Southeast of Galveston in the Gulf of Mexico, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is popular for snorkeling. There are two reef mounds in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary; the East Flower Garden and the West Flower Garden. They are actually salt domes on top of sea mounts. These two reefs are separated by about 12 miles or about 1 hour boat ride apart. They are a 7 hour boat ride over 110 miles from Freeport, Texas (southwest of Galveston). East and West Flower Garden Banks are known for their large boulder corals, primarily brain and star corals, which cover about 50% of the available surface area on the reef cap. Around the reef, you will see many of the same reef fishes common to more familiar Caribbean dive sites, but not quite as much variety.
The West Flower Garden is about 75 feet deep and snorkelers may see grouper, great barracuda, queen angelfish, red snapper and possibly an Atlantic manta ray. Since the shallowest part of the reef cap is about 55 feet, when snorkeling you may not see much reef detail. But when snorkeling at Flower Garden, keep an eye out for the errant whale shark.
No permit is needed to dive or snorkel in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. No permit is needed to use the mooring buoys within Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The only restriction is that vessels using the mooring buoys must be 100 feet or less in length. The five mooring buoys are available on a first come first served basis, and courtesy and cooperation are encouraged between vessels. A charter dive service is recommended to locate this snorkeling spots since it can be hard to find.
Overall, West Flower Garden Banks is the 4th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 4 snorkeling dives in Texas.