Everything You Need To Know About Exploring The Dive Capital Of The World

Everything You Need To Know About Exploring The Dive Capital Of The World

The Keys is an archipelago comprising 1,700 islands and covering a distance of about 355 kilometers. The area starts from southern Florida’s southeastern edge and spreads up to Dry Tortugas, an inhabited island famous for its spectacular natural beauty, coral reefs, wildlife, and more.

Home to the only living coral barrier reef in the United States, Florida Keys is the dive capital of the world, which is no surprise because it offers something for divers of all skill and experience levels. The area is home to plenty of incredible diving spots that would take a visitor a lifetime to explore. Planning to go diving in the Florida Keys? Here is everything divers need to know about exploring the dive capital of the world, from the top dive sites in the Florida Keys to the best time to dive this stunning and diverse marine region.


Related: This Florida Key Is The Prettiest, With The Best Views

When To Go Scuba Diving In The Florida Keys

Seashells in Florida Keys' underwater world
Image by Jody Davis from Pixabay 

Seashells in Florida Keys’ underwater world

Being one of the few locations in the US with warm weather and plenty of year-round diving opportunities, the Florida Keys is one of the world’s best dive destinations. However, summer is when many divers visit the Florida Keys, and since it is the peak season, the boats and dive center rosters fill up pretty quickly. Tourists living in the North who’d like to escape harsh winters can also go diving in the Florida Keys.

Between May and September, the water temperatures average between 80 and 84 degrees (Fahrenheit), which peaks in July. Because of the hot weather, some divers may only need to put on a skinsuit or thin wetsuit. In winter (between December and March), the water temperatures range between 68 and 75 degrees, making thicker wetsuits necessary for some divers. Vacationers can bring a 3mm or 5mm wetsuit, depending on how cold they can get when diving. Also, because air temperatures average in the 70s, one should bring a jacket to wear on their way back to the hotel.

When it comes to marine life, there is plenty to see at any time of the year, but the spotted eagle ray is only present in summer. These wonderful creatures migrate to Florida in May and stay throughout the season and later leave.

What Are The Best Dive Sites In The Florida Keys?

A beach in Key Largo, Florida Keys, USA
Photo by Charles Jackson on Unsplash

A beach in Key Largo, Florida Keys, USA

There are a number of top dive sites in the Keys that divers should add to their itinerary. Some of the best Florida Keys dive sites are listed below.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo

Diving in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the best things to do in Key Largo, Florida. It is home to beautiful living coral reefs, plenty of wildlife, and Christ of the Abyss, a famous replica of Jesus Christ’s bronze cast in the Mediterranean Sea. The statue is about 10 feet high and is submerged 25 feet deep in the water. The iconic statue sits right in the middle of a colorful reef with its arms stretched out as a monument dedicated to celebrating those who lost their lives in the sea.

Related: What To Know About Snorkeling In John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo’s Best Reef

Molasses Reef

Situated within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, about six miles from the Island of Key Largo, east of the famous John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The place is home to plenty of living coral and tropical fish. Molasses Reef is the most visited dive site in the Upper Florida Keys and one of the most famous in the world.

The Duane

Located about a mile south of Molasses Reef, The Duane is considered the best wreck diving location in the Florida Keys. The shipwreck was intentionally sunk in 1987 as an artificial reef. The 327-foot-long shipwreck sits in 125 feet of water. Its location very close to the Gulf Stream makes it prone to strong currents. This can sometimes make it difficult to dive or impossible to dive, but those who manage to do it will have their breaths taken away with the incredibly stunning coral growth and plenty of fish, including nurse sharks, Great barracuda, Goliath grouper, and reef sharks.

A calm ocean in Key Largo, Florida Keys, USA
Photo by Christian Ochoa on Unsplash

A calm ocean in Key Largo, Florida Keys, USA

Sombrero Reef

Sombrero Reef’s depth ranges between 5 and 35 feet, making it a suitable diving spot for divers of all levels. This is also one of the best places to go snorkeling in the US, so even snorkelers will have an unforgettable experience in this spot. It is one of the largest and most spectacular coral reefs in the Middle Keys. Some scuba diving courses of all levels are held in this spot, too, so inexperienced visitors can happily take their lessons here.

Looe Key

The calm, turquoise waters of Looe Key in the Florida Keys
Image by Stingrea1 from Pixabay 

The calm, turquoise waters of Looe Key in the Florida Keys

Looe Key Reef is an incredible coral reef that has been mentioned among the top 10 dive sites for more than 10 years. It is accessible by boarding a ferry, and with a depth ranging between 7 feet and 30 feet, it can accommodate divers of all levels. Much of the site is shallow, making it one of the best dive locations not only in the Florida Keys but in the whole state.

What To Know Before You Go: Florida Keys Diving Tips

There are certain tips and facts to know about the Florida Keys, especially when diving in this location’s exquisite marine realms. Here are a few important things to be aware of when going scuba diving in the Keys.

Every dive site in the Florida Keys is different, and whether diving in Key West – one of the most beautiful Florida towns – or Key Largo, a popular destination for honeymooners, every location comes with its own scuba diving rules, which divers must follow. Some dives need specialized equipment and specialized planning to have the best experience. Some spots may also need specific certification levels, from advanced certificates to certain specialties and technical diving licenses.

Key West, Florida
Image by David Mark from Pixabay 

Key West, Florida

Visiting the Florida Keys in the peak season? The hot temperatures during this season can be unbearable for some people. For this reason, travelers planning to go diving should bring their skinsuit or rashguard for protection against sun exposure. Also, being the most popular season, boats get filled up pretty fast. So, tourists should ensure they get there early. This also means that booking accommodations and dive courses and excursions in advance is highly advised.

Related: 10 Adults-Only Florida Keys All-Inclusive Resorts Worth BookingVacationers visiting the Keys in winter should bring a wetsuit. But those who get colder should come with a 5mm wetsuit or a hooded vest. Also, one should come with a jacket to keep warm when boat riding back to their hotel. Lastly, travelers who want to have a better chance of encountering the spotted eagle ray should note that they can only find them in summer. These special creatures migrate to the Florida Keys in May and stay till September.

Overall, scuba diving in the Florida Keys offers unforgettable experiences for both novice and expert divers. Its location, which is accessible from anywhere in the country, makes it a must-visit diving destination.