If you’ve never considered scuba diving before, or if you’re a seasoned diver looking for a new spot, the US boasts some of the BEST scuba diving destinations in the world. From the underwater forests of California, to the depths of the Great Lakes, coral reefs to shipwrecks, there is something here to entice even the most reluctant person into the water.
Welcome to the Point Lobos Jungle
Point Lobos State Park, California
These massive kelp forests are home to some incredible sea and wildlife (Seals! Otters!) and make up one of the richest habitats in the world. Paired with the fast growing algae, this makes for an eerie, otherworldly scene straight out of a fantasy movie.
Illuminated dances with whales in Hawaii
CC) Tyler Bell
The possibilities for diving in Hawaii are endless, making it one of the best scuba diving destinations in the US: night dives with manta rays, illuminated underwater caverns in Lanai and listening for the song of the humpback whales. There are also some incredibly unique fish here that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. Sure, it’s pretty far from the continental US, but everyone should visit Hawaii at least once.
Where you’ll be camouflaged in a neon wet suit
Key West, Florida
Here the fish are still struttin’ around in neon and coral on the continental US’s ONLY living coral barrier reef. Not only can you hang out with the funky fish, there are also coral encrusted shipwrecks to explore, many of them sunk to support marine life and attract divers. Find a place to enjoy the Key West hospitality here.
Share the crystal waters with shipwrecks
US Virgin Islands
The crystal clear and warm waters of the US Virgin Islands provide beautiful year round scuba diving conditions. The islands are teeming with shipwrecks, many over 200 years old, and reefs hosting a colorful array of fish and coral. Off St. Croix, you’ll find the famous Cane Bay Wall, a reef on the edge of a two mile deep drop off! Find a place to sleep here.
Turtles, whales and dolphins make frequent appearances in the waters surrounding Puerto Rico. It’s the perfect place for novice’s to learn to dive but interesting enough to keep experts coming back. There are a number of very accessible wrecks to be visited as well as CAVES! See here where to spend your nights.
Sunken treasure chests and sharks
(CC) Peter Tee
Barrier Islands, North Carolina
A veritable paradise for wreck diving enthusiasts, the Barrier Islands of North Carolina feature more than 600 ships, some dating back all the way to the 16th century. One of the highlights is a German U-boat, which sunk during WWII. Winter dives are definitely possible with a heavier wet suit, but the possibility of uncovering sunken treasure should be enough to get you jumping into the water faster than you can say “Spanish Gold”.
Swim in the land of underwater giants
Channel Islands, California
The Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara are home to sea bass weighing hundreds of pounds, giant eels, sea lions and dolphins. There must be something extra nutritious in the GIANT sea kelp that keeps these ginormous creatures alive! The eight-island archipelago is the perfect setting for a multi-day scuba diving trip.
Stay in nearby Santa Barbara.
See creatures straight out of “The Thing”
The idea of a cold water dive may not seem enticing, but the diversity of marine life that is abound in Alaska should change your mind. Check out the Inian Islands: You wouldn’t expect to see colors like yellow, pink and purple so far north, but expect it here — along with octopuses, wolf eels and a recently discovered species of soft coral. The Baranof Island is another amazing destination but keep in mind this isn’t the place to give diving your first shot — these locales are for the more seasoned and adventurous diver.
Catch a ride on Tessie, the Loch Ness Monster of Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Due to its high altitude, Lake Tahoe requires a special diving process. Don’t let this deter you since the visibility can reach 75 feet! There is plenty of learning opportunity here with guarantees of seeing crawdads, salmon and gigantic schools of minnows. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even catch a glimpse of Tahoe Tessie, the cryptozoological resident of Lake Tahoe and cousin of Nessie from Scotland.
Catch up on your sleep here.
A fruit feast for the eyes
Strawberry Island, Washington
Home to many marine varieties: kelp, rockfish, and the most fabulous anemones you ever did see, aptly named the strawberry anemones. Due to the rough currents, which can go upwards of 10 knots, it’s not a beginner dive spot, but plan a trip once you’ve got the hang of all your scuba equipment.
Snuggle up to sharks in a aquarium
Denver Aquarium, Colorado
You read right. You can actually dive in the Denver aquarium in a 200,000 gallon tank alongside 15 species of sharks. Slightly less hair-raising are the sea turtles and yellowfish tuna who are less likely to snack on your toes. Beginner divers are welcome! Check out where to sleep in Denver.
Where the bio-luminescent squid will light your way home
Cape Neddick (“Nubble” Lighthouse), Maine
After dusk is the best time to dive the Cape Neddick Lighthouse, which is still fully operational. This lagoon lights up with bio-luminescent creatures after dark! Squid, lobsters and small sharks populate this area and while the water may be cold, it’s a friendly spot to take your first dive. Stay in nearby Portsmouth, only a 20 minute drive away from this pristine east coast landmark.