There’s a lot of dispute as to whether Key Largo or Key West is the better snorkel spot. There’s only one way to find out – visit them both! Key Largo is a healthy reef with lots of marine life to discover. It’s only accessible by boat, with most of the snorkelling reef sites around John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
You’ll have the option to either take a private charter which means you’ll be able to choose where to go, or go with a snorkelling boat company. If you choose the latter, keep in mind you might not have a choice in where to go as they’ll take you to the best place depending on the conditions that day! That said, you’ll be able to rent equipment, have bathrooms on board, and all other kinds of handy perks.
Fish in Key Largo:
Atlantic Spadefish, Barracuda, Bicolour Damselfish, Blueheads, Hogfish, French Angelfish, Grey Angelfish, Grunts, Porkfish, Pufferfish, Queen Angelfish, Sergeant Majors, Snapper, and more.
Corals in Key Largo:
Branching Fire Corals, Elkhorn Corals, Finger Coral, Fire Coral, Lobed Star Corals, Sea Fans, Sea Rods, and more.
Key Largo snorkelling map
Best places to snorkel in Key Largo
Christ of the Abyss
Where: Dry Rocks Details: A must-see snorkel site that’s probably also Key Largo’s main attraction, Christ of the Abyss is a huge bronze statue of Jesus nestled in one of the grooves of a patch reef. The area itself is known as Dry Rocks, a patch reef with unique topography and soft & hard corals. Here you can expect to snorkel with barracuda, rays, and all the other sea life of The Keys.
Because it’s so popular the reef itself isn’t so healthy, so this isn’t the best spot to find vibrant sea life,
The water in this area is about 7.6 metres deep, with the top of the Christ statue about 2.4 metres down. You’ll definitely be able to spot it as a snorkeler, but don’t expect an amazing view unless you’re diving.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Where: 102601 Overseas Highway Details: This enormous underwater park is Key Largo’s most popular snorkeling spot, and is beautiful for more than just its underwater life. There are nice beaches to explore as well as plenty of walks amongst mangroves and lush greenery. This is the only spot in Key Largo where you’ll be able to snorkel from shore, but don’t expect to find many corals here. There’ll be fish, lots of seagrass, and a shipwreck to explore, but this spot doesn’t offer the same diversity and rich marine life as the offshore reefs.
Check out the Visitor Centre for information on the surrounding nature, as well as a 113,562 litre saltwater aquarium.
Parking, bathrooms, showers, campsites, and picnic areas available on-site.
Where: 9.5 km off the coast Details: One of the world’s most visited reefs, this snorkel site sits right on the edge of the barrier reef with lots of sea life, crystal clear waters, and huge brain corals! This snorkel site is one of the highlights of Key Largo, with a wide variety of fish, turtles, and rays, and colourful coral.
Since this reef is quite far offshore, you can only snorkel in calm conditions. This weather site has a station right on Molasses Reef and can help you determine conditions before heading out so you don’t end up disappointed!
Most boat companies won’t tell you the destination until after you have left, so your best bet to see this site is to hire a private charter.
Where: Mosquito Bank area Details: If you want to snorkel in Key Largo away from all the boats, you can find more privacy and a healthier reef to explore in these shallow waters. There aren’t as many fish here as in other places in Key Largo, but you’ll still find barracuda, angelfish, parrotfish, blue tangs, and more amongst all the beautiful hard and soft corals and a variety of different sponges.
This is a shallow reef with huge corals. Be very careful not to touch them while swimming over the surface,
Sea Gardens is not an official name but all charters will know where you mean – it sits somewhere between Key Largo and Molasses Reef.
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