There’s a wonderful world underwater. If you ever thought about visiting it, you can learn the basics of scuba diving right here in New York City at one of the dive shops which offer both lessons and dive trips – as I did.
The basics are taught in classroom sessions or online, and in local indoor swimming pools.
The next step is to get PADI or NAUI certified on your next trip to the Caribbean, Polynesia, or someplace else with warm and inviting water and lots of beautiful coral and colorful fish.
These are the NYC dive shops I recommend, where you can take the subway to learn scuba diving.
Whichever one you choose, you should purchase your equipment before your first pool session, so you get used to your own gear.
Scuba equipment you need to to get started
You’ll need to buy a Scuba quality mask, also called goggles, a lightweight “skin”, or heat-retaining shirt or suit, lightweight Scuba socks to keep your tootsies warm and protected inside your fins, and accessories including a waterproof bag and an anti-fogging solution for your goggles.
As a beginner, do not bother buying a wetsuit. You can always buy one when you are a diving regular, when owning becomes more sensible than renting.
And I haven’t packed my Scuba-quality fins since the airlines started charging for baggage – they are just too bulky, and it’s easier for me to rent where you take your PADI or NAUI certification exam.
And you may want to skip the snorkel, which is just one more piece of hardware around your face you don’t need as a beginner. I’m an experienced diver and don’t use one.
Where to learn scuba diving in NYC
The largest dive shop in NYC, with year-round training courses and guided dive trips.
You can learn the classroom work — which includes equipment and emergency basics — either in a group class or on your own online.
There are weekly classes and intensive two-day mid-week and weekend sessions.
Pan Aqua has a special $99 Discover Scuba program available year-round.
It’s a 2 1/2 hour course – including time in the pool – that includes learning to clear your mask underwater, and swimming the length of the pool to get used to the fins.
The fee applies to the full certification at Pan Aqua’s location in Pennsylvania. The dive shop gets you there and back via a bus from the shop.
- Lessons are at the pools at the 92nd Y and at Manhattan Plaza.
- Pan Aqua is at 460 West 43rd Street.
This is the dive shop I learned with more than a decade ago.
I was certified in the Bahamas at UNEXSO, founded by Jacques Cousteau, the legendary wildlife conservationist and explorer.
UNEXSO is shorthand for the Underwater Explorers Society, also founded by Cousteau.
And I’ll bet you didn’t know that Jacques Cousteau and a partner invented modern scuba diving, by developing the first underwater breathing device, originally called Aqua-Lung.
I’ll also bet you don’t know that SCUBA stands for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
Oh, the things you learn here on NYC on the Cheap! But I digress.
This is the NYC location of a nationwide chain of dive schools and shops, which encourages you to do the “book” portion of learning at home, to minimize classroom time.
Their program is one academic review session — which includes passing tests, including pretty complicated mathematical tables on depth pressure, called dive tables — and two in-pool sessions.
- The pool is two blocks from Adventure Scuba, at 1737 York Avenue.
- They also offer an Emergency First Response course, which is for anybody who wants to learn CPR and first aid basics, whether you are a diver or not.
Scuba New York
This is the only local dive shop with its own heated swimming pool, in Brooklyn, and a second location in Yonkers.
There’s a five-week classroom program.
- Scuba New York Brooklyn location is 2672 Gerritsen Avenue, in the Gerritson Beach section.
Expect to spend $250-$400 on a learn-to-dive program.
Once you finish the basics, the next step is to get your actual PADI or NAUI certification in open water — a lake, ocean, gulf or sea.
This dive shop offers lessons in NYC, Long Island and in two locations in Florida. Classes are online or in person, depending on location. The NYC location is upstairs, above the Adorama discount camera and electronics chain, and like its downstairs neighbor, Scuba Network sells equipment at discount.
- Scuba Network is 43 West 21 St. in Chelsea.
Anybody age ten and over can become certified. It’s a great family activity.
Photo credit — The photo of me diving, in the Caribbean, is by Denise Mattia, who is both a skilled diver and a skilled underwater photographer, along with being a good friend.
Photo of unidentified diver is courtesy Wikipedia.
This article was published originally on NYCOTC in 2014, and updated periodically and republished, including in 2020.
Evelyn Kanter also is the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.
Purchase autographed copies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org