With so many activities and sights to enjoy in the USA, you would almost forget that the country, surrounded by water, is great for diving. Below you can read more about the most popular diving locations where you can discover this beautiful underwater world. In addition to a diving licence, you also need an ESTA or a US visa to go diving in the United States.
Get your diving licence before or during your holiday in the USA
Near the dive spots listed below, you can rent your diving equipment and book diving excursions at the resorts or diving schools. If you do not have a diving licence before your trip, that is not a problem. Several diving schools offer diving lessons and courses. You can often get certified in four to five days. Check with the diving school beforehand whether the licence you receive at the end of the course is also internationally valid. If you want to go on a diving holiday to the United States, you should bear in mind that, in addition to a diving licence, an ESTA or visa is also required.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a great place for diving enthusiasts. It is a national marine sanctuary in the Florida Keys - an archipelago of around 1700 small islands. Here you will find extensive mangrove forests, seagrass beds and the only coral reef in the United States. Many sites are accessible to divers and snorkellers, allowing people to learn more about the country’s maritime heritage. However, some areas within the reserve (Tennessee Reef, Conch Reef, Looe Key, Eastern Sambo and Tortugas South Ecological Reserve) are open only to researchers. Snorkelling or diving is not permitted there.
You can spot manatees in the Florida coastal rivers in Citrus County (the Crystal River, the Homosassa River and the Chassahowitzka River). It is legal to swim with this species here. However, touching manatees is not allowed. During the winter months, manatees can be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Most of them are in Florida, as the Crystal River has natural hot springs with a water temperature that is comfortable for this species.
American Virgin Islands
The American Virgin Islands are the three islands located east of Puerto Rico: St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix. The water is clear, so visibility is almost infinite. The colourful underwater world of the Virgin Islands is diverse. Turtles, lobsters and eels can be found on St. Thomas. Squid, octopus, rays and nurse sharks swim around the Carvel Rock on St. John, and St. Croix is known for its gorges and cliffs.
Ice diving in Alaska
That diving in Alaska is often called ice diving is not really surprising. The water here can reach freezing temperatures. In order to keep warm in the cold diving water, dry suits are sold instead of wetsuits. It is recommended practising diving with a dry suit on. Training often consists of several theory lessons and one swimming pool lesson. After obtaining the certificate, you can enjoy the beautiful underwater world of Alaska at your leisure.
Wreck Valley, New York
Approximately 32 kilometres off the coast of New York lies an underwater area known as Wreck Valley. Here you can find more than 300-year-old shipwrecks. These shipwrecks can be located quickly because the water is relatively shallow in some places (between 18 and 40 metres). Remains are still being discovered today.
Submitting an ESTA application
You do not need to have a diving licence when you arrive in the United States. What you do need before the start of your trip, however, is an ESTA or US visa. An ESTA is a mandatory travel authorisation which you need to travel to the United States by air or sea without a visa. You can submit an ESTA application for a diving holiday in the United States quickly and easily via this website. Once approved, it will be valid for two years, but this does not mean that you can stay in the country for two consecutive years with an ESTA. The maximum duration of stay with an ESTA is ninety days. That should be long enough for you to get certified and gain some diving experience in the United States.