South of Key Largo and northeast of Islamorada Key, the snorkeling at Conch Reef is one of the most popular dives in the Florida Keys. It has one of the best developed reef walls in the Keys. Conch Reef is actually eight patch reefs located in 12 to 30 foot deep water. While snorkeling at Conch Reef, you may encounter snapper, hog fish, hawksbill turtles and queen conchs amongst the barrel sponges, sea plumes, sea rods, sea fans, sea whips, and brain coral. The area is known for moderate to strong currents.
After a day snorkeling Conch Reef, check out the Key Largo Conch House for some cold drinks.
To reach the Conch Reef snorkeling in a private boat, use Harry Harris Park boat ramp. The Conch Reef Sanctuary Preservation Area is located 3.5 nautical miles southeast of Travernier. While the site is marked by several mooring buoys, the best snorkeling can be found around the three buoys north of Marker #12.
Make sure to avoid the protected research zone marked by yellow buoys. Although this is a protected Sanctuary Preservation Area, watch out for trolling fishermen which are permitted here.
While the snorkeling at Conch 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, Conch Reef is the 30th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in the Florida Keys.