Stephen Frink Collection / Alamy
Carla Torres
October 23, 2014

Next time you visit Miami, be prepared to get wet.  Our proximity to the Gulf Stream and the Bahamas allows us to enjoy close-to-perfect diving conditions year round. With plenty of underwater sights, you’ll barely have time for air breaks. From snorkeling and deep sea diving to soaring 30 feet above the surface, Miami’s watersports game is out of hand. For starters, you can dive into the ecological history found in the northernmost islands of the Florida Keys—and the beginning of the third-largest coral reef in the world—at Biscayne National Park.  Or, you can head down to the first of the Florida Keys — Key Largo — where John Pennekamp’s marine sanctuary will make you fall in love with aquatic life. (Don’t have a way of getting there? South Beach Divers offers one-day excursions in addition to teaching you to scuba skills.) Adventure awaits.  Here are five of the best ways to experience the water sports possibilities out of Miami:

South Beach Divers

This family-owned and operated dive and surf center is the passageway to Miami’s underwater world. They’ve pinpointed 75 sub-aquatic sites all within close proximity of their diving center. You can investigate 40-ton, Vietnam-era combat tanks, or try to sit at the 10,000-pound Jose Cuervo Bar that was intentionally submerged during the “Sinko de Mayo Festival.” (One might even say it's South Beach's ultimate “wreckreational” experience.) 

Oleta State Park

The largest urban state park in Florida, Oleta State Park is the area that the Tequesta Indians called home 3,000 years ago.  While the park offers a plethora of daily activities, the options also include  some after-dark options: On Friday nights, you can mellow out and be one with the tides during the full moon kayak tour, or paddle through mangroves on an illuminated paddleboard.  

John Pennekamp

This undersea park requires a 45-minute trek down to Key Largo, but its well worth it to experience the first park of its kind in the U.S. The park includes  70 square miles of nautical wildlife waiting to be discovered and a variety of activities from snorkeling to scuba diving and glass boat tours. One great option: kayaking through the webs of mangroves where hundreds of pulsating jellyfish dwell. 

Biscayne National Park

You’ll find four different ecosystems in one at this National Park—and might even spot an endangered species or two as you snorkel through one of the six shipwrecks on the Maritime Heritage Trail, which is the only underwater archeological trail in the National Park System. Be on the lookout for one of the five species of sea turtles roaming the waters.  

Miami Watersports Paradise

Whether you’re looking to take a stroll above the waters through Miami’s elite islands or have a go at the wake zone, Miami Watersports Paradise is your one stop shop for sea-level happenings. Make sure to try the Jet Lev — a watersport ride that propels you 30 feet into the air and lets you, in a sense, walk on water. It’s the closest you’ll get to flying. 

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