13 Unbelievably Cool Places to Scuba Dive in the U.S.

NEWS & TRENDING - TRAVEL NEWS
There is no reason to leave the country to dive and scuba when these cool sites are close to home.
Updated May 8, 2024
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Scuba diver on coral reef

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Scuba diving is the perfect socially distanced pandemic sport. It’s exhilarating and peaceful, but everyone is enclosed in their own little oxygen bubbles.

While it’s possible to spend a lot of money and travel time going to other countries to dive, some of the best scuba diving in the world is right here in the U.S.

Following is our list of the 13 best dive spots in the country. So, now you can make vacation plans and prepare to dive in.

Oahu

susanne2688/Adobe Makapu'u Point Lookout Oahu Hawaii

The island of Oahu in Hawaii is host to a number of different wreck sites to explore. One of the most famous is the Corsair Wreck, which is an airplane that crashed and wrecked in the ocean in 1946.

Other wrecks are ships that have been sunk on purpose to form artificial reefs and interesting dive sites. There are dives available for all skill levels in Oahu.

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Florida Keys

Simon Dannhauer/Adobe Sombrero Beach with palm trees on the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys can be found at the southern tip of Florida. There are so many wrecked ocean vessels and natural coral reefs here that they are a haven for scuba divers looking for wildlife or historically interesting wrecks.

The USS Spiegel Grove near Key Largo is a highlight, and there are plenty of opportunities to see a variety of sea life.

Phil Foster Park

artiom.photo/Adobe St. Pete Beach Florida

Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach, Florida, is located underneath Blue Heron Bridge. Because it’s a protected lagoon, it is home to many species of sea animals, from seahorses to stargazers, reef fish, octopuses, and manatees.

It is easily accessible to divers because it’s so shallow, which makes it perfect for newer scuba divers who want to see a diversity of wildlife.

La Jolla Cove

sherryvsmith/Adobe people at La Jolla Cove from atop a cliff

La Jolla Cove in San Diego is a great dive for beginning divers or for the whole family. It is easy to see a huge variety of beautiful wildlife underwater at this accessible location.

The waves are small and the variety of wildlife to see is so large that this is a wonderful dive site to introduce people of all ages to scuba diving.

Dead Man’s Wall

Melastmohican/Adobe Point Defiance Park

Dead Man’s Wall is a sheer rock face in Point Defiance, near Tacoma, Washington. One of the best wall dives in the country, the face starts 90 feet below the surface. It is the habitat for native Pacific marine life including octopus, skates, and lingcod.

Point Defiance has other wall dives to explore once you’ve seen Dead Man’s Wall.

Wreck Alley

creativefamily/Adobe Pacific beach and the surrounding Mission bay in San Diego California

Wreck Alley in San Diego is an area of wrecked ships right off the coast of Mission Bay. Be sure to check out the wreck of the HMCS Yukon, a decommissioned Navy ship from Canada that was sunk on purpose in 2000 to become a scuba diving attraction.

The Yukon is a great technical dive for experienced divers but may be challenging for beginning divers.

Santa Catalina Island

Golden Image Photo/Adobe Catalina Island

Santa Catalina Island, known as Catalina Island, is off the coast of Los Angeles. It’s an easy ferry ride from the city, and worth the trip to see the beautiful and majestic California kelp forests underwater.

The kelp forests are beautiful in their own right, but they are also home to sharks, sea lions, huge fish, and other marine animals that use the kelp as their habitat.

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

LEO/Adobe Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary — on the coast of Lake Huron Presque Isle, Michigan — has 50 sunken ships that shipwrecked and sank in this Great Lake.

The Cornelia B. Windiate is mostly intact, with three masts and rigging still visible and explorable underwater. This is a dive for maritime history buffs or ghost ship fans.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Lukas/Adobe Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos, on the Big Sur coast in Monterey, California, is a marine sanctuary that is part of the state park system.

It contains a variety of kelp, small fish, crustaceans, soft corals, sponges, anemones, and small mollusks. It is also home to seals and sea lions, as well as whales and other sea mammals.

Santa Barbara oil rigs

kellyvandellen/aDOBE dolphins feeding near oil rig on California coast

The artificial reef of sunken oil rigs that stretches from Santa Barbara to Huntington Beach, California, is a unique home for a huge range of marine life.

Eight miles off the shore in very deep water, it is home to many species that live there permanently, as well as sheltering migrating and traveling ocean wildlife.

Because these rigs are so deep, this artificial reef is perfect for technical divers who want to use their skills to explore the full depths.

Flower Garden Banks

LEO/Adobe Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Flower Garden Banks — in the Gulf of Mexico, 110 miles off the coast of the Texas and Louisiana border — is a protected wildlife marine sanctuary, with underwater salt domes that provide the perfect growing environment for a number of coral polyps and other wildlife.

Here, you will find crustaceans, octopuses, barracudas, and sponges. Because it is so far off the coast, it’s only accessible by boat, but worth the trip for the variety of wildlife.

Graveyard of the Atlantic

Miguel Almeida/Adobe abandoned ships carcasses in the ships cemetery

Wrecked ships form an artificial reef in the Outer Banks off the coast of North Carolina nicknamed the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

While the wrecks themselves are fascinating, scuba divers who explore this reef between May and October have a good chance of being able to swim with the large population of sand tiger sharks that occupy the reef all summer long.

San Juan Islands

diak/Adobe Friday Harbor San Juan Island Washington

The San Juan Islands — San Juan, Orcas, Lopez, Shaw, and hundreds of other smaller islands — form an archipelago off the coast of Washington state.

San Juan National Wildlife Refuge is a state park area that has access for scuba divers to a huge array of marine life, including species of wolf eel, crabs, and rockfish that are native to the Pacific Northwest.

Bottom line

Dudarev Mikhail/Adobe Diver

There are so many beautiful and intriguing dive sites in the U.S. that there is no need to pay big bucks to fly out of the country to scuba dive. By spending less and staying within the States, you might even decrease your financial stress.

From beginners to experienced divers, everyone can find something to explore in America. Diving at the sites on our list will give you a great start at understanding the beauty and challenge of scuba diving.

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Elizabeth Rollins Elizabeth Rollins has degrees in literature and business, and she's combined these loves into a career in writing about personal finance. Her special areas of interest are debt, value, budgeting, education, and retirement.

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