Looking for one of the top destinations for snorkelling in America? It’s hard to beat Key West in Florida with its warm temperatures and crystal-clear, azure waters. Not only that but just 5 miles offshore you’ll find the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. In fact, the Florida Reef is the third-largest coral barrier reef in the world. These offshore coral reefs are a haven for colourful fish and marine life and you’ll also find shipwrecks and statues, and much more! The best time to go snorkelling in Key West is between December and May which is when the weather and conditions are ideal. Ready to explore Florida’s underwater world? Here are some of the best places for snorkelling in Key West.
7 of the Best Places for Snorkelling in Key West
1. Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is the perfect place to come and enjoy snorkelling, water sports, and long walks on the beautiful sand. Located south of Seven Mile Bridge at mile marker 37, this stunning state park is a super spot for snorkelers of all ages and abilities, especially beginners and those with children. Underneath the wonderfully clear waters, you’ll spot sponges and soft corals and a variety of marine species including lobsters.
2. Looe Key
Located eight nautical miles southwest of Bahia Honda State Park, Looe Key is a coral reef located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Here, snorkelers will see a whole host of marine life and coral. Keep your eyes peeled for star and elkhorn coral, angelfish, grunts and even sea turtles.
3. Dry Tortugas National Park
One of the most impressive places for snorkelling in Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park. This remote group of islands is located some 70 miles west of Key West and is accessible by boat or seaplane. The soft sandy beach has shallow waters, which are ideal for snorkelers of all ages and abilities. The conditions and visibility here are usually excellent, and you can clearly see the vibrant sea life, for instance, colourful corals, queen conchs, sea stars and tropical fish. One of the most popular snorkelling spots here is Garden Key which is the second-largest island in the Tortugas and home to the historic and impressive Fort Jefferson.
4. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is one of the best off-shore snorkelling spots in Key West. One of the great things about this spot is that you don’t need a boat, you just walk from the beach into the sea and start exploring warm, clear waters. The underwater world here is alive with living coral, lobsters and tropical fish like yellow snapper to parrotfish. A word of caution though, as this spot is right on the tip of the island, currents are likely. There is a manmade breakwater, but if you choose to go outside the breakwater just be careful and make sure you are a competent swimmer.
5. Cottrell Key
Located northwest of Key West, Cottrell Key is about eight miles into the Gulf of Mexico and is only accessible by boat. Cottrell Key is a patch coral reef and sponge garden with relatively shallow waters that are suitable for kids and beginners. It’s also a great spot to see dolphins, sharks, stingrays and Goliath groupers.
6. Sand Key Lighthouse Reef
Sand Key Lighthouse Reef is a protected area located seven miles due south of Key West. Because of its remote location and no-take policy – no fishing, spearfishing or lobstering – this is one of the healthiest coral gardens in Florida. With its calm waters, this spot is perfect for beginners. However, due to the rich variety of sea life, seasoned snorkelers love it too. The optimal snorkelling conditions make it easy to spot a variety of tropical fish species as well as sea turtles, sharks and a whole lot more!
7. Higgs Beach
Higgs Beach has some of the best off-the-beach snorkelling in Key West. No boat? No problem! Just walk from the sand to the shore and go explore. Located inside the Key West Marine Park, Higgs Beach is so popular because it is where you’ll find the only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the US. Head for the remains of the old dock off the beach, as this is a great spot for seeing marine life. Look out for coral species such as brain coral, sea fingers, sea whips and sea fans. You’ll also swim with butterflyfish, angelfish and parrotfish. With such an abundance of things to see, this is a very impressive snorkelling spot. It also has ideal conditions suitable for all ages and abilities.