Historic shipwrecks. Colorful coral reefs. Amazing marine wildlife. NOAA's national marine sanctuaries and estuarine research reserves offer all this and more to diving enthusiasts in coastal U.S. states and territories.
NOAA sanctuaries and reserves are protected areas that help us conserve these special coastal and marine places for future generations, while still enjoying all they have to offer today. Diving is just one of many recreational opportunities available at our these sites.
A few tips to help you safely enjoy your diving adventure:
Dry suit divers can enjoy spectacular rocky reef and kelp forest diving among rockfish, sea urchins, and the giant Pacific octopus at Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Remote locations and dangerous dive conditions make the Olympic Coast a destination for experienced divers.
This sanctuary offers divers a unique opportunity to explore the offshore underwater environments of New England, including historical shipwrecks located at the mouth of Massachusetts Bay. Visibility is good up to 30 feet, but strong currents and cold water make it suitable for advanced divers.
Located 20 miles from shore near Point Reyes and with a minimum depth of 115 feet, Cordell Bank offers stunningly vibrant reefs and enormous schools of rockfish. Due to potentially treacherous conditions, this site is limited to experienced divers with a sanctuary permit.
Watch sea lions, sea otters, rockfish, and other kelp-dwelling marine life within this national marine sanctuary, home to one of the most diverse marine environments on the planet. Experience excellent shore diving from many locations along the sanctuary’s 270 miles of shoreline.
The cold, fresh waters of Lake Huron have preserved over 200 shipwrecks in and around Thunder Bay. This area allows snorkelers, recreational, and technical divers to explore some of the nation’s best-preserved historic wrecks. Many popular dive sites are marked with seasonal mooring buoys.
Catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and view wild dolphins, manta rays, green sea turtles, and whitetip sharks. Respect a safe distance from marine life, especially North Pacific humpback whales, as they come to these waters to breed, calve, and nurse their newborns.
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, located 16 miles off Cape Hatteras in the Graveyard of the Atlantic, protects the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor. This area presents a challenging dive, with strong currents and deep depths limiting it to advanced divers.
The Channel Islands are known for their rich biological diversity, featuring northern elephant seals, California sea lions, anemones, and giant sea bass. Federally-protected historic shipwrecks dot the floor of the sanctuary, and its kelp forests, sea caves, and coves offer some of the best diving in the world.
Divers can see loggerhead turtles and more than 150 species of colorful reef fish as they explore the coral-covered ledges of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, one of the largest nearshore live-bottom reefs in the nation. Drift diving is recommended, since anchoring is prohibited and no mooring buoys are provided.
Located about 115 miles off the Gulf Coast, the coral meadows of the Flower Garden Banks support a broad web of marine life, including manta rays, sea turtles, and majestic whale sharks. The sanctuary offers 15 moored dive sites on three underwater formations called salt domes with dive profiles of 55-130 feet.
The Florida Keys sanctuary, an internationally renowned dive destination, protects the only living coral barrier reef in the U.S. Within the sanctuary, discover an abundance of marine life, including reef fish, moray eels, and threatened elkhorn coral, and explore sites along the historic Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail.
The National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa offers warm, clear waters with thriving, diverse coral reefs. To snorkel, it's a short walk to Fagatele Bay, Fagalua, and Fogama'a, which can be accessed by charter boat for diving. Charters provide diving access to the islands of Aunu'u and Ta'u, home to possibly the largest Porites coral in the world.
Come explore mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and coral reefs in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico. This is the only one of our 28 National Estuarine Research Reserve that features diving opportunities. Divers may encounter the hawksbill sea turtle and West Indian manatee, both inhabitants of the Reserve.
Join efforts with others to preserve dive opportunities in our federal waters for future generations. Safe diving tips include respect marine wildlife, don't collect underwater souveniors, and learning the proper techniques to safely dive around shipwreck sites.
Did you know?
The National Ocean Service is home to 28 national estuarine research reserves, 13 national marine sanctuaries, and one marine national monument.