is an incredible experience for advanced divers.

There is no option to penetrate this wreck as U-boats have tight spaces, making a dive in the ship dangerous, not to mention near impossible with a tank on. One of the most exciting features of diving U-352 is that a shiver of sand tiger sharks has made this site their home. These beautiful creatures patrol the U-boat’s perimeter and add to the intense sense of awe that comes from diving here.

Scuba divers with ocean wildlife swimming overhead

Puget Sound, Washington

A well-known dive destination is Washington’s own Puget Sound. Providing divers with 75 shore dives in the vicinity of Seattle, these sites have some of the best diving on the North Pacific coast. Puget Sound is also home to several shipwrecks for more advanced divers.

Puget Sound has benefitted from years of government protection, and Edmonds underwater park was one of the first marine parks in the US. It provides an excellent training environment for divers, and thanks to the tidal movements, it has excellent year-round underwater visibility.

Diving in Puget Sound, you can encounter unique underwater marine life, with many animals being endemic to the region. You can see killer whales, seals, sea lions, giant plumose anemones, six gill sharks, wolf eels, lion’s mane jellyfish, and the incredible Giant Pacific octopus.

Ready to explore these beautiful ocean-scapes? Make an RV trip out of it! Start your trip here.

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