scuba diving with american flag

Top 10 Scuba Diving Destinations In The U.S.

Ready to discover some of the best scuba diving spots in the United States? From the cool waters of the Pacific Northwest to the warm tides of the Florida Keys, America offers an incredible variety of underwater landscapes that cater to every type of scuba diver. Whether you’re looking to glide alongside gentle giants in the Pacific or explore eerie wrecks in the Great Lakes, the distinct marine life and unique settings make the U.S. an awesome place for scuba diving.

In this blog post, we're taking you on a tour of America's best scuba diving destinations. Please note, that we're not including Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands for the purposes of this blog.

1. The Florida Keys

people scuba diving in florida

If you're looking for the very best scuba diving destination in the United States, the Florida Keys should be at the top of your list. (We might be biased but hey, it’s home!) The coral reef - just six miles offshore - is the third largest living barrier reef in the world! 

Don't miss the Florida Wreck Trek, a trail with centuries-old wrecks alongside ships intentionally sunk to create thriving artificial reefs. Key highlights include Spiegel Grove, Duane, and Benwood (off Key Largo) The Eagle (off Islamorada), The Thunderbolt (off Marathon), The Adolphus Busch (off the Lower Keys), and ends with the famous Vandenberg wreck off Key West!  

Another gem is the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary in Big Pine Key, one of the most beautiful reefs in the Keys. For something truly unique, check out the annual underwater music festival at Looe Key, which combines great tunes with coral reef conservation efforts. 

2. Hawaii

a manta ray swimming in the ocean

Hawaii offers plenty of scuba diving experiences that cater to every type of diver. In Kona, the night dives are unreal. Here, you can float in the dark waters while enormous manta rays glide through the light of your flashlight, feeding on plankton. 

Over in Oahu, the diving scene shifts to exploring sunken history with numerous wreck sites. Dive sites like the YO-257 (Navy fueling vessel) and Corsair Plane Wreck (a World War II relic), along with more recent sunken vessels, have become artificial reefs teeming with sea life from curious sea turtles to schools of tropical fish.

Heading to the more secluded island of Niihau (referred to as the “Forbidden Island”), you find a diver’s haven of untouched beauty. The waters here are less traveled because it is a private island with no tourism or industry to deteriorate the marine habitat. This makes Niihau a special spot for encountering rarer species in their natural habitat, such as monk seals and eagle rays. 

3. Morehead City, North Carolina

a person scuba diving among wreckage

North Carolina's coast, known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," is a treasure trove for scuba divers, thanks to its numerous shipwrecks and vibrant marine life. This nickname derives from the area's hazardous waters, which — over centuries — have claimed many ships dating back to World War II and earlier. These wrecks have created unique habitats for different marine species, including sand tiger sharks, barracudas, and colorful schools of fish. 

The best time to dive here is from May to September when the water temperatures are warmer and visibility is at its best. Beyond its history, the strong ocean currents around this part of North Carolina make for an exciting diving experience, attracting both novice and experienced divers seeking adventure beneath the waves.

4. Catalina Island, California

Catalina Island

Catalina Island, off the coast of California, is a top scuba diving destination celebrated for its crystal-clear waters and lush kelp forests. Divers in Catalina may encounter garibaldi (the official California state fish!), sea lions, lobsters, and various species of rays. The visibility is often exceptional, making it ideal for underwater photography. 

Whether you're exploring the shallow coves or the deeper, more mysterious underwater landscapes, Catalina Island offers a diverse environment that appeals to divers of all levels. Key diving spots include Casino Point Dive Park and Lover’s Cove near Avalon. 

5. San Diego, California

san diego

San Diego is a great spot for scuba diving, especially known for its kelp forests and cool wreck sites. If you dive here, you can swim through thick kelp canopies filled with all sorts of sea creatures. The Yukon, a Canadian warship that was intentionally sunk, is full of life and has a fascinating history. At 366 feet long, and 40 feet wide, it will take a few trips to discover all the nooks and crannies. There are plenty of local dive shops along the coast that offer guided tours and gear rentals, so it’s easy for anyone to jump in and explore the underwater world.

6. Bonne Terre Mine, Missouri

a person diving in a cave

If you're craving an adventure that's a bit off the beaten path, you've got to try diving at Bonne Terre Mine. This isn't your typical dive spot; it’s a flooded lead mine brimming with preserved mining structures and artifacts. The controlled environment makes it a top dive spot for those looking to experience something unique (away from the usual ocean dives) complete with expansive underwater trails for both advanced and novice divers. The water temperature remains a consistent 58 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, and the mine is open for diving throughout the year.

7. Flower Garden Banks, Texas-Louisiana Border

Flower Garden Banks

Flower Garden Banks is one of the top scuba diving destinations in the U.S., and it's easy to see why. Located in the Gulf of Mexico, this lesser-known offshore sanctuary boasts some of the most vibrant coral reefs in the region. Here you can enjoy close encounters with everything from colorful reef fish and large groupers to more exotic species such as hammerhead sharks and loggerhead turtles.

If you’re keen to witness the seasonal migration of rays and whale sharks, plan your visit during the summer months, typically from late May through September. To dive at Flower Garden Banks, you would usually head to Galveston or Freeport, Texas. From there, you can join guided boat excursions that take you directly to the dive sites. This journey is usually part of a multi-day liveaboard trip, providing an immersive diving experience you won’t forget.

8. Anchorage, Alaska 


Anchorage, Alaska, offers a unique cold-water diving experience that is both challenging and rewarding. Divers usually flock to Smitty’s Cove, to explore sunken airplanes and remnants of World War II wreckage. This type of diving is generally more suited for advanced divers due to the challenging conditions and colder temperatures. However, if you're willing to brave the cold, you'll be rewarded with possible sightings of sea stars, octopuses, and various fish species that thrive in these frigid waters. Despite the cold, the unique underwater landscapes and historical artifacts make Anchorage one of the best spots to dive in the U.S.

9. Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Michigan

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, Michigan

Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, located in Lake Huron, Michigan, is referred to as "Shipwreck Alley" and is a haven for divers fascinated by maritime history. This special area is home to numerous well-preserved shipwrecks, each telling a story of life and commerce on the Great Lakes. The sanctuary's waters are remarkably clear, making it a great spot for underwater photography.

The best time to dive here is during the warmer months from June to September when water temperatures are more comfortable (though still chilly!) typically ranging from 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the cold, the exceptional visibility and historical appeal make Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary a must-visit for those keen to explore one of the largest collections of shipwrecks in America.

10. Puget Sound, Washington

giant pacific octopus

Puget Sound in Washington offers a scuba diving experience that is as diverse as it is challenging. This region features a range of dive sites—including 75 shore diving sites!—from bustling Seattle to more secluded spots in remote areas, diving here involves navigating colder, sometimes murky waters. However, the rewards are substantial—you might encounter the elusive giant Pacific octopus, colorful anemones, and schools of fish that thrive in these nutrient-rich waters.

The water temperature in Puget Sound is consistently cool, generally ranging from the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit, making a dry suit essential for comfort. The best time to visit for scuba diving is during the summer and early fall when the weather is milder and the water conditions are at their best. This unique combination of marine biodiversity and challenging dive conditions firmly places Puget Sound as a premier diving location in the U.S.

people wearing Grateful Diver gear

Whether you're exploring the vibrant coral reefs of the Florida Keys or the mysterious depths of Bonne Terre Mine, the U.S. provides diverse marine environments waiting to be discovered. As you plan your next dive adventure, make sure you’re well-stocked with comfortable apparel. Grateful Diver supplies neck gaiters, UV shirts, and hats for multi-functional protection against the sun, wind, dust, and insects on your next adventure. Plus, a portion of each purchase goes to Reef Relief's efforts to save the coral reef! See you on the water. 

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