A Beach in Miami with words "scuba diving Miami, FL" written over it.

The Ultimate Guide To Scuba Diving In Miami

Perhaps when one thinks about Miami, it’s Miami beach that comes to mind. Most divers probably don’t think about planning a scuba diving trip there. But, trust me, that’s about to change!

Some of the best diving in the world can be found just a 14 minute drive from the city of Miami in Key Biscayne at the Biscayne National Park and Neptune Memorial reef. There are also wrecks to be found in Miami’s waters, like the Sheri Lynn and the Half Moon shipwreck. With the reefs and wrecks comes beautifully diverse marine life. This all adds up to some wonderful diving opportunities.

Getting There

One nice thing about traveling to Miami for some diving is that you’re traveling within the continental US…well at least if you’re from the US. No need for passports or forms of declaration here.

There are plenty of accommodations to choose from in the city both on and off the historic Miami beach.

Aerial view of Miami hotels.
Plenty of lodgings to be found off of Miami beach.

To get to Key Biscayne from Miami you travel a little over seven miles Southeast on FL-913 N. This is a beautiful “don’t blink or you’ll miss it” drive that takes you over the Rickenbacker Causeway.

Aerial view of Miami waters.
You can imagine the clear warm waters you’ll be in soon as you traverse the Rickenbacker Causeway.

There are also some great hotels in Key Biscayne, if you’d like to stay a little ways out of the city of Miami.

Scuba Diving in Miami

Miami lies at the gateway of the Florida Straits, a L-shaped area between the Gulf of Mexico and up through the Florida keys.

Knocking on Miami’s door is the Fla. Strait, home to the world’s third largest barrier reef.

The strait is not only the beginning of the Gulf Stream, but encompasses the third largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef and the Belize Barrier Reef.

Dive Operations

There are about just as many dive shops and dive charters in Miami as dive sites. There are charter services like Ace Diving and Grove Scuba and shops for scuba gear like Austin’s Diving Center. And for places that offer both gear and charters, check out stores like Squalo Divers. Basically, every diving need can be met in Miami.

Inside Squalo Divers shop in Miami.
Squalo Divers offers both a well equipped scuba store and runs charters.

Diving Sites of Miami

In the Miami water ways you will find various diving activity including drift dives and coral reef and shipwreck dives. Without a doubt, divers will have no problem finding interesting diving opportunities and a divers’ paradise in these Atlantic waters.

People scuba diving in Miami waters.
Miami’s waters have it all; reefs, ruins and wrecks as well as the occasional dolphin…which I enjoy off the football field.

Drift diving in miami

Being from Buffalo, we have access to the mighty Niagara River that flows over Niagara Falls. This offers excellent conditions for river drifts – albeit far upstream from the Falls – but Miami has some good drift diving as well.

Niagara Falls, in Buffalo, New York.
Upstream from Niagara Falls is some world class drift diving, but Miami has some great drift dives too.

Off of Miami beach, running parallel to shore, is a nice current from the Gulf Stream that is quick and warm. You can cruise by the reefs – which are rather straight – and take in the sites with little no no effort.

People drift diving in Miami waters.
Divers relaxing as they are carried along on a drift dive.

Like on any drift dive, once you get your buoyance dialed in you then hover weightless as the scenery glides by. while “flying” like Superman over the reefs keep a look out for a whole variety of marine life including lobsters, moray eels and even sea turtles.

Lobster underwater in Miami waters.
Keep an eye out for spiny lobster as you “fly” by the reefs on your drift.

There are several spots that are good for drift diving in Miami including Brewster Reef and the Pink Floyd wall. According to the Pink Floyd song on The Wall “we don’t need no education.” However, you will need advanced certification for this dive that is between 50ft to 60ft.

reef diving Sites

If reef dives are your thing, then welcome to Miami!

The Florida Reef aka The South Florida Reef Tract or Great Florida Reef is the only living coral barrier reef to be found in the confines of the continental United States. It is also home to over 6,000 species of marine life.

A person showed scuba diving on the Florida Reef.
The Florida Reef is vibrant with plant and marine life.

Starting in Key Biscayne Bay and spanning to Marquesas Keys, this is one of the most beautiful reefs to found on this planet of ours and a diving experience not to be missed.

Biscayne national park/Maritime heritage trail

This unique park is the largest marine sanctuary in the National Park Service encompassing over 250 square miles. But to see most of it, you need to don the fins as 95% of the park is underwater.

There are many locations within the park that suit all level of divers. And with the shallow depths of some of the locations, snorkelers can join in on the fun too.

Within the park you will find the Maritime Heritage Trail. This trail let’s divers explore the six shipwrecks in the park including the Arratoon Apcar, Erl King and Lugano.

The Arratoon Apcar wreck in Miami waters.
The Arratoon Apcar is one of many wrecks divers can visit on the Maritime Heritage Trail.

Also a part of the trail is the “eye of Miami” better known as the Fowey Rocks lighthouse. Go back in time as you dive around this lighthouse first lite in 1878. Rising 130ft out of the water, this is a site to be enjoyed both above and below the waves.

The "eye of Miami" shown with people around it.
The “eye of Miami” looking down at some visitors of the Maritime Heritage Trail.
Emerald reef

At an average depth of about 20ft, Emerald Reef is an ideal prime destination for divers and snorkelers.

The reef lies about 1 mile east of key Biscayne and is made up of three shallow patch reefs absolutely teeming with life.

Many consider this to be the best reef in Miami with generally amazing water clarity and color. The reef is home to such picturesque things like elkhorn and pillar coral.

Elkhorn coral in Miami waters.
Make sure to bring the camera here to get pics of the elkhorn coral.

There are a multitude of sponges on this reef and the marine life includes tropical fish such as sergeant majors, blue tangs, parrotfish and damselfish.

Damselfish underwater in Miami.
Damselfish are prevalent on emerald reef.

Also keep an eye out for anemones, stingrays and nurse sharks.

Anemones underwater in Miami.
Anemones make up part of the spectacular emerald reef.
Neptune Memorial Reef

How about a visit to Atlantis…or at least an artistic representation of the legendary lost city. Neptune Memorial Reef is one of the largest manmade artificial reefs in the world. It lies about three miles East of key Biscayne.

You might see The Man From Atlantis (scuba Jay showing his age) swimming around the ruins of the reef. (Photo courtesy of Neptune Memorial Reef)

Currently made up of over 70 columns spanning almost 1 acer, this is a dive not to be missed and offers some wonderfully unique photo opportunities. There are plans in place to expand this reef over the next 10 years to 16 acres with over 5,000 columns.

Ever think about a burial at sea? Well you can arrange to have your ashes placed in the ruins. Scuba Jay is thinking this may not be a bad place to spend eternity and it was good enough for Julia Child, whose ashes were placed there in 2004.

Divers can dive for eternity and have their ashes interred in the “Atlantis” ruins. (Photo courtesy of Neptune Memorial Reef)

At a depth of about 40ft this reef is good for beginner and advanced divers. Now considered a coral reef with its various reef building coral, divers can see over 50 different species of fish including bluehead wrasses and bar jacks. Also, you can spy some sea urchins among the ruins.

Sea Urchins underwater in Miami.
Keep a look out for Sea Urchins around the ruins of the reef.
Jose Cuervo artificial reef

It’s always happy hour on this artificial reef as the sunken bar is always open!

The 22-ton concrete margarita bar was sunk on Cinco De Mayo on May 5th, 2000. It includes six stools for divers to belly-up at.

This unique dive attraction is part of the ReefLine project off of South Miami beach that is to eventually run seven miles long and include an underwater public sculpture park and snorkel trail.

Being close to shore and with a depth of about 20ft., all level of divers and snorkelers can check out this undersea wonder.

Wreck Diving Sites

Not only does Miami have numerous shipwrecks, but divers can also find other cool things to dive on as well…including tanks!

A person shown diving on a wreck underwater in Miami.
Wreck divers will have much to enjoy in the Miami waters.
Half moon shipwreck

The Half Moon was a German racing yacht built in 1908. Seized in England during a visit in 1914 as WWI was in its infancy, the yacht changed owners over the years.

It eventually made its way to the States where it was used as a restaurant and salon during prohibition and then later a fishing barge. In 1930 the Half Moon went down in a storm Northeast off of Key Biscayne, where she still lies today.

The yacht is 155ft long and 40ft wide and lays on her port side. The wreck was declared an underwater archaeological preserve in 2000. Lying in about 10ft of water, this historical wreck should not be missed by both divers and snorkelers.

Sheri Lynn

Lying Southeast off of Key Biscayne is the Sheri Lynn, one of Miami’s most popular wrecks. This 235ft freighter lies in 100ft of water, making her one of the advanced dive sites.

The Ship was purposefully sunk in 1987 and initially settled upright in one piece. However, hurricane Andrew hit in 1992 and spit her in two.

The broken up wreck has become abundant with marine life and is another great Miami diving opportunity.

SS Arratoon Apcar, Erl King & Lugano

These three wrecks are listed together as they are all part of the Maritime Heritage Trail. while these wrecks are showing their age, they are still fun to dive on and have become nice artificial reefs.

Angelfish underwater in Miami waters.
You may feel like you’ve died and gone to aquatic heaven on these wrecks, but that’s no angel…its an angelfish.

The Arratoon Apcar was a 262ft long iron hulled steamship that was built in 1861. She sank in 1878 when she ran aground at Fowey Rocks. Lying in 10ft to 20ft of water she is a great diving and snorkeling destination.

The Erl King was a 305ft steel hulled steamship that was built in 1865. She sank in 1891 when she ran aground on long reef. At the time of her sinking she was carrying wooden barrels of concrete mix. The wood barrels have long since been eaten away, but there remains concrete blocks in the shape of the wooden barrels, quite a sight! She lies in 18ft of water.

The largest of the wrecks listed here is the Lugano at 350ft long. She was an iron hulled cargo steamship built in 1882. She sank in 1913 when she too ran aground on long reef. Lying in 25ft of water this is another great diving and snorkeling site.

Tanks (you’re welcome)

while not a shipwreck, these tanks are a very cool and offer a different diving experience. The two M60 Army tanks were placed in 1994 and are in about 45ft of water just off of Key Biscayne.

A tank is shown sitting on the grass.
Two M60 tanks like the one shown here can make for a different dive experience.

You can feel like an aquatic Patton in an underwater tank battle as the tanks lie facing each other.

Tons of lime rock boulders were also placed around the tanks and all of this has created a nice artificial reef with much marine life. This dive site has various coral formations and sponges. While there, see if you can spy the large moray eel that is camouflaged among the tanks!

A large moray eel underwater in Miami, and a scuba diver following close behind.
A large moray eel like the one above lurks among the tanks.

All in all this dive gives a brand new meaning to the phrase a “two tank dive.”

Other Activities

A great thing about Miami is there is plenty to do in between surface intervals or for those non-divers. Beaches, parks, watersports and world class nightlife are all to be found.


In Miami it has never been more true that “life is a beach.” Son of a beach…you have some of the best beaches to enjoy while not below the waves. (enough beach jokes?)

Maybe one of the most famous beaches in the world is Miami beach. An island city that connects to the mainland by bridges, this beach/island is so large that it is broken into three sections – North, Mid and South beaches.

Miami beach is not a small beach, but a beach island!

Feel like you are going back in time as you head down Ocean Drive and see the pastel-colored art deco buildings. With beautiful views of the beach and plenty of stores and street cafes, you can easily spend a day cruising the Drive.

Miami beach buildings.
There is some early/mid 20th century charm in Miami beach.

Miami Nightlife

After a day of diving get ready for a nightlife second to none.

with multiple roof top bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries, there is something for every way you might want to spend your evening….just don’t over do it if diving the next day.

Miami at night.
As the old Air Supply song goes, “Even The Nights Are Better” in Miami.

Perhaps you’d rather relax in an artsy cocktail bar or go salsa dancing, well you can do that as well!

Known for its strong Latin American culture, you may feel like you are visiting Cuba in certain spots, especially in Little Havana. Truly a wonderful way to experience another culture without leaving the States.

Image of a mojito placed on a bar.
Grab a mojito, sample some of the local cuisine and get some Latin American culture in Little Havana.

Biscayne National Park

So nice we are covering it twice as it is a jack of all parks. While the waters below this park are great for divers and snorkelers, landlubbers will also find much beauty above the waves.

Even though there is only 5% of this park above water, what a 5% it is! With 250 square miles of waters, this is a favorite spot for boaters. Fishing is also allowed in the park, but make sure to follow the local guidelines.

Lighthouse in the background, surrounded by Miami waters.
Above the water and on land Biscayne National Park is a beautiful place to visit.

kayaking or canoeing is a great way to check out the beautiful mangrove lined shoreline. And if you’d like to see the mangrove by land there are several hiking trails of various lengths to follow.

Fishing Charters

For those fishermen and ladies out there, Miami can scratch that fishing itch.

All skill levels will enjoy heading out on the waters around Miami to find the catch of the day. There are many charters that offer inshore and offshore (deep sea) fishing.

Head out in the Atlantic to see if you can nab a sailfish.

Book a full or half day charter and try your luck. As Santiago said in The Old Man and The Sea “a man is not made for defeat!”

Other watersports

If you’d like to get out on the water, but fishing isn’t your thing, not to worry. Miami has plenty of other watersport activities to keep you occupied.

Whether jet skiing, parasailing or paddle boarding, all speeds of adventurous activities are here. You can even try your hand at flyboarding, if brave enough.

A man showed flyboarding in Miami waters.
Adventure seekers can feel like Namor The Submariner on a flyboard above the waves.

Wrapping Things Up

Clearly there is much to do in and around Miami and the city has much to offer scuba divers and non-divers alike.

If Miami has been on your destination list, move it up. If it has not been on your radar, it should be. Go for the diving and stay for the culturally charged nights…oh, and Go Bills!! (I couldn’t help myself).

Interested In Visiting Florida? Check Out These Other Locations That You’ll Love:

“How boring would the world be if everywhere and everyone were the same. Safe travels and good adventures.” Scuba Jay

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