Six Beautiful Places for Snorkeling & Scuba Diving near Naples
From casually snorkeling in warm Gulf waters off Naples and Marco Island to chartering a boat, traveling 50 miles offshore and scuba diving giant shipwrecks more than 100 feet deep, Florida’s Paradise Coast is an absolute diver’s delight.
One of the features that makes the area around Naples and Marco Island so scuba- and snorkel-friendly is the vast network of artificial reefs that have been constructed in local waters since the early 1970s. There are literally dozens and dozens of these structures, made from scraps of concrete and limestone boulders. Over time, they attract fish and other marine life, making for fabulous underwater exploring.
In the late 2000s, environmentalists used a $1.3 million grant from the BP oil spill (plus donated money) to establish 36 new reefs. They utilized 180,000 tons of concrete that would have otherwise been dumped in landfills. The reef project, completed in 2015, has been a further boon for divers.
Here’s an overview of some of the best diving spots on Florida’s Paradise Coast, starting close to shore with a snorkel and mask.
Located on the northwest side of Marco Island, this beach was an unnamed sandbar until Hurricane Wilma infilled the sand in 2005. The calm, shallow waters of Tigertail Beach make for safe snorkeling, where people of all ages can get an eyeful of fish, fiddler crabs and more.
Six miles north of downtown Naples, narrow and stunningly scenic Clam Pass offers what’s often called “lazy snorkeling.” Depending on whether it’s high or low tide, a gentle current takes you to either a mangrove lagoon or the mouth of the beach. You’ll encounter a lot of terrific underwater sights along the way.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
The pristine preserve on the northern part of the Paradise Coast has a hard-bottom reef that runs parallel to the beach. Snorkelers can count on seeing a vivid assortment of colorful sea life at Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, which has been ranked among America’s top 10 beaches.
OFFSHORE SCUBA DIVING
Here are three of the Paradise Coast’s many renowned offshore sites. Also explore the local scuba diving outfitters who can get you there.
The Baja California
Widely hailed as the best dive site in the southern Gulf of Mexico, the Baja, a 260-foot freighter, was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat on July 19, 1942. Covered in coral and sponges, the wreck has remained relatively intact and has become a haven for fish of all sizes. It’s roughly 55 miles off the coast of Marco Island, 115 feet down.
The Black Hole
Twenty-seven miles off the coast of Naples, this offshore sinkhole teems with marine life, including brightly colored corals and sponges. Underwater photographers swarm here. The hole’s outer rim sits in 65 feet of water, while the deeper cavern (recommended for only the most experienced divers) reaches a depth of 225 feet.
This 85-foot barge, which sank in 1987, is a popular recreational dive spot given its relatively close proximity to the shoreline (14 miles from the coast of Naples). The wreck sits upright in 40 feet of water and is populated with soft corals. It’s also home to some of the largest Goliath grouper in area waters – a giant, gentle fish that truly lives up to its name.