The Best Snorkeling in Florida Keys Guide (2023): 15 Amazing Spots and Tours

Planning on snorkeling in Florida Keys? Look no further!

The Florida Keys offer some of the best snorkeling environments in the world. But where should travelers visit for the best experience?

We have asked our fellow blogger Candice to share her amazing experience while snorkeling in the Florida Keys and here is her breakdown of the 15 top places for the best snorkeling spot in the area!

Sign at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park on white sand under a blue sky.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Snorkeling in the Florida Keys: At a glance

📍 Florida Keys snorkeling map

Snorkeling in Florida Keys Map - this image will lead you to Google Maps.
Click on the image to open the map – © Google Maps

Is it safe to snorkel in the Florida Keys?

It’s important to note that a few factors impact the overall safety of snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

Water conditions, especially during hurricane season, can make snorkeling a risky activity. So be sure to check weather reports. 

Nurse and Reef Sharks are commonly found in the Florida Keys as well.

Thankfully, these species of sharks tend to be less aggressive than others.

In short, if snorkelers mind their own business, the sharks are likely to mind theirs as well. 

15 Best Places to Snorkel in the Florida Keys

1. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park (Key West)

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park has one of the clear water beaches in Florida. The water here is so clear, and the sea life is plentiful. This is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida for beginners. Snorkelers here often spot parrot fish, snappers, and grouper! 

One of the best Dog-friendly beaches in Florida, even pups can have a great time at this location! 

2. Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas (Key West)

The shallow and clear waters that surround Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas make for some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

Dry Tortugas is one of the most beautiful national parks in Florida.

Travelers can snorkel right off the beach and spot countless different types of tropical fish. 

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park blue water and white sand shore.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

 3. Cottrell Key (Key West)

The soft sponge coral of Cottrell Key sets this location apart from many of the other best places to snorkel in Florida.

The difference in coral composition makes for a difference in marine life as well.

Wind conditions often affect the clarity of the water here, but when it’s just right, visitors can spot some of the unique sea life here, including spiny urchins and manta rays. 

4. John Pennekamp Reef State Park (Key Largo)

Snorkeling tours run out of John Pennekamp Reef State Park and provide some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

Nearly 70 nautical square miles, the waters here house several species of fish and sponge types.

Exploring the coral reef off the coast of the park is an experience travelers won’t soon forget! 

5. Molasses Reef (Key Largo)

Molasses Reef isn’t only one of the best places to snorkel in Florida but also one of the best spots to dive.

Crystal clear water and boulder corals, along with vibrant marine life, make this a wonderful place to enjoy the wonders of snorkeling in Florida.

When exploring the Upper Keys, this popular reef is the spot to hit! 

6. Key Largo Dry Rocks – Christ of the Abyss (Key Largo)

Key Largo Dry Rocks is a portion of Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary.

The coral reef here is not only beautiful and alive with fish and other sea life but is most commonly known for the Christ of the Abyss statue.  

The bronze statue of Christ sits on the sea floor, less than 25 feet underwater.

This is one of the most fascinating underwater fixtures in the Florida Keys.

Thought-provoking sites like these really make for the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys. 

7. Grecian Rocks (Key Largo)

Another section of Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, Grecian Rocks, is a patch reef that runs about a half mile long.

This highly developed Elkhorn coral reef is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida as well as scuba dive. 

While visitors will have a great time exploring the shallow waters for fish and soft corals, there are more impressive snorkeling spots to explore!  

Florida Keys aerial view via drone.
Florida Keys

 8. Alligator Reef (Islamorada)

The Upper Florida Keys tend to be more shallow, while the Middle Keys add more depth.

Alligator Reef is sandwiched in the middle, connecting the two.

Tropical fish like angelfish and blue tang are commonly spotted on this small bank reef.

Several shipwrecks around the area also attract lots of explorers,  making it one of the best places to snorkel in Florida! 

9. Indian Key Historic State Park (Islamorada)

Indian Key Historic State Park is on the offshore island of Islamorada.

This spot is full of history and offers some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys. 

Roughly 11 acres, this deserted island pays homage to the town that used to have roots there in the early 1800s.

The island is very peaceful, offering a serene and quiet place to snorkel and explore the world beneath the water’s surface. 

10. Cheeca Reefs (Islamorada)

Cheeca Reefs is often considered one of the best places to snorkel in Florida, especially for families with children.

The shallow waters here offer an amazing environment for young swimmers just learning to snorkel. 

This patch reef boasts not only a rich marine life presence that will keep children entertained but also a close proximity back to the beach.

This is a big advantage for those traveling with little ones who may get tuckered out on the water easily. 

 11. Sombrero Reef (Marathon)

Sombrero Reef is a huge underwater playground of sorts located in the Middle Keys.

At 30 acres, this spur-and-groove reef system is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.

Striking neon-colored tropical fish and shallow waters make this the perfect place to snorkel for those who wish to see marine life up close! 

12. Bahia Honda State Park (Marathon)

Bahia Honda State Park is home to the largest natural sand (as opposed to coral) beaches in the Florida Keys.

Calusa Beach, in particular, is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.

For those who wish to explore the reef further out, multiple tours are offered from Bahia Honda State Park out to Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.

There are 50 different species of coral at the sanctuary and an estimated 150 different species of fish.  

13. Coffins Patch (Marathon)

Another Middle Keys location, Coffins Patch, offers some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

A bit more than 3 miles off the shore of Marathon, Coffins Patch is comprised of six different coral patches. 

Each of the reef patches is unique in its own right, in-depth, appearance, and marine life.

Two of the most popular patches to visit are The Stake and The Donut. 

The Donut’s location is deeper in the water, making it more popular for divers than snorkelers.

The Stake can be found in more shallow waters, offering snorkelers easy views of a wide variety of sea creatures.

Some of the more unique include moray eel, butterfly fish species, damselfish species, and parrotfish species, among many others. 

Bahia Honda with white sand and surrounded by trees under a clear sky.
Bahia Honda

14. Looe Key (Big Pine)

Looe Key is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida for travelers interested in exploring waters with large sea life.

This reef is known to play home to Colassal Grouper, tarpon, and rays. Not to mention sharks! 

Keep in mind that the depths here vary, but diving experience is preferred for viewing the larger sea life here who tend to swim at deeper depths. 

15. Horseshoe Beach (Big Pine)

Horseshoe Beach is a unique place to snorkel in the Florida Keys, as the sheltered bay area is in the shape of a horseshoe.

Manatees, barracuda, jellyfish, and even rays can be spotted at Horseshoe Beach. 

The visibility isn’t always the best here, and the area lacks color in comparison to some of the vibrant reefs throughout the Keys.

In short, this location can be fun to explore, but it doesn’t top the best snorkeling in Florida Keys list. 

The best snorkeling tours in the Florida Keys

👍🏼 Half-Day Snorkel Tour on Reefs in the Florida Keys

5.0 ⭐️ 1,084 Reviews

This Half Day Snorkel Tour on Reefs in the Florida Keys offers an amazing way to spend an afternoon exploring the Keys!

The 3-and-a-half-hour tour carries guests across the water on a catamaran to visit the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and then to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. 

This park is known to be one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.

This is where tourists will be able to explore the third-largest living reef in the world.

The tour’s expert guide will help both direct snorkelers where to go and also educate guests regarding the area and sea life. 

Captain Kevin and Christy were awesome, they were engaging, fun, organized and safe. We enjoyed the corals and marine life. Definitely recommended.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ pedro_g, Jun 2023

👍🏼 Key West Florida Reef Half-Day Snorkeling Excursion

4.5 ⭐️ 1,130 Reviews

This cruise highlights some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

This catamaran cruise offers a relaxing and fun day of swimming and snorkeling off the coast of Key West.

A stop at The Great Florida Reef will offer guests a chance to view up to 600 different species of fish as well as some astounding coral.

This tour includes snorkeling equipment and beverages (including beer, wine, and soft drinks). 

We and our two adult daughters had a great time. Ander, Sydney and Captain Brandon were just great. Perfect amount of time. Really wonderful excursion. Highly recommend it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Susan_B, Jun 2023

👍🏼 Florida Keys Reef Snorkel & Sail Adventure

5.0 ⭐️ 315 Reviews

Florida Keys Reef Snorkel & Sail Adventure is perfect for travelers who enjoy touring with small groups.

This tour takes you to the sea in a sailing yacht designed only to accommodate a small group of people.

Traveling with a smaller group promises more one-on-one attention with the guide.  

This is also a great choice for snorkeling beginners, as the tour includes an instructional portion where guests are taught how to use the equipment.

The exploration of the living coral reef often includes sightings of eels, turtles, and urchins, as well as tropical fish.

Needed equipment and beverages are also included on this tour. 

We had a great time and fun experience. Our crew was very kind and relaxed. Thank you so much for the fun.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Carmen_K, Jun 2023

Best time to snorkel in the Florida Keys

Any time from December through May will offer the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

Winter through Spring is great seasons to visit because they still offer amazing weather while also being outside hurricane season. 

Snorkeling in Florida Keys Tips

✅ Limit physical contact with the surrounding environment and sealife.

✅ For the safety of the snorkeler and the well-being of marine life, it’s best to enjoy the sights while snorkeling but not to touch anything. 

✅ Timing is Key. The best time to snorkel is at high tide. This will offer the best visibility. 

✅ Dress appropriately. When snorkeling face down in the water, the snorkeler’s back can be exposed to the sun for an extended period of time.

✅ Plan for optimal sun protection by wearing a shirt. A long-sleeve shirt or rashguard is an even better choice, as it will protect skin from scrapes against coral or any other injuries. 

✅ Consider adding fins to your snorkeling essentials. A secure pair of fins will aid snorkelers while swimming around the keys. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Snorkeling in Florida Keys

Which Florida Key has the best snorkeling?

Key Largo is known for some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

The sea life here is so varied.

Snorkelers can expect to see tropical fish, sea turtles, and dolphins.

Snorkelers can view a living coral reef and many shipwrecks in this area too. 

 Can I snorkel from the beach in the Florida Keys?

Yes, there are a handful of snorkeling spots in the Keys that travelers can access from the beach.

Remember that some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys is best accessed through a tour. 

What is better to snorkel, Key Largo or Key West?

Key Largo and Key West are some of the best places to snorkel in Florida.

Though they both offer fantastic snorkeling environments, Key Largo is the top snorkeling destination. 

Is Key Largo or Islamorada better for snorkeling?

Key Largo and Islamorada are known to be some of the best places to snorkel in Florida.

Some snorkelers claim Key Largo as the winner, while others believe middle keys like Islamorada offer a better experience. 

Overall, both locations offer amazing snorkeling, so travelers can’t go wrong with either. 

What is the best month to snorkel in Key West?

May will offer the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

The weather is warm during May, and the waters are perfect for snorkeling – calm and clear! 

 Is it better to snorkel in Miami or Key West?

From Miami to Key West, it is one of the best places to snorkel in Florida.

Miami can’t compare with Key West’s stunning reef and astounding marine life.

A slug in Bahia Honda.
A slug in Bahia Honda.

Final Thoughts: The Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys

Underwater adventures and explorations in Florida are endless.  

A visit to the best places to snorkel in Florida will surely enhance any vacation.

With amazing coral and sea life to check out, places like Key West, Key Largo, and others really do offer the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys!