Best Places to Snorkel Coral Reefs in Florida

Updated on February 27, 2020
perrya profile image

Perry knows all about Florida, all there is to love and hate.

At Sombrero Reef
At Sombrero Reef

Your Florida Snorkeling Trip

Florida offers many water activities when it comes to the Florida Keys (you know, the highway over the ocean ending at Key West, some 90 miles from Cuba). Simply driving to the end is a great experience but can be a grind due to traffic—around 3 hours from the mainland.

If part of your adventure includes snorkeling (not scuba diving), I can help you with that. Planning is required. The things you need to consider are:

  • Weather conditions during your planned snorkeling (if the forecast calls for wind, wavy sea conditions, or rain, you might think twice)
  • Hotel rooms (between Nov-April) the cost is high per night. Consider proximity to where your snorkeling boat leaves from.
  • Shop around for the best overall deal for snorkeling services. Some are better than others. Most boats take you out to a spot that is based on current conditions. Ask the name of the reef you're going to. Not all reefs are created equal. Try to get a boat with just snorkelers and ask how many. You don't want a jammed packed boat. Ask about how long will you be allowed to snorkel. Most allow at least one hour or more.
  • In the winter months, sea temperatures are anywhere between 70-75. While this may sound warm, it feels a bit chilly, more like a freshwater lake. The ideal water temps of 80+ usually happen closer to April-May (the tail end of Florida's winter and dry period). In the summer, water is hotter, but it is hurricane season, and never snorkel in August-September due to jellyfish. So, ideally, try to snorkel in late March through mid-May.

Snorkeling is not that expensive, usually from $40-60 per person including snacks and gear. Taking a private charter is quite costly, but then you control which reefs to go to.

The Best Spots

There is a myth that the best spots are either in Key West area or at the entrance to the Keys at Key Largo. Now, the best spots is subjective and can vary easily due to conditions, but the MUST see coral reefs are in-between the two ends off Islamorada and Marathon. The problem is that hotel rooms are costly, even Airnb is. My suggestion is that you find a cheaper room in Homestead, which close to the entrance of the Keys. Then, on leave early on the trip day. It should not take more than 1.5 hours or so to reach either location. Islamorada is closer than Marathon and requires less time.

Key Largo

Key Largo, which is near the entrance to the Keys, offers some good snorkeling sites assuming your boat will take your there some 3-8 miles off the coast. Snorkeling in Pennekamp National Park is barely OK if you want to see tropical fish. There is no coral there. But, it is great for other things!

The best reefs in this area are: Molasses Reef (about 6 miles off coast) and to a lesser degree, Sea Gardens. Of the two, try to go to Molasses, which is very popular for colorful fish and coral.

Key Largo Spots
Key Largo Spots


However, the best reefs in the Keys are off the town of Islamorada, not far from Key Largo. Must see are: Cheeca Rocks Reef, Hen & Chickens Reef, and Alligator Reef (much farther to get to). All reefs are popular and offer some of the best tropical fish, coral reefs, sea turtles, sponges, etc.

Islamorada spots
Islamorada spots


Still further down the road, about midway to Key West, is Marathon. Like Islamorada, it is a small town, but off the coast it provides THE best snorkeling areas.

These are the epic Sombrero Reef and its lesser cousin, Coffins Patch Reef. Both will provide you with some breathtaking tropical fish that you see in aquariums, sponges, coral.

Since it is a popular spot, finding a snorkeling boat is not a problem. If you are there when weather is great, you will have plenty to talk about when you get back.

Marathon spots
Marathon spots

Now, if you are going to Key West, there are some decent snorkeling areas, but they do not compare to those mentioned because they are not that healthy. Key West reminded me of a miniature New Orleans with its party-like atmosphere!


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      2 months ago

      thanks, fully explanation

    • perrya profile imageAUTHOR


      4 months ago

      Yes, like myself, lol!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      4 months ago from UK

      This is a very useful guide for anyone planning on snorkelling in Florida.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)