Best Snorkeling in the Keys [13 Spots]
Snorkeling is a must-do activity on any trip to the Florida Keys. Vibrant sea life, exotic coral, and vast sponge gardens come alive in the warm blue waters of the Keys. From offshore spots to reefs accessible directly from the beach, there are so many places in the Florida Keys to don your mask and snorkel and go for a swim.
Snorkeling in Key West
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
One of our favorite beaches in Key West, Fort Zachary Taylor is an underwater oasis for snorkelers of all skill levels. It’s located at the southernmost tip of Key West and is home to a historic Civil War fort built in the 1800s. But the real draw of this beach are the reefs teeming with ocean creatures. Walk right into the water and you’ll start to see the tropical fish that make Fort Zachary Taylor one of the best snorkeling spots in Key West.
Perfect for beginners, you don’t have to swim out far to experience the magic of this beach. The rocky bottom and rock formations offshore make an ideal habitat for sea life like turtles, fish, and eels. Bring your own snorkel gear or rent it right at the beach! Be sure to bring cash.
Are you up for a boat journey? Venture 9 miles northwest of Key West and you’ll come to Cottrell Key on the Gulf side. This Florida snorkeling destination is famous for its coral reefs and sponge garden that looks like something out of a sculpture museum. Coral outcroppings and a sandy bottom offer great visibility and an ideal place for sea life like sharks, dolphins, stingrays, and groupers.
If you’re going in your own boat, use these GPS coordinates: 24.3674N 081 55.63W
This beautiful Key West beach is an ideal snorkeling spot for visitors without a boat at their disposal. It’s one of the most popular places to snorkel in the Keys because it’s home to the only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the U.S. Wade into the aquamarine water and glimpse coral reefs, sea fans, butterflyfish, parrotfish, and more.
Sand Key Lighthouse Reef
Seven miles south of Key West, Sand Key Lighthouse Reef is a protected area known for having one of the healthiest coral reefs and gardens in Florida. This is due to a strict policy that prohibits fishing and lobstering. Snorkeling enthusiasts are sure to appreciate the calm water, incredible visibility, and convenient depths ranging from 1 to 15 feet.
Snorkeling in Key Largo
Christ of the Abyss
The most unique snorkeling destination in the Keys, Christ of the Abyss is an 8 ½-foot, 4,000-pound statue of Jesus Christ standing in 25 feet of water just off the coast of Key Largo in John Pennekamp State Park. It’s located near Dry Rocks, another excellent snorkeling spot.
This incredible sculpture was donated to the park by the Cressi family of Italy, owners of the original statue placed in the Mediterranean Sea in 1954. You can see shallow spur and groove coral formations around the statue, as well as sea sponges, spotted eagle rays, stingrays, and more.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
By far the most popular place to snorkel in Key Largo is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, known as America’s first undersea park. The park itself offers a wide range of amenities and things to do before or after your snorkeling adventure. The beaches of the park give you access to an enclosed bay surrounded by mangroves. Although there aren’t corals on the sea grass bottom, there are plenty of fish and other creatures to enjoy.
If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, swim out 100 feet to explore the remains of a Spanish shipwreck.
Molasses Reef, about 6 miles offshore from Key Largo, is considered the most visited coral reef in the world. Sitting on the edge of a barrier reef, it consists of elkhorn coral, massive brain corals, turtles, rays, goliath groupers, and more. The consistent currents flush out sediment, making the visibility excellent at this can’t-miss Key Largo snorkeling spot.
Snorkeling in Islamorada
Davis Reef is an offshore spot popular with snorkelers as well as underwater photographers. Water depths from 10 to 30 feet make it a great spot for beginners or snorkelers who want to challenge themselves at greater depths. You’ll not only see moray eels and turtles, but you can also find a statue of Buddha! Be on the lookout for gorgonians, or soft corals, including sea rods, sea whips, sea fans, and sea feathers.
With depths ranging from 8 to 20 feet and a plethora of fish, you can’t go wrong with a snorkel trip to Cheeca Rocks, just a short boat ride from Islamorada. Here, the water is tinted green and populated by large parrotfish, hogfish, queen angelfish, blue tang, and green eels. Beautiful coral varieties line the bottom, including sea fans and plumes, brain corals, fire corals, and star corals. Add this spot to your Islamorada snorkeling list!
Hen and Chickens
Another quick boat ride from Islamorada will bring you to Hen and Chickens, named for its single patch reef surrounded by many little reefs. The main patch reef is marked by a small tower. Enjoy high and low areas, channels, and shelves where sea creatures like to hide. Hard corals, Christmas tree worms, and a variety of sponges are abundant here, as well as angelfish, snapper, parrotfish, and trumpetfish.
Snorkeling in Marathon
Snorkeling off the popular Sombrero Beach is the perfect activity for families or first-time snorkelers. Right in the designated swimming area, you can find seagrass beds crawling with lobsters, crabs, and starfish. If you visit Marathon from April to October, you might even get to see hawksbill turtles! This is a great place to give snorkeling a try to determine if this fun water activity is right for you.
Not to be confused with the beach of the same name, Sombrero Reef is another fantastic snorkeling spot off the coast of Marathon. It ranges from 2 to 30 feet deep, making it accessible for snorkeling enthusiasts of all skill levels. No diving gear necessary!
Spanning 30 acres, Sombrero Reef is brimming with tropical fish, incredible coral formations, and dolphins, turtles, and stingrays. Sombrero Reef is marked by a lighthouse, directing you to the canyons, caves, arches, and shelves below. You’ll love the healthy corals and multitude of fish and other critters.
Don’t let the name alarm you – there’s nothing spooky about Coffins Patch, although it was named after the wrecked remains of a ship carrying coffins. The coffins are long gone, but the name has stuck. The area is made up of six different reefs with fun names like the Donut.
Around Coffins Patch, you’ll find a variety of patch reefs at varying depths, with plenty of options to spread out. Look for beautiful sponges, fish, eels, and sea fans. You can get to Coffins Patch on a short boat ride from Marathon.
No matter which Key you call home, the snorkeling options in southern Florida are endless! Looking for more water activities? Browse by location.