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The famous Florida Keys are home to the world’s 3rd largest barrier reef and North America’s only tropical reefs. Here you’ll find sprawling white sands, pristine blue waters with amazing visibility, and lots of tropical sea and coral life. The Florida Keys offer some exceptional snorkelling with lots to discover.
Keep in mind there are next to no free snorkel sites in the Florida Keys. If you’re hitting up this destination then make sure you’ve got the budget to have a good time!
In this section we’ll cover the areas known as the Middle Keys – Islamorada, Marathon, and the Big Pine area. For snorkelling information on Key Largo and Key West, you can read their more detailed pages below.
Fish in The Keys:
Corals in The Keys:
Alligator Reef Lighthouse
Details: Perfect for snorkellers wanting to get away from shore, this snorkel spot has crystal clear aqua waters and thousands of fish in its waters. Alligator Reef Lighthouse is a tall structure with a beautiful barrier reef below, crawling with fish attracted to its shade. Visibility is excellent here, and you can explore shallow patches swarming with small fish, sea sponges, and fans, or go deeper under the lighthouse where huge schools of fish of snappers, barracuda, and just about all types of fish await.
Details: A short boat ride away from Islamorada area is this green-tinged reef. You’ll be surrounded by fish from the moment you step into the water, from green eels to huge parrotfish, angelfish, and butterflyfish. If you’re lucky you might even spot a few turtles and eels! There’s also a variety of colourful coral life to discover here with enormous brain corals, star corals, and fire corals as well as your usual urchins, sponges, fans, and rods.
Where: Vaca Key, Marathon
Details: This snorkel spot is made up of six different reef patches, but the most popular sites to explore are The Stake and The Donut. Closer to the barrier reef with crystal clear waters, you’ll find more species varieties here than elsewhere. The Stake is a shallow spot that takes you up close to a huge range of fish, from puddingwife parrotfish to foureye butterflyfish and porkfish. The Donut has less species but a huge variety of beautiful and colourful sponges to discover.
Hen and Chickens Reef
Where: 3km southeast of Plantation Key
Details: For all you coral enthusiasts, this reef maze will not disappoint! Crawling with colourful corals with lots of changing topography, channels, and shelves to explore, it’s easy to see why this spot is so popular. Perfect for both snorkelling newbies as well as advanced divers, here you’ll find an abundance of coral as well as huge schools of tropical fish. Filled with sea life and colour everywhere you look, there’ll be plenty to discover even if you’re only in the water for a short time.
Looe Key Reef
Where: Big Pine Key
Details: Deep and adventurous, this snorkel site is perfect for advanced snorkelers who want to get the good stuff. For others, it might be too scary! Looe Key is right on the edge of the barrier reef, meaning you can really feel you are almost in the middle of the ocean. Here you’ll be snorkeling amongst bigger creatures like sharks, colossal groupers, tarpon, rays, and lots of ocean swells. There are different spots to check out here, from shallower waters to deeper dives with bigger fish.
Where: Vaca Key, Marathon
Details: It’s been described as snorkeler’s heaven, so what else is there to say! Sparkling blue waters, excellent visibility, unique topography, and a huge variety of different fish, corals, and other sea life to discover. It’s a fun spot to snorkel with lots of varying depths, mini canyons, and even cave arches to swim through. Famous for the Elkhorn coral, the range of sea and coral life here is too huge to list, but there’s everything including the occasional sighting of nurse sharks and sea turtles.
Loved the complete set. I even used the waterproof phone pouch to take photos and videos underwater. It made my Fiji experience so much better than using the free snorkel set that hurt your face after 2hours and leaving a sun/mask mark. The ninja leaves no marks and gives great vision under water in comparison. It did take some getting used to but it definitely paid off! Only frustration is that the tightening straps are quite basic; they should be much simpler to loosen and tighten both in and out of water.” – Jock