There’s always something going on in South Florida, and Miami has quickly become one of the most popular cities to visit in the world – especially by visitors that love to spend a little time offshore and underwater.
A true world-class scuba destination (and a pretty hot spot for snorkelers, too), the secret about just how good scuba diving in Miami has been out for a while.
Home to a large array of natural reef systems, including one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, Miami also has historical shipwrecks to explore and artificial reef systems built by intentionally sinking ships, too.
If you’ve been thinking about doing a bit of diving in and around Miami you’ll want to check out all the great spots I list below.
Best Scuba Diving in Miami – Top 10 Sites
1. Biscayne National Park
The absolute complete opposite of the José Cuervo artificial reef, the Biscayne National Park gives you an opportunity to dive 25 miles of coral reef, all kinds of barrier islands and underwater landmarks you won’t see anywhere else. Moreover, the Maritime Heritage Trail also offers an opportunity to see many of the park’s shipwrecks.
The best part about diving Biscayne National Park, though?
You’ll never be deeper than 12 feet – and that means this is open to absolutely anyone with even the slightest bit of scuba experience.
Don’t feel like the shallow depth of this national park detracts from the experience, though. Some of the most skilled divers from all over the world come to Miami to see Biscayne themselves.
2. Jose Cuervo Artificial Reef
The José Cuervo artificial reef system is one of the most unique in the world, and not just because it was built (in part) with funding from the legendary tequila brand, either.
The artificial reef system was built on the backbone of a 10,000 pound concrete bar that was dropped into the ocean just 150 yards off the shore of Second Street in Miami.
Originally intended to be a bit of a tourist hotspot where visitors could dive down and get a drink at the “José Cuervo Underwater Bar”, the concrete bar has grown and blossomed into a full-blown artificial reef and is added to all the time.
If you’re going to do any diving in Miami make sure that this is on your itinerary. You have to see this unique art installation/artificial reef/underwater bar in person to believe it.
3. Neptune Memorial Reef
Situated about 3.2 miles to the east of Key Biscayne is the Neptune Memorial Reef – the largest artificial reef on the planet.
Intentionally designed to give the impression of the long lost city of Atlantis, this 16 acre underwater artificial reef system makes you feel like you have been transported to another planet.
The waters here are incredibly calm all year round, with 35 feet of visibility on average (and sometimes more). The water is also warm (between 75°F and 85°F year round), making this a hotspot for divers that want to get their feet wet, when they are relatively new to scuba.
Don’t be shy about getting up close and personal with key components of this reef, either. This is very much an interactive kind of art installation, one that allows you to get lost in and amongst the coral and the marine life that call this spot home.
4. Half Moon Shipwreck
The Half Moon Shipwreck, known in the past as Germania, was originally a beautiful ship designed in Germany around the turn of the last century.
At the end of World War I, though, the British decided to capture the Half Moon and take it to England following their victory. The ship sailed all over Europe before it ended up in the United States, finding itself just off the coast of Miami in the 1930s.
Unfortunately, the ship was hit by a hurricane and dropped to the bottom of the ocean just off the coast of Key Biscayne.
Today, though, it’s one of the most popular historic ship wrecks to check out, and for good reason. Be sure that this is on your Miami dive itinerary.
5. Emerald Reef
Emerald Reef, just east of Key Biscayne, may not be the most popular amongst locals, but it’s hugely popular with folks from outside the area.
This reef isn’t just loaded top to bottom with beautiful coral structures, but is also home to lobsters, damselfish, and all kinds of tropical fish that move in schools, too.
At a relatively shallow depth it is a perfect dive for beginners.
6. 1000 Mermaid Artificial Reef
Found just barely off the coast of Fort Lauderdale beach, the 1000 Mermaid artificial reef is as unique an art gallery as you are going to find anywhere.
While the underwater gallery has not yet been completed (one day it will in fact feature 1000 Mermaid sculptures), it’s already well underway – with dozens of sculptures that have been dropped into place permanently.
If you’ve ever wanted to dive with the mermaids (even if they are made of sustainable concrete), this is the place to be.
7. Belzona Barge
Intentionally dropped to the bottom of the ocean in 1991, this barge originally sat in 72 feet of water. However, Hurricane Andrew decided to relocate it in 1992 – moving it quite a bit, so much so that it currently sits in 40 feet of water (though it remains upside down).
The structure has almost entirely deteriorated, making it unsafe for even the most experienced divers to explore – but the reef that has established in this wreckage is going strong.
It’s relatively shallow depth make this a simple and straightforward dive for those that want to see this wreckage up close and personal.
8. Sheri Lyn Wreck
Easily one of the most popular dive sites in all of Miami, bringing folks from around the world here just to see the 230 foot freighter lying on the bottom of the ocean.
Originally built in 1952, the Dutch ship was eventually acquired by the US Department of Environmental Resource Management with the express purpose of sinking it just off the coast of Miami and turning it into a key part of a new artificial reef system.
If you’re going to visit this site be prepared to spend here all day. Five hours exploring this ship (the average time for most charters) feels too short, but you’ll still be able to take in a unique experience not found anywhere else.
9. Army Tanks
It’s no secret that a lot of decommissioned military equipment, usually boats and ships, end up as cornerstone ingredients of artificial reefs, but it’s not all that often that you find a bunch of Vietnam era army tanks thrown into the mix.
You will in Miami, though.
Tucked away just off the coast of Miami Beach, you’ll find multiple M 60 army tanks from the Vietnam War sunk amongst more than 1000 tons of limestone rock.
Bring your camera when you dive this site for sure. You’re going to want to have permanent memories of this unique experience, but you’re also going to want evidence to show others that you found a couple of Army tanks at the bottom of the ocean.
10. Belcher Barge
Sitting upside down in about 60 feet of water, the Belcher barge was a 195 foot steel behemoth that sunk about 5 miles off the coast of Miami.
Intentionally dropped to the bottom of the ocean in November 1985, the wreckage was later visited by U.S. Navy divers so that access holes could be cut into the wreckage – making it easier for explorers to investigate.
You want to have a bit of experience under your belt if you decide to go into the Belcher barge, though. Newbies can safely dive outside the wreckage, but they aren’t recommended to go poking around in it – even with experienced charter divers leading the way.
Diving Conditions and Best Time to Dive
Miami enjoys subtropical weather all year round which has helped their scuba community to blossom like few other spots in the United States.
The Gulfstream current helps to bring warm waters from the Caribbean, and while trade winds can blow throughout the winter months that cause ocean swells to make diving in Miami a little more challenging, it can still be done. However, the rest of the year offers almost picturesque conditions.
All year round you can expect water temperatures of between 70°F and 86°F. The best time of year to dive is in late spring and early summer, when the water is warmest, the water is clearest, and the visibility is exceptional.
Top Dive Shops in Miami
– Grove Scuba
A top reviewed and frequently recommended dive shop in Miami, Grove Scuba not only offers fantastic charter opportunities to some of the best dive locations in Miami but also offers full gear rentals, new and used gear purchases, gas top ups, and more.
– Tarpoon Lagoon Dive Center
Those that are looking to get certified as a scuba diver will want to make this dive operation their number one destination. They have a reputation for very affordable courses, affordable gear rental options, and a wide array of charter opportunities that will not break the bank, either.
On top of all of that, Tarpoon Lagoon also offers more advanced training and certifications for those that want to expand their skills and increase the type of underwater adventures they can have safely.
– Ocean Safari
Ocean Safari has been a cornerstone diving shop in the Miami scuba community for more than 30+ years. It’s tough to stay in business – let alone earn the kind of reputation that this dive shop has – without delivering fantastic service, exceptional training and charter opportunities, as well as some of the best prices in the Miami area.
– H2O Dive Center
H2O Dive Center (located on Harding Ave. in Surfside, FL – just outside of Miami) is a great place for new divers to get established and to get their PADI certifications, too.
Charter opportunities are diverse, taking divers all over Miami to check out the best hotspots and some hidden gems that you might not be able to see anywhere else.
This scuba shop also has a reputation for being the only one in Miami you can get your tank topped up and filled on a Sunday, with Tomas doing absolutely everything he can to make sure that his customers are taking care of.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Miami a good place for diving?
Miami is a fantastic place to do a bit of scuba diving, with its incredible range of natural and artificial underwater adventures that attract divers from all over the world every year. It doesn’t hurt that Miami is such a beautiful and bustling city to spend time in when you’re not underwater, either.
Is scuba diving in Miami safe for first-timers?
Some dives in and around Miami are little more advanced than what most newbies would be comfortable with, but that doesn’t mean that Miami is unsafe for first time divers.
Go out with a reputable group (any of the dive shops I mentioned above are fantastic) and you won’t have a whole lot to worry about.
Does Miami have coral reefs?
Miami is home to one of the largest coral reef ecosystems in the world, part of the Florida Reef Tract that stretches out over 220 miles. If you want to see and take part in a bunch of diverse coral reef dives, Miami has you covered.
How much is scuba diving in Miami?
Miami isn’t much more expensive than scuba diving anywhere else in Florida, especially in South Florida.
Prices are in line with what you could expect to pay diving in the Keys. Expect to pay anywhere from $85-$105 per person, per day. Gear rentals and other extras would obviously cost you a little more.
My unbounded love for the oceans and everything it has to offer motivated me to pursue my passion and become a professional scuba diving instructor.
I keep reading, exploring, and learning more about scuba diving and the underwater world all the time, so I’m excited to share my knowledge with fellow scuba enthusiasts and hopefully contribute a little to your development as a diver. I want people to fall in love with the oceans with as much passion as I have. Read more about me here.