Where: Island on the east side of the Yucatan Peninsula. Cozumel only a 2 hour flight from Miami. Second option would be to Fly into Cancun and travel 1 hour south to Playa del Carmen and take a 30 minute ferry over.
What: Drift diving some incredible wall with many swim throughs. The reefs are a protected underwater park so it is teaming with life.
When: Year round
Who: Open water to Advanced divers most of the dives are deep.
Times: 2 tank boat dives leave at 8am. They come back for lunch and do a shallow afternoon dive.
What you need to bring: Bathing suit, sunglasses and certification card. Bring your dive gear and if you forget anything the shops have any gear you need for rent.
Tip: If you haven’t dove in a while do a warm up dive in cancun at the underwater museum, stop and dive in Playa del Carmen and enjoy the night life, then move onto the deeper Cozumel. Stop back in Playa on the way back if you flew into Cancun and try diving some of the fresh water springs (cenotes). Each one is different from the entrances to the rock formations
Where: 1,000 miles south east or a 2 hours and 30 minute flight from Miami, FL to the main island. Vieques and Culebra are 2 other small island 30 minute flight east of Puerto Rico proper.
What: The best spots for Scuba diving on Puerto Rico proper are La Parguera (south west corner), Aguadilla(north west corner) and Fajardo( north east corner). The south west corner La Parguera is dry and tens to have the best visibility because there is no run off from rain in the mountains.
When: Year round but You need to look at the direction of the wind and look to dive on the leeward side.
Times: Boats leave for a 2 tank dive around 8am.
What you need to bring: bathing suit, towel and certification card. Your dive gear but if you forgot anything rental gear is available.
Bonus: Snorkeling or Kayaking at night in one of the bio bays. The exploding bioluminescence varies in strength depending on the moonlight. You want to go when it is dark as possible. So a new moon or a cloudy night would work great.
Where: Crystal River is located about an hour north of Tampa Airport on the west coast of Florida. It is also about 1 1/2 hours west from Orlando airport.
What: It is one of 2 places that you can legally interact with manatees, as long as the manatee initiates the contact.
When: Manatees need warm water. So most of the year they are out feeding in the oceans, bays and rivers, but in the winter when the water temperature drops they come into King spring and Three sisters spring were the water is a few dergrees warmer and more comfortable. There are a few year round resisdents to this area but in the winter there can be up to 200 manatees huddled around the springs like a campfire.
Who: This is a great trip for people from ages 5 and up. For people with a sense of adventure and a love of animals. Great family side trip from Disney world.
Times: Most operators leave between 7am-8am and are back by lunch.
What you need to bring: Just a bath suit and a towel (Jacket in winter) . There are a few tour operators that provide the boat, captain, guide, wetsuit, mask and snorkel. You can bring your own gear but it is not nessesary. I also recommend a Camera and/or and underwater camera such as a gopro. You will have plenty of topside and underwater photo ops. You can also rent a boat and do some exploring on your own.
Bonus: Make sure to stop and visit crystal clear Rainbow Springs State Park less then 30 mins away. You can kayak, snorkel or scuba dive the river. You will see turtles, bass and plenty of birds. If you are luck you can see a river otter.
Where: Key Largo is about 1 hour south from Miami International Airport.
What: When driving in from the mainland Key Largo is the first and Largest key. It is home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It has lots of great dive sites and dive shops. Unfortunately the keys although about 120 miles long have very limited beaches. One the bright side what they do have is mangroves which provide a nursery for the fish that inhabit the coral reefs. Key Largo has some great ship wrecks such as the USS Spiegel Grove , the Duane, Bibb and Benwood.
When: Year round scuba diving.
Who: Family, couples and dive buddies
Times: Most tour operators do 2 tank boat dives that leave around 8am. They come back for lunch and have another afternoon dive usually shallow.
What you need to bring: Bathing suit and towel. Certification card. Your dive gear but if you forget anything the full service dive shops have you covered.
Where: 10 minutes from Fort Lauderdale Airport you are at the beaches and marinas.
What: The gulf stream gets within a few miles of Fort Lauderdale so this gives plenty of opportunities for surprises. Southern Florida has 3 lines of reef running parallel with the shore. The first reef is about 100 to 300 yards off the beach and is from 10-30ft deep. The 2nd reef is about 1/2 mile from the beach and from 30-50ft deep. The 3rd reef is about a mile offshore and from 60-100ft deep. There are several artificial reefs such as: Tracy, Robert Edmister, Merci Jesus, Hog Heaven, Jay Scutti, Mercedes, and Peter McAllister. Plus a site such as the above photo Pyramids.
When: Year round.
Who: Beginning to advanced divers
Times: Generally meet in moring around 8am and go out for 2 tanks. The first is usually around 80 ft and the second a reef dive around 30 ft. Then back for lunch. There is usually a one tank shallow afternoon trip.
What you need to bring: bathing suit, towel, certification card and your dive gear. Don’t worry if you forgot anything the dive shops are full service and have rental gear and new gear to buy.