Snorkeling in Florida is a popular year-round activity thanks to the subtropical climate. No matter you wish to visit coral reefs in the Keys, freshwater springs or state park snorkel trails, having fun and spotting interesting marine life is guaranteed. This complete guide tells you what are the best places to snorkel in the Sunshine State!
Table of Contents
- Where to go snorkeling in Florida?
- Florida Keys
- South Florida
- Florida Springs
- Southwest Florida
- Best time to go snorkeling in Florida
Where to go snorkeling in Florida?
Florida’s 1000 miles coastline offers numerous places to go for those who love underwater activities. The Florida Reef is one of the largest barrier reef system. It stretches from Miami to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Besides this coral reef system, many beaches and state parks feature smaller natural and artificial reefs.
One finds easy shore snorkeling in Key Largo, near Orlando, around Miami, but also in Southwest Florida while the Florida Keys’s exceptional coral reefs are reachable by boat.
Florida Top 10 snorkel spots:
- John Pennekamp Coral State Park
- Dry Tortugas
- Sombrero Reef Marathon
- Alligator Reef Islamorada
- Biscayne National Park
- Phil Foster snorkel trail
- Peanut Island
- Crystal River
- Ginnie Springs
- Delnor-Wiggins State Park
Tip: should you look for snorkeling in the Pacific Coast in America, check out where to snorkel in California!
If you are looking for the best underwater experience, the Keys offers definitely the best snorkeling in Florida with colorful coral reefs, lots of tropical fish species, turtles, rays and often nurse sharks around. Let’s see the best places to snorkel in Florida Keys!
John Pennekamp Coral State Park Key Largo
The most popular and best snorkeling in Key Largo is definitely the John Pennekamp Coral State Park. The park offers several opportunities to explore nature while walking around or kayaking. Snorkeling tours are available to the nearby Key Largo coral reefs like Grecian Rocks, Banana Reef or the famous Christ of The Abyss at Key Largo Dry Rocks. For more information, read our John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park snorkeling review with detailed description and underwater photos.
Bahia Honda State Park
This big, 500 acres area in Big Pine Key is an ideal place for the entire family! Thanks to the shallow reefs and calm waters, the Bahia Handa State Park offers family-friendly snorkeling in Florida where different coral species like staghorn, brain and fire corals as well as many species of fish like parrotfish, angelfish and barracudas can be observed.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse Islamorada
Should you look for boat snorkeling in Florida Keys with plenty of fish and turtles to see, the Alligator Reef is a great place to go. Advanced snorkelers can choose to stop at the nearby deeper reef too which is a wall-like area with angelfish, parrotfish, barracudas and even nurse sharks around.
Sombrero Reef Marathon
The Sombrero Reef is not only very rich in life but also features interesting underwater scenery with small caves and canyons. Expect to see massive, healthy coral formations and plenty of fish!
Fort Zachary Taylor
Fort Zachary Taylor has a rocky shore with clear waters that attracts many reef fish and sea creatures. A picturesque beach with trees and picnic tables, however, it is recommended to wear water shoes due to the rocks in the water.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Visiting the Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-do if you are in the Keys! This snorkeling in Florida experience offers you a truly unique adventure while swimming in crystal clear water around the historic Jefferson Fort. The 100-square mile park lies 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West and is accessible with ferry or seaplane. Due to its remoteness, the Dry Tortugas’ coral reefs are the healthiest of the Florida Reefs!
Tip: however you can find small shops around most beaches but not dive shops, therefore we recommend always take your own snorkeling equipment with you and don’t rely on rental options!
If you don’t have time to drive down to the Keys, don’t worry because South Florida beaches also provide great snorkeling. Learn below where to snorkel in Miami and what are Palm Beach best snorkel spots!
Snorkeling near Miami
Biscayne National Park
With shoreline mangrove forest, pretty coral reefs and shipwrecks Key Biscayne offers the best snorkeling around Miami! It is accessible only by boat but surely it is worth the efforts if you would like to enjoy a great day in nature!
South Pier Beach
When spending your holiday near the world-famous Miami South Beach, don’t miss out swimming around the South Pier Beach! Although this is not a colorful coral reef, but offers surprisingly good snorkeling in Florida if the ocean is calm and the visibility is good. Observe fish species hiding between the rocks, and look for eels! Sometimes also small sharks are around!
Palm Beach snorkeling beaches
Phil Foster Park
The most popular snorkel spot in Palm Beach County is the Phil Foster Park at the Blue Heron Bridge. The snorkel trail with an artificial reef system attracts a wide variety of sea creatures including seahorses besides various fish species. To learn more about the conditions, read our Phil Foster Park snorkeling post!
Coral Cove Park
The Coral Cove is a lifeguard protected beach park. With the close-by Blowing Rocks Preserve, they are good snorkel spots in Jupiter, Florida. Expect to see barracuda, nurse shark, loggerhead turtles and eels!
On the northern side of Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Bathtub Beach is a popular place for spending the day out with the family. The reef runs close to the shore protecting the coast from high waves. The calm waters give home to more than 500 marine species including sea turtles.
This tropical park lies near Lake Worth Inlet in Palm Beach County. Easy snorkeling in the shallow lagoon with plenty of tropical fish. During colder months even manatees can be spotted here! In our Peanut Island snorkel guide we tell you how to get there, what to see and lot more.
There is an extensive system of freshwater springs in Florida that treat visitors with superb conditions for water activities. These crystal clear springs can be found in Central and North Florida, therefore they are perfect for those who seek snorkeling near Orlando. Let’s see the best springs to snorkel in Florida!
Kings Bay, where the water temperature is around 72 F (22 C) all year round gives home to a big population of West Indian Manatees that are around all year-round. Moreover, the Crystal River is an important manatee winter refuge too where hundreds of them gather in the warm water. Spotting manatees is possible all around the Florida coastline but to protect these endangered creatures swimming with them is restricted at most places. If you wish to go snorkeling in Florida with manatees, the Crystal River is where you need to go since tours allowed here.
On the Santa Fee River, 7 springs attract snorkelers and divers with their crystal clear blue water. With lush vegetation, playground for kids and volleyball court, the Ginnie Springs Recreation area is the best place for a family getaway! The lazy flowing river makes the place a heaven for paddlers!
Ichetucknee Spring Park
Partly declared as a national natural landmark, the Ichetucknee Spring Park is considered as one of the most pristine springs in Florida. Because of the natural beauty and perfect conditions, this is one of the most popular spots for diving, canoeing and tubing. Snorkeling is allowed in designated areas only. It is prohibited to use motorized vehicles here.
The Alexander Springs Recreational Area lies not so far from Orlando. This first-magnitude spring with a wide sandy beach and a large spring pool bounded by trees is a nice spot to visit for the entire family. While snorkeling in this freshwater spring, you can spot many different fish species besides an alligator that occasionally visits the area!
Blue Spring State Park
A picturesque circular pool on St. Johns River near Orange City surrounded by big oak and palm trees where you can swim, snorkel, dive or canoeing. Campground, picnic area, and playground are also available. The Blue Spring is a winter refuge for manatees that escape here from the cold. (water activities are restricted during manatee season)
The Gulf Coast is known for its relaxed lifestyle and lush tropical landscape but unfortunately doesn’t offer superb conditions for underwater activities. The ocean is usually murky for snorkeling, although if the weather good and the sea is calm seas, the visibility is fair. Here are our suggestions on where to snorkel in Southwest Florida!
Point of Rocks
It is considered one of the most decent snorkeling beaches in Southwest Florida. The Point of Rocks is the area at the south end of Crescent Beach on Siesta Key. Except to observe different reef fish, some small sea creatures like crabs and sponges. Arrive early morning for calm water and good visibility.
The SS Regina was a tanker that sank at Bradenton Beach near Anna Maria Island in 1940. The wreck is a good snorkel spot in Southwest Florida now. It rests about 20 feet deep about 150 from the shore. Visiting the Regina wreck provides enjoyable snorkeling in Florida during the calm weather season when the ocean is clear enough.
Tip: did you know that you can find shark teeth on Venice Beach Florida? Search for them in the sand while walking on the beach!
Delnor-Wiggins State Park
A gorgeous beach with kayaking, paddling, fishing and snorkeling! A shallow coral reef runs parallel to the shore around parking 1 and 2 that is nice to explore.
Naples Municipal Beach
This pretty white sandy beach is accessible from the 12 Avenue South and is a nice place to hang out as well as for water activities.
Tigertail Beach at Marco Island
An unspoiled, not widely known yet clean and well-kept park. The Tigertail Beach is famous for spotting dolphins close to the shore!
Best time to go snorkeling in Florida
Florida offers perfect weather all year round and is a top winter holiday destination offering the mildest winter in the continental United States. Therefore, snorkeling in Florida is possible at any time of the year.
The summer months are hot, the maximum temperatures can reach 91 F (33 C) and the ocean warms up to 82 F (28 C) making water activities very comfortable. Make sure always follow weather forecast since the period between June and November is the Atlantic hurricane season when tropical storms might form.
The mild winter months feature pleasant weather for outdoor activities with temperatures between 70-77 F (21-25 C). Occasional cold fronts bring lower temperatures along with strong wind and rainfall, but these last only for a few days. The ocean temperature is 69-75 F (21-24 C) in winter (warmer in the south), therefore wearing a 3 mm snorkeling suit is recommended.