Snorkel Time

10 Best Dive Sites in North America (Photos)

The weather is warming up and the sun is coming out…it's time to get scuba certified. Explore the treasures under the sea at these amazing dive spots in North America. Watch out for sharks!

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Fun, sun, and…scuba? For many, a trip to the beach just isn’t complete without the possibility of a deep sea dive. Whether you want to explore ship wrecks, meet creatures of the deep, or wonder at gorgeous coral formations, scuba diving can be a fun and athletic opportunity while you’re on vacation. Getting certified is crucial before attempting a dive, and if you choose to give it a go, we’ve compiled some of the best dive sites in North America for you to visit. Some dive sites are waiting in our own backyards!

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Half Moon Caye, Belize

Half Moon Caye in Belize offers divers the chance to go on a wall dive—a dive in which the vertical facades of the earth’s landmasses are explored. The depths at Half Moon Caye (and really at any wall dive) are tremendous, giving you the very correct feeling that you are staring into an abyss. The waters at Half Moon Caye are particularly clear, despite the depth, so you will be able to see all manner of wildlife, including loggerhead turtles, rays, barracuda, and eels.


STAY: Portofino Beach Resort

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Blue Heron Bridge, Riviera Beach, Florida

The Blue Heron Bridge dive is fairly simple: In only 12 feet of water, you get access to a plethora of wildlife, including flying gurnards, bandtail sea robins, and striated frogfish. For first-timers or those looking to include a short dive into a vacation, Blue Heron Bridge is an excellent choice.

 

STAY: Delray Beach Marriott

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RMS Rhone, British Virgin Islands

If you’re a fan of the 1977 film The Deep, chances are you’ve already glimpsed the RMS Rhone on the silver screen. But if you’d rather have an up close and personal view of the steamer, which sank in 1867, then head to the BVI. The bow is largely intact, while the stern fared worse and remains scattered along the bottom of the ocean. Night dives here are particularly popular, as that’s when the coral formations truly come to life.

 

STAY: Bitter End Yacht Club

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Gran Cenote, Riviera Maya Mexico

At Gran Cenote, divers get the opportunity to explore one of the world’s best cavern dives. It’s a great introductory dive for first-timers as the shallow waters are clear and fairly shallow. You’re bound to spot snorkelers in the water as well. The beauty of the rock formations, particularly in the main cavern, are stunning.


STAY: Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa

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Point Lobos, Carmel, CA

Point Lobos National Park is a gorgeous dive site fifteen minutes from Monterey (where many individuals go to get certified for the first time). The Northern California coastline is a popular spot in general for dives, but Point Lobos allows only fifteen scuba divers a day to enter the water, ensuring the reef structures remain unspoiled. In addition to the haunting kelp forests and myriad of smaller creatures you’ll see, harbor seals have also been known to swim by.


STAY: Hyatt Carmel Highlands

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Keahole Point, Hawaii

If you’re a manta lover, there are few better dive sites than Keahole Point on the Big Island of Hawaii. Night dives are particularly popular where mantas — some with a wingspan of 16 feet — glide eerily through the shadowy waters.


STAY: Royal Kona Resort

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Florida Keys, Florida

The Florida Keys remain a popular diving destination for several reasons, perhaps chief among them the number of wrecks in the waters here. Some people search for gold or buried treasure among the trading vessels or lost pirate ships, but others come just for the history. The USS Vandenberg, a 523-foot-long missile-tracking ship just six miles off the coast, is a must-see.

 

STAY: Cheeca Lodge & Spa

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Isla Mujeres, Cancun, Mexico

If you’re dying to get up close and personal with a whale shark, then a summer trip to Isla Mujeres (the laid-back island off the coast of Cancun) is necessary. From June to September, these enormous ocean creatures can be seen in the waters around the island. These giants are of the gentle variety, no matter how intimidating their size might be, so divers are perfectly safe.


STAY: Hotel Villa Rolandi Thalasso SPA—Gourmet & Beach Club

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Cocos Island, Costa Rica

For the true adventure diver, there are few spots in North America better than Cocos Island. Deciding to embark on a diving trip there requires some thought. Located 36 hours by boat from mainland Costa Rica, it’s a trek to get there. And, as Cocos is a national park and extremely protected by the Costa Rican government, visitors are strictly regulated. Dive trips can be organized, with many lasting several days–some even up to ten. It’s more than worth it, however, as you get the chance to see huge schools of sharks, dolphins, giant mantas, and a variety of rays. The reef system is stunning and, if you look closely, you’ll see octopuses and eels darting here and there.

 

STAY: Si Como No Resort, Spa, and Wildlife Refuge

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Ray of Hope, Bahamas

The ironically named ship, Ray of Hope, was purposefully sunk off the coast of the Bahamas in 2003. Since then, the ship has garnered many visitors–particularly those of the shark variety. Dozens of gray reef sharks now seemingly call the wreck home, making for a truly eerie and spectacular dive. For another popular dive into shark-infested waters, check out the Bahamas’ Tiger Beach, where striped tiger sharks congregate.

 

STAY: Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbor