Northwest of Key West, the snorkeling around Cottrell Key is well known for its shallow reefs with stingrays, sea fans, sea rods, sponges and coral head formations. The waters around Cottrell Key are known to be usually calm but the visibility is consistently poor. The water depth ranges from 3 to 15 feet deep. This is a good place to go snorkeling when the waves are too rough out at the main reef sights like Rock Key or Sand Key.
While snorkeling at Cottrell Key, you may encounter southern stingrays, spotted eagle rays, yellow stingrays, tarpon, french angelfish, queen angelfish, trumpetfish, barracuda, porcupine fish, hogfish, and the non-stinging cone jellyfish. In addition, there are several types of turtles in these waters including green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles and large loggerhead turtles. And, if that's not enough, there are also some resident sharks including nurse sharks, reef sharks and the occasional hammerhead shark chasing tarpon into the shallows.
The Cottrell Key is located about 8 miles west of Key West and is accessible by charter dive boat. There are about 10 mooring buoys, with the best buoy located north of the island.
To reach Key West by air, there are several airlines that service Key West International Airport (EYW) including United/Silver Airways, Delta, USAir and Southwest.
When using a dive boat charter to reach the Cottrell Key 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. If you reserved in-advance, you may arrive at the boat only to find that the captain has choosen a different dive site. In addition, 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, Cottrell Key is the 18th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in the Florida Keys.