Diving on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is well-known as a beachside paradise. For those visitors who like to get out and about in the beautiful sunshine, there are plenty of watersports to keep you busy. From stand-up paddleboarding to kayaking and fishing, there’s an abundance of fun activities.

But what about scuba diving?

Whether there is any good scuba diving on Sanibel Island is a common question. The good news is – you can absolutely add in some diving while also enjoying everything else that Sanibel Island has to offer.

What is scuba diving on Sanibel Island like?

Sanibel Island scuba diving doesn’t have the reputation of some south west Florida hotspots, however there are definitely great diving opportunities. If no vacation is complete without some diving, then Sanibel Island has got you covered.

The island has a few reefs close to shore, so for the best diving you’ll want to head out further afar. As a result, it’s best to plan to be out for the whole day to get there and back with plenty of time to enjoy the sites.

Generally speaking you can expect a boat ride of at least an hour or so to get to the best wrecks and reefs. It can be a bit bumpy along the way, but that’s part of the fun!

Once you get there, the water conditions around Sanibel Island are generally excellent for diving. The water is warm and enjoyable all-year round, and there is great visibility as well. This is especially true in the water south of the island.

What dive sites are there around Sanibel Island?

One of the things that makes Sanibel Island an attractive spot for divers is the variety of sites around it. Here are some of the most popular dive sites around Sanibel Island.


Off the coast of Sanibel Island there are many shipwrecks including the USCGC Mohawk, a 165-foot ship that was sunk back in 2012. Not too far away is the Pegasus Wreck, a tugboat that is today a habitat for many marine species including snapper and barracuda. Both of these wrecks are advanced dive sites only due to their depth.

While these are two of the most popular dive sites, there are no less than 20 wrecks in the waters around Sanibel Island. Some of these are accessible by charter, so don’t be afraid to speak to your captain about other wrecks.

Artificial Reef

A more accessible site is the artificial reef that lies about 15 miles off the shore of Sanibel. This reef is teeming with marine life, with groupers, nurse sharks and sea turtles. This reef is suitable for divers of all experience levels, as long as they’re certified.

Fishing hotspots

In particular, the diving around Sanibel Island is popular with spear fishers as the fishing opportunities are excellent. Lobsters are also abundant at some dive sites as well.

The exact location of the best spots are closely guarded trade secrets! However, you can be assured that a quality charter operator will help you find the best ones.

How to organise a scuba diving trip on Sanibel Island

As mentioned, the diving straight off the beach on Sanibel Island is not the best. As a result, you’ll want to get a boat charter out to some of the more far-flung spots.

There aren’t any dive shops located on Sanibel Island (at the moment). However, there are a handful of excellent providers in nearby Fort Myers.

These charter companies including H20 Offshore Adventures are experienced in running diving trips around Sanibel Island for certified divers.

The charter companies can provide some basic equipment, however if you need the full kit then it’s recommended that you hire it for a dive shop. Dean’s Dive Center in Fort Myers is PADI-certified with a great reputation.

Getting certified on Sanibel Island

While most of the best diving around Sanibel Island is most suited to advanced divers, absolute beginners can also try their hand at diving as well.

The Sanibel Island Recreation Center now runs week-long SCUBA certification courses right on the island. This course will teach you all the basics of scuba, leaving you with a certification that you can use around Sanibel and elsewhere. Check the website for dates of upcoming courses.

If there are no courses at the Recreation Center then your best bet is back in Fort Myers. Dean’s Dive Center runs a PADI accredited dive course that’s very well regarded.

You’ll be ready to explore Sanibel’s hidden underwater paradise in no time!

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