When it comes to the perfect snorkeling experience, one of the only places to consider is the Florida Keys. These stunning turquoise seas are home to the world’s third longest barrier reef and the United States’ only tropical coral reefs. Snorkelers of all levels can see an underwater world filled with exquisite, vibrant marine life.
Snorkeling in Florida Keys is an experience not to be missed by anyone with a passion for an underwater adventure. Boasting one of the biggest barrier reefs in the world home to an abundance of marine life, Florida Keys promises an unforgettable experience. Popular spots include the Dry Tortugas.
Ready to start planning your next snorkeling adventure? Discover what it is that makes the Florida Keys the perfect snorkeling destination as we explore the experience, the local marine life, the best snorkeling spots, and some of the best snorkeling tours. Find out why the Florida Keys should unquestionably be the spot for your next underwater adventure.
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Snorkeling In Florida Keys
Between the Gulf of Mexico and the vast Atlantic Ocean, the Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands running about 120 miles off the southern edge of the aptly named Sunshine State, Florida. The islands are a well-known vacation destination home to incredible outdoor activities like boating, fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
Snorkelers know that there aren’t many places in the world that can rival the Florida Keys for the best snorkeling spots. You will see some of the most vibrantly colored tropical fish, soft corals, and hundreds of various species of marine life, whether you are a seasoned snorkeler or experiencing snorkeling for the first time.
Because of the clear, shallow seas, snorkeling is a popular activity here. Snorkelers will have the exciting opportunity to explore one of the first underwater parks in America and witness the incredible Christ of the Abyss statue.
Key West, in particular, is a prominent tourist destination in the Florida Keys, located 150 miles south of the mainland. It has America’s only tropical barrier reef, which stretches from the Florida Keys to the Dry Tortugas and is roughly 221 miles long.
One thing to consider is that the vast majority of the best snorkeling spots are located near the healthiest coral reefs, which are all roughly one to eight miles offshore. This, of course, means that you can only really access them by boat, which unfortunately will not be free. The great news is there are several incredible snorkeling tours available to assist you.
Marine Life In Florida Keys
Thanks to the massive barrier reef, snorkelers in the Florida Keys will have the exciting opportunity to see a wide variety of exquisite marine life. The unique ecosystem here provides plenty of shelter and food to a diverse ecology of marine life, many of which are considered to be a sight only available in the Florida Keys.
Here are a couple of the many sea creatures that you can expect to see during your snorkeling adventure in the Florida Keys:
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Sea turtles are undoubtedly a sighting that every snorkeler hopes to get the chance to experience. There are a variety of species of sea turtles that you can expect to see in the waters of Florida Keys, with the Loggerhead species oftentimes being the most common.
Growing as large as roughly 110 inches and living nearly as long as humans, these exquisite, gentle creatures are undoubtedly one of the best sightings of any snorkeling experience.
Some exciting species of stingray, including manta rays and spotted eagle rays, are another majestic sighting that you can expect in the waters at the Florida Keys. Look out for them along the floor of the ocean, and if you have a keen pair of eyes, you might see their eyes peeping out of the sands.
A rather peculiar sighting you can expect is the spiny lobster. These are slightly different from more traditional species of lobster in that spiny lobsters have antenna-like feelers instead of claws.
The ocean predator with sharp teeth and a silver-like complexion is another possible sighting in the Florida Keys. Although they are typically known for their ferocious-like behavior, you do not have to worry too much about running into any sort of danger with them.
You are more than likely going to come across yellowtail snappers on many menus in restaurants throughout the Florida Keys. In the waters, however, these shiny yellow creatures can be spotted swimming in large schools and are undoubtedly one of the most common sightings on a snorkeling excursion.
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins
Yet another one of the most anticipated sightings in all of Florida Keys, the bottlenose dolphin is a beautiful and thankfully common sighting in the area. They are known to be playful, and since they travel in pods, you are likely to see more than one. Keep your fingers crossed for a beautiful dolphin sighting, as it will be unforgettable!
Last on our list, but not nearly all that snorkelers will have the opportunity to see, is the exquisite parrotfish. These fish can be spotted clothed in various vibrant colors dependent on the variant, including spotlight, midnight blue, and the mesmerizing rainbow. Parrotfish are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful tropical fish found in the ocean.
The Best Snorkeling Spots In Florida Keys
Now that you a more acquainted with some of the marine life that you can expect to see, let us dive into some of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys to help you to plan your next underwater adventure.
Dry Tortugas National Park, located about 70 miles west of Key West, is a remote archipelago of islands only accessible by boat and should be regarded as a high bucket list item for any Florida visitors. The Yankee Freedom, the Dry Tortugas’ official ferry, will serve as your transport to this hidden ecological gem.
Home to the historic Fort Jefferson, the Dry Tortugas are considered by veteran snorkelers to be the most stunning snorkeling destination in the Florida Keys and the state of Florida overall. Many snorkelers claim that marine life like this can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. Both at sea level and above, the crystal blue waters of the historic Fort Jefferson promise to provide an unforgettable snorkeling experience.
The famous 19th-century fort’s crystal-clear blue waters are teeming with stunning marine life waiting to be seen, including various species of colorful fish, living coral, starfish, and more. Snorkeling tours are also available at Fort Jefferson, with fins, masks, and snorkels included as part of the tour.
Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park boasts exquisite waters ranging from only 4-6 feet deep, which is part of what makes this spot ideal for beginners, children, and all levels of snorkelers.
Aside from world-class snorkeling opportunities, Bahia Honda State Park also offers many other amenities that promise to make your overall experience here an unforgettable one. Other activities include paddling, fishing, boating, wildlife sightings, picnics, bird watching, scuba diving, and hiking, to name a few. This is a snorkeling experience not to be missed!
While in the waters, snorkelers can expect to see a plethora of marine life at Bahia Honda, including various species of tropical fish, stone crabs, soft corals, sponges, spiny lobster, and many more. For those who want to brave the deeper parts of the water, there are a few boat cruises available for guided tours.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park at Key Largo is a must-visit snorkeling destination that covers roughly 70 square miles and is the first established underwater park in the United States. This is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable diving and snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys region.
This coral reef state park features an old shipwreck where visitors can take guided snorkeling tours and learn about the wreckage’s history. Even the most experienced snorkelers will be delighted by the quantity of marine life, including sea turtles, parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and other fascinating colorful fish.
Snorkeling in the Florida Keys is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. When visiting the Florida Keys, you don’t need to know how to snorkel. There are plenty of snorkeling guides on hand to teach you the basics and inspire you to dive into the turquoise waters. It is an ideal location for anyone learning to snorkel for the first time. Tours are available all year, taking you to the greatest snorkeling sites to see the magnificent world that can be explored beneath the waters.
Fort Zachary Taylor
Many people consider Fort Zachary Taylor to be Key West’s nicest beach, and it is undoubtedly also one of the best snorkeling places in the Florida Keys. Home to the historic civil war Fort, erected in 1866, which can be found near the southernmost extremity of Key West. This is the main attraction of this snorkeling spot, and you do not want to miss it.
For beginners and expert snorkelers alike, the shimmering blue waters of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park are a beautiful sight to behold. The best thing about this is that, unlike most great snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys, no boat journey is required to reach and explore this exquisite snorkeling destination.
At Fort Zachary Taylor, snorkelers can expect to see a diverse range of marine life, including lobsters, parrotfish, yellowtail snappers, and a variety of vibrant coral in the wonderfully warm, clear water.
Snorkeling Tours In Florida Keys
As previously mentioned, most of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys can only be safely accessed by boat, which means that tours are highly common and, in all honesty, arguably the most incredible way to explore the underwater world of the islands.
Thankfully, an abundance of snorkeling tours can be found in the Florida Keys, giving you several diverse and exciting options for your underwater adventure. To help plan your snorkeling trip, here are a few examples of the guided tours that you can expect to find:
Snorkel The Keys
Snorkel the Keys are one of the several snorkel tour companies to be found in the Florida Keys. They offer a few exciting packages that are guaranteed to be enjoyed. One of the most exciting is a 3,5-hour snorkeling tour where you will go by boat to get to visit the exciting John Pennekamp State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
For $524 (the price for up to six people), you will get to explore all of the magnificent marine life in the Florida Keys, as well as the mesmerizing Christ of the Abyss underwater statue, as well as enjoy a whole host of other benefits, including:
- Photos of your snorkeling adventure
- Access to reef-safe sunscreen
- Snacks and beverages provided onboard
- High-quality snorkeling equipment
- Wetsuits and snorkeling vests, if needed
For more details and to see some of Snorkel the Keys’ other packages, you can click here.
Sundiver Snorkeling Tours
Sundiver Snorkeling Tours offers a few different snorkeling tour packages, giving you the option of different times of day, as well as the length of time spent snorkeling. One of their many exciting packages is a 12 pm snorkel tour that will last 2 hours and 30 minutes. The tour will take you to the coral reefs in the National Marine Sanctuary.
The reefs that you will be taken to are all roughly six to eight feet deep, making them ideal for beginner snorkelers as well as families with small children. For only $55 per adult and $45 for children 13 and under, you will enjoy the privilege of witnessing the exquisite marine life in the Florida Keys, including starfish, eels, sea turtles, and rays, to name a few.
Included in the tour are a mask, fins, and a safety vest. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sundiver Snorkeling Tours no longer provides rental snorkels, but they do offer new, high-quality snorkels for you to purchase. Make sure to bring some extra cash on board to enjoy some beverages; however, cold water is provided for free.
For more details around this tour and to explore all of the other snorkeling tours offered by the Sundiver Snorkeling Tours company, make sure to visit their website by clicking here.
It’s remarkable to find so many excellent snorkeling spots in such a tiny area as the Florida Keys. It certainly is not complicated to see why the Florida Keys is known as one of the world’s top snorkeling destinations. When planning a snorkeling trip here, make sure to give yourself a good few days to enjoy all of the incredible underwater adventures that the Florida Keys has to offer.