The United States has a wealth of dive sites, but many of the best-kept secrets reside along the coast of Key Largo, Florida, where the coral reefs are breathtaking and the sunken ships are compelling. Take a vacation down to the Keys, and you won’t want to emerge from the water. Even if you’re new to diving and snorkeling, you can take a few classes and get your feet wet so that you’re prepared for the dive of your life.
Explore the USS Spiegel Grove
Image via Flickr by Kevin Eddy
There are shipwrecks galore to explore in the waters off Key Largo’s coast. The USS Spiegel Grove is one of the most popular diving sites, although you need to go beneath the blue at least six times to completely circumvent the ship — or so state the rumors. That’s part of the draw, given the number of dive shops that sell double-dip dives. As you sink down to the depths of the ship, pay attention to the crane and the gun mount, which is entirely covered in coral. The U.S. flag waving in the current is a sight to behold as well.
Drop Down at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Image via Flickr by David Smith
Not only is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park a nature preserve to protect the coral reef, but it’s also a stunning dive site. It’s the perfect place for scuba divers of all skill levels, and it’s ideal for snorkelers as well.
You’ll have fun exploring the reefs, but the real show-stopper is the Christ of the Abyss statue located 15 feet down. The figure raises his arms in blessing or supplication, and to see it emerge from the blue is something you have to experience for yourself. Just make sure you look and never touch. Fire coral covers the statue, and true to its name, it burns.
Take Pictures at Pickles Reef
Pickles Reef got its name during the Civil War when pickle barrels filled with cement were left there. The reef is to the south of John Pennekamp State Park, which is convenient. Browse for hotels in Key Largo that are near the dive sites you most want to visit. Add Pickles Reef to that list, especially if you’re a fan of underwater photography. The location is relatively shallow, so you get to enjoy leisurely bottom times.
Make Friends at Molasses Reef
Molasses Reef is conveniently connected to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but it’s the perfect spot for divers and snorkelers who don’t have lots of experience playing underwater. Linger down below to observe the live coral. Go down about 25-45 feet to find nurse sharks, moray eels, and lobsters, among other creatures.
Key Largo is a diver’s paradise and a must-see for anyone who ever dreamed of exploring sunken shipwrecks or discovering underwater treasures. You won’t come away with any booty after diving off the coast of Key Largo, but you’ll definitely snag a few treasured memories. How often in your life can you play around a shipwreck or get up close and personal with a coral reef?