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- 1 Best Snorkeling in Florida Keys
- 1.1 Snorkeling in Florida Keys
- 1.2 Top Destinations for Best Snorkeling In Florida Keys
- 1.2.1 1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Key Largo
- 1.2.2 2. What’s not to love about Fort Zachary Taylor?
- 1.2.3 3. Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson
- 1.2.4 4. Come on down to Higgs Beach and have a blast!
- 1.2.5 5. A place where you can find happiness – is Biscayne National Park.
- 1.2.6 6. And what do you find at Looe Key?
- 1.2.7 7. At Molasses Reef, marine life swirls around you in a mesmerizing dance.
- 1.2.8 8. In the midst of the Keys, there is a slice of paradise known as Long Key State Park.
- 1.2.9 9. You’ll find the Cheeca Rocks just off the Florida coast.
- 1.2.10 10. The Bahia Honda State Park is a stunning natural oasis.
- 1.2.11 11. Just off the coast of Key West, you’ll find Alligator Reef Lighthouse.
- 1.3 Wrapping Up: Best Snorkeling in Florida Keys
- 1.4 FAQs
Best Snorkeling in Florida Keys
Snorkeling in the Florida Keys is an enjoyable activity for anyone who loves enjoying the sea and nature. Here are the most stunning spots for experiencing the best snorkeling in Florida Keys.
The state of Florida is known for its abundance of wildlife and a myriad of destinations for outdoor activities.
It has a lot of water throughout the state, making it a perfect place for swimming, surfing, diving, etc. The underwater adventures are famous for various colorful sea creatures while offering the best snorkeling in Florida Keys.
Moreover, the state invites visitors worldwide to see and explore incredible marine life. In addition, whether you are a weak swimmer or an experienced diver, there are plenty of locations to explore for every level.
While snorkeling places are abundant throughout the state, the Florida Keys is a haven for snorkelers. Locating on the Florida Reef, the third-largest coral barrier reef in the world, lets you explore thousands of breathtaking snorkeling spots.
When planning a snorkeling trip to Florida, explore Key West snorkeling spots for a fun-filled and memorable trip.
Snorkeling in Florida Keys
There are plenty of reasons why snorkeling in Florida Keys is popular. Visitors worldwide love crystal-clear blue waters, the abundance of spectacular marine life, and various other outdoor recreational activities.
Moreover, one of the most significant reasons for experiencing snorkeling in Florida Keys is the Florida reef, the third-largest coral barrier reef worldwide.
In addition, there is also the only living coral barrier reef in the US, housing countless snorkeling spots. From Key Largo to Key West to some of the most remote islands, you will experience the best and most unforgettable snorkeling in the Florida Keys.
Tips for Safe and Best Snorkeling in Florida Keys Safe?
As a nature enthusiast, you should know that water sports come with some level of danger, and snorkeling is no exception.
Coral reef snorkeling in Florida means you are swimming in living reefs that house dangerous creatures. However, overall, the best snorkeling in Key Largo is not just fun but incredibly safe.
Be Aware of Fire Coral While Snorkeling in Florida Keys
While exploring waters in Florida, fire coral is pretty common on and around the coral reefs. They are sharp enough and can cause minor cuts. Moreover, they are brown or yellow, attaching themselves to rocks, corals, and seaweeds.
Brushing up against a fire coral can cause stinging and rashes. If you brush up against fire coral when snorkeling, ensure to get the suggested treatment.
Avoid Jellyfish While Exploring Key West Snorkeling
Jellyfish in waters in Florida can sting. During my teenage, we often went waterskiing. Due to my weak waterskiing skills, I usually fell off and got a jellyfish sting. Remember that two jellyfish species can be hazardous; the Portuguese man-of-war and the box jellyfish.
Both jellyfish species can be dangerous for humans, and getting stung multiple times by a Portuguese man-of-ware jellyfish can be life-threatening.
Don’t Mess with Sharks While Exploring Coral Reef Snorkeling
As a snorkeler, I love waters but am genuinely petrified of these fatal sea creatures. While due to the abundance of sea life, there are many sharks in the Florida Keys, shark attacks are rare.
The most common are harmless nurse sharks when enjoying the best snorkeling in Florida Keys.
They are docile and love spending time near the sea floor. In addition, you are more than likely to see while exploring coral reef snorkeling Florida.
Moreover, when enjoying Key West snorkeling spots, you will see abundant Caribbean reef sharks. These sharks are also harmless so you can swim without any fear.
However, be aware of the bull sharks in Florida Keys waters. These creatures are highly aggressive, and the attacks can be fatal.
So, if you come across a bull shark, maintain your distance or quickly come out of the water.
Snorkel with Professionals
Unless you are well aware of waters where you plan to snorkel or have exceptional snorkeling skills, always go snorkeling with professionals. Especially if you are a weak swimmer, you should join a guided snorkeling tour. That way, not only will you ensure safety, but you will also have the opportunity to enhance your snorkeling skills.
Top Destinations for Best Snorkeling In Florida Keys
Here are the top locations to experience the best snorkeling in Florida Keys:
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Key Largo
The state park offers some of the most memorable and best snorkeling in Key Largo. Snorkeling aside, John Pennekamp Coral Reef is also one of the best destinations in the continental US for birdwatching, wildlife viewing, and various outdoor activities.
The state park is also among the country’s first underwater parks to open and hold a living coral reef. It encompasses about 70 nautical miles and allows snorkelers to explore abundant wildlife, including sea turtles, tropical fish, and shipwrecks.
Moreover, John Pennekamp Coral Reef is also an excellent spot for beginners and families with little ones. If you’re new to diving or snorkeling, you can join an experienced snorkeling tour or experienced guides. You can also take a “how to snorkel” class on the boat before jumping into the waters there.
Furthermore, you will also have a safety vest and can bring your snorkeling gear or rent a mask, fin, and snorkel at the state park. In addition, the high level of protection will allow you to experience coral reef snorkeling in Florida.
2. What’s not to love about Fort Zachary Taylor?
Key West snorkeling spots are among the fascinating places in the world for snorkeling. The beaches are breathtaking, and the abundance of marine life lets you get absorbed. You can start your snorkeling adventure off the beach coast while enjoying various colorful marine life and tropical fish.
While exploring Fort Zachary Taylor, look for schools of yellowtail snappers, lobsters, lobster schools, and a myriad of hard and soft corals. Moreover, for experiencing the best coral reef snorkeling in Florida, bring water shoes with you. However, if you forget to bring a pair, you can always purchase them from the gift shops.
Furthermore, apart from snorkeling, fishing is also permitted on the west side, allowing you to bring a pole and catch your dinner. In addition, the park is also an enticing destination for birdwatching, marine life viewing, and discovering native plant life.
Moreover, you can also enjoy narrated tours of Fort Zachary to see fascinating Civil War cannons and constructions. The park encompassing 54 acres is scattered with picnic tables and grills, allowing you to experience a cookout at the beach.
3. Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson
If you wish to experience the best snorkeling in Florida Keys, you cannot afford to miss exploring Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson. Just 70-mile west of Key West, the state park has its official ferry and seaplane to transport visitors to this secluded eco treasure.
Upon arriving at Dry Tortugas, you will be awed by the homogenous Civil War fortification standing amid the stunning sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Moreover, the warm shallow waters here are perfect for snorkelers of all levels and ages.
In addition, taking a few steps off the shore, you can enjoy swimming above thriving coral and diverse sea life. Look out for queen conches, sea stars, and many other colorful marine animals. You might also see a sea turtle or one of the area’s bottlenose dolphins. In addition, you will also be provided complimentary masks, fins, and snorkels by the Yankee Freedom at the park.
4. Come on down to Higgs Beach and have a blast!
Another one of the most stunning Key West snorkeling spots you can explore. The beach is also effortless to access. In addition, it is a fascinating alternative when reef tours are called off due to unfavorable weather conditions.
The spot features all amenities to keep visitors engaged all day long. Apart from snorkeling, the place offers plenty of other enjoyable outdoor activities. For instance, volleyball, tennis courts, and a wooden pier make it a perfect spot to visit with your family.
Moreover, there are kids’ play parks, showers, restrooms, and picnic tables. In addition, you will also see tiki huts, wooden parasols, a dog park, and bandstands.
Coming to snorkeling, the best place to snorkel at Higgs Beach is located around what remains of the original pier. Colorful corals, incredible sea life, and birds make Higgs Beach a popular destination among visitors worldwide.
Furthermore, while snorkeling in Higgs Beach waters, you can expect to see a variety of fish species and corals. Also, keep your eyes open for lionfish, tarpon, and a nurse shark.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Higgs Beach
- Take a walk
- Go Fishing
- Enjoy a picnic
- Play Football or Frisbee
5. A place where you can find happiness – is Biscayne National Park.
Biscayne National Park is another destination in Florida that lets you experience the best snorkeling in Florida Keys. The national park encompasses 40 small barrier coral reefs, islands, and mangrove shorelines. The coral reefs are home to some of the most extensive life forms you might ever see.
Snorkeling means having a boat or joining a snorkeling tour to access the spot. The vessels carry visitors from the visitor center jetty to the reefs. You will witness Elliot Key shipwrecks and stunning, vibrantly colored fish species.
The crystal clear waters, abundant wildlife, and colorful coral reefs will let you enjoy an unforgettable snorkeling experience. Moreover, the national park also offers year-round daily snorkel tours to coral reefs.
Moreover, before joining a snorkeling tour at the national park, you will be provided with a short orientation explaining the reefs, marine life, conservation, and do’s and don’ts. While the park is only a half-hour drive from the hustle and bustle, it is fantastic to see the colors and life close to Miami.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Biscayne National Park
- Wildlife Watching
6. And what do you find at Looe Key?
My list of best Key West snorkeling spots is incomplete without mentioning Looe Key. The snorkeling destination in Key West stands out among snorkeling areas. Due to various depths, the waters here are perfect for snorkelers of every level. The eastern side of the key has the most shallow waters.
Moreover, Looe Key is popular among snorkelers and divers for housing some of the most extensive aquatic creature sightings. While exploring Looe Key waters, you might want to spy reef, nurse shark, and other creatures, including spotted eagles, tarpons, grouper, and barracuda.
Furthermore, you might see smaller species of sea creatures at Looe Key, including angelfish, snapper, butterflyfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish, and more. Unusual corals formations, such as fire coral, green finger, brain coral, and finger sponge, are also common.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Looe Key
- Boat excursion
- Safari eco-tour adventures
- Clear kayak tours
7. At Molasses Reef, marine life swirls around you in a mesmerizing dance.
It is among the top spots to enjoy coral reef snorkeling Florida. It is also among the planet’s most extensive and incredibly spectacular barrier reefs for snorkeling adventures. You will love viewing the underwater wonderland full of incredible living coral and various fish species.
The place is also considered the best Key West snorkeling spot. These magnificent barrier reefs are alive and precious, teeming with colorful wildlife, corals, and underwater rainforests. Moreover, it is protected, meaning you can expect to witness snappers, groupers, and large schools of grunts.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Molasses Reef
- Half-day Scuba diving
- Snorkeling tours
- Guided kayak tours
8. In the midst of the Keys, there is a slice of paradise known as Long Key State Park.
Another top destination for experiencing the best snorkeling in Florida Keys. If you are looking for a snorkeling spot along the incredibly scenic Overseas Highway, you should consider exploring Long Key.
The waters here are exceptionally flat and shallow. Moreover, a scenic nature trail aligned with shady trees traverses several ecosystems. In addition, stunning deserted beaches offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy a variety of shorebirds.
If you plan to stay longer than a day at the park, you can enjoy camping too. The full-facility campsites at the park are known for spectacular views, overlooking the aqua blue waters of the keys. In addition to snorkeling and camping at Long Key State Park, you might want to go on a hiking excursion.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Long Key State Park
- Tent-only camping
9. You’ll find the Cheeca Rocks just off the Florida coast.
While exploring Islamorada, Cheeca Rocks is another excellent option for snorkelers of any level. The spot is among the snorkeling spots in Florida Keys. The patch reef is approximately half the barrier reef and the keys. It means you will have the opportunity to marvel at various fish, sea turtles, and green eels.
Moreover, you are more likely to encounter a variety of angelfish, schools of grunts, and wrasse and parrotfish. Offering the best coral reef snorkeling Florida, it thrives with great fire, star and brain corals, and incredible sea fans used for hiding by small reef fish.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Cheeca Rocks
- Boat rentals
10. The Bahia Honda State Park is a stunning natural oasis.
If you want to experience snorkel from shore, you will love exploring Bahia Honda state park. While there is no comparison to crystal clear waters and abundant colorful marine life on the offshore reefs, it is still an excellent spot for easy and quick snorkeling.
The state park is a fantastic family destination, with some of the most popular campsites in Florida. In addition, the park is located just a few miles away from some of the best Key West snorkeling spots in Florida.
The Crystal-clear, shallow waters of Bahia Honda invite visitors worldwide to take advantage and enjoy this spectacular snorkeling destination. Moreover, whether you are a professional snorkeler or a beginner, the waters here are perfect for both. You will love swimming with abundant spectacular sea life.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Bahia Honda
11. Just off the coast of Key West, you’ll find Alligator Reef Lighthouse.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse is especially an excellent snorkeling destination for couples, families, and groups of friends. The bright tropical reef environment houses a variety of spectacular sea life. While snorkeling in its pristine blue waters, you will view colorful fish, including spotted parrotfish, snappers, yellowtail, blue tangs, and many more.
Moreover, families and couples can also enjoy taking underwater photos while appreciating the incredible panoramic view of a wide variety of marine life. The reef is also the largest in the upper keys.
Furthermore, it is the only living coral barrier reef in the US. Snorkelers will love experiencing more than 100 feet of clear visibility in sunny conditions. Situated four nautical miles from Indian Key, it is 136 feet tall.
Outdoor Activities to Enjoy at Alligator Reef Lighthouse
- Eco tours
- Sandbar tours
Wrapping Up: Best Snorkeling in Florida Keys
There you have it – Top 11 destinations for experiencing the best snorkeling in Florida Keys. Exploring waters is a fun way to see the astonishing beauty of the underwater world, leaving you amazed. Snorkeling is a staple recreational activity for people who vacation to island gateways. While snorkeling around the Florida Keys, the abundance and wide variety of natural habitats are simply staggering. You will also be able to get personal with wildlife in its natural habitat.
Where is the best coral reef snorkeling in Florida?
To have an unforgettable coral reef snorkeling experience in Florida, you should explore Key West, John Pennekamp, and Key Largo.
What spots offer the best snorkeling in Key Largo?
Key Largo, the longest and the northernmost of the keys, is a top-rated destination for diving and snorkeling. Spots like Dry Rocks, John Pennekamp, and Sea Gardens let you enjoy the best snorkeling in Florida Keys.
What are the best Key West snorkeling and scuba diving activities?
A few best Key West snorkeling spots include Dry Tortugas, Bahia Honda State Park, and Fort Zachary Taylor.