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6 Places to Experience the Best Diving in the Florida Keys

December 29, 2022 / marine mammals,

Each year, Dolphins Plus welcomes visitors from all over the world to experience the magic of swimming and interacting with dolphins in their native habitat. Located in beautiful Key Largo, Dolphins Plus offers guests an unforgettable experience as well as easy access to nearby sites that offer the best diving in the Florida Keys. 

At Dolphins Plus, you’ll find our dolphins in a natural lagoon. As a marine conservation and research facility, we built our organization around 10k square miles of all-natural ocean waters.  

Due to our unwavering dedication to marine mammal conservation and care, Dolphins Plus has been proudly certified by many of the most important marine organizations in the world. Among our partners, you'll find the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), through which many of our staff members have earned certification. 

Throughout your visit, you’ll receive fascinating insights into everything from dolphin psychology to the importance of protecting the fragile local marine ecosystem. But we also encourage you to ask any questions you may have about the best eco-friendly diving Key Largo has to offer.  

We’re always happy to share our recommendations in order to ensure our guests have an unforgettable Florida Keys vacation!

6 Places to Experience the Best Diving in the Florida Keys

It won’t take you long to discover why Key Largo is fondly nicknamed the “Diving Capital of the World.” The island is set in the heart of the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. 

With crystal clear waters, magnificent coral reefs, and a thriving underwater ecosystem, divers of all levels will find plenty to explore. Here are our picks for the best diving Key Largo and the surrounding areas have to offer.  

1. Molasses Reef   

Part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Molasses Reef is among the most popular diving sites in the world. With depths ranging from 6- 90 feet, Molasses Reef is an excellent choice for divers of all skill levels.  

Below the crystal-clear waters, you’ll enter a world populated by over 600 different marine species. Reef sharks, moray eel, and sea turtles glide through giant coral heads and spur & grove reef formations.  

You'll encounter neon collages of colorful fish, including blue tang, angelfish, parrotfish, and countless more. Dotted with shipwreck artifacts like anchors and winches, Molasses Reef is among the top Key Largo diving destinations you don’t want to miss.  

2. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park 

As the United States’ first undersea park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has been welcoming divers and other visitors since the 1960s. Covering around 70 nautical square miles, the park features several unique underwater attractions.  

Among the most famous is Christ of the Abyss, a 4000-pound, 8.5-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ which was dedicated by Guido Galletti. In 1965, the iconic sculpture was lowered to a depth of 25 feet, where it’s still visited by divers to this day.  

The park is also home to some of the most diverse and scenic coral reefs in the Florida Keys, which the park’s mission has always been to protect. Divers will also encounter hundreds of different species of colorful tropical fish throughout their journey beneath the waves.  

3. Spiegel Grove   

When it comes to deep dives, the USS Spiegel Grove shipwreck is among the most popular in Key Largo. Located 6 miles offshore, the massive former Navy vessel can be explored at minimum depths of around 50 feet to maximum depths of over 130 feet.  

Given that the ship is over 500 feet long, it's best to plan a series of dives if you want to fully explore the wreck. Now home to a huge array of marine life, Spiegel Grove is one of the most popular advanced diving sites in Key Largo.  

4. Hen & Chickens Reef  

To the southeast of Plantation Key, you’ll find Hen & Chickens Reef, which looks a bit like a mother hen and her chicks when viewed from above. An SPA-protected area, Hen & Chickens Sanctuary is one of the best beginner dive sites in the Florida Keys.  

With depths of 5 - 35 feet, the reef features stunning purple sea fans and giant tree corals, some of which stand as high as 15 feet from the ocean floor. As you weave through the colorful underwater coral forest, you’ll be greeted by plenty of gorgeous local marine life.  

Spiny lobsters and reef crabs crawl along the ocean floor while barracuda, grunts, angelfish, and parrotfish glide over the colorful sea plumes. While a favorite of novice divers and snorkelers, even advanced divers are often drawn to the otherworldly beauty of Hen & Chickens Reef.  

5. Davis Reef 

Davis Reef, aka Davis Ledge, is home to a magnificent array of gorgonians (soft corals) and vast numbers of marine wildlife. Stingrays and eels blend into the striking kaleidoscope of thousands of colorful tropical fish. 

The reef even has its own resident lucky Buddha statue, which is said to bestow good fortune on divers who rub its belly. With depths ranging from 5 – 80 feet, Davis Reef offers an outstanding underwater adventure for divers of all levels.  

6. Sombrero Reef 

With depths of 5 - 35 feet, Sombrero Reef is one of the Middle Keys’ most popular destinations for both snorkeling and scuba diving. An SPA-protected area, Sombrero Reef features a staggering array of gorgonians and sea fans, as well as lettuce, starlet, brain, and finger coral.  

As you explore the mini caves and coral arches of the reef, you’ll meet plenty of different fish species, from spotted scorpionfish to spot fin butterflyfish. Make sure you bring along an underwater camera for the chance to capture scenes from one of the most beautiful underwater habitats in the Florida Keys. 

Contact Dolphins Plus for the Best Diving Key Largo has to Offer

When it comes to diving, Key Largo and the surrounding Keys offer endless opportunities for underwater adventures. Start your next vacation at Dolphins Plus Bayside and enjoy plenty of expert tips on where to look for everything from the best restaurants to the best diving in the Florida Keys!


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