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If your thoughts roam to exotic tropical waters and mammoth coral reefs when you think about planning a scuba diving trip, you’re missing out on a lot of awesome experiences closer to home and easier on the wallet. Florida might be better known for its sandy beaches and amusement parks, but there are plenty of places to dive, scuba or snorkel on the mainland that could be made into a day trip on your next vacation or an adventure of its own.

Related: Sea cave kayaking – 5 things to know before you go

Devil's Den

Devil’s Den | Flickr CC: Shanna Chatraw

Devil’s Den – Williston, FL

This underground cave got the ominous name from early settlers who noticed steam columns that rose like smoke out of the cavern, which is 72 degrees all year long. About two hours from Daytona Beach, this is an excursion worth the trip. Offering both snorkeling and scuba diving, you don’t have to be an expert in the water to get a look at the bright blue water and fossils embedded on the cave walls. If you plan ahead, you can even schedule a night dive.

Manatee Springs State

Manatee Springs State Park | Flickr CC: Rain0975

Manatee Springs State Park – Chiefland, FL

There are only a handful of places in the world you can get close to a West Indian Manatee, and this is one of them. As the name implies, this state park is home to manatees, which flock to this region in the winter months for the consistent water temperatures. If you are planning a winter vacation, this would be a great stop along the way and a truly unforgettable experience. For those with more diving experience, Catfish Hotel is a deep sinkhole worth checking out – that is if you don’t mind the duckweed film known to coat the surface.

Ginnie Springs

Ginnie Springs | Flickr CC: Julia Putnam

Ginnie Springs – High Springs, FL

This site is located on a privately owned campground about 45 minutes northwest of Gainesville, making it an ideal detour on any road trip through the middle of the state. With seven natural springs and options from cave diving to guided diving, there is surely something available here that will make everyone happy. For those who prefer to stay above the surface, kayaking, canoeing and river tubing are options as well. If you are traveling with kids or anyone who isn’t scuba certified, this is a good option to make sure no one is left out of the fun.

Entrance to a cave in Peacock Springs

Entrance to a cave in Peacock Springs | Wiki CC Public Domain

Peacock Springs State Park – Live Oak, FL

This park boasts two major springs and six sinkholes, making it a top tier destination for any underwater adventurer. With one of the longest underwater cave systems in the continental U.S., divers come from all over to send a few days checking out the sights. With so much to see, any passionate diver can make coming here a trip in and of itself, and it’s a great place to see wildlife or take in a hike between dives. For those looking for more of a challenge, check out the nearby Cow Springs, which is only open to CDS members and the most experienced divers. if you can find this cave (and its 8-foot entrance) the views are breathtaking.

Shangri-la Spring

Shangri-la Spring in Merritt’s Mill Pond | Wiki CC

Merritt’s Mill Pond – Marianna, FL

Several springs feed into Merritt’s Mill, making the 202-acres of reserved land a nature-lover’s paradise. The pond itself is four miles long and a well-known destination for prime fishing, but nearby Blue Springs and the harder to access Hole in the Wall are perfect for more challenging cave diving.

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Tagged: Family time, Florida

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Kristen Mitchell

Kristen Mitchell

Kristen is a writer based in St. Petersburg, Florida
Kristen Mitchell

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One thought on “The best places for cave diving in Florida”

  1. These look like great places to visit. I am planning a trip to Florida, mid August and looking for some exciting things to do in the Sanibel, Fl area. Family vacation with 4 young adults 19-22 years old and 2 parents . All of us are Active and athletic , not really scuba drivers but have snorkeled. Any recommendations for that area.

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