Did you know that Panama City Beach offers a myriad of outstanding scuba diving locations? Just because this isn’t a tropical location like Hawaii or the Galapagos Islands, doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see under the water here. Beneath the surface of the Gulf of Mexico lies a truly fascinating world that’s full of rich natural landscapes and those partly created by man.
Top Scuba Diving Locations Near Panama City Beach
Popular diving magazine Skin Diver Magazine has named the Panama City Beach area as the veritable “Wreck Diving Capital of the South”. An apt title as between Port St. Joe to Pensacola there are 20 unique shipwreck diving sites along a stretch known as the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail. Some of the notable shipwrecks here include the wreckage of the offshore oilfield supply vessel Vulcano del Golfo, more commonly known as Black Bart which features a fully intact wheelhouse that scuba divers can swim through and explore. There’s also the Empire Mica, an over 350-foot-long British Ocean tanker that sunk after being torpedoed during World War II. These and the many other sunken wrecks near Panama City Beach now serve as fantastic artificial reefs, offering a new organic life atop their rusting metal sides.
If, however, you prefer to see more fully organic underwater locations, well, the waters around Panama City Beach certainly can offer that as well. The jetties at St. Andrews Park are considered excellent for every level of divers with their shallow waters and minimal boat traffic. You’ll often see scores of fish as well as dolphins and turtles in the waters here. Or, talk with your diving rental company about going inland rather than out to explore one of the many springs in this area. Freshwater springs like Morrison Springs feature underwater caverns that extend hundreds of feet down and offer their own unique landscapes. You might even run into Florida’s most beloved mammal, the manatee!
Where to Get Your Gear and Join a Panama City Beach Scuba Dive Tour
Now, unless you are traveling to Panama City Beach with full gear and knowing exactly where you are going, you’re going to want to head to one of the city’s many great dive shops. Take a look at some of our favorites for selection, attitude, and experience:
106 Thomas Dr, Panama City Beach, FL 32408
Panama City Diving is perhaps the largest scuba dive shop with the biggest reputation. They started out as a single-boat operation with Divemaster Capt. Pat leading scuba dives throughout the local waters. Today, they have a fleet of vessels, and they offer scuba diving classes as well as a myriad of underwater tours and guided adventures. You can find out more about these services as well as their rental options and for sale goods by visiting Panama City Diving’s brick-and-mortar location. That dive shop is located at Thomas Drive, just south of where the road intersects with State Highway 98.
2. Diver’s Den
3120 Thomas Dr, Panama City Beach, FL 32408
Diver’s Den is a small dive shop and dive team that is well-known for offering a good mix of tour options. They operate their charters out of a 40-foot dive boat that accommodates up to 18 scuba divers comfortably. These charters are scheduled to go out every morning at 8 a.m. and if you’re interested, you’ll simply head to their online calendar and reserve your seat for your desired date. You can also visit their dive shop in the Port Lagoon neighborhood to talk with one of the captains in person, grab a dive site map, or check out rental gear.
3. Dive Locker
1010 Thomas Dr, Panama City Beach, FL 32408
Dive Locker was established in 2008 by PADI master scuba dive trainer Tony Snow. He’d taken inspiration for the business after having traveled all across the world to the most exotic diving destinations. His goal was and is to train others in this sport and encourage exciting adventures in the local waters of Panama City Beach. And we’d certainly say he’s succeeded! Dive Locker is well known for its superior staff, who are continually lauded for being the most friendly, professional, and safe-oriented group. You’ll find the dive shop part of Dive Locker located in a bustling shopping center just north of Alligator Bayou.
Try Scuba Diving is a small franchise company that features diving tours throughout Florida and Puerto Rico. They don’t have a dive shop in Panama City Beach, but they do offer regular scuba diving experiences that are especially great for beginners. All of their classes and activities take place at a public beach off of Thomas Drive as they offer what is called shore-entry tours. Shore-entry scuba diving tours have you don your gear on the beach and then slowly wade into the ocean at your leisure. This type of scuba diving is fantastic for beginners and those who might otherwise be leery of boats (and seasickness prone to them) and open water. Try Scuba Diving advertises its experiences as being about two hours long, or the length of one tank.
While similar in name, Try Diving Fun is a fully separate entity from Try Scuba Diving. Try Diving Fun is a small, community-based company that specifically caters to the Panama City Beach area. They specialize in introductory experiences to scuba diving, offering tours and courses designed for small to moderate-sized groups. That said, Try Diving Fun does boast its own list of advanced scuba diving tours that will take those with experience into some of the more notable open water dive sites the area has to offer.
Learn More About Water Fun at Panama City Beach
Going scuba diving is just one of the many ways to explore the waters of Panama City Beach. There is also swimming, surfing, boating, fishing, and so much more. Learn more about these and the many adventures that await you on the Florida Panhandle by checking out our other pages, especially our best-of lists!