Off Key Largo, the snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park is known for its dramatic underwater scenery and diverse marine life. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is an underwater park starting on the eastern coast of Key Largo and far offshore for 5 miles to the main reef. There are a couple novice snorkeling dives accessed from the park beaches, but the real action is the numerous boat accessed snorkeling dives about 20 minutes offshore. When snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park, you will see corals along with up to 400 types of tropical fish.
From the park roads right off Cannon Beach, snorkelers can explore artifacts from a 1715 spanish ship wreck complete with cannons and an anchor found amongst sandy seagrass beds. There is also snorkeling in Largo Sound accessed from the northeast end of the Far Beach parking area. These shallow shore-accessed snorkeling spots have plenty of sea grass and the water clarity is typically murky. They are best enjoyed after several rainless days and on a morning with no wind or surf. Keep in mind that these shore dive spots are frequented by the American Crocodile, so excerise care and do not approach them if encountered.
If you are more interested in the numerous offshore dives, there is an onsite park concessionare that offers multiple snorkel boat trips per day. The boat trips are either 2.5 hours long or 4.5 hours long. The onsite park concessionare has their boats docked within the State Park marina.
After a day snorkeling John Pennekamp, check out the nearby Key Largo Conch House for some cold drinks, or head a little further down Key Largo about 3 miles to the waterfront Fish House.
To reach the snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park from Miami, head south on US1. After reaching Key Largo, continue south on US1 to mile marker 102.5. Turn left into John Pennekamp State Park.
While the snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park is possible year-round, most snorkelers usually shoot for March through September. There is usually some rolling surf at most snorkeling sites off Key Largo, while you can expect the flatest surf conditions from June through August.
When using a dive boat charter to reach the dive site, make sure to reconfirm the reservation the afternoon prior. Most dive boats select the site the afternoon prior or even the morning of the dive. Also, most dive boats have a minimum passenger requirement in order to leave dock meaning they may cancel at the last minute, so when reverifying the afternoon prior ask how many reservations they have.
To reach the snorkeling in the Florida Keys by air, there are several options. The most popular option is to fly into Miami International Airport (MIA), which is served by all major US and international airlines. Also nearby, a potentially lower cost option is to fly into Ft Lauderdale airport (FLL). From either of these airports, you can rent a car to drive south on the Florida Turnpike a couple hours to reach the Florida Keys (watch out for automated cash-less toll highways along the way).
Overall, John Pennekamp State Park is the 2nd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in the Florida Keys.