The Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys
We recently wrote an article about snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), and throughout we talked about just how unique the environment was and the abundance of marine life.
The Florida Keys really isn’t too much different. Well, we should rephrase that. Although it’s a completely different part of the world, snorkeling the Florida Keys can provide the same level of excitement as anywhere else, and some may actually prefer the Keys simply because of the shear amount of areas you can explore.
The Florida Keys is a stretch of islands of the southern coast of Florida that runs about 120 miles.
However, it’s not so much the stretch of islands in a tropical location that make the Florida Keys great for snorkeling, albeit that is desirable, but instead it’s the living coral barrier reef that makes the Florida Keys an amazing snorkeling destination. In fact, it’s the only living coral barrier reef that can be found in the continental US.
The Florida Keys is pristine, largely in part to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a US Government organization that is meant to protect the local environment. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be there, but instead allows you to snorkel in a region that is untouched by society and remains truly wild.
What Can You See When Snorkeling the Florida Keys?
The Florida Keys is filled with coral, other marine life, and unique structures. For example, in addition to completely naturally built coral structures, you can also find sunken shipwrecks that have provided a skeleton for coral to grow on and fish to live in.
Similarly, other sunken man-made objects like statues can provide an allure that is a little creepy, but extremely interesting. However, these originally man-made structures are few and far in between, with living marine life packing the “in between”.
Although you can always see many different types of fish, plants, and coral, the exact types of marine life that you will see when snorkeling the Florida Keys can be dependent on the exact area you are snorkeling in. Given there are tons of islands, both large and small, populated or uninhabited, it can be difficult to determine where to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Therefore, we will talk about a few of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys, with a focus on snorkeling in Key Largo and Key West.
Snorkeling in Key Largo
Key Largo is located in the upper portion of the Florida Keys archipelago and is one of the largest and most popular sections. It’s actually connected to mainland Florida by The Overseas Highway (a.k.a. U.S. Highway 1) as well as Card Sound Road. Given that Key Largo is known as the Diving Capital of the World, it’s no surprise that the snorkeling in Key Largo is amazing!
It was recognized immediately that Key Largo is not only a stunning environment, but a sensitive environment as well. It’s important that we not only maintain this environment, but that we enjoy it as well. Therefore, Key Largo is very well protected and has been since the 60’s, but the biggest advancement came in 1975 when the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary was established and continues to protect the ecosystem to this day.
Key Largo Snorkeling - What to See
So what about the snorkeling? Snorkeling Key Largo is an experience to say the least. In addition to spectacular marine life, there are other underwater structures that are truly unique to Key Largo. One of these structures is the Statue of Christ of the Abyss. This is a huge statue located in about 25 feet of water, but it’s big enough that it can be seen by both scuba divers and snorkelers. Plus, there's lots of different species of fish around the statue, including the beautiful French angel fish!
Perhaps even more interesting than the Statue of Christ of the Abyss are the numerous shipwrecks in the area, for example, Spiegel Grove, Benwood Wreck, and Bibb and Duane. Shipwrecks are interesting for Coral, as they provide a pre-existing skeleton and may be more conducive to receiving sunlight. On a shipwreck, it’s a constant battle between algae and coral, with each trying to be the first to claim their areas of the wreck, but nevertheless, marine life of any kind is always attracted to shipwrecks, making them awesome places to go scuba diving and snorkeling.
When you’re snorkeling at Key Largo, there is always a lot to see. For example, an area called the Sea Gardens hosts tons of massive soft corals unlike anywhere else, while one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the world, Molasses Reef, contains awesome brain corals, extremely clear water, many different depths, and a huge range and size of colorful marine life. This is probably your best chance at spotting larger and more rare animals like sea turtles and eels.
At the end of the day, listing all the different species of fish, plants, and coral that you may see when snorkeling in Key Largo is simply impractical, as the variety is HUGE. It's been said that snorkeling here, especially in the good snorkeling spots, is like swimming in an aquarium. Truly a snorkelers dream!
Key Largo Snorkeling Tours
The snorkeling here isn’t like somewhere in Hawaii where you generally walk to an area to put in. Rather, you will need a boat to safely access the best spots to snorkel in Key Largo. Some people groan about this, but when it comes to a snorkeling spot as big and with so many hidden gems, receiving local guidance is always recommended even for advanced snorkelers. Regardless, please feel free to check out our overview of some of the best Key Largo snorkeling tours available.
Keys Diver Snorkel Tours
Many different snorkeling tours available.
Christ of the Abyss Statue a popular spot to snorkel
Cost of snorkeling tours range from $30-$40. Either morning, afternoon, or sunset.
Snorkeling destination in Key Largo vary depending on conditions. Some tours include multiple spots, while others typically stay in one or two spots.
Mask, fins, and snorkel included in all snorkel tours.
Drinks and snacks cost $1, but there is a cooler on site so feel free to bring your own food.
No alcohol, spray sunscreen not recommended (deck of boat gets slippery).
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 305-451- 1177
Sundiver Snorkel Tours
3 snorkel tours daily departing at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm
1.5-2 hours of snorkeling time at the reef
Destination: Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary (John Pennekamp State Park)
This crew specializes in snorkeling for kids, families, and beginners of all ages
Cost of snorkel tour ranges from $25-35 depending on age and departure time. Deals available when booking online.
Snorkel gear rental costs an extra $7.50 for a full set. Extra items like wetsuits and underwater disposable cameras available for small fees.
Reef Roamer and Quicksilver Catamaran Snorkel Tours
Destination: Shallow water eefs of the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary (John Pennekamp State Park)
Snorkel tours cost $25-35 when booking online, depending on the exact tour selected (morning, mid-day, and/or sunset cruise).
1-3 hours of snorkeling time at the sanctuary, depending on tour
Equipment, refreshments, and snacks available.
John Pennekamp State Park Snorkel Tours
Snorkel tours last 2.5 hours with 1-1.5 hours in the water
Snorkel tours depart every 1.5 hours starting at 9am
Cost of snorkel tours is $30/adult and $25/child
Personal or group in-water guide available for $30+tax (max size of 6 snorkelers per guide)
Snorkeling equipment rental is extra ($2/mask, $5/corrective mask, $2/fins, $5-20/snorkel depending on what you want, $6/half wet suit)
Extended tours of ~4.5 hours available for $39.
Email: [email protected]
Snorkeling in Key West
Key Largo isn't the only hot spot for snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Key West is also amazing and established in the snorkeling scene, so it definitely has lots to offer. It's a little bit further from the mainland, as it's located on the southwestern portion of the Florida Keys, but it is still accessible.
Just like Key Largo, there is a lot to see when snorkeling Key West. It's been estimated that over 100 species of fish reside in the area, including yellow and blue tangs, the classic parrotfish, lots of snapper, and much, much, more. There are many landmarks to explore, both natural and man-made, that offer spectacular snorkeling environments.
One of the natural landmarks is called Sand Key, an islet with a really cool old lighthouse (well I guess the lighthouse is man-made), and a very popular spot for snorkeling. Although the lighthouse itself is a site to see, the real reason snorkelers love this spot is the sheer amount of coral reefs in both shallow and deep waters, literally miles on end! The most common man-made landmarks are located under water in the form of shipwrecks. Some are quite deep for snorkeling, but they still offer an attractive environment for marine life, so there's always lots to see in those general areas.
Key West, like the rest of the Florida Keys, is home to an abundance and variety of coral, which makes for some really good snorkeling in Key West. There are many different "spots" of coral reefs that have their own unique traits. For example, one small area called the Nine Foot Snake is great for snorkeling and is packed with soft corals and other marine life.
The only downside to snorkeling in both Key Largo and Key West is that often times you won't know the exact snorkeling location until the day you decide to go snorkeling. This is because most often you will need a boat to get to a desirable spot, and the Captain typically picks the locations based on the current locations.
We're being a little picky here, because the snorkeling in the Florida Keys is so good in general. Plus, it's always nice having some local advice and supplemental information from guides, especially if it's your first time snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Given the popularity of snorkeling in the area, there are lots of good snorkeling tours in Key West. Please feel free to check out our overview of some of the best snorkeling tours in Key West below!
Key West Snorkeling Tours
Sebago Snorkel Tours
Destination: Florida Keys Reef (7 miles off Key West's coast, shallow waters in gorgeous reef)
Large catamaran with 2,300 square feet of deck space
Morning and afternoon snorkel tours available
Cost: $49/adult, $24.50/child, free for ages 5 and under. Better deals available when booking through their website (we've seen as low as $38/adult when booking through their website)
Time: 9am-12:30pm or 1pm-4:30pm
Costs include snorkeling equipment, professional instruction, alcoholic beverages, and filtered water.
Should bring your own towel, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, bathing suit, and camera.
Danger Charters Snorkel Tours
Destination: Various (mangrove islands, various patches of reef, sailing around, etc)
Morning, afternoon, and full day tours available.
Morning Tour: $80. Times are 9:30am-2pm (Summer) or 9am-1:30pm (Winter). Includes snorkeling, kayaking, and sailing (wetsuits included in the winter). Also includes fruit trays, chips and salsa, beer, wine, soda, and water.
Afternoon Tour: $85. Same as the morning tour, but departs at a later time. Departure time is dependent on the time of year.
Full Day Tour: $110. Similar to morning and afternoon tours, but with much more time on the water for snorkeling and kayaking. Will also stop at a beach or sand bar for some rest and exploration (weather permitting). Full lunch is also included. Times are 10am-4:30pm (Summer) and 9:30am-4pm (Winter).
Full day tour is recommended if you want to prioritize spending time in the water and exploring. Regardless, you will get to experience multiple activities and locations.
Email: Form on contact page
Phone: (305) 304-7999
Sunset Watersports Key West Snorkeling Trip
Destination: Varies depending on tour. You drive the boat yourself with one of the tours!
3 hour snorkel trip costs $40 (morning) or $45 (afternoon). Fast and comfortable catamaran takes you to the Florida Keys Reef for excellent snorkeling. Includes snorkeling equipment, instruction, draft beer, and soft drinks.
The "Triple Combo" costs $89 and includes snorkeling the reef, seeing some dolphins, and experiencing the Key West sunset.
The "Be Your Own Captain" tour costs $74 when booking online and includes your own mini speed boat for 2.5 hours, as well as the snorkeling equipment and instruction.
The "Do It All" tour costs $120 (usually better deals available through website). Departing at 10am, you get to experience snorkeling as well as 6 hours of non-stop watersports fun. Snorkeling equipment, instruction, lunch, beer, and soft drinks included.
Email: [email protected]
Fury Water Adventures - Key West Snorkeling Tour
Destination: Florida Keys Reef and surrounding waters
Fast comfortable catamaran with stairway to the water, large sundeck, shaded areas, showers, and bathrooms.
Three different snorkel tours available: Morning tour, afternoon tour ("Reef & Ritas"), and sunset tour ("Rum & Reggae"). All tours include snorkeling equipment, instruction, soda, and water.
Morning Tour: $40.95/adult, $20.95/child, better deals when booking through website. Runs from 9:30am-12:30pm.
Afternoon Tour: $47.95/adult, $23.95/child, better deals when booking through website. Runs from 1-4pm Includes free margaritas on the return trip.
Sunset Tour: $47.95/adult, $23.95/child, better deals when booking through website. Runs from 5-8pm. Also includes complimentary Rum Punch (Fury's signature drink), beer, and wine on the return trip.
Email: Click here to fill out form