The closest thing we have in the continental United States to the Caribbean is definitely the Florida Keys, and few places rival the accessibility and quality of diving offered in the waters that surround them.
Key Largo is only about an hour away from both Fort Lauderdale and Miami International airports, which makes it easy to reach from just about anywhere in the country. The big city dwindles to a narrow, mangrove-lined highway that extends to the sea as you travel south on A1A. When you start seeing dive flags, you're almost there. The locals call their home the "Diving Capital of the World," and it's easy to see why.
It was here back in 1960 that the nation's first underwater preserve was established at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Now protection for Keys reefs spans 2,800 square nautical miles in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which encompasses six Sanctuary Preservation Areas. From super-sized wrecks like the famous 510-foot Spiegel Grove to the Christ of the Abyss statue at Key Largo Dry Rocks, divers of varying abilities can blow bubbles to their heart's content at plenty of sites. Molasses Reef, one of the world's most popular reefs, is also in Key Largo's "backyard" and covers 17 acres of prime underwater terrain. According to Reef Environmental Education Foundation, this reef is home to more than 250 species of fish.
Ocean Divers has two locations in Key Largo. The facility's primary location is on a canal off Key Largo harbor and adjacent to Marina Del Mar Resort, a place with convenient and comfortable accommodations that cater to divers. Ocean Divers is just steps from the dive boats that depart twice a day for two-tank dives and night dives three times a week.
Back onshore, the daily pace is a comfortable blend of stateside action with a decidedly laid-back attitude. The atmosphere is island style and a departure from the hustle and bustle of Miami's urban metropolis a few miles to the north and no passport is required. Jimmy Buffett tunes can be heard often in most of the waterfront establishments, and the locals seem to embrace the lifestyle that permeates many of his lyrics: conscientious yet free-spirited and fun-loving with a touch of pirate abandon. And it's infectious. Like the man says, "Got a Caribbean soul I can barely control