West Palm Beach is known as America’s First Resort Destination. The city was established in 1894, and ever since, water sports have been a major attraction for visitors and residents alike.
Intro to Diving in West Palm Beach
One of the biggest attractions here in West Palm Beach is scuba diving. If you’re vacationing in West Palm, but you’re not a certified scuba diver, it’s not a problem. Taking scuba lessons here is quick and easy. Many places offer an online training program, and in just a couple of days while you’re in the city, you can complete all your water training. That leaves plenty of time to enjoy extra diving time. Additionally, many dive shops offer group and private lessons, so whatever you prefer, there are options to get you in the water.
West Palm Beach offers great reef and wreck dives. As a visitor, if you only have a couple hours to dive, you can get tanks and walk off the beach and dive off Blue Heron Bridge. The Underwater Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park offers free parking, and this shore dive does not require a boat—simply walk under the Blue Heron Bridge to enter a wonderland of marine life.
The 800-foot-long tract of artificial reef, incorporating more than 600 tons of Anastasia rock boulders, offers depths from six to ten feet, depending on the tide. The marine park was chosen as the best dive site in the world by PADI’s Sport Diver magazine in 2013. Because of its location in the protected Lake Worth Lagoon, the Underwater Snorkel Trail is still accessible for snorkeling and diving no matter what the weather may be on the open ocean. This rare trait makes it an even more desirable location to visit, and the lifeguards on watch plus the shallow entry points’ sand depths make this spot safe enough even for supervised children to enjoy. Time your dive an hour before or after high tide for the best visibility.
Why Palm Beach Diving?
Palm Beach County reefs boast the widest variety and abundance of marine life, with some of the clearest water. This is because it’s the closest place in North America to the Gulf Stream current in the Atlantic Ocean. The unique geographic location and closeness to the Gulf Stream allows divers to see both warm water and cold water species up close.
The Palm Beaches is home to five of the seven species of marine turtles, and the area is the largest nesting ground in North America for loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles. The area is also home to the largest aggregation of goliath grouper in the world! This spectacular event happens near the end of July every year (their spawning season), and divers are able to see huge numbers of groupers massed together. These enormous fish are gentle giants, and in other dive destinations, they are rare or non-existent. Here, it’s very common to see at least one or two of these fish lurking around the wrecks (Locals say the best place to view the goliath grouper migration is the wreck of the cargo barge M/V Castor, which sits off Boynton Beach, and we’d agree!).
For a better idea of what you can see at different depths, here’s a list of some of the marine life that can be seen when diving off West Palm’s beaches:
- From the shore, look for squids, octopi, manatees, lobsters, moray eels, scorpionfish, sea turtles, crabs and starfish.
- In 50-100 feet, look for sharks, spotted rays, eels, turtles, large schools of tropical fish, coral, ledges, trenches, and the goliath groupers
- In 100-200 Feet, look for dolphins, goliath groupers, parrotfish, barracudas and spadefish
Because of the Gulf Stream currents along Florida’s southeast coast, West Palm Beach was one of the first areas in Florida to establish drift diving. Drift Diving, also nicknamed “Valet Diving” is extremely popular. South Florida’s reef tract is linear and the warm Gulfstream current flows parallel to the shoreline creating perfect drift diving conditions. Unlike many dive destinations that make you swim out and back to the boat, in South Florida drift diving experts simply drop you in with a flag and you drift until you are ready to surface, then they come back and pick you up. Advantages to this type of diving include a less stressful experience, the ability to explore more reef and see more marine life, more freedom, and more bottom time.
Our Favorite Place to Dive
There’s something about the mysteries of ocean depths that make them so captivating, and there’s no better place than The Palm Beaches to have a world-class diving experience. Snorkeling or scuba diving around this tropical paradise will leave you in awe of the fascinating biodiversity. For underwater adventures, add The Palm Beaches to your diving bucket list!
Our favorite place to dive is Scuba Works, located in Jupiter, Florida. Whether you’re planning a trip to visit West Palm Beach, or you’re looking to purchase a home here, we are happy to share all the information we’ve learned from our diving experiences!