Washington State is popular not only because of its biggest city, Seattle, but also its various scenic destinations. The evergreen state can offer you some of the best tour sites you will ever visit, whether you want to hike or enjoy city life. The most outstanding feature that the state has to offer is the multiple sites known for scuba diving.
The aquatic wildlife in Washington State possesses stunning natural beauty, and the splendor doesn’t end at the tideline in each site I visit. Scuba diving at several sites in the state allowed me to explore marine life in an entirely different way than I have ever done.
Exploring beneath the Washington waves will get you personal encounters with fascinating sea creatures and vibrant, colorful reefs. No matter the time of the year, the site’s waters always range from 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scuba diving in Washington is fun, thrilling, and easily accessible throughout the state as several spots are along the shoreline. Whether recently certified or a pro diver, you can enjoy shallow or deep waters. This article contains some of the best sites to scuba dive in Washington State, and I have highlighted my top pick from each.
1. Scuba Diving In Seattle
Seattle is a seaport city on the west coast of the USA. It is the administrative city of Washington State and boasts quite a notable number of diving sites in the Pacific Northwest region. The city is surrounded by large water bodies, and its shorelines run along Puget Sound to the west.
Though it can be quite chilly, the city is a year all round diving destination. To keep warm, it will be best to equip yourself with a dry scuba suit with thermal undergarments. The high-performance undersuits can withstand the most extreme conditions on the planet. This will ensure you are, above all, warm even though you are in a wet environment.
Visibility when diving can range from about 15 feet to up to 100 feet when conditions are optimal. The best time to visit and get better clear water is during the winter. Though you will have improved clarity while diving, diving is preferred between late spring and early autumn as the temperature will rise.
What makes Seattle a popular city for diving are well-persevered wrecks and protected reefs. Divers can see a magnitude of small to large species. Some of these species are hooded nudibranchs, squids, sharks, and seals.
Top Pick: Seacrest Cove 2
Though there are several notable diving sites in Seattle, such as Redondo Beach and Les Davis Marine Park, my top pick for the best place for diving in Seattle is Seacrest Cove 2. The local dive site is Alki Cove 2, located within Seacrest Park in West Seatle.
The site is popularly used as a training site for navigation, open water, and other types of scuba classes. This is because it has a moderate slope leading to depths of up to 130 feet. Because it has easily accessible deep areas, it is a popular destination for technical divers.
It also has a silly bottom, pilings, and sunken boats, making it a perfect sport for underwater exploration.
Besides Seacrest Cove having a rich marine life, the site has a view of the Seatle skyline across Elliot Bay. Plenty of restrooms in the pier building enable divers to change into their gear.
2. Scuba Diving in Whidbey Island
Whidbey Island is located north of Puget Sound and South of San Juan Island and has some of the most popular scuba diving sites in Washington State that are suitable for a weekend getaway. It is no secret that the current influences the beautiful marine life in the area in the Pacific Northwest.
In Whidbey Island underwater, you will witness how the ocean current influenced and delivered a nutrient-rich underwater geography once you dive in.
Planning an escape in Whidbey Island requires proper timing of the tides. You would want to plan a dive in any dive site on the island during incoming and outgoing tidal exchanges when the water movement is minimal. Some of the most popular sites on the island that are worth your visit include Skyline Wall and Deception Pass.
Top Pick: Keystone Jetty
This dive site is the cornerstone of Whidbey Island and is located in Fort State Park. Its popularity grew because it is a highly regarded dive site in Washington State, as it is easier to plan and execute dives than other sites on the island.
The site is popularly used for scuba courses and by divers of all skill levels. It is home to a diverse ensemble of fish and invertebrates. The aquatic life in the site has thrived over time as Keystone Jetty water is protected.
3. Scuba Diving in Puget Sound
Located within an hour of Seattle, Puget Sound has so many incredible sites for divers. These magnificent sites are accessible to any diver that wants a taste of a rich underwater environment. The sites cover a combined length of over 100 miles long and 10 miles wide, with the deepest site in the area being 930 feet.
Being an expansive area, it is a popular site for divers across the globe to visit. Institutions such as the Divers Institute of Technology have set up commercial diving schools to put their students through practical training there.
Top Pick: Alki Beach
Not many dive sites are within the limits of a major city, but Alki beach is a worthy exception that can offer you some of the best diving experiences. The beach is a two-mile stretch amidst the mountainous environs of the Pacific NorthWest.
Visibility on the beach ranges from 10 to 50 feet, with the winter season reaching a maximum of 100 feet. You can enjoy numerous activities during underwater exploration in the region, such as photography, marine life identification, and wreck diving.
4. Scuba Diving in Olympic Peninsula
The site’s topography on Olympic Peninsula is an impressive mix of undercuts, peaks, and valleys. The water visibility in this area ranges between 20 to 45 feet, and out at Neah bay, a dive site in the area, you can get up to 80 feet of visibility.
The colorful marine life in the Peninsula will make you want to buy a camera if you do not own one. The best time to visit the area is during winter, and early spring, as the abundance of marine life will shock you during that time of the year.
Top Pick: Duncan Rock
To those lucky enough to come and visit Duncan rock, you will have some of the best experiences when exploring marine life. It is considered the best site in the Olympic Peninsula because of the huge fish sitting and thick blankets of rainbow invertebrates.
The site’s location is on the Straight’s opening, and those with advanced skills should only attempt diving. Dives can be extreme because of the site’s current, surge, and fog. There are only a handful of days in a year where there is a perfect mix of conditions for safe diving.
Duncan Rock is featured as the top pick but Olympic Peninsula has many other places for scuba diving that you might want to check.
5. Scuba Diving in Hood Canal
The endless natural splendor in Hood Canal puts it on the map as one of the best places to scuba dive in Washington State and the world. Hood canal is independent of slack tides, and its gentle current allows divers to dive whenever they feel like it.
A new world awaits you for exploration just below the waters of Hood Canal. The bed is carpeted with sponges, seaweed, and octopus. Seals visit the sites occasionally; sometimes, you can spot a six-gilled shark. The dive sites in the area offer different opportunities for boat and shore divers with different experience levels who visit the area.
Top Pick: Octopus Hole
Like many other sites in Hood Canal, Octopus Hole is not currently sensitive. However, once in a while, a noticeable current can occur but is not significant enough to affect a dive. The site is a protected conservation area, and no hunting or gathering is permitted.
The site is popular because of its two major walls, as most divers enjoy diving through the walls to view various underwater creatures, sea cucumbers, and nudibranchs. Octopus Hole is located on highway 101 and runs west of Hood Canal.
Things You Should Know Before Diving in Washington State
Before you set foot into any diving site in Washington State, there are multiple important things you should familiarize yourself with first. They Include:
Best time for scuba diving in Washington State
Many factors determine the best time for diving at any global dive site. The factors are mainly influenced by the weather seasons and the overall temperature throughout the month. In Washington State, the weather is mostly wet and partly cloudy, with temperatures mainly ranging between 35 to 90 degrees Fereignheit all year round.
With the constant change of climatic conditions and ocean motion, it would be best to pick a time with significantly lower ocean motion and great visibility to enjoy your diving experience.
The best time to dive in Washington State is between October and May. This is because the climate will be a bit warmer due to the end of winter. There will be less rainfall during this period creating the best environment for diving.
As for a specific time, it would be best to dive between 10 am and 2 pm. This is because it is practically the highest sunlight penetration level during the day. This will aid you as a diver to have the best visibility, as the sun will be at an optimal angle.
Before you go diving in Washington State at any season or time, it will be better if you:
- Get accurate weather information, as it might take time for the weather to influence sea conditions. It also takes time for sea conditions to recover once the weather calms.
- Consult tide charts for Washington State to ensure that your diving adventure at any given time is taking place at slack high tide.
- In evaluating the sea’s visibility, it is important to be aware of any factors that can present a change in visibility, such as changing tides and building winds.
- Before you go into the waters, take several minutes to assess the sea state and evidence of current. Though some effects of currents might seem subtle, they can hugely impact your diving experience.
- Consulting the locals is one of the most important tips of them all. Having a local guide from Washington State will help you determine the best time to explore marine safely and ensure you have the best experience.
Cost of diving in Washington State
The cost of diving in Washington State can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on a diver’s specific needs. If you are new to diving, you must start with an Open Water Diver Course by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
The course entails learning diving skills such as hand signals, breathing, ascents, and descents. If you are not sure you want to commit to such a massive undertaking, you can opt for a beginner-level course by PADI known as Discover Scuba Diving Class.
Most PADI-certified dive shops in Washington State offer the course. It focuses more on group classes making it cost-effective as it can cost you an approximate average of $600 and an additional $200 for renting scuba equipment. Some notable dive shops around Washington State that offer the course include Underwater Sports and Seattle Dive Tours.
If you are already a diving pro and do not need a course, the biggest question is whether to buy or rent gear once you are in Washington State. Renting can let you enjoy scuba diving on a budget as you will only have to pay an average of $200 per 24 hours of renting diving equipment.
The cost for buying will range between $1000 and $5000 for a full gear set. This high price disparity is because similar to all product lines, there is a range of economic to high-end goods. You will also have to spend additional money on maintenance of the gear. Besides renting or owning the equipment, divers have to pay an average of $100 per dive.
Where to stay while scuba diving in Washington state
Many hotels and vacation homes suit anyone’s budget while visiting Washington State. The place one would choose will depend on the closeness to the site they want to scuba dive and their budget. Some of the notable establishments that you can stay at while in Washington State to Scuba dive Include:
- The INN at Gig Habor
If you are looking for an unforgettable getaway location to explore the Washington coast and do other fun activities with your squad, then the INN should be at the top of your list. This establishment offers affordable accommodation and food, making it a great choice when traveling on a tight budget.
The Inn is located at the Gateway of the Olympic Peninsula, and their guest is just 10 minutes away from the coast. It has an assortment of 64 units and several amenities. This establishment paints the perfect picture for a romantic outdoor getaway.
- The Heathman Hotel
The ambiance of this classic hotel is a blend of modern comfort and personalized service. The hotel was completed and operational by 1927, and since then, they are known as a hotel of choice when you seek a premium experience.
The hotel is located in Kirkland, Washington, only two blocks from Lake Washington and 20 minutes drive from downtown Seattle. The hotel has 91 guestrooms and suites, which vary in size and amenities.
- Brigadoon and Sequim Vacation Rentals
If you are a private person looking for a place to stay while on a diving adventure in Washington State, then getting a vacation rental will be the best choice for you. Brigadoon and Sequim Vacation rentals provide an array of properties from one-bedroom cottages to four-bedroom family homes.
The vacation rental company’s stay arrangement is good whether you are on a solo trip or a diving adventure with friends and family. The collection of vacation rentals offered ranges in size and style; you won’t miss somewhere that works for you.
- Port Ludlow Resort
Nestled on the shores of Puget Sound, Port Ludlow Resort is probably one of the most popular places to stay in Washington State because of its multiple amenities. The results host beautiful residential neighborhoods and, notably, a 300-slip marina where you can rent a boat or yacht to explore.
It also features an 18-hole golf course that you can enjoy if you want to do anything other than diving. The resort features a 37-room boutique-styled waterfront inn inspired by New England’s classic coastal summer home.
- Hood Canal Cottages at Robin Hood Village
The Robin Hood Villages has several amenities, but what stands out in that establishment is the 15 cottages. Located in the foothills of the majestic Olympic Mountains, the scenery feels like you are staying in a real fairytale.
The cottages were built in 1934 by a Hollywood designer, including new and original bygone logging-era buildings that are fully furnished. Amenities such as private hot tubs, Kayaks, and row boats are free to use when you check in at the establishment.
Deep sea diving in Washington State
Washington State is blessed with over 75 dive sites in the area, but a majority of them will not offer a deep sea diving experience. If you are looking for deep sea diving experience in the area, you should check out the following sites:
- Lake Chelan
This narrow 31.4 miles long lake in Washington State is the deepest water body in the region. The lake has an average width of 1.3 miles and a maximum depth of 1486 feet. Lake Chelan is the second largest lake in North America, making it one of the best spots to do deep sea diving.
The waters have clear visibility, and you can access the lake from its rocky shores. Most divers have noted that the bed of Chelan is not like most lakes, as it is just rocky and sandy with little marine life. This site will not offer much to view if you are into underwater exploration.
Most divers that come to Lake Chelan use it for the thrill of deep-sea diving and enjoy warmer waters. Others use it because it is a freshwater body and is the perfect place to finish a diving vacation, as you will not need to spend time rinsing off the gear you used.
- Lake Crescent
Olympic National park has over 650 lakes to explore throughout its massive area of about 922,810 acres. Out of these lakes, I would consider only six as scuba diving worthy as they offer some of the best diving experiences compared to the rest.
If you are looking for a deep lake out of the six in the Olympic national park, I recommend you visit Lake Crescent. It has the second deepest depth in Washington State behind Lake Chelan, with a maximum depth of 624 feet. It is known for clear water due to lack of nitrogen which inhibits the growth of algae to an excess of 150 feet.
The lake is also a great spot to rinse off after doing some saltwater diving at the Hood Canal or Olympic Peninsula, which are nearby. The water temperature at Lake Crescent is relatively low, and it is important to have the right gear when visiting the place. Several dive sites are accessible by land in the area through highway 101.
If you are looking to scuba dive in the Pacific Northwest, there are multiple top-tier sites in the Washington State area that you should consider visiting. There is a lot to experience in each dive site beneath the waters as there is a plethora of beautiful sea creatures, so don’t forget to carry a camera.
There are plenty of hotels and vacation rentals in the area that you can use for long and short-term stays. Whatever your budget is, you will not miss an establishment that will host you for the duration of your stay.
Washington State also has numerous dive shops and schools. Just show up and be ready to learn to start your underwater exploration journey.