Florida is the second southernmost state of the U.S., a melting pot of cultures that can be observed in everything from dialect to cooking and entertainment. The state’s coastline is renowned for its world-class beaches and water activities. What makes Florida unique is the presence of a small chain of subtropical islands called Florida Keys that have their own geography and offer plenty of attractions for water lovers.
Florida is a leading vacation destination in the U.S., and part of it is due to the excellent diving that takes place here. There are four regions popular among divers: Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and the Boynton Beach.
Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo. Photo by Sebastian Carlosena
It mostly depends on the area you wish to dive in. The West Coast enjoys nine months of warm to hot temperatures, while the three winter months bring cool but not cold temperatures. The East Coast experiences both tropical (in the Keys) and subtropical weather (in the northern and central part of the state). The Southern Coast, however, has a tropical climate with frequent rain from May to October.
The water temperatures in Florida range from 63° F/17° C - 73° F/23° C in January (the coldest month) to 84° F/29° C - 86° F/30° C in August (the warmest month). The Southern Coast and the Keys enjoy the warmest waters.
Florida offers some of the most interesting shipwrecks in the world. The two unmissable shipwrecks are the USS Vandenberg and the USS Spiegel Grove, which you can penetrate if you have experience with advanced wreck diving. The USS Oriskany – located south of Pensacola - is also a sight to see, being the largest artificial reef in the world. It’s actually nicknamed the Great Carrier Reef.
The USS Vandenberg wreck. Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife
The Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef in continental U.S. and the third-largest (although this is up to debate) coral barrier reef system in the world. The reef tract starts near Miami and extends to the islands of Dry Tortugas. Patch reefs continue up to Palm Beach county. It encompasses over 45 species of stony corals, about 35 species of octocorals, and more than 70 species of marine sponges.
The state of Florida offers about 1,350 miles (2,172 km) of coastline and over 30,000 lakes. The diversity of marine life can be seen through the hundreds of native and non-native species. Florida is a perfect destination for observing dolphins, manatees, barracudas, groupers, yellowtail snappers, loggerhead sea turtles, stingrays, spiny lobster, nurse sharks, reef sharks, and hundreds of other species of fish. Each area has its own ecosystem, so it would be best to ask a guide what each region has to offer in terms of marine life.