In the upper Florida Keys, the snorkeling off Key Largo is known for its several reefs of elkhorn and brain coral with sea fans that provide habitat for sergeant majors, blue tangs and angelfish. It is located within the boundary of John Pennekamp Marine State Park.
The Molasses Reef Sanctuary Preservation Area is a classic spur-and-grove reef system in 5 to 40 foot deep water. It is known for good water clarity. The northern end of the snorkeling dive site is a good place for families. There is very good marine life including barracuda, yellowtail snapper and other reef fish. As you snorkel to the southeast, the waters deepen but you may encounter hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks, barracuda or eagle rays.
To reach the Molasses Reef snorkeling via private boat, use the Harry Harris Park boat ramp. There are 32 mooring buoys spread along this east-west reef. Use mooring M1 through M20 for the best snorkel dive sites. Keep an eye out for the old 8 foot Spanish anchor near mooring buoy #M21. Watch out for the currents in this region though. Due to weekend crowds, it is highly recommended to snorkel at Molasses Reef on the weekdays.
After a day snorkeling Molasses Reef, check out the Key Largo Conch House for some cold drinks.
While the snorkeling at Molasses Reef 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). Alternately, you can fly into Key West International Airport (EYW) which is served by several airlines including United/Silver Airways, Delta, USAir and Southwest. If you don’t mind coming into Key West, there is also the regular Key West Express ferry service (4 hours) that runs from Ft Myers.
Overall, Molasses Reef is the 11th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in the Florida Keys.