Top 10 Places to Scuba Dive 🤿 in the US

Posted Jul 26 2021 in Destinations

What better way to spend your vacation days than combining a boat trip with recreational scuba diving! This way you get to enjoy quality time on the water and explore the depths and mysteries of the ocean at the same time.

And the best part is, most of the US boat rental companies can organize this kind of adventure. So if you plan to rent a boat for an underwater journey, you are on the right track! All you need to do is check upon booking with if the boat owner can provide professional diving equipment and guidance. 

Got your attention, yet? Then let’s explore some of the most amazing places to scuba dive in the states!

10 stunning underwater destinations for diving in the US

Santa Catalina Island, California

Water temperature: 55° to 72° F (13° to 22° C).

Depth range: 20 to 135 feet (6 to 40 m)

Visibility range: 40-100 feet (12 to 30 m)

Santa Catalina Island, located Southwest of Los Angeles, is a scuba diving haven for all dive levels. Although there are numerous majestic underwater sites around Catalina, Ship Rock is considered the best of all.

Situated just a few miles off the coast, this California diving site features a complex marine ecosystem. The area has an abundance of kelp, leopard, and angel sharks sheepshead, and is the home of the giant pacific octopus. In the Ship Rock’s underwater canyons and ledges, you can also spot yellowtail tuna and sunfish. 

The visibility can vary and is much better than closer to shore where the kelp forests are dense and healthy.  When it comes to the water temperature, it is recommended that you wear a drysuit or thick wetsuit.

Channel Islands, California

Water temperature: 55° to 70° F (13° to 21° C).

Depth range:  20 to 60 feet (6 to 18 m)

Visibility range:  30 to 50 feet (9 to 15 m)

The beautiful isles hide their scenic secrets way beyond the breathtaking views you can enjoy from your rental boat. The Channel Islands National Park is a dreamy place for every diving enthusiast in the US! 

Water clarity in the diving area is immense and the island surrounding waters are home to rich and biodiverse flora and fauna. The combination of good visibility and abundance of marine life attracts divers and underwater photographers all year round.

While swimming through thick forests of kelp, divers can spot tiny wrecks, live corals, and watch beautiful rays and schools of sea bass roaming around. Seals and sea lions can be seen hanging out on and near the shore. 

The region of Santa Cruz, San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and Anacapa has a lot to offer for all dive levels. Beginners will have the best and seamless experience diving at Cathedral Cove on Anacapa. But if you are an advanced level diver, we recommend the areas near San Miguel and Santa Rosa.

Monterey Bay, California

Water temperature: 52° to 60° F (11° to 16° C)

Visibility range:  10 to 30 feet (3 to 9 m)

If you enjoy deep and cold water diving, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has everything to offer for an unforgettable day underwater. This pristine area is often referred to as one of the most abundant sea habitats in the state. That’s why the region is on the must-visit list of all enthusiastic divers and therefore - diving reservations are required.

Most of the coves in Monterey Bay limit the daily number of divers allowed to go underwater. Thanks to these diving restrictions, the marine sanctuary thrives on sea life diversity. In the bay, you can spot wildlife such as harbor seals, eels, rock cod, shrimp, abalone, leopard sharks and so much more. 

The underwater site consists of rock formations and coves close to shore, which allow corals and sea animals to live freely and unbothered. 

Monterey Bay captivates with water clarity and visibility. Conditions are good for scuba diving all year round. Just remember that the adventure requires a drysuit since water temperatures are too low for suit-free dives. 

Morehead, North Carolina

Water temperature:  58° to 84°F (14.5° - 29° C)

Visibility range: over 100 Ft (30 m)

Morehead is an ideal place for deepwater descends and penetration training. Extreme divers love this diving haven in North Carolina! The site is a must-visit for people who want to experience the thrill of swimming with sharks. 

Underwater wrecks like the Spar, a sunken USCG cutter, attract scuba enthusiasts from all over the world. Other local wrecks like the Aeolus, Atlas, Papoose, and Caribsea are also a hotspot for adventurers and a local hangout for tiger sharks.

Bonne Terre, Missouri

Water temperature: 62 F (17 C) year-round

Depth range: 130 to 140 feet (40 to 43 m)

Visibility range:  90 to 100 feet (28 to 30m)

Are you up to some freshwater diving? The small town of Bonne Terre, near St. Louis, has an underwater mine site that any enthusiast is welcome to explore. The local mine is not an ordinary diving spot, not only because it’s not located in the ocean, but because it is greatly preserved and can take you back in time. 

This local mine was once in use. But when the resources ran out, it closed down and turned into an abandoned site. The mine flooded with water before any of the mining gear was cleared out. 

There are currently more than 20 routes you can take to explore the underwater site with a guide. Don’t be surprised if upon diving you start allocating the old ore cars, geology lab, building structures, and small mine equipment like shovels and picks.

Southeast Florida

Water temperature: 65° to 86° F (18° to 30° C)

Depth range: 30 to 300 feet (9 to 91 m)

Visibility range:  90 feet (28 m)

The Southeast region of the sunshine state has a lot to offer to scuba divers of all levels. Famous for its gorgeous continuous reefs and wreck sites, this gem on the Atlantic coast is a go-to place for underwater activities. Numerous scenic diving spots can be found all the way from Palm Beach to Miami

The vivid coral reefs are rich in sea life and are super accessible. Some of the reefs are accessed directly from the shore and are perfect for shallow-water and drift diving. While others can be easily reached by renting a boat or a yacht for a scuba dive. Southeast Florida is a great destination to see turtles, whales, sharks, and other marine creatures. 

Florida Keys

Water temperature: 69° to 89° F (20° to 31° C)

Depth range:  20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 m)

Visibility range: 70 to 120 feet (20 to 36 m)

Everyone has heard of the Florida Keys - one of the most stunning scuba diving sites in the US. The magnificent isle chain stands out with the warm welcoming waters, scenic shipwrecks, and endless reefs full of marine creatures. 

Whether you decide to follow the Shipwreck Trail or dive at the vibrant reef structures near the shore, you will have a good time. Most of the islands in this area are great for scuba enthusiasts of all levels. If you are an advanced diver and want a more challenging underwater experience, Spiegel Grove is the place for you. 

You can rent a boat to take you to the diving sites all around the islands. Water is constantly warm and water clarity is quite impressive. Overall, the diving conditions at the Keys are perfect all year round. Just check the weather forecast for any storms or hurricanes approaching, and you would be good.

Flower Garden Banks, Texas

Water temperature: 77°F (25°C) year-round

Depth range:  55 to 500 feet (16 to 150 m)

Visibility range:  75 to 150 feet (22- 45m)

This gorgeous marine paradise on the Gulf of Mexico is situated 100 miles (160 km) offshore Freeport. The picturesque reef is home to countless species of sea animals and fish. The area is a well-known hangout of dolphins, manta rays, whales, and sharks. 

So if you plan on watching wildlife underwater, the three banks will deliver. Ultimately, the best time to visit the Flower Garden Banks is in August when the vivid coral polyps spawn and marine creatures come out to feast. 

Due to the location, it takes 8 hours by boat to reach the reef. Currents vary in strength, and weather and waves could be unpredictable at times. That’s why sailing to the Flower Garden Banks should be carefully planned, especially if you want to rent a boat. Hire an experienced captain who knows the area and keep your schedule flexible.

Baranof Island, Alaska

Water temperature:  40-55°F (4-11° C)

Depth range:  20 to 80 feet (6 to 24 m)

Visibility range: 25 to 75 feet (7 to 22 m)

Smudges, also known as “Jellyfish Dive” is one of the world's top jellyfish diving sites. Rent a boat or charter, hire a guide and head out for a once-in-a-lifetime dive. The place is slightly offshore but easily accessible by boat. 

Local diving with jellyfish is best during the summer. This is when current shifts and temperature gets warmer, inviting the magnificent colonies of moon jellies out in the open. These types of jellyfish are harmless but extremely beautiful. Especially when you get to swim close to them.

Water temperature experiences seasonal variation over the year. Be warned though. The water temperature in Baranof Island is very cold. It is recommended that you wear a 5/4 mm to 5/4/3 mm full sealed and taped suit with boots, gloves especially if you plan to spend a lot of time in the water.

Puget Sound, Washington

Water temperature: 46°F to 57°F (7° to 14° C )

Depth range:  20 - 930 feet (6 - 280 m)

Visibility range: 16 to 200 feet (15-30m) 

An hour’s drive from Seattle will take you to Puget Sound - a scenic scuba diving paradise on the West Coast. With countless amazing diving sites, vivid reefs, beautiful fjords, and majestic underwater wrecks, this region will take your breath away. 

The sea life is rich and biodiverse. Except for corals, sunflower stars and anemones divers often spot sea lions, sharks, killer whales, skates, and on some occasions - ratfish or giant Pacific octopuses. Crabs and wolf eels in the area are used to human interaction and are not afraid to approach scuba divers. 

Underwater visibility changes, depending on seasonal currents, rainfall, and algae development. If you want to enjoy the best diving escapade at Puget Sound, better visit in autumn or winter. Since the colder months are best for this type of activity, having a drysuit when diving is a must. 

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