Let the Ocean Be Your Classroom: Learn To Dive in the Florida Keys

The ocean is a world of color and quiet, exploration and discovery. One of nature's greatest wonders is a living coral reef, and the only one in the continental United States parallels the 126-mile length of the Florida Keys.

What better place to learn to scuba dive?

To help determine whether you want the Florida Keys to prepare you for a lifetime of diving fun, adventure and memories, here are some basic facts.

WHO can learn to dive?
Scuba diving is an adventurous sport, which any healthy and active individual as young as age 10 can learn and enjoy.

WHAT certification classes are available?
If you're seeking entry-level certification, plan to allow three to five days for training.

Also called "Open Water" certification, basic certification requires elements of classroom work and pool training, followed by one or more open-water dives at the reef.

Upon passing a knowledge test and completing the required number of dives, the student becomes a certified recreational scuba diver, eligible to rent dive gear and book dive trips with most operations worldwide (please note that some destinations offer dives that require more advanced specialty training).

Generally, a basic certification covers depths to about 60 feet.

Short on time? The advent of home learning through video or online computer programs enables dive students to complete classroom work — covering concepts such as basic physics and physiology, and the importance of monitoring time and depth during a dive — at home. Some online courses require students to be at least 13 years old to participate.

Once this classroom work is done, you can schedule your time in the Keys to complete your water skills during open-water dives and explore the reef.

Learn to dive

HOW much will it cost?
Scuba is an exciting sport and an investment in adventure. The price of scuba certification classes does vary throughout the country, as well as within the Florida Keys, but a basic certification course generally runs a few hundred dollars.

Important considerations when researching professional dive operations include determining value versus price, asking what rental equipment is included in the cost and whether or not you receive personalized, one-on-one service and training.

WHERE do students receive their dive training?
The entire Florida Keys chain is a dive destination unparalleled anywhere in the United States. Some of the first businesses offering recreational dive training in America were opened in the Keys.

There are dozens of dive operators to choose from, and all are staffed with working professionals. You can be confident that Florida Keys dive instructors actively teach and train each day, not just intermittently or seasonally.

Click a region here to view available professional dive facilities:

WHEN are classes offered?
A primary advantage of the Florida Keys over any other U.S. destination is location, location and location. Year-round tropical weather and clear, warm seas make for an ideal learning environment to practice skin diving and scuba skills virtually anyday of the year.

Why learn to dive in a cold, dark quarry or lake up north (even in the summer months) when the Keys offer warm, clear water year-round?

WHY dive the Keys?
A wide variety of dive sites in the Keys — from coral reefs to historic shipwrecks — offer divers of every level, both recreational and expert, the chance to experience the reef's otherworldly beauty.

The Florida Keys attract some of the world's most diverse species of fish, and divers also can enjoy a "wreck trek" of centuries–old historic wrecks and ships intentionally sunk to create artificial reefs. These artificial reefs are home to an enormous variety of delicate corals and hundreds of species of fish.

Your Underwater Classroom

Learn to dive

Training usually is conducted in small groups that allow for personalized attention or even a one-to-one basis.

The Keys' shallow barrier reef means training conditions are nice and easy, with light currents and great underwater visibility. You'll learn about ocean waves, marine life, beautiful corals and navigation around natural formations during a dive.

Ocean depths from the shoreline to the reef rarely reach 20 feet. The reef lives in waters as shallow as five feet and as deep as 50 feet, but most reef divers log a maximum depth of 20 to 30 feet.

The Keys' shallow diving offers two immediate benefits: longer time safely spent on the bottom exploring, and brighter and more vibrant colors because more natural sunlight reaches shallow depths.