Did you know that the most foreign and undiscovered environment on earth is found below the water’s surface? Approximately 71 percent of the earth is covered by ocean, and over 230,000 different types of marine life-forms occupy that space.

The American continents have a huge variety of sea life worth exploring and discovering through scuba diving. From cold-water diving in the north to the warm-water islands of Central America—no matter where your vacation takes you, there is a world to discover underwater. So go DIVE AMERICA!

Browning Pass

Location: Waters of British Columbia off the north end of Vancouver Island

Famous for: Gigantic starfish (as big as beach balls), largest known octopus—called the Giant Pacific Octopus, which can grow to a 12-foot span!

Sea life: Wolf eels, humpback whales, sea lions, white-sided dolphins, orcas, sea otters, starfish, and octopuses

Best time to visit: April–October


Catalina Island

Location: Accessible by ferry from San Diego, California

Famous for: Kelp beds that house a large variety of sea creatures

Sea life: Sea anemones, sea cucumbers, mysid shrimps, octopuses, sea lions, large spiny lobsters, and friendly sharks

Best time to visit: September–December



Location: “Big Island” of Hawaii

Famous for: Manta ray night dive—divers sit on the ocean floor and hold flashlights to attract manta rays, who feed on the plankton gathering in the light; as many as 15 to 25 large manta rays come in to feed by doing back-flips in the light

Sea Life: Spinner dolphins, silky sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads, humpback whales, and sperm whales

Best time to visit: November–May



Location: Yucatan peninsula in Mexico

Famous for: Cenotes, or underwater sea caves (Mayans believed these to be sacred); copious stalactites and stalagmites

Sea life: Some fish and crustaceans, but the focus is on the cave formations

Best time to visit: March–April


Cocos Island

Location: About 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, accessible by live-aboard dive boats

Famous for: Prodigious schools of scalloped hammer-head sharks numbering up to 100; nicknamed Isla de los Tiburones (Island of the Sharks)

Sea life: hammerheads, white-tip reef sharks, whale sharks, sword fish, large sea turtles, tuna, manta rays, moray eels, and dolphins

Best time to visit: May–October


Cape Hatteras

Location: Part of barrier islands and easternmost point of North Carolina

Famous for: Historical sites, shipwrecks
of ironclad warships scattered across its ocean floor, the most popular being the USS Monitor

Sea life: Nurse sharks, tiger sharks, oceanic white-tip sharks, bull sharks, and turtles

Best time to visit: May–October


Key Largo

Location: The northernmost island of the Florida Keys

Famous for: Several sunken shipwrecks, myriads of sea life, and artificial reefs housed in these ships

Sea life: Goliath groupers, Atlantic spadefish

Best time to visit: May–August



Location: Central America (houses the second-largest barrier reef in the world)

Famous for: “Blue Hole,” a sinkhole just off the coast of Belize

Sea life: Snappers, groupers, whale sharks, turtles, tarpon, and manta rays

Best time to visit: March–June 

For more information, visit—





—Shanna Warr


A great way to see these islands is by cruise. Read more about it in Living the High Life.