Home » Scuba Diving in Key Largo – Complete Guide to the Best Diving in the Florida Keys

Scuba Diving in Key Largo – Complete Guide to the Best Diving in the Florida Keys

by Max
213 views 14 minutes read
Scuba Diving in Key Largo - Complete Guide to the Best Diving in the Florida Keys

Looking for an exotic and adventurous underwater trip? Then look no further than scuba diving in one of the best Florida Keys islands, Key Largo. We know this popular destination for its clear waters and spectacular reefs, making it a perfect place to dive. This article will discuss everything you need to know about scuba diving in Key Largo.

Why is Key Largo a Great Scuba Diving Destination?

Key Largo is a great scuba diving destination because it offers something for everyone. From the calm waters of the shallow reefs to the dramatic wrecks and caves, there is a lot to experience. There is also a wide variety of marine life to see. Key Largo has a variety of tropical fishes. And, of course, the warm sunny weather is an added bonus!

Key Largo is located in the upper Florida Keys and is the largest of the Keys. We know it for its coral reefs, crystal clear waters, and lush vegetation. Key Largo is also home to a variety of plant and animal life, including the endangered Key Largo woodrat.

Visitors to Key Largo can enjoy a variety of activities, including diving, snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, and more. We also got so many restaurants and shops in Key Largo, as well as a number of hotels and resorts. Whether you want to relax or have a vacation or an adventure-filled getaway, Key Largo is the perfect destination.

Types of Diving you Can Do in Key Largo

Scuba diving in Key Largo isn’t just going inside waters and coming out. Key Largo has got lots of different sites where you can do various kinds of scuba diving. These include shallow reef diving, wreck diving, deep diving, drift diving, and night diving.

Of course, you should only engage in diving activities for which you have the necessary training and certification!

Shallow Reef Diving in Key Largo

Shallow reef diving is a terrific way to experience the underwater world without needing to go deep. This makes it perfectly suitable also for beginner divers (see here for our tips for beginner divers). Reefs are teeming with life and are quite colorful in Key Largo, making them beautiful and interesting places to explore.

However, reef diving is only safe as long as you are careful. Prior to leaving, make sure to check the weather and tides in Key Largo. Strong currents may in the worst case sweep you away from the safety of the reef. Also, be aware of the wildlife that calls the reef home. Of course, with the right preparation, training and dive planning, shallow reef diving is a perfectly safe and exciting way to explore the underwater world.

Deep Reef Diving in Key Largo

Dives deeper than 60 feet can be referred to as deep dives. Deep diving is an exciting way to explore the underwater world – there is just too much to see to put it in words. You’ll get to see parts of the reef that most people never get to see when scuba diving in the Florida Keys. Because it involves descending to depths of 60 feet or more, deep diving is not for everyone, and should never be done without the proper training. If you haven’t already, you could use your vacation in Key Largo to get a Deep Diver certification. If it has been some time since your last dive, consider taking a Refresher course before hitting the water again, especially for a deep dive.

Drift Diving in Key Largo

We all love drift diving – it is like being on a highway and floating past the reef, effortless. If you haven’t done it yet, you should try! Drift diving is a diving type in which you are carried along by currents. Drift diving can be a very thrilling experience – but again, we strongly recommend only doing it with the proper training (e.g., a Drift Diver specialty course).

Wreck Diving in Key Largo

If you love wreck diving, then Key Largo is a great place for you. Key Largo offers several great shipwrecks that are waiting to be explored. Our favorite is the USS Spiegel Grove shipwreck (see below). Since having been sunk as an artificial reef, it has developed an abundance of beautiful wildlife which you should not miss when scuba diving in the Florida Keys.

There are many reasons people choose to wreck the dive. Some may take it as a challenge to explore an environment that is not meant for human habitation. For others, it is the history and stories that a shipwreck tells. And for some, it is simply the beauty of these underwater relics. Whatever it is that attracts you to wreck diving, you will be amazed by the wrecks Key Largo has to offer.

Night Diving in Key Largo

For many of us, night diving has a firm place in the holiday planning. For some, night dives are even the best dives of all. One key reason is that you get the chance to discover new and exciting marine animals that will only come out at night. In addition, bioluminescence (caused by tiny plankton type organisms that give off a bioluminescent light when set in motion) is something you can only truly experience during a night dive.

But we also get that night diving is not for everyone – it definitely requires more planning, precautions and equipment than daylight diving and it can be tiring if done at the end of an already long day. Also, not everybody likes to descend into the dark…

When night diving in Key Largo, make sure you have a good flashlight and a backup light, and always stay close to your dive buddy.

Best Dive Sites in Key Largo

Key Largo offers a variety of great dive sites. When you plan a scuba diving vacation in Key Largo, you shouldn’t miss them:

Molasses Reef

Molasses Reef is a coral reef in the Florida Keys, located in the Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA). As it is very easily accessible and at the same time teeming with wildlife, Molasses Reef is one of the most heavily visited reefs in the Upper Keys – and is even regarded by some as one of the best reefs for diving in the world.

The reef is well known for its clear water, variety of fish, and numerous boulder corals. In particular, the reef is home to more than 600 different species of flora and fauna – no surprise that it is considered by many to be the best dive site in the world. Next to marine life, there are several other things to see, such as a large ship’s winch and a historic Spanish anchor.

City of Washington

We touched upon the City of Washington wreck above already. This is one of the most popular dive sites in Key Largo, for a reason. Built in 1877, the schooner turned steamship with two masts, three decks, a total length of 320 feet and a 38 foot high beam is a great wreck to explore. With a rich history, being used first as a passenger and freight carrier between New York, Panama and Mexico, then used as a transport for troops to Cuba during the Spanish-American war, and eventually a coal barge in 1911, the City of Washington offers plenty of interesting characteristics. The ship struck Elbow Reef in 1917 and sank within minutes.

While the wreck is rather deteriorated, the hull and keel shapes are still visible, and there is a lot of debris in the area. As it is in a shallow depth, the City of Washington is a great dive spot for beginner divers.

You will see an abundance of marine life, including barracudas, morays, and even nurse sharks.

The Elbow

The Elbow is another popular dive site in Key Largo. It is a bank reef with comparably healthy deepwater corals. Being six miles southeast of Key Largo, it is also quite easily accessible.

The Elbow is a popular dive site due to several shipwrecks in the area, including the City of Washington, a schooner that sank in 1917. In addition, the Hannah M. Beel and the Tonawanda are great photography spots you should not miss on your dive trip to Key Largo.

Next to daylight reef and wreck diving, the Elbow is a great spot for night diving due to its lighthouse.

SS Benwood

One of the best wrecks to explore while scuba diving in Key Largo is the SS Benwood. It was built as a merchant marine freighter and sank after running into the USS Tuttle in April 1942. The ship was salvaged and then used as target practice by the US Army, but eventually sunk after becoming a navigation hazard.

The SS Benwood is a very popular wreck for scuba diving in Key Largo. With 360 feet length, it is quite large ship and offers plenty of spots to discover. Keep your eyes open for large schools of grunts, snapper and goatfish when diving on the SS Benwood.

French Reef

French reef should also be on your bucket list for scuba diving in the Florida Keys. It is part of the above mentioned SPA area (Sanctuary Preservation Area) and is quite popular because of its rather unusual structures. This includes several swim throughs, tunnels, caves, ledges and cliffs, each with different habitats and a wide variety of marine life.

While visibility is usually great in the Florida Keys, this dive site sometimes has degraded visibility due to the lack of current.

USS Spiegel Grove

Another great wreck you shouldn’t miss while in Key Largo is the USS Spiegel Grove. The ship was sunk as an artificial reef in 2002, and in 2005, Hurricane Dennis turned the ship onto its starboard side. The wreck sits at a depth of 62 to 144 feet, making it a dive site for experienced divers.

The Spiegel Grove is an impressive ship, with 510 feet in length and more than 80 feet across her beam. To explore it, plan in at least two dives.

Tips for Safe Scuba Diving in Key Largo

Scuba diving is a great way to explore the underwater world, but it’s important to keep yourself safe while you do it. Below are tips to make sure your scuba diving vacation in Key Largo will be an unforgettable experience (in the positive sense!).

  • Get proper training. Scuba diving is not something you can just pick up on your own. It is important to get at least your Open Water Certification before engaging in any types of diving activities. There are many great dive shops in Key Largo where you can get certified or advance your training. If you want to get certified before you go, see here for our guide on how to find a dive school for certification near you.
  • Dive with a buddy. Diving with a buddy is safer than diving alone and makes diving much more fun. Most dive shops will not let you dive on your own, anyway. One exception is if you are a certified solo diver, but that is a topic on its own.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. When you are scuba diving, it is important to be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to the animals and plant life around you. You want to do this not only to keep yourself safe, but also (and maybe even more) to protect the corals and creatures around you.
  • Never destroy and take home any corals! This is not allowed by Florida state law, but even if it was, you shouldn’t even think about it.
  • Don’t touch anything. When scuba diving, it is important not to touch anything. This can be harmful (and painful) for both you and the marine life around you. Corals are delicate and can easily break – and after all, scuba diving in Key Largo wouldn’t be half as great with corals being destroyed by careless divers.
  • Don’t drink alcohol before diving. Drinking alcohol before diving can impair your judgment and increase the risks associated with decompression sickness (DCS). We know, there are great bars in Key Largo, but what did you come for, really?
  • Follow the divemaster’s instructions. The divemaster is there to help keep you safe while diving and show you around. Follow their instructions and stay with the group.

Best Dive Shops in and around Key Largo

Key Largo has many great dive shops for you to choose from. Here you get proper training, guided dives and all the accessories you need for scuba diving in the Florida Keys.

These are some of the most popular dive shops:

  • Divers Direct
  • Sailfish Scuba
  • Rainbow Reef
  • Sea Dwellers
  • Horizon Drivers
  • Silent World

Before you choose a dive shop, make sure to talk to the staff, and ask to see the equipment room. Does everything look well-maintained and professional? Do the instructors appear to be knowledgeable and friendly? If so, go ahead and enjoy the diving!

How Much Does it Cost to Scuba Dive in Key Largo?

Key Largo is a very popular scuba diving location, and one reason is certainly that prices are not excessively high. For a standard two-tank dive trip with a dive guide in a group, you can expect to pay between 80 and 120 USD, depending on the package and dive shop you are going with. This includes tanks and weights – full equipment rental may be an extra 20 to 40 USD. Also, if you want to dive on Nitrox, you should expect about 20 USD extra for two tanks.

Night dives will be somewhat more expensive; expect up to 100 USD for one.

If you are looking for private scuba dive boat charters in Key Largo, you will not be disappointed, either. However, expect to pay 600 to 800 USD for half a day and two locations of your choice, including a dive guide.

If you plan to spend several days scuba diving in Key Largo, we strongly recommend you to book a multi-day package, which will provide you with significant savings vs. daily prices.

What Else Can You Expect to See in Key Largo?

If you’re planning a trip to Key Largo, you’re in for a real treat. Key Largo is home to some of the world’s most spectacular coral reefs. Therefore, next to scuba diving, it’s a popular spot for snorkeling. You can expect to see a lot of marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and a variety of colorful fish.

In addition to the natural beauty of Key Largo, there are also a number of great restaurants, bars, as well as shops and attractions. Whether you want to take a restful vacation or a fun-filled adventure, Key Largo has something for everyone.

Closing Words

Key Largo has something to offer everyone, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver. There are a variety of dive sites you can choose from. And if you need help getting started, there are plenty of dive shops and instructors in Key Largo that can help you out. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and get ready for an amazing Scuba diving adventure in Key Largo that you’ll never forget!

You may also like