- U.S. Virgin Islands
Towering kelp fields, tropical reefs and large shipwrecks make these scuba diving locations in the U.S. worth a try.
Who hasn’t dreamed of being at home in the undersea world, surrounded by rainbow-hued fish, chattering dolphins and gliding sea turtles? Through the magic of scuba diving, humans can visit this watery wonderland at fabulous scuba diving locations in the USA. Whether you choose to dive from a boat or walk into the water, or explore natural reefs, artificial reefs or shipwrecks, these are some of the best places to scuba dive in the USA. And, for those who aren’t certified or don’t feel comfortable diving, many of these places also have snorkeling and helmet diving opportunities – so grab your gear and dive in.
California: Los Angeles and San Diego
The Golden State has a rich bounty of diving opportunities. Massive, looming kelp forests are a staple of the scuba diving in California. They can reach lengths of up to 45 meters and are home to a unique ecosystem rich with life. Experience the kelp forests at the Avalon Underwater Dive Park at Casino Point on Santa Catalina Island. Located off the coast of Los Angeles, this dive spot offers the best of California diving in one place. The water is generally calm, allowing divers to more easily explore lush kelp forests, mini-walls and several boat wreck sites. Keep your eyes peeled for the famous flying fish and brilliant orange Garibaldi. A quieter dive spot, Wreck Alley off San Diego is known for four wrecks including the 112-meter-long HMCS Yukon sitting on its side. An artificial reef created by the wrecks attracts sea life of all kinds.
A diver just off the coast of Santa Catalina Island at Avalon Underwater Dive Park
Hawaii: Maui and Oahu
Clear blue waters and eons of volcanic activity make Hawaii scuba diving one-of-a-kind. Explore large caverns and lava shoots at Lanai Cathedrals off the coast of Maui. The naturally made underwater structures are otherworldly and are a popular spot for turtles, dolphins, white-tip reef sharks and migrating whales as well as schools of colorful fish. Off the coast of Oahu, not far from Waikiki, lies a signature dive site teeming with sea life. USS YO-257 is a sunken refueling ship that attracts green sea turtles, manta rays and barracuda. Another neighboring wreck, the San Pedro, make this a great two-for-one scuba diving site.
Florida: Key Largo and Deerfield Beach
From warm Gulf of Mexico waters to deep Atlantic Ocean wrecks and the sparkling blue waters of the Florida Keys, you’ll find many distinct ecosystems while scuba diving in Florida. In Key Largo, three elements combine for great dives: reefs, rocks and wrecks. The reefs are about 9 meters deep making them suitable for both divers and snorkelers. Also located in the area is the famous Christ of the Abyss, an underwater bronze statue depicting Christ. North of Miami on the Atlantic coast, Deerfield Beach has three lines of reefs parallel to the beach. Starting at less than 2 meters deep about 23 meters offshore, it’s an easily accessible spot for snorkeling and shore diving. Divers can see soft corals, sponges, puffer fish, tangs and drum fish.
A sea turtle on the Coast Guard Cutter Duane, a dive site off John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo
Alaska: Anchorage and Seward
Scuba diving in Alaska might take a little more upfront planning, but the pristine waters are home to some amazing adventures. While the waters aren’t as cold as you might think (they’re around the same temperature as many Pacific Ocean dive sites), cold-water diving does require specially designed equipment starting with an insulating dry suit. Sunken airplanes and World War II wreckage make Smitty’s Cove in Whittier near Anchorage a popular place to spot wolf eels, rockfish, anemones and hermit crabs. At Resurrection Bay near Seward, plunging walls and looming pinnacles create an underwater landscape rich with sunflower stars, plumose anemone, sharks, lion’s mane jellyfish, seals and sea otters.
Spire Cove in Kenai Fjords National Park near Resurrection Bay
U.S. Virgin Islands: Coki Beach
Warm turquoise waters beckon in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Dive sites around this Caribbean destination are a paradise for marine life, and with consistent year-round weather, there’s never a bad time to dive here. Coki Beach, next to Coral World Ocean Park on St. Thomas, offers a robust scuba diving experience. Two fringing reefs, 45 meters offshore, burst with life in water that has pool-like conditions. Stars of the underwater show include grunts, yellow-headed jawfish, cleaner shrimp, stingrays and sea turtles.
Getting ready to explore the reefs off Coki Beach
In the West Pacific, Guam boasts pristine beaches and uncrowded scuba dive sites. A great beginner wreck dive site, the American Tanker in Apra Harbor near Tumon is a sunken barge turned artificial reef. The tanker, a remnant of World War II, was likely sunk on purpose to aid in the area’s breakwater. Take a photo with an underwater American flag on the tanker and enjoy watching schools of multi-colored fish darting around the barge.