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Florida offers tropical marine life, manatees, shipwrecks and reefs – suitable for beginners and advanced divers. Spring water caverns offer an opportunity to train for this speciality.

Diving in Florida

Quick facts

A two hour drive north of Tampa, and can you dive in Crystal River’s King Spring. Caverns start at 30 feet (9 meters) and drop down to 50 feet (15 meters). Expect to see sheephead with their distinct vertical stripes and human like teeth as you descend for the main attraction - the manatee. Often referred to as a sea-cow, this relative of the elephant has a docile face dominated by its whiskered, upper lip.

Located at Key Largo – 50 minutes from Miami - is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park with 40 living coral species and 650 varieties of fish. Take a selfie at 25 feet (7 meters) with a bronze statue of Jesus Christ, his hands reaching for your bubbles that head to the surface.  The Molasses Reef (up to 70 feet deep (21 meters)) has spur-and-groove formations, boulder corals, caves, lobsters, turtles and rays. Don’t be scared by a face-to-face encounter with a gentle looking goliath grouper. Advanced divers can explore the US Coast Guard’s sunken Bibb, a cutter that lies on her starboard side at 135 feet (41 meters) – you may be accompanied by schooling barracuda.

If you’re an advanced diver looking to develop your skills then head to Peacock Springs, located in the Northern swamplands, and take a cavern or cave diving specialty course. You will then be able to explore the spring water caverns which extend for thousands of feet, and have a consistent water temperature of 72° F (22° C).

Florida offers great variety, and whatever your skill level it also offers your next challenge.

If you’ve always wanted to take scuba diving lessons, experience unparalleled adventure and see the world beneath the waves, this is where it starts. Get your scuba diving certification with the PADI® Open Water Diver course

Recommended training

Take the PADI Deep Diver and PADI Wreck Diver courses for diving on the deeper wrecks. The PADI Drift Diver and PADI Boat Diver courses will help you enjoy diving off Florida’s east coats. The PADI Cavern Diver course is also a good choice for many of the freshwater systems.

When to go

Gulf (West) coast - For nine months of the year the Gulf coast temperatures run warm to hot; while three of the winter months bring cool (or rarely, cold) weather mixed with mild temperatures. Atlantic (East) coast - It’s mostly humid and subtropical in northern and central Florida. The further south you go (from Jupiter to the Keys) the climate changes to tropical. Southern coast - The southern tip of Florida is a true tropical climate with rain expected from May through October.

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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USD 1,190Per trip
Gulf Coast - An excellent wreck dive is the Bay Ronto, a 122-metre/400-foot British freighter sunk in 1919. Now sitting at 33 metres/100 feet, it is home to abundant sea life. Siesta Key’s Point of Rocks is a remarkable location that features natural limestone rock formations otherwise known as beach rock. Crystal River – Kings Bay is a prime dive area here. This tranquil, spacious bay features a group of fresh water springs that make for fun and exciting diving with caverns, rock formations and a multitude of fish. Manatees, the main attraction, can grow up to 4 metres/12 feet long and can weigh more than 680 kilograms/1500 pounds. They take advantage of the warm water in Kings Bay and provide a rare opportunity for people to join them in the water. Southeast Coast – The Gulf Stream makes its closest approach to the shoreline along Florida’s southeast coast. Drift diving effortlessly carries you along rows of spectacular coral reefs and clouds of colorful fish. Divers will find a string of wrecks running from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. There are also three former oil platforms called the Tenneco Towers. Sites include a 20-metre/65-foot steel tugboat, two M60 tanks, a 34-metre/110-foot barge, Antennae Reef and a host of large freighters. Ginnie Springs & Peacock Springs - Some of the most visited freshwater dive spots in the world – are two places you truly don’t want to miss. The massive Leon Sinks cave system near Tallahassee is a massive underwater cave system thought to be one of the most extensive in the world. The Keys – John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park features 40 living coral species and 650 fish varieties. Off Marathon Key is one of the region’s top dive sites; the 57-metre/188-foot Thunderbolt sits upright in 35 metres/115 feet of water and is home to colorful sponges, corals and hydroids, and Goliath grouper. Close to Looe Key is the 64-metre/210-foot Adolphus Busch – currently the largest wreck in the Lower Keys. The Spiegel Grove is one of the Keys’ most popular wrecks. The 155-metre/510-foot vessel lies in 40 metres/130 feet of water off Key Largo and was intentionally sunk as an artificial reef. Don’t miss the nearby wrecks of the former United States Coast Guard cutters Bibb and Duane.

What to see

Florida’s oceans contain pelagic such as sea turtles, sharks, whales, and sailfish with its elongated bill and distinctive sail that often stretches the entire length of its back.

The reefs contain a vast array of tropical species such as the foureye butterflyfish with a large, false eye near its fin which may exist to confuse predators. Wonderful midnight parrot fish have patches of moonlight on their otherwise dark, blue scales.

The corals are alive with knobbly sea rods – grey and naked like a tree after a forest fire – and stony symmetrical brain coral.

If the manatees haven’t satisfied you, then during the summer months lemon sharks can be found in the shallower waters around the reefs.

Calendar

For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

Most likely sightingsPossible sightings

Area

Florida is a peninsula in the south east of the US with the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. In the Florida Keys, a coral archipelago to the southwest, water temperatures can reach 69° F (21° C) during winter, and as warm as 86° F (30° C) during the hot, and humid summer months which are often accompanied by afternoon thunderstorms; many will pass by as quickly as they arrive. 

The diving opportunities in Florida are vast and varied, including coral reefs, caves, long drift dives, shipwrecks, extensive spring water cave systems, and the unique opportunity to dive with the gentle manatee.

Out of the water, a trip to the Key West allow you to enjoy literary festivals, eat fusion cuisine and explore the Spanish colonial house that Ernest Hemingway used to call home.

If that all sounds too cultural then head to the Everglades National Park to spot an alligator or two.

Other attractions

When you’re relaxing you can hang out with artists in the liberal Key West, play a round of golf, or laze with a book and complete your dive log on the beaches of Miami. In the evening, enjoy Miami’s vibrant club scene and dance with the other beautiful people. If you need your picture taken with Donald Duck then head to Orlando. The roller coasters at Busch Gardens, and the history at Kennedy Space Centre offer an alternative. The Everglades National Park, a world heritage site, provides a natural environment for manatee, American crocodile and Florida panther. You can hike, canoe and cycle until the ocean starts calling you again. There isn’t much you can’t do in Florida.

Getting there

Depending on your destination, Florida has three main international airports located in Orlando (mid central), Tampa (west coast), and Miami (south). The state is well served by domestic airports to the major cities, including Key West.

Independent travelers can easily rent a car at the airports.

UTC-05:00

Time zone

USD

Currency

+852

Calling code

110-120 V

Electric volt

A, 

B

Plug type

MCO

Main airport
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