Discover The Underwater Paradise In The Palm Beaches
Best known for its 47 miles of pristine beaches, The Palm Beaches is also home to an abundance of marine life, which creates world-class diving and snorkeling experiences unique to Florida. A collection of 39 cities and towns stretching from Boca Raton to Jupiter and Tequesta, The Palm Beaches is the closest place in North America to the Gulf Stream current, an oceanic conveyor belt of warm, clear water that attracts sea turtles, tropical fish, sailfish, goliath grouper, dolphins and even whale sharks. The destination is also home to 151 artificial reefs, including 45 scuttled ships. One of the newest is the storied cargo ship Ana Cecilia, which was sunk off the Lake Worth Inlet in 2016. Snorkelers can also enjoy easy access to an Underwater Snorkel Trail, a free shore dive location teeming with reef dwellers and colorful tropical fish — just one more treasure beckoning underwater enthusiasts to America’s First Resort Destination®.
“Our geographic location and unique proximity to the Gulf Stream give divers the opportunity to see lots of warm-water and cold-water species up close and very close to our shoreline,” said Jorge Pesquera, president and CEO of Discover The Palm Beaches (DTPB), the official tourism marketing corporation for Palm Beach County. “Our abundance of natural and man-made sites confirm there is no better place than The Palm Beaches to enjoy a world-class diving experience without leaving the continental United States.”
The Palm Beaches are situated along I-95 and home to Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), with more than 200 daily direct flights to 27 domestic and international destinations in the United States and Canada.
Exceptional dive and snorkel experiences include:
Jim Abernethy is an award-winning conservationist, photographer, author, documentary filmmaker and public speaker. On his dives, you can expect to see a variety of sharks, several species of sea turtles (five of the seven species of marine turtles can be found in local waters), tropical fish, rays, goliath groupers and more. The area is the largest nesting ground in North America for loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles, and it also draws the biggest aggregation of goliath grouper in the world during spawning season in late July through September.
Diversity of marine life and easy accessibility are just two of the many features that have made the Blue Heron Bridge a world-renowned dive site. Seahorses, pipefish and octopus F— including the Atlantic long arm (also called the mimic octopus) — can be found here, along with sea robins, flying gurnards, batfish, frogfish, stargazers, and over 100 species of nudibranchs. The site is just over 20 feet at its deepest, and because of its location in the protected Lake Worth Lagoon, the Blue Heron Bridge is still accessible for diving no matter what the weather may be on the open ocean. The Blue Heron Bridge was chosen in 2013 as one of the 50 best dive sites in the world by PADI’s Sport Diver magazine.
The snorkel trail is a perfect excursion for beginner snorkelers because of its easy access. Just walk under the Blue Heron Bridge to enter a wonderland of marine life – no boat required. The 800-foot-long trail of artificial reef, incorporating more than 600 tons of Anastasia rock boulders, ranges from 6 to 10 feet deep, depending on the tide. Snorkelers will encounter a variety of species of fish, from colorful tropicals like angelfish and parrotfish to reef dwellers like snapper, grunts, and grouper. Lucky snorkelers may glimpse one or more of the six species of seahorses that have been observed in this small underwater habitat.
Located at the Waterstone Resort & Marina in Boca Raton, with access to the Intracoastal Waterway and Lake Boca, Flying Fish Watersports offers a one-hour snorkeling experience to the South Inlet Park reefs. These natural and artificial reefs are in about 12 feet of water and close to shore. Snorkelers may see a large variety of species, including sergeant majors, trumpet fish, cowfish, blueheads, pufferfish, parrotfish, French angelfish, octopus, spotted eagle rays and fire coral.
Because of its proximity to the warm tropical water off Palm Beach County, Jupiter Dive Center in Jupiter is able to offer daily scuba diving charters all year long. Divers can explore fantastic coral reefs, ridges, and wrecks and count on seeing sharks, goliath grouper and turtles. The PADI 5 Star Center is also the home of Gary the Goliath Grouper, one of a group of goliaths off Jupiter who’s so sociable he has his own Facebook page.
While most of The Palm Beaches’ artificial reefs are sited at depths suitable for recreational divers, some snorkeling reefs have been constructed in water as shallow as six feet. Artificial reefs are man-made habitats constructed from old ships, heavy-gauge steel structures, concrete, prefabricated modules, and limestone boulders. Once established, they function as a natural reef system providing food, shelter, protection, and spawning areas for hundreds of species of fish and other marine life. For a full list of artificial reefs in The Palm Beaches, visit the artificial reef map for the Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management.
Sunk as an artificial reef off Boynton Beach in 2001, the M/V Castor has become one of South Florida’s most popular wreck dives. The main attraction of this 258-foot long ship in 110 feet of water is a school of resident goliath grouper, which weigh in at 300 to 600 pounds and live on the wreck year-round. It’s not uncommon to see 20 or 30 goliaths on the wreck at any time of year, but during spawning in late July through mid-October, that number can exceed 100.
Throughout the summer months, Pura Vida Divers in Riviera Beach hosts Black Water Drift Dives. Hovering in 20 feet of water over a depth of 400 feet in the open ocean, these night dives allow divers to witness breathtaking bioluminescent creatures, jellies, squid and the larvae stages of many reef dwellers — everything from tiny fluorescent-colored eels to adult sailfish and dolphins. Black Water Drift Dives offer underwater photographers a challenging and otherworldly array of subjects to photograph.
Visit Palm Beach in West Palm Beach combines kayaking and snorkeling in activities for both beginner and experienced snorkelers. Beginners can book a Guided Kayak – Snorkel Excursion to Riviera Beach & Singer Island, with snorkeling in waist- to chest-deep waters. Experienced snorkelers can pack a lunch, paddle on their own to deeper waters, and make a day of it with the Peanut Island Adventure.
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