Are you traveling to Miami this year and considering a Key Largo Florida Snorkeling excursion while you are in town? Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. If you love snorkeling, this is the place to go!
Key Largo is home to North America's only living coral reef and has long been known as the best location in the USA for snorkeling and scuba diving alike. It is known as the Dive Capital of the World for a reason!
Whats It Like to Go Snorkeling in Key Largo?
The clear waters of the Atlantic and seagrass beds in our mangrove swamps in the upper Florida keys provide endless possibilities! An abundance of marine life is available when it comes to underwater exploration.
Key Largo Florida Snorkeling is a great spot for first-time snorkelers and experienced scuba divers alike! This is because our living Florida Coral Reef offers such a unique experience.
The best snorkeling Key Largo tours take you to popular areas to view our marine wildlife. Our sea gardens and soft corals are teeming with eagle rays, nurse sharks, goliath groupers, blue tangs and a variety of other tropical fish.
On a clear day, you can take a Key Largo snorkeling tour into the shallow waters before you swim through schools of sergeant majors and see straight down to the ocean floor!
Key Largo Florida snorkeling on small group snorkel boats is a great way to experience it all! Explore Molasses Reef, Dry Rocks, Grecian Rocks and the world famous Christ of the Abyss!
As a Miami native, I have been fortunate to have the Florida Keys in my backyard for my entire life. Check out our helpful suggestions for How to Spend a Weekend in the Florida Keys for ideas on what to do before or after your Key Largo Snorkeling tour!
Check out these other Travel Guides to the Florida Keys
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What marine life can you see on Key Largo snorkel trips?
Key Largo, Florida is home to the only living coral barrier reef. Because of this, the coral reef ecosystem is alive with an abundance of unique sea life.
- tropical fish
- stony corals
- snails, crabs, lobsters
- moray eels
- sea turtles
- sea birds
Our Florida Coral Reef offers a view of something you really can't find anywhere else because our barrier reef is ALIVE. The Florida Keys Reef Tract is home to many of Florida's threatened and endangered species, including the Goliath Grouper!
Where are the best places to snorkel in Key Largo?
Key Largo is home to the The Florida Keys Reef Tract, which is the third-largest coral barrier reef system in the world! The Florida Keys Reef Tract is is also the only extensive reef system in the continental United States. Our Florida Coral Reef is only behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System is found off the coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.Want member-only offers on hotels, resorts, car rentals, curated itineraries, and more? It’s yours for just $99.95 per year. Join Travel + Leisure Go.
A trip to South Florida and booking snorkel trips with a Keys boat captain to see our beautiful tropical fish is more affordable for Americans. There is no passport required to visit the diving capital of the world! Once you've finished your Key Largo snorkel trip, hit the overseas highway and head down to Key West!
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Snorkeling Tours
John Pennekamp State Park is adjacent to the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary and was the first undersea park within the United States! It's a popular attraction in Key Largo and one of the best ways to spend a half day snorkeling! Lucky me, I grew up and still live about 45 minutes from John Pennekamp State Park.
I have been on countless John Pennekamp snorkeling tours over the years. I highly recommend planning a visit to the visitor center and enjoy their free parking and lovely picnic areas!
John Pennekamp State Park Snorkeling
John Pennekamp State Park is one of the best snorkel locations in Key Largo. Why is this? Well, John Pennekamp State Park covers 178 nautical square miles and extends into the Atlantic ocean. The park includes beautiful living coral reefs, seagrass beds, and lovely mangrove swamps.
Additionally, John Pennekamp has long been known as one the best options for Key Largo snorkeling for beginners.
This is also one of my favorite places to go snorkeling in Key Largo without a boat! John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has a Spanish shipwreck that you can snorkel from the beach.
The Christ of The Abyss – Dry Rocks Best Snorkeling in Key Largo
One of the best snorkeling in Key Largo is done at Dry Rocks and the nearby The Christ of The Abyss Statue. Dry Rocks has a few patches of shallow reefs that range from dry to 15 feet deep. Basically, the popular snorkeling attraction in Key Largo gets its name from the rocks sticking out of the water at low tide.
Many people book this popular snorkel tours Key Largo offers to see the Christ of the Abyss Statue. The Christ of the Abyss is a 9 foot tall bronze statue of Christ sitting at the bottom of the ocean floor. As the top of the statue is about 10 feet below the water's surface, you can snorkel and see it, but not very close. This is why it is so popular with scuba divers.
The figure is a replica of II Christo Delgi Abissi located in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. Chiefly, some of the wildlife you will see at Dry Rocks and The Christ of the Abyss are barracudas, rays, and colorful coral reefs.
Grecian Rocks Key Largo Snorkeling Trips
Grecian Rocks is popular place to snorkel Key Largo, with a mix of shallow reefs and spots of deeper water up to 25 feet deep. Sea life that you can see in Grecian Rocks are rays, parrotfish, barracuda, blue tang, and brain coral. You can also spot queen conch shells and seagrass on the ocean floor on a clear day.
Molasses Reef snorkeling at Key Largo
Molasses Reef is one of the most visited reefs in the world and one of the popular snorkeling tours Key Largo offers! The clear waters at Molasses Reef offers a variety of depths for the optimal snorkeling experience. Additionally, Molasses Reef is full of tropical sea life and soft coral reef structures.
These include brain coral, elkhorn coral, massive spur and groove coral. Some of the sea life you may see are sea turtles, eels, goliath groupers, and tropical fish.
The Elbow Key Largo Snorkel Tour
Elbow Reef derives its name from the elbow angle shape that it has. The Elbow Reef snorkeling spot is also home to coral, gentle nurse sharks, clownfish, blue tang, and countless other varieties of tropical fish.
This Key Largo snorkeling spot is known for the old Civil War shipwreck from 1866! A 752-ton steamer sunk and you can also snorkel two more sunken ships at The Elbow!
The Sea Gardens
The Sea Gardens snorkeling spot in Key Largo is also known as Mosquito Bank. Sea gardens is a smaller reef with different kinds of coral, such as: finger coral, fan coral, and lobed star coral.
Northeast of The Elbow Reef, the beautiful Carysfort Reef also showcases acres of shallow reef systems. They also feature an abundance of sea life ranging from elkhorn coral gardens near the historic lighthouse to varieties of tropical fish near the Carysfort Ledge.
Key Largo Florida Snorkeling Boat Tour Options
There are so many Key Largo snorkeling tours to choose from, John Pennekamp is just my favorite and I find it to be very budget friendly. Next let's talk about some of the top rated TripAdvisor Snorkeling Tours in Key Largo, Florida!
Note that all of these snorkeling tours include the use of snorkeling equipment. Standard snorkeling equipment includes fins, a mask and snorkel. Also, many of these snorkeling tours include the use of a snorkeling safety vest.
Half Day Snorkel Trip on Reefs in the Florida Keys - By Pirates Cove Watersports
Ranging from $65 for adults, this snorkeling trip takes you out onto the water in a catamaran. You'll begin the journey to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to explore reefs in a 3.5 hour snorkeling tour with an experienced boat captain.
Snorkel 2 Coral Reefs on a snorkel-only boat - By Silent World Dive Center
Starting at $72 for adults, this 3.5 hour Key Largo snorkeling tour takes you to 2 sites in the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary on a 45' snorkel boat. Staff are highly trained dive professionals who assist you with gear setup, snorkel site information and local area recommendations.
This dive shop and snorkel facility is only an hour away from Miami, consequently making it the closest dive shop to the mainland. Their average time to reach most of Key Largo's best reef sites, including the famous Christ of the Abyss statue, is just 30 minutes from the shop. They have bathrooms and showers available after your snorkel trip so that you can freshen up afterward and get on with your day!
Half-Day Florida Keys Catamaran Snorkel AdventureBy Amoray Dive Center
From $65.00 per adult, you will board a custom 45-power catamaran with large deck and plenty of seating for a 3.5 hours Key Largo snorkel trip. This half day Key Largo snorkeling catamaran adventure includes two reef locations in and around the Florida Marine Sanctuary and Pennekamp State Park. You can expect to see beautiful soft corals and tropical fish. They include water and light snacks, also snorkel vests and reef safe sunscreen.
A Unique Private Snorkel Tour of Key Largo By Snorkel the Keys
Many big tours can feel crowded and rushed but this private snorkeling Key Largo tour is dedicated to your group of up to 6 people for about $474. You'll head for the John Pennekamp State Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for 2.5 hours. This tour includes bottled water and soda, snacks, snorkel vest & swim noodles, snacks and a short wetsuit if you need it!
If you have found that you loved the underwater adventure, but need more time on the beautiful blue waters of Key Largo, book a Sunset Cruise in Key Largo!
Sunset Cruise on the Florida Bay - By Pirates Cove Watersports
From $60 per adult, you can beat the Florida heat and see the Florida Bay at its most magical: at sunset. This small-group cruise from Key Largo takes you out onto the bay for a 1.5 hour sunset tour in search of marine wildlife such as dolphins and manatees. You'll learn about the Florida Keys' ecosystem from your captain then enjoy a front row seat to our beautiful South Florida sunset.
When is the best time to go snorkeling in Key Largo, Florida?
The best time to go snorkeling in Key Largo, Florida to take full advantage of the underwater world beneath our turquoise waters is late spring to early summer.
A great time to plan your snorkel charters in Key Largo would be from April through August. Also, the weather conditions are perfect for planning your snorkel boat trips because the water is still warm enough not to need a wetsuit and the visibility is great when it's not raining!
Additionally, Key Largo is the perfect place to visit during the summer months because June through September are our off months. Basically, Memorial Day through Labor day are the least expensive time of year to visit the Florida Keys. It's also less crowded because the locals are all away on vacation!
Of course, that is because it is hot as hell! No worries, it Miami and the Florida Keys are still a top destination for summer vacations!
Equipment for taking underwater pictures
I highly recommend bringing your camera or smart phone with you IN A WATERPROOF CASE. While there are certain snorkeling tours that provide underwater photography, it is not the norm in Key Largo. You can find an inexpensive waterproof phone case here.
Also, if you want to bring your heavy duty DSLR or compact mirrorless camera, I recommend this waterproof camera case. I have used it myself while snorkeling all over the Florida Keys and different Caribbean Islands.
Top tips for taking underwater pictures
- Get close to your subject - preferably within 12 inches. The water reduces the color, contrast, and sharpness so the farther away you are, the less details you will capture.
- Also make sure that your camera flash is turned on.
- For the best composition, swim down low and shoot at an upwards angle.
FAQs about Key Largo Snorkeling
The only Key Largo snorkeling from shore is at the two designated beaches in John Pennekamp State Park. The beaches access an enclosed bay that has a sea grass bottom and is surrounded by mangroves. You may see some tropical fish, but there are not any corals.
Related Travel Guides for the Caribbean Islands
If you are interested in other snorkeling destinations, check out our 7 Reasons Why You Should go Snorkeling in Curacao! Additionally, we have tons of travel tips and guides for traveling all over the Caribbean Islands!
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