How Is The Snorkeling In Key West? Amazing!
We recently took some vacation time from being dive instructors and headed back to Florida to meet up with some old friends. We were all super excited to spend some time doing a bit of pleasure diving and a ton of snorkeling in Key West. We have heard from our friends who go there every year that the Key West snorkeling conditions are almost always incredible at this time of year, so we put our faith in them and booked our plane tickets. We were about to find out just how awesome spending a few days sipping drinks on the beach and snorkeling in the keys could be! Anyone looking for a beautiful place to vacation or just get some time away from it all should definitely consider Florida and especially Key West and Key Largo. Just don’t forget to bring your snorkel gear! We spent a total of 8 days island hopping and there were 2 places that really stood out as ideal snorkeling spots….
Snorkeling In Key West
What a great island vibe there is to be found in Key West. As the name suggests, this is the western most point in the Florida keys, and the island is surrounded by the warm Caribbean Sea. Of all the islands, Key West is certainly the most popular and a major tourist spot. While you are able to hit the beach and swim around seeing small fish in the shallows, most of the best key west snorkeling spots are reached by short boat trips. There are tons of small islands and reefs just off island, about 8-10 miles away. You can also go on a full day trip to Dry Torgugas, a marine park and it makes for an amazing full day of snorkeling in key west. While Dry Tortugas is further away (70 Miles West), there is some amazing conditions to be had and we had a super fun day snorkeling and hanging out in the beautiful marine park.
If you are looking for some decent snorkeling from the beach, then there is the remains of an old pier near higgs beach that you can easily swim out to. Larger structures like this offer shelter for marine life and there was quite a lot of interesting fish and sea life to see just a short swim out from the beach. Within the swimming area that is marked by buoys you can see a ton of colorful corals, sea sponges, reef fish and even some snappers if you are lucky. Be sure to bring you GoPro or underwater camera or perhaps a Tribord Easybreath snorkeling mask!
Best Key West Snorkeling Spots
A small island found 7 miles from Key West, Sand Key is a great spot for snorkeling. The waters are very calm and there are large surrounding reefs. The reef tops are quite shallow but some areas do drop off to over 75 feet, which means it can be a fun trip for those who are into free diving. There is a small weather monitoring station on the island and it is a very chill spot to relax and hang out. In terms of sea life, you can see sea turtles, groupers and even some barracuda from time to time. If you plan on doing some snorkeling in key west, then be sure to take the quick boat ride out to Sand Key!
Rock Key is found a mile away from Sand Key so if you are going with the local snorkel tour operators there is a good chance you will get a chance to experience both of these excellent snorkeling spots if you go out for day trip. The waters here are more shallow, averaging about 15 feet, with several crevices in the corals going down to 35-40 feet. There used to be a ship wreck that was the basis for the reef, but it has long since become unrecognizable thanks to the rapid healthy coral growth. Rock Key tends to have slightly different marine life, and occasionally small sharks can be found there. Don’t be scared, they will not attack or bite you and you should consider yourself lucky if you get a chance to see them!
Key West Marine Park
This is a great shore snorkeling spot that you can access from the south beach and Higgs beach. Like most shore snorkeling locations, just be sure to stay within the marked area to avoid the local boat traffic that frequents the area. This side of the island tends to have a bit more sea grass, which some people don’t like, but there is also quite a wide variety of things to see. From colorful corals in the shallow waters that average 20 feet, to groupers, snappers, crabs and tons of small tropical bait fish, there is something for everyone to enjoy while exploring. Thanks to being a marine park the snorkeling conditions are quite nice and the habitat is kept in good shape.
Key Largo Snorkeling Conditions: Even Better!?
After several full days of beautiful sunny adventure on Key West, our group decided to do a bit more exploring of the island chain and head north to Key Largo. We had heard that snorkeling in Key Largo is even better thanks to the less touristic scene up there. Because of this, to reach the best snorkeling spots in Key Largo, it is recommended to go with one of the local companies that will take you to some cool locations. Overall we found Snorkeling in Key Largo to be awesome and the locations were less busy thanks to there being less tourist traffic in the area. There were plenty of different snorkeling spots to check out and we visited multiple during the few days we were up north. Check out our impressions below!
Snorkeling In Key Largo
Many fellow divers we have met on our travels claim that Key Largo has the best scuba diving and snorkeling in the world. There are a ton of factors that help support this, such as the close proximity to the Gulf Stream which helps keep the waters clear and warm. The waters around Key Largo are also protected as it is the United States only living reef and has been under state protection since 1963. It is always nice to see governments doing their part to protect the environment and help keep it pristine so future generations to enjoy the amazing snorkeling and scuba diving experiences to be had. Overall snorkeling in Key Largo was one of the nicest spots we have had the chance to experience, and we have been all over the world!
Best Key Largo Snorkeling Spots
John Pennekamp State Park
This is a gorgeous marine park, with both land and sea sights to enjoy. There is easy access to snorkeling from the 2 beaches and while there is quite a bit of sea grass in this area, you will still see lots of fish and other marine life such as crabs, and some rays. Very easy snorkeling conditions for anyone looking to spend a nice day at the beach without having to hire a snorkeling tour boat and head out to sea.
Dry Rocks/Christ of the Abyss
Probably one of the more iconic key Largo snorkeling spots, there is an awesome 9 foot tall christ statue submerged just below the surface that is accessible to both divers and snorkel enthusiasts. It certainly makes for some awesome underwater photos like the one below. Nearby is Dry Rocks, the Abyss’s sister site and you will find more marine life there, from sea turtles to tons of yellow tail snappers and schools of bait fish. One of our favorite days out was exploring these 2 sites. They can get a bit busy in the afternoon when most of the snorkel groups congregate here, so ideally see if you can visit them in the morning or early afternoon.
Apparently this is one of the most visited reefs in the world, according to our skipper. If the weather is calm, then definitely request this awesome snorkeling spot. It is literally bursting with sea life, huge schools of fish, many rays and lots of beautiful corals to explore beneath the surface. Certainly worth the day trip out there.