American Oceans

Best Places to Snorkel in Key West

Key West, located at the southernmost point of the continental United States, is a popular destination for snorkeling enthusiasts.

a person snorkeling in key west florida

With its clear turquoise waters and diverse marine life, Key West offers some of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys.

From coral reefs to shipwrecks, there are plenty of options for snorkelers of all levels.

Best Time to Snorkel in Key West

Key West is a year-round destination for snorkeling, but the best time to go depends on what you want to see and experience.

the highway to key west in florida

The optimal weather for snorkeling in Key West is during the winter months, from December to March.

During this time, the water is calm and clear, and the visibility is excellent. The water temperature is around 75°F, which is comfortable for snorkeling.

However, the hurricane season in Key West starts in June and lasts until November. During this time, the water can be rough, and snorkeling might not be possible. It is essential to check the weather forecast before planning a snorkeling trip during hurricane season. Thunderstorms are also common during the summer months, and it is best to avoid snorkeling during these times.

If you are planning to snorkel in Key West during the summer months, it is recommended to go early in the morning. The water is calmer and clearer in the morning, and there are fewer people around. The water temperature is also warmer during the summer months, around 85°F, which is perfect for snorkeling.

Top Snorkeling Spots

Key West is known for its crystal-clear waters, making it a top destination for snorkeling.

a woman snorkeling underwater in key west florida

There are many amazing snorkeling spots in Key West, each with its unique beauty and underwater wonders. Here are some of the top snorkeling spots in Key West:

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles west of Key West and is only accessible by boat or seaplane.

The park is home to a 19th-century fort, but it is also known for its pristine waters and coral reefs.

Snorkelers can explore the shallow waters and see colorful fish, sea turtles, and even shipwrecks.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Beach

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Beach is a popular snorkeling spot located on the southern edge of Key West.

The beach is home to a natural rocky barrier reef that is home to various marine life, including snappers, angelfish, and goliath groupers.

Visitors can also explore the fort and enjoy dolphin watching.

Cottrell Key

Cottrell Key is a small island located just south of Key West. The island is surrounded by shallow waters that are perfect for snorkeling.

Visitors can explore the coral reefs and see various sea creatures, including octopuses and colorful fish.

Higgs Beach

Higgs Beach is located on the southern shore of Key West and is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the area.

The beach is home to the only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the US, making it a great spot for snorkeling.

Visitors can see various marine life, including brain coral and sea turtles.

Sand Key Lighthouse Reef

Sand Key Lighthouse Reef is located 7 miles west of Key West and is part of the Sand Key Sanctuary Preservation Area.

The reef is known for its red iron lighthouse, which was built in 1853.

Snorkelers can explore the shallow waters and see various marine life, including barracudas and nurse sharks.

Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park is located on the lower Florida Keys and is home to various snorkeling spots.

Visitors can explore the shallow waters and see various marine life, including snappers and groupers. The park also offers snorkeling tours.

Sand Key

Sand Key is located 7 miles southwest of Key West and is home to various snorkeling spots.

Visitors can explore the shallow waters and see various marine life, including barracudas and nurse sharks.

Sombrero Reef

Sombrero Reef is located just off the coast of Marathon and is a popular snorkeling spot. Visitors can explore the shallow waters and see various marine life, including parrotfish and butterflyfish.

The reef is also home to various shipwrecks, making it a great spot for snorkeling adventure.

Tips for Snorkeling in Key West

Snorkeling is a fun and exciting activity that allows one to explore the underwater world and observe marine life up close. Here are some tips for snorkeling in Key West:

  • Choose the right location: Key West has many great snorkeling spots, including Key West Marine Park, Alligator Reef, Molasses Reef, and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Each location has its own unique features and marine life, so choose one that suits your preferences and skill level.

  • Check the weather and water conditions: Before going snorkeling, check the weather forecast and water conditions. Strong winds, high waves, and poor visibility can make snorkeling difficult and dangerous. Wait for calm and clear conditions before venturing into the water.

  • Rent or bring your own gear: To snorkel in Key West, you will need a mask, snorkel, fins, and possibly a wetsuit. You can rent gear from many local shops or bring your own. Make sure your gear fits properly and is comfortable to wear.

  • Follow safety guidelines: Always follow safety guidelines when snorkeling in Key West. Stay within designated areas, avoid touching or disturbing marine life, and stay close to your snorkeling buddy. If you are new to snorkeling, consider taking a guided tour or lesson.

  • Respect the environment: Key West’s underwater world is delicate and vulnerable. Do your part to protect it by not littering, avoiding contact with coral and other marine life, and using reef-safe sunscreen.

  • Plan your logistics: When planning your snorkeling trip, consider logistics such as restrooms, shopping, and kayaking. Some snorkeling spots, such as Truman Annex and Southernmost Point, have nearby amenities, while others require more planning.

  • Enjoy the experience: Snorkeling in Key West is a unique and unforgettable experience. Take your time, relax, and enjoy the beauty of the underwater world. Look out for butterflyfish, soft corals, and North America’s only living coral reef.

By following these tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience in Key West.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best place to snorkel from the beach in Key West?

The two best beaches to snorkel from in Key West are Smathers Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Beach. Both offer easy access to the water and have clear, shallow waters with plenty of marine life to see.

Where do people snorkel in Key West?

In addition to the beaches, there are several popular snorkeling spots in Key West. These include the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Dry Tortugas National Park, and the Key West Marine Park.

What part of the Keys has the best snorkeling?

The best snorkeling in the Keys is generally considered to be in the lower Keys, which includes Key West. The waters are clear and warm, and there are plenty of reefs and marine life to explore.

Can you snorkel for free in Key West?

Yes, you can snorkel for free from the beaches in Key West. However, if you want to explore the more popular snorkeling spots, you may need to pay for a tour or rent equipment.

Where can I snorkel in Key West without a boat?

There are several spots where you can snorkel without a boat in Key West, including Smathers Beach, Fort Zachary Taylor Beach, and the Key West Marine Park.

What are some popular Key West snorkeling tours?

Some of the most popular snorkeling tours in Key West include the Fury Catamaran Snorkeling Tour, the Sebago Watersports Reef Snorkeling Tour, and the Danger Charters Snorkeling and Kayaking Tour. These tours offer a chance to explore some of the best snorkeling spots in Key West with experienced guides.

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