Snorkeling and Diving in the Keys

March 15, 2017

Snorkeling in The Keys is very similar to the diving, although the deeper dive sites are not accessible without a tank. Thus, many snorkeling and SCUBA charters go to the same locations. If you plan on taking a charter to go snorkeling, please see our Diving Guide, and choose shallower locations. Alternatively, you could go on one of the many Water Tours in The Keys. If you plan on snorkeling off beaches with your own equipment, select your region below.

 

Key Largo

Marathon

Lower Keys

Key West

 

All reefs are protected by the State of Florida. In order to keep reefs vibrant, please keep your hands to yourself.

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Key Largo

The best place to snorkel without a boat here is off the two main beaches, Cannon and Far Beach. Cannon Beach offers a 18th century Spanish Shipwreck easily visible from the surface. Far Beach lacks a wreck, but has extensive coral, sea-grass, and fish.

 

 

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Marathon

Marathon beach snorkeling is defined mostly by Sombrero Beach, which grew in 1998 after Hurricane George. Unfortunately, there is much less to see here than on other Keys. For better beach snorkeling, it is recommended to drive twenty minutes in either direction.

 

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Lower Keys

Bahia Honda State Park at Mile Marker 37 has some of the best snorkeling in The Keys. Shallow, clear water, colorful fish, and extensive reef makes this the highlight of Lower Keys snorkeling. It isn't uncommon for people to come up to Bahia Honda from as far away as Key West.

 

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Key West

There is some good snorkeling off the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, where you can see corals, schools of tropical fish, and the occasional lobster. You can snorkel off the beach in many areas, like the small beach at the end of Vernon Street, next to restaurant Louie's Backyard.

 

 

 

The Keys are home to the only reefs in the continental United States, and some of the best diving in the world. There is something for every level of diver in The Keys. Shallower waters of Sombrero Reef off Marathon for beginners, Benwood Wreck near Key Largo for intermediate divers, Vandenberg Wreck by Key West for advanced divers, or the famous Looe Key for a full range of skill levels in one spot.

 

The reason that The Keys is the sport fishing capital of the world is also one of the reasons why the diving is so wonderful - there are lots of fish. You can see enormous grouper, barracudas, parrotfish, and shiny schools of bonefish, all in one dive spot. For the more advanced diver with wreck qualifications, there are 54 wrecks around The Keys open to explore, including two massive wrecks, the Vandenberg and Spiegel Grove.

 

The diving is equally superb throughout The Keys, so pick a dive near you. Click your area below for a list of major dive spots and charters:

 

Key Largo

Islamorada

Marathon

Lower Keys

Key West

 

All reefs are protected by the State of Florida. In order to keep reefs vibrant, please keep your hands to yourself.

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Key Largo

 

Key Largo maintains the first underwater state park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which covers 70 square miles of reef and mangroves. The Park is also home to the Christ of the Abyss underwater statue, one of the most popular dive destinations of The Keys.

 

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

All skill levels. Clear water reefs and the Christ of the Abyss statue.

 

Benwood Wreck

All skill levels. Depth of 30-50ft. Sea fans, coral, and many fish surround this 340ft long wreck.

 

Elbow Reef

Novice. Depth of 10-30 ft. Clear blue waters, coral, small to midsized fish.

 

Molasses Reef

Novice. Depth of 10-40 feet. Coral and smaller fish.

 

Spiegel Grove

Advanced. Depth of 80-130ft. 500ft long ship, large and numerous fish including Grouper, Jack, and Barracuda.

 

Bibb Wreck

Advanced. Depth of 90-120ft. Great visibility, large fish, sharks, schools of smaller fish, and strong currents.

 

Duane Wreck

Advanced. Depth of 90-120ft. Similar to Bibb Wreck, except upright and easier to explore the interior in.

 

 

 

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Islamorada

 

Islamorada has possibly the highest population of fish out of The Keys, and frequent visits from humans means many let you get quite close. Islamorada also has a good variety of dive spots. Here are some of them:

 

 

Alligator Reef

Novice. Average Depth of 25ft. Hundreds of different species, large reef system.

 

Crocker Wall

Intermediate. Depth of 60-80ft. 450ft long wall lined with coral, large fish, some current.

 

Eagle Wreck

Advanced. Depth of 80-100ft. Strong current, 290ft long ship broken in two by hurricane. Coral and large schools of fish.

 

 

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Marathon

 

Similar to Islamorada, Marathon reefs are full of fish and have great spur and groove coral. Some highlights in the area are:

 

Sombrero Reef

Novice. Depth of 20-35ft. Lots of coral, schools of fish, barracuda.

 

Coffin’s Patch

Novice. Depth of 10-25ft. Coral, mutton snapper, lobster, schools of fish.

 

Thunderbolt Wreck

Intermediate. Depth of 85-120ft. Upright wreck of 190ft, large engine and propellors, can enter the hull.

 

 

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Lower Keys

 

The Lower Keys has less major dive spots than in other areas, but the two main sites are both top notch, especially Looe Key.

 

Looe Key

All Skill levels. Depth of 5-80ft. Extremely clear water, up to 100ft visibility, large fish, eel, sharks, colorful. Very popular.

 

Adolphus Busch Wreck

Advanced. Depths of 80-105ft. Upright wreck of 210ft, holes in ship to swim into, several large grouper, coral.

 

 

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Key West 

Key West is near a plethora of great dive locations, and has something for the most inexperienced diver to a dive master. Heres some of the best locations:

 

Nine Foot Stake

Novice. Depth of 10-30ft. Basic reef with many fish.

 

Sand Key

Novice/ Intermediate. Depth of 20-70ft. Dropoff ledge with grouper, barracuda, and even turtles!

 

Joe’s Tug

Intermediate. Depth of 40-60ft. Coral, many fish, 65ft ship broken in half by hurricane.

 

Ten Fathom Ledge

Intermediate. Depth of 25-130ft. Large dropoff, colorful fish, grouper, coral and human-sized sponges.

 

Vandenberg Wreck

Intermediate/ Advanced. Depth of 40-130ft. Sunk in 2009, 520ft long, very popular.

 

Cayman Salvager Wreck

Advanced. Depth of 70-90ft. Upright ship 190ft long, some large fish, current, coral.

 

 

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