Best places to snorkel in keys

If you’re looking for the best places to snorkel in the Keys, we’ve got you covered.

The Florida Keys are known for their beautiful beaches and tropical environment, but they’re also home to some of the most incredible underwater experiences in the country—and maybe even the world. The water is clear, inviting, and full of life. You can see everything from coral reefs and schools of fish to turtles and rays!

This article provides you all the information you need on Best places to snorkel in keys, islamorada snorkeling spots, best place to stay in florida keys for snorkeling, looe key snorkeling, where to snorkel in the florida keys, and key largo snorkeling. Do take your time to go through for all the information you need and we hope it is helpful.

Islamorada snorkeling spots

Alligator Reef is named for the USS Alligator that sunk in 1825 while trying to protect a fleet from pirates. Ballast stones are all that are left from the ship. Snorkelers can try to identify the many species of fish, coral and sponges that populate this beautiful spot. At 136 feet tall, the Alligator Reef Lighthouse marks the area.

best spots you can snorkel around Islamorada.

Cheeca Rocks Sanctuary

This preservation area is the only one in the Upper Keys designated to protect inshore patch reefs. It is also small, only covering .05 square nautical miles, and is located southeast of Upper Matecumbe Key. Snorkeling Cheeca Rocks is a real treat. The depths range from 8 feet to 20 feet down which makes this a shallow reef also known as a patch reef. This is a short boat ride from Islamorada. Plan to see Hogfish, Green Eels, Grunts, Jacks, Parrotfish, and if you are lucky maybe you will see a turtle. Plan to see Brain and Star corals.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

This Florida state park is located on Key Largo. Depending on traffic, this is about a 30-minute drive from Islamorada. Great day trip location. The park is approximately 70 nautical miles next to Atlantic Ocean waters. Fun fact, this is the first undersea park in the United States. Here you can take a glass-bottom boat tour or get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling. Check out the tours offered here.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Located in the Gulf of Mexico this place offers some of the best snorkeling around. The shallow water (only 5 to 15 feet of water) makes it fun for everyone. Plan to head to Key West (about a 2-hour drive) to board the ferry or take the seaplane over to the Park. Upon arrival, you can tour Fort Jefferson or head over to explore the waters. There are designated snorkel areas and, according to the Ferry’s website, the most popular is 75 yards from the western edge of the moat wall. Here you will see a lot of marine life like tropical fish, large coral heads, seagrass, and more.

Bahia Honda State Park

About an hour’s drive south is Bahia Honda State Park. Plan to spend a day exploring the waters around this park. Swim, snorkel, or rent a kayak. Have lunch and take a nap on the beach. This is one of my favorite parks in the Keys. This is one of the best nearshore snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Just a few hundred feet from shore you will see soft corals, small coral heads, tropical fish, queen conchs, and spiny lobster… always something new and different to see. The waters are pretty shallow, ranging from 4 to 6 feet, so it’s perfect for beginners.

San Pedro Wreck

The San Pedro was part of a Spanish fleet sailing from Cuba. It succumbed to a hurricane in 1733. Bricks from the San Pedro can still be seen in this area, which is known as the San Pedro Archaeological Preserve.

Victory Reef

Beginner and advanced Islamorada Florida Keys divers enjoy the V-shaped Victory Reef for its walls, coral, caves and ledges. Sharks, eels and turtles can be seen beneath the 40 to 90 foot depths.

Crocker Reef and Wall

Crocker Reef features beautiful coral formations and a small canyon. Crocker Wall slopes slightly from the reef and goes from 40 to about 90 feet. Turtles, barrel sponges and eagle rays have been spotted on this Islamorada travel destination.

Davis Reef

The easily navigable Davis Reef is popular with snorkelers, divers and underwater photographers. Water depths range from 10 to 30 feet, and moray eels, turtles, a statue of Buddha and massive schools of fish can be seen.

Hens and Chickens Reef

From above, the coral formations at Hens and Chickens Reef resemble a mother hen with her chicks. Popular for both SCUBA diving and snorkeling, this patch reef contains giant coral heads that create caves and holes that come very close to the water’s surface.

Best places to snorkel in keys

The Keys have some of the best snorkeling around. There are so many underwater adventures to be had and so much marine life to see and explore. Whether you are new to snorkeling or an experienced diver, there are amazing spots to visit for every level.

The best thing about snorkeling in the Keys is that it’s easy to find a spot that suits your skill level. If you’re new to snorkeling or just want a break from diving, try one of the many shallow reefs where it’s easy to see lots of fish and coral—and possibly even turtles! If you’re more experienced, look for deeper reefs with more challenging conditions like current or strong winds.

From Key West to Marathon and everywhere in between, there are plenty of places where you can get out on the water without even leaving land!

Top Snorkeling Areas in Keys

Fort Zachary Taylor (Key West)

Fort Zachary Taylor is a well-known spot for snorkeling and fishing. The crystal waters give way to abundant marine life under the waves. This is a great spot for all skill levels. The beach also offers huts to rent and picnic tables. It is the perfect place to set up for the day for some fun in the water and sun. 

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Key Largo)

This underwater park is a first and a very cool way to spend your afternoon underwater. They offer a glass bottom boat tour and also have a large indoor aquarium. However, the best way to see the underwater creatures and sights is by scuba diving or snorkeling.

Sombrero Reef (Marathon)

This reef has crystal blue waters and the perfect depths for great snorkeling. There are so many tropical fish and other marine life right in clear view. There are also some canyons and sea caves to explore if you are feeling adventurous. 

Key Largo Dry Rocks (Key Largo)

This spot is most well-known for the Christ of the Abyss statue. This statue of Jesus Christ is nine-feet tall with arms outstretched towards the surface. You’ll be stunned at the tropical fish swimming around this incredible statue.

Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary (Big Pine Key)

These waters are an incredible sight to see. There are all sorts of beautiful, colorful tropical fish everywhere. The waters are protected, however snorkeling and scuba diving are allowed to explore all the natural untouched wonder these waters have to offer.

Looe Key snorkeling

Looe Key in Big Pine FL is home to some awesome reefs, full of some of the most amazing aquatic life in the world. Snorkeling in Looe Key FL is a once in a life time experience you don’t want to miss.

There are plenty of things to do on land as well. The Everglades National Park is just a short drive away and it’s one of the most fascinating places on earth. You can take a tour through the park or just go for a wander yourself and see what you find!

If you’re looking for something less adventurous, there are plenty of beaches nearby including Big Pine Beach which has some great surfing spots if that’s your thing.

And if you feel like something more than sunbathing and swimming then why not try paddle boarding? It’s really easy to pick up once you’ve got the hang of it so it’s perfect for beginners or people who have never tried it before.

Snorkeling at Looe Key is a great experience. We know you’ll love it, and we want to make sure that you get the most out of your trip.

First, our captains know the best places to moor our boats so that each trip is as comfortable and exciting as possible. We work hard to ensure that your time with us is enjoyable.

Second, we offer great snorkel trips, but not just any type of good experience—a great one! Our location is beautiful, with a long reef and changing depths that provide a natural barrier against waves breaking up your trip. We know where to go so that every time you go snorkeling at Looe Key, it’s an amazing experience.

Key Largo snorkeling

The Florida Keys are an underwater paradise.

The northernmost and longest of the Keys, Key Largo is home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. The Dive Capital of the World is also home to the first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This subaquatic treasure features 70 nautical square miles of sparkling turquoise waters and the shallow-water living coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – the only living coral barrier reef in North America and the third-largest living coral reef in the world. These protected and vibrant reefs are home to an abundance of sea life: more than 6,000 species!

One of the most notable attractions when diving or snorkeling in Key Largo is the nearly 9-foot tall, 4,500-pound bronze sculpture known as Christ of the Abyss. It sits deep in the waters of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The statue is the third in a series. The first lies in the waters of the Italian Riviera to honor those who lost their lives at sea. Florida’s statue has been submerged since 1965.

After consulting both expert opinion and traveler sentiment, U.S. News identified the following snorkeling tours as the best available. In addition to vibrant reefs, shipwrecks and statues, snorkelers could see angelfish, parrotfish, sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and dolphins, among other marine life.

Paradise Island Charters – Key Largo Snorkeling Tours – Snorkel Tour

Paradise Island Charters offers two four-hour excursions daily. The snorkeling locations vary by the day and time, but could include trips to Christ of the Abyss (weather permitting), several shallow reefs, the wrecks of the USS Spiegel Grove and SS Benwood, or the wreckage of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Duane. Tours leave at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., but check-in is one hour before departure. Each trip has a maximum of 15 passengers and prices start at $60 for adults and $50 for children 10 and younger. Passengers on the boat must be at least 2 years old and a minimum of 4 years old to snorkel. Pricing includes two locations, snorkel gear, reef-safe sunscreen, and a cooler for personal beverages and food. Wetsuit rental is available for an additional fee. Patrons rave about the guides and professionalism of the crew. They appreciate the small group and rate it as a five-star experience. The company also offers scuba trips and private charters.

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Sundiver Snorkeling Tours – Shallow Reef Snorkel

Sundiver offers daily, 2 1/2-hour tours to the reefs at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. The 9 a.m. trip features the Christ of the Abyss statue, while the noon and 3 p.m. tours provide views of an abundance of marine life, including tropical fish and possibly sea turtles, lobsters, starfish and rays. A sunset and snorkel reef adventure is also available seasonally and sets sail at 5:30 p.m. Prices for all tours start at $50 for ages 13 years and older and are $35 for children 12 and younger. Riders of all ages – who are not swimming or snorkeling – can come on board for about $35 per person. Anyone younger than 18 that plans to snorkel must be accompanied by an adult. Prices include a mask, fins and a safety vest. Most reviewers say the crew is knowledgeable and friendly, and describe the experience as memorable. The company also offers private snorkel charters.

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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – Snorkeling Tours

To snorkel within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you’ll want to sign up for one of the park’s official tours. After a short boat ride, you’ll be given a brief snorkel lesson at the reef before having time to explore the waters on your own. Note that crew members do not act as guides and the boat stays moored for the duration of your time at the reef. The 2 1/2-hour excursion departs six times a day and features up to 1 1/2 hours of water time. The 9 a.m. 4 1/2-hour extended excursion boasts even more snorkeling time with at least two stops at different locations. Prices for the short trip start at $29.95 for adults and $24.95 for ages 17 and younger. The cost for the extended snorkel is approximately $40 per person. Equipment rental is an additional fee on both tours. Personal in-water guides are available for $45 for the first person and $15 for each additional snorkeler, up to a maximum of six. Patrons describe the experience as incredible and praise the crew and the reasonable prices. Private snorkeling charters are also available.

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Caribbean Watersports

Caribbean Watersports offers morning and afternoon sail and snorkel trips in the tropical waters of Florida Bay. These 2 1/2- to three-hour excursions include about an hour of water time and scenic sailing to see the mangrove islands, manatees and dolphins. Prices for the 9:30 a.m. Sip-n-Splash Mimosa Cruise and midday departure start at $80 per person for tourgoers 13 years of age and older. Fees are about $55 for kids 3 to 12; children 2 and younger ride for free. Prices do not include taxes or gratuity. Private charters are available for the same excursions and cost approximately $850 (plus tax and gratuity) for a maximum of eight people, with additional pricing available for up to 24 passengers. Reviewers rave about the friendly and accommodating crew. They also enjoy the food and beverages on board. The company offers a tour of the surrounding wildlife and a sunset cruise, parasailing and water sports rentals.

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Snorkel Key Largo

Snorkel Key Largo’s three daily trips take snorkelers to several patch reefs in the shallow waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Islamorada. The company offers a 2 1/2-hour 9 a.m. departure, a four-hour excursion at 12:30 p.m. and a 2 1/2-hour sunset trip at 5 p.m. The two shorter trips go to one location with one hour of water time. The midday tour stops at two sites and features two hours of snorkel time. All three tours operate daily and include snorkel instruction, gear and a safety vest. Tour-takers praise the captain and crew for their expertise and approachability. They also say that it’s an excellent experience for families, highlighting the abundance of marine life. Prices start at $45 for adults and $40 for children 10 years old and younger for the morning trip. Fees increase about $5 per person for the midday and sunset excursions.

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Keys Diver – Snorkel Trip

This company offers four daily snorkel tours and a seasonal sunset cruise. The 9 a.m., 10 a.m., 2. p.m. and sunset (5:15 p.m.) trips last 2 1/2 hours and include one hour of water time. Serious snorkelers will want to book its 4 1/2-hour excursion at 12:15 p.m., which allows two hours of snorkeling and, depending on weather conditions, the opportunity to see Christ of the Abyss. Prices start at $32.95 for anyone 11 years of age and older and $29.65 for children ages 5 to 10 for the shorter trips. The cost for the extended adventure is about $45 for ages 11 and older and $40 for children 5 to 10. Prices include snorkel gear and a safety vest. Tourgoers rave about the knowledgeable and helpful crew and say the price for the tour is reasonable. Some describe it as their best snorkeling experience yet. Keys Diver also offers private custom scuba dive charters.

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Where to snorkel in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are such a magical place, and they have so much to offer. You can go snorkeling in the coral reefs and see turtles, dolphins, and even manatees! Here are some of our favorite places to snorkel in the Florida Keys:


John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Easily one of the most recognizable diving and snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo covers 70 nautical square miles and was the first underwater park in the United States. Guided snorkeling trips take visitors miles offshore by boat, usually to protected, shallow reef locations that range from five to fifteen feet deep. Snorkeling tours from Pennekamp can also bring swimmers face-to-face with the famed Christ of the Abyss statue, an 8.5-foot-tall replica of the bronze cast of Jesus Christ in the Mediterranean sea, submerged in about 25 feet of water.

Molasses Reef

Tropical fish, elkhorn and brain coral, and goliath grouper are some of the species snorkelers see while exploring the waters of Molasses Reef, about six miles from  Key Largo. The reef’s abundance of marine life and relative ease of access make it one of the most popular dive and snorkel locations in the Keys. Sea Dwellers is one of several dive shops that bring snorkelers and scuba divers to Molasses Reef from Key Largo.


Alligator Reef

Approaching by boat, it’s easy to spot Alligator Reef by the 136-foot-tall lighthouse that juts from the water just north of it. Common sightings here, a little less than five miles east of Indian Key, include amberjack, parrotfish, angelfish, barracuda, and nurse sharks. Lucky observers sometimes find sea turtles and spotted eagle rays, and dolphins can often be seen from tour boats that frequent the reef. Book with a tour operator such as  KeyZ Charters in Islamorada to get there.

Sombrero Reef

Sombrero Reef, located in the Sombrero Key Sanctuary Preservation Area, can be found south of Pigeon Key in depths between six and 25 feet. Coral formations rise up to ten feet off from the ocean floor in this 30-acre reef, which can be accessed by boat with Starfish Marathon Snorkeling Tours and Captain Pip’s Marina and Hideaway in Marathon.

Located eight nautical miles southwest of Bahia Honda State Park, Looe Key is home to protected coral reef and a host of marine animals.


Looe Key

Located eight nautical miles southwest of Bahia Honda State Park, Looe Key is home to protected coral reef and a host of marine animals. In addition to coral, such as star and elkhorn, snorkelers can spot everything from angelfish to grunts to sea turtles. Snorkel tours leave directly from Bahia Honda State Park, a must-see location in itself.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Rich in history, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West is the site of a pre-Civil War fort and contains the nation’s largest cache of Civil War weapons. Unlike most great snorkeling locations in the Keys, no boat trip is needed to enjoy the typically warm, clear water and see lobsters, yellow snapper, parrotfish, and a variety of coral. Snorkelers can head right off the beach and into the underwater habitats the Keys are famous for. Bring your own snorkel gear or rent some directly from the park.

Dry Tortugas

Nearly 70 miles west of Key West lies the remote group of islands that make up Dry Tortugas National Park, which is only accessible by boat or seaplane and a top bucket list item for many Florida travelers. Garden Key is the second-largest island in the Tortugas and home to historic Fort Jefferson. The 14-acre island is an excellent starting point for snorkeling the bright, crystal-clear waters full of coral and tropical fish that surround these islands, but there are many places to explore underwater here. Visitors have the option of staying for the day or camping overnight on Garden Key, and ferry rides and equipment rentals can be arranged through the Dry Tortugas National Park ferry. Seaplane arrangements can be made through Key West Seaplane Charters.

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