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Florida Keys

Divers are treated to a slice of paradise in “America’s Caribbean”
By Scuba Diving Partner | Created On November 9, 2023
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Florida Keys

From the southern tip of the Florida mainland to Key West, hundreds of islands curve in a southwest arc, all linked by the 112-mile Overseas Highway. The diving is straight out of the Caribbean—complete with full-service dive shops and comfortable resorts, warm-water reefs, tropical fish and amazing wrecks. It is, hands down, the greatest road trip you’ll ever make. You’ll be able to explore reefs and wrecks in the five major dive areas—Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West.

Two scuba divers looking at a reef and yellow fish

Marine-life-filled wrecks and reefs offer something for every diver who visits the Florida Keys.

Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Key Largo

The popular gateway to the Keys, Key Largo is the ideal introduction to diving in this archipelago (the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary encompasses 2,900 square nautical miles, beginning in Biscayne National Park and extending all the way to the Dry Tortugas). Divers will love their shallow-water bottom time at both Molasses and Elbow reefs, which are examples of the healthy spur-and-groove coral reefs found throughout the islands. The massive 510-foot Spiegel Grove wreck headlines the advanced diving options here. You could spend an entire vacation diving nothing but the coral-and sponge-encrusted Grove, visiting a different part on each dive.

Female snorkeling with fish

No place in the U.S. dishes up as much fun below and above the surface as The Florida Keys.

Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council


A handful of keys, including Plantation, Windley, and Upper and Lower Matecumbe, make up this area. The colorful Eagle wreck, 6 miles off Lower Matecumbe Key, rests in 110 feet of water and is home to resident angelfish and green moray eels. Loads of fish can be found on Alligator, Crocker and Davis reefs. During your surface interval, stop in and visit the History of Diving Mu- seum at Mile Marker 83.

scuba diver swimming over a wreck

Thunderbolt wreck

Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council


You can dive one of the oldest and fishiest wrecks in the Keys—the 188-foot Thunderbolt, a former World War II cable laying ship—or spend nearly endless bottom time exploring Sombrero Reef, where corals thrive. Flagler’s Barge is another shallow-water site—25 feet at its deepest—that you’ll love for its carpet of colorful sponges and countless nooks and crannies. Stop in for a guided tour of the Turtle Hospital (Mile Marker 48.5), which rescues and rehabilitates sea turtles.

Two scuba diver’s diving over a reef with fish

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects the Florida Reef, the only coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. and the third-largest one in the world.

Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Big Pine Key

To reach the lower Keys, you’ll cross the Seven Mile Bridge, which offers a spectacular vista of Sunshine State sea and sky. Big Pine Key is known for its rare and endangered Key deer, the diminutive cousins of white-tailed deer. But you’re here for the diving: You won’t be disappointed on the low-profile reefs of Looe Key or the wreck of the 210-foot Adolphus Busch Sr., which is blanketed by swirling silversides during the summer.

A couple scuba diving over a reef with orange and yellow corals

Stretching for 125 miles south of Miami from Key Largo to Key West, The Florida Keys are famous for the shallow and easy-to-access reefs just offshore.

Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council

Key West

A fitting end to a Florida Keys road trip is experiencing Key West’s fabled attractions, from the Hemingway House to Hog’s Breath Saloon, Mallory Square at Mile Marker 0, and of course, the diving. Key West’s spur-and-groove reefs feature abundant coral and fish life at sites such as Western Sambo Reef. But the major underwater draw is the USS Hoyt S. Vandenberg, another deep wreck that is an advanced dive with a huge payoff. This artificial reef is 524 feet long and 10 stories tall. Goliath grouper and barracuda are often found patrolling its decks.

2023 Readers Choice Awards

The Florida Keys earned a total of 13 awards this year, including first place in Best Photography, Best Beginner Diving, Best Snorkeling and Best Overall.

Download the free Florida Keys & Key West travel app today to learn more about diving in the Keys.

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