24 Free (or Nearly Free) Things to Do in The Palm Beaches
24 Free (or Nearly Free) Things to Do in The Palm Beaches…
You could spend more than a few vacations scuba diving offshore in The Palm Beaches, but if you need suggestions on where to start, here are some of our top sites.
Aquariums don’t have anything on Phil Foster Park in Riviera Beach. Go under Blue Heron Bridge and you’ll find the park. The area is widely considered one of the best shore-dive sites in the world, with honeycombed ledges housing a variety of sea life. It’s an internationally known destination for an incredible lineup of fish and sea creatures. Look for squids, octopuses, manatees, lobsters, moray eels, scorpionfish, sea turtles, crabs, and starfish.
From Phil Foster, you can nearly look over to Palm Beach Inlet, leading out to the Atlantic Ocean. At a depth of 25 feet, a site called Cable Crossing sits less than a mile from the Inlet. Cable Crossing, a coral reef that takes its name from a communications cable that passes through the area, is known to be a great place for novice divers. The reef is three and three-quarter miles South of the Palm Beach Inlet and only a quarter mile offshore. A depth of 25 feet and only moderate currents make it ideal for less experienced divers and snorkelers. While there are no luxury cars parked near Cable Crossing, the reef is made up of ledges honey-combed with mini-caves. Many fish call this home and locals recommend it as a great spot to dive.
Breakers Reef is one of the most popular reef dives in Palm Beach County. It’s a reef line running North to South in 50-65 ft of water and is a favorite for Open Water certified divers because it’s a great drift dive experience. This reef is located south of Palm Beach Inlet right in front of The Breakers hotel, hence the name. Many of the boats will drop you on a spot called Fourth Window on this site because it’s in line with the 4th window on the north section of the hotel. During the Spring and Summer months this site is packed with Loggerhead, Green, or Hawksbill sea turtles. Some of the other inhabitants are batfish, octopuses, stargazers, puffers, invertebrates, sharks, and scorpion fish.
The Corridor Wreck Trek in West Palm Beach is a drift divers paradise. This area is full of amazing animal encounters including Goliath Groupers, sea turtles, stingrays, and in the distance a lurking reef shark. Some of the wrecks in this lineup were sunk some time ago so they are covered in corals and sponges which create a beautiful habitat for fish in the Palm Beach area.
The Corridor Wreck Trek is comprised of 6 wrecks to drift over, including the Brazilian Docks, the China Barge, the Amaryllis, the PC1174, the Mizpah, and the Ana Cecilia, which was sunk in 2016.
This high-ledge site near Jupiter is known for all kinds of creatures dropping in for a visit. Green moray eels are known to free-swim through the maze created by pieces broken off from the ledge. Look for sharks, spotted rays, eels, turtles, large tropical fish schools, coral, ledges, trenches, and of course, the famous goliath groupers.
Sea Emperor Reef, about a mile from Boca Raton Inlet, has a 171-foot hopper barge giving you the impression of exploring an underwater cave. The Sea Emperor was formerly a hopper barge that was donated as part of a fine levied on a dredging company that destroyed some reef habitat off Palm Beach County. It was filled with large concrete culverts and then sunk off Boca Raton. The barge is upside down with the bow pointing to the south. The barge is home to Goliath Groupers, eels, stingrays, nurse sharks, and hundreds of other fish… a photographer’s paradise! The Sea Emperor is part of a 3-wreck triangle, which includes also The United Caribbean, and The Noulla Express.
The United Caribbean is a steel cargo ship 147′ long and located about 50 feet below sea level that was deliberately sunk to become a part of the Palm Beach artificial reef program. The ship was built in 1969 and, by the early 1990’s, it was being used by smugglers to illegally ferry people and drugs. The ship eventually became part of the Palm Beach Artificial Reef Program and was sunk in 2000.
The Caribbean is one of the wrecks in the wreck triangle. Because of the close proximity to two other wrecks and a reef, it populated very quickly. Many of the same marine residents that occupy the Emperor can be seen on the Caribbean.
The Noulla Express was a Danish freighter built in 1939. After being seized by the federal government in a drug case, the vessel was purchased by a joint committee from the Palm Beach and Broward County reef programs and eventually sank in 1998. A small submarine that was used by drug smugglers was added to the wreckage and lies underneath the flattened cargo area. There are several tropical fish, filefish, and barracuda on this wreck. The Noulla is a part of the wreck triangle including the United Caribbean and the Sea Emperor.
The No Shoes Reef 4 lies in 70 feet of water off of Delray Beach. This 32-acre underwater park was installed in 2021 by No Shoes Reef, a grassroots organization led by country music superstar Kenny Chesney. The organization and other marine groups donated 13 reef balls to the ocean floor. The aim of No Shoes Reefs is to protect and rehabilitate troubled coral reefs and marine ecosystems.
The Princess Anne is a 340-foot car and passenger ferry that rests offshore of Palm Beach Inlet. Home to all sorts of marine life, it has long been considered one of the best wreck dives on the East Coast of the U.S. The ship was a 350-foot ferry that was sunk in 1993. It was used to shuttle people and automobiles across the Chesapeake Bay. Experienced divers can explore the ferry’s open rooms, intact staircases, and other open areas of the wreck. You may see parrotfish, barracuda, Atlantic spadefish, and even a shark or two. There is also a nearby coral reef for divers that are not trained for wreck diving.
The Hydro Atlantic is a massive barge not far from Boca Raton Inlet. The ship was built for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1905 and sank in 1987. It’s well known for thick blankets of coral and sponge, but also for a deck still crowded with equipment, cranes, and cables. Schools of fish form a circle around you as you swim through. There are large schools of jacks swimming around the wreck.
The Sylvina Express near Palm Beach Inlet has a history about it, including a stint as a drug-running vessel. This coastal freighter was seized in 1999 after an anonymous tip led U.S. Customs Service agents to search the masts of the freighter once it arrived in the Miami River from Haiti. The search led to the discovery of 832 pounds of cocaine in plastic-wrapped bricks. In 2003, the freighter was scuttled as an artificial reef off Palm Beach. It’s not a watering hole for thirsty divers, but the Miller Lite Reef/Boynton Kiwanis dive site near Boynton Beach does serve up 317 feet of reef, standing upright from the ocean floor.
Once you’ve explored these sites, there are more, plenty more. Like more than 150 artificial reefs.
Header image courtesy of Pura Vida Divers.
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