Sarasota, a beautiful ocean side community on the West Coast of Florida has an almost dizzying array of top-notch scuba diving opportunities for you to take advantage of.
The year-round warm, crystal clear water makes Sarasota picture-perfect for divers that want to do a little more than drop down to the ocean floor and fumble around. There are wrecks and reefs to check out, dive spots absolutely teeming with ocean life, and some of the most naturally beautiful landmarks you have to see for yourself.
On top of all of that, Sarasota is home to some of the best dive shops in all of Florida – the kind that could stand as a model for the industry, filled with experienced and super friendly folks looking to make sure your time spent there is always memorable.
Best Dive Sites in Sarasota
This wreck – a 400 foot freighter that originally sailed from Britain – sank to the bottom of the ocean just off the coast of Sarasota all the way back in 1919.
Interestingly enough, it happened so slowly that the entire crew was able to unload safely and there were zero casualties. Unfortunately for the Bayronto, the trip down to the bottom caused the vessel to flip upside down and break-in half. It’s a big part of why there was no salvage mission scrambled.
Bad news for the Bayronto turned into great news for modern-day scuba divers, though.
This vessel has been at the bottom of the ocean for more than 100 years and is absolutely teeming with coral, sponges, and all kinds of underwater life. It’s a beautiful (if accidental) artificial reef that you’ll want to check out for sure.
2. Siesta Key
Siesta Key is a gorgeous “barrier island” off the coast of Sarasota and a community that has a near legendary reputation for being a bit of a water town.
Folks spend a ton of time outdoors here, almost all of it on a boat or in the ocean – and for good reason.
The weather is perfect almost all year round and the waters surrounding this island are stunning (especially after you slip beneath the surface).
The Point of Rocks is maybe the most famous of all the diving milestones in Siesta Key. Super easy to find, just a bit south of Crescent Beach, you’ll be amazed by the rainbow of colors you find the second you get under the surface.
Snapper, grouper, tarpon, dolphins, and even manatees amongst others call this part of Sarasota home. It’s worth the trip just to dive this hotspot!
3. Mexican Pride
The Mexican Pride is a 200 foot barge that was intentionally scuttled off the coast of Sarasota back in 1970. This boat can be found at depths between 100 and 130 feet and it makes up the cornerstone of an artificial reef just 35 miles off the coast.
Over the last 50+ years this reef has really grown into a major dive landmark, not just in Sarasota area itself but throughout the state of Florida. You’ll find gigantic schools of fish (including snapper and grouper) but you’ll also find this reef to be overflowing with dolphin and shark populations, too.
4. M-4 Reef
The M4 reef system is one of the more recent additions to the Sarasota artificial reef program, having been dropped in 1998.
The 100 foot collection of “reef balls” was sprinkled in 40 feet of water with the hopes that an artificial reef would coalesce around everything over the next couple of decades. Well, the reef established itself all whole lot faster than that and today it is swimming in marine life.
Because this can be found in such shallow water it’s a perfect dive for those that don’t have a ton of experience under their belt but still want to explore something a little more interesting and engaging.
5. Sheridan Wreck
The Sheridan wreckage can be found between Sarasota and Clearwater. This is another artificial reef built around the back of a 180 foot steel tugboat, with parts of the shipwreck dropped in 25 feet of water stretching all the way down to 80 feet.
Oddly enough, it sits perfectly up right (though it tilts slightly to the starboard side) making it a perfect “first timer” wreck site for divers to explore – as well as for those that want to get a little more experience in relatively safe conditions.
If you head a bit south of Sarasota, you’ll also want to check the diving around Venice Beach – especially if you want to bring home some fossilized shark teeth. Some of these monster shark teeth date all the way back to the era of the dinosaurs and all of them are mementos of dive adventures you’ll never forget.
Also, be sure to ask your dive charter to bring you by the M 10 artificial reef. This reef was created in 1900 when a barge went down off the coast of Sarasota. Very little of the vessel remains today, but the artificial reef that it has created is still rocking and rolling quite strong.
Dive Conditions and Best Time to Dive
A huge part of the reason that Sarasota is such a dive hotspot is because the conditions are perfect pretty much all year round.
Surface temperatures are always very temperate, hovering around the lower 70s in the wintertime but getting up to the middle 80s in the summer. Water temperatures are super warm as well and visibility is always pretty solid (20 to 50 feet on average). Even more impressively, though, is that some of the deeper water sites have visibility good for up to 100 feet – and that’s not something you’re going to find just anywhere.
If you want the best scuba diving opportunities in Sarasota, aim to visit in either the fall or winter.
Temperatures will be slightly cooler but the community will be a lot less overrun by tourists looking to elbow you out of your charter spots. Prices will be lower, too.
Top Dive Centers in Sarasota
– Florida Underwater Sports
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a friendlier bunch than the crew at Florida Underwater Sports.
Based out of Sarasota, this operation caters to brand-new divers as well as those with hundreds of dives already under their belt.
Past customers report individualized attention and a real personal connection that is a little bit uncommon except for amongst the very best dive centers in the US.
You’ll be well taken care of here and prices aren’t over-the-top, either.
– Scuba Quest Sarasota
A very professional operation, Scuba Quest is a PADI certified dive shop that has absolutely everything you need to enjoy your diving in and around Sarasota – regardless of whether or not you’re here for just a few hours, a few days, or are going to be setting up shop on a permanent basis.
The owner Eric has been spending years diving in and around Sarasota and the rest of Florida.
He and his team have built up a tremendous amount of experience, giving them an edge when it comes to planning out charters, understanding how the sea is going to behave on a day-to-day basis, and generally making sure that you have a lot of fun and are safe, too.
– Sarasota Scuba Club
One of the top options for scuba training and certifications in the Sarasota community, the Sarasota Scuba Club also has you covered from top to bottom with gear rentals and purchases, as well as travel and charter accommodations.
This shop is well worth a closer look.
– Scuba Steve’s Adventures
A NAUI diver certified operation, you are going to be well taken care of from the moment you walk through the doors of Scuba Steve’s Adventures.
The knowledgeable and professional staff will be able to guide you through every aspect of your dive trip, including training and certifications if you’re just getting started in the world of scuba.
Multiple different charter opportunities are available on a pretty much daily basis all year round, and the prices aren’t half bad, either.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Sarasota Have Good Scuba Diving?
Sarasota has fantastic scuba diving thanks to the unique underwater adventure opportunities but also the picture-perfect weather all year round. You’ll definitely want to make sure that Sarasota is on your Florida diving itinerary.
Are There Coral Reefs in Sarasota?
Sarasota has a very active artificial reef program, with some small coral reef dive opportunities available as well. Florida has one of the largest coral reef ecosystems in the entire United States, with more than 358 miles of reefs – though most of them are along the eastern coast of FL.
At the end of the day, if you are diving to check out reefs in Sarasota you need to be sure that you’re comfortable seeing a lot more artificial action (brimming with natural underwater life, of course) than natural coral reefs.
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.