The Three Best Places to Go Snorkeling in the Florida Keys
If you’re headed to the Florida Keys for a tropical style holiday, snorkeling is a must-do. Here are the three best places to experience the magic of North America’s only coral reef.
No matter what time of year you visit the Florida Keys, the water’s always inviting and snorkel-ready. You’ll want to be sure and book a snorkeling adventure once you’re there, since it’s one of the top things to do in the Keys.
The coral reef lies close to shore throughout the Keys: never more than seven or eight miles from shore. That means a short, pleasant boat ride and the possibility of enjoying other planned activities the very same day. Many travellers, however, choose to return to their hotel rooms afterwards… the air conditioning is so refreshing after half a day spent swimming under the sub-tropical sunshine!
So, where to go for the best snorkeling? Here are the top three choices for you to consider:
1. Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is located at mile marker 37, and boasts some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys. It’s shallow and has really great access right from the beach, which is not common in the Keys. In fact, this is one of the few places were you can swim from such a nicely laid-out shore area. There’s a beautiful beach, and the coral heads start right inshore, so you can swim right up to them.
Also within swimming distance from the beach is a grassy area with hard bottom. That may not sound like much, but seasoned snorkelers know that this grass, called Turtle Grass, is full of sea life: urchins, Mangrove Snappers, schools of glass minnows, maybe the occasional Conch, a few barracudas, and sometimes Redfish.
Redfish, by the way, are sport fish, unusual for the Florida Keys. They’re big and quite exciting to encounter up close when you’re snorkeling in shallow water.
2. Looe Key Marine Sanctuary
If you use Bahia Honda State Park as a base, it’s good to know that the park rangers offer daily tours to Looe Key Marine Sanctuary.
Since this is a protected sanctuary (no fishing or spearfishing here), the marine life is phenomenal. Over 150 species of fish have been logged here, and you may see a shark or two and if you’re lucky, some rays.
The snorkeling is good here: ranging from 7 to 30 feet, it’s perfect for beginners.
3. John Pennekamp State Park
This was the first of the designated marine sanctuaries in the Florida Keys, and as such sports brilliant coral formations and variety of species. Located in Key Largo, the uppermost of the Florida Keys, it’s only a half-hour drive (or 45 minutes, depending on traffic) from mainland Florida, so if you’re staying in Miami it’s a good day trip.
Key Largo also happens to be where the crystal clear blue waters of the Gulf Stream sway closest to the Keys. Therefore, it’s known for spectacularly clear water: again, perfect for snorkelers.
While there, be sure to check out Christ of the Abyss, an underwater statue presented in 1962 to the Underwater Society of America. The gift was from Egidi Cressi, an Italian scuba entrepreneur, whose dive gear is sold throughout the world today.
Featured photo taken by Catherine Tims