Laying claim to the title of fourth largest country in the world by land area, it goes without saying that the United States is vast, varied and exceptionally large, and the scuba diving sites surrounding this giant land mass tend to follow suit. The most popular areas to dive are on the southern and western coasts of the United States in the states of Hawaii, California, Texas and Florida. Inland diving is also quite popular, with diving enthusiasts making great use of the many lakes, springs and quarries the United States has to offer.
Best Diving Destinations in the United States
Warm waters, fantastic surf and beautiful beaches are all part and parcel of the great destination of Hawaii. Comprising 130 small islands, many of these Pacific islands feature protected coves and inlets that are ideal for scuba diving due to serene, shallow waters and an almost constant presence of majestic green sea turtles. To the north of Kona, an eerily named dive site – the Haunted Cavern – awaits exploration.
Some of the most frequented sites in the US are located near Key Largo in the Florida Keys. The exceptionally beautiful string of tropical islands known as the Florida Keys is situated in magnificent turquoise waters and offers world-famous diving and snorkelling sites. The marine life is well-protected in this area thanks to the presence of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Divers can expect to see manatees and dolphins in the area, and could even take a trip to see the unusual sight of an underwater Jesus at the Christ of the Abyss dive site near Key Largo. Shore diving and wreck diving is also possible and can be arranged through the countless dive companies that are present along the south coast of Florida, especially in areas such as Key West, Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
In sharp contrast to both Hawaii and Florida’s clear, warm waters, the water of the Pacific is dark and cold but certainly worth a visit. Vast underwater kelp forests make for a unique sight along the seabeds of numerous Californian diving locations, specifically around the Channel Islands located near Santa Barbara. Monterey to the north is very popular with both surfers and scuba divers alike, although divers do need to be aware of the strong currents and disorientating amount of giant kelp in these dark waters. Shore dives near the Monterey State Beach are a worthwhile experience to see pieces of history such as old, decaying pier structures and sunken boats. All along the Californian coast divers who choose to experience the challenging environment of the deep Pacific waters are rewarded with sea lion, octopus and shark encounters.
The Texas Clipper, now positioned near South Padre on Texas’ south coast, was sunk deliberately in this location. The vessel now lies at a depth of roughly 23 metres and offers novice divers the chance to experience a shallow water wreck dive that is both exciting and interesting.
A large majority of American divers make fantastic use of the many freshwater lakes and deep quarries available in the US to complete their scuba diving certifications before venturing out into the oceans. In Pennsylvania, a spring-fed lake complete with above-water Aqua Park is a rather popular training location, as is Ginnie Springs in northern Florida.
Getting to the United States
The 50th and final state to be added to the United States, Hawaii has one international airport called Honolulu International Airport in Oahu. Various islands can be reached via short, internal flights from this airport or visitors can choose to hire a boat and travel this way. Upon arrival at any of the larger islands, numerous diving operations will be at your disposal to assist with your scuba diving arrangements.
Easily accessible to international visitors from a number of ports, Florida provides direct access to liveaboard dive trips and commercial cruises. Not only that, but this sunshine state holds the record for the largest cluster of diving companies in the whole of the US. Needless to say any of these dive shops would be more than willing to assist with any of your diving requirements including arranging boating trips and hiring equipment.
Tampa Bay is a natural harbour that offers a calm welcome to the waters of the Mexican Gulf and can be reached by three suitably-positioned airports.
It is believed that the first Aqua-Lungs were sold in the state of California by a relative of the world-famous and highly-respected Jacques Cousteau, and scuba diving has been a popular pastime ever since. With numerous airports in the state including the massive LAX in LA and an international airport in San Francisco, accessing the dive sites in California should not be a problem.
When to Visit the United States
Although it is only one country, the climate varies greatly between different regions within the United States. As with all northern hemisphere territories, the summer season runs from late May to September and allows for warmer conditions in the Gulf of Mexico and dive sites located in the Atlantic Ocean. If choosing to dive off the coast of California, plan to make use of a thick wetsuit or even a dry suit to keep yourself comfortable in the colder Pacific. Climate considerations are based almost entirely on where you plan to visit in the United States however, as Hawaii’s temperate, tropical climate is well-suited for diving at any time of year with very little special gear.
Where to Stay in the United States
Again, with such a vast landscape and an immense variety of dive sites at your disposal, it would depend entirely on your chosen diving destination as to where you chose to stay for your United States visit.