Featured SNORKELING SPOTS
Off Key Largo, the snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park is known for its dramatic underwater scenery and diverse marine life. When snorkeling, you will see corals along with up to 400 types of tropical fish. 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.
On Key West, there is good snorkeling to be found at the Key West Marine Park. The marine park is maintained by the Reef Relief non-profit organization based in Key West. You may encounter yellow butterflyfish, nurse sharks, grunts, hogfish, damselfish, wrasse, porcupine fish, trunkfish, parrotfish and the occasional spotted eagle ray. The 40 acre Key West Marine Park has a hard-bottom coral community extending 600 feet offshore on the south side of Key West from Higgs Beach to South Beach. It is a designated swimming-only zone marked by buoys.
On the south side of Marathon Key, the snorkeling off Sombrero Beach is popular with local families. Within the designated swimming area, there are calm sea grass beds among the sand flats that are habitat for starfish, lobster and crabs. Plus, from April to October, the beach area is known for its hawksbill turtles. However, the water clarity is usually pretty poor unless it is super calm and windless for several days in a row. Even with clarity, there is usually not much to see. The best bet is to try snorkeling along the rocks at both ends of the beach during high tide, and you'll want to try March through September.
South of Islamorada, the snorkeling at Alligator Reef is very popular for diverse marine life and purple sea fans. The Alligator Reef Sanctuary Protection Area is marked by a 136 foot lighthouse and has several mooring buoys. While the snorkeling at Alligator Reef is possible year-round, most snorkelers usually shoot for March through September. In the 8 to 50 foot deep water, you can expect to see snapper, surgeonfish, parrotfish and baracudas among hard and soft corals.
Southeast of Key Largo, the snorkeling at White Bank Dry Rocks reef is popular for its two coral reefs separated by a narrow channel. While snorkeling White banks, you can expect to see parrotfish, damselfish, angelfish, butterflyfish and plenty of snorkeling tour boats. The northern section is known for it's denser coral formation in 18 foot deep water, while other sections have plentiful sea fans and sea plumes. While the snorkeling at White Bank Reef is possible year-round, most snorkelers usually shoot for March through September.
West of Key West, the snorkeling at Dry Tortugas is popular with tourists coming from Key West by ferry and seaplane. The main landing point in the Dry Tortugas archipelago is Garden Key, which is the site of old Fort Jefferson. Within the expansive sand flats surrounding the islands, there are old coral reefs, rocks and artificial reefs that provide habitat to colonies of typical reef fish. There are plenty of sea fans, sea rods and christmas tree worms along with some small brain corals. Most snorkelers only experience the snorkeling dive sites surrounding Garden Key, but there is also some interesting snorkeling off nearby Bird Key and also Loggerhead Key. While originally known for isolated coral head formations, much of the coral growth has been impacted by storms and climate change.
Offshore of Lower Matecumbe Key, the snorkeling at Indian Key is known for its coral formations and diverse marine life. The island is an old coral reef. The waters and rocky shores of Indian Key Sanctuary Protection Area are only accessible by kayaking or dive boats. There is good snorkeling off the south and east sides of the island. The waters are quite shallow and rocky, so be careful - high tide might be a good time to snorkel here.
South of Marathon Key, the Sombrero Reef is by far the most popular snorkeling dive site in the Middle Keys. At this boat accessed site, there is a large spur and groove coral reef with star coral, brain coral and elkhorn coral. The snorkeling depth at Sombrero Reef ranges from 2 to 25 feet deep. While the snorkeling at Sombrero Reef is possible year-round, most snorkelers usually shoot for March through September. There are also some nice grassbeds that are perfect for beginner snorkelers to explore. During Sombrero Reef snorkeling, you may encounter baracuda and seargent majors among this 30 acre dive spot.
In the upper Florida Keys, the snorkeling off Key Largo is known for its several reefs of elkhorn and brain coral such as Molasses Reef. These reef are covered in sea fans that provide habitat for sergeant majors, blue tangs and angelfish. The Molasses Reef Sanctuary Preservation Area is a classic spur-and-grove reef system in 5 to 40 foot deep water. It is located within the boundary of John Pennekamp Marine State Park.
West of Key West and just west of Dry Tortugas, the snorkeling at Loggerhead Key is known for its coral reefs. This archipelago is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In addition, off the southwest side of Loggerhead Key, there is good snorkeling on the shallow Windjammer wreck (aka Avanti or French Wreck) in 18 foot deep waters. The wreck is covered in star coral and brain coral.