Key West in Florida is a great place to explore and enjoy a tropical snorkeling adventure! The excitement begins the moment you strap on your mask as you discover offshore coral reefs with colorful fish, shipwrecks and more! Find here the 6 best snorkeling spots in Key West that wait for you with excellent year-round weather and a wide range of snorkeling opportunities!
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Best time to snorkel in Key West
The best time to visit the snorkeling spots in Key West is between December and May. Florida experiences optimal weather during these months which provides breezy, sunny days and ideal conditions for water activities.
The hurricane season in Florida runs from June to the end of November. The Keys experience beautiful balmy weather during these months too, but there are also frequent and sudden thunderstorms. Moreover, the risk of tropical storms and hurricanes also high. Therefore, following the weather forecast and keeping the travel itinerary flexible is highly recommended if you plan your visit in this period.
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Top snorkeling spots in Key West
Cottrell Key is located 9 miles northwest of Key West on the Gulf side. It was named after a captain of a lightship that was anchored there in the early 19th century. This impressive snorkeling spot in Key West is only accessible by boat. If you have your own one, use GPS co-ordinates 24.3674N 081 55.63W to find it.
Cottrell Key is famous for a unique sponge garden and large coral reefs. It’s also an excellent place to see dolphins, sharks, stingrays and Goliath groupers. The ocean’s floor in the area contains coral outcroppings and sand. Cottrell Key is suitable for kids and families too.
Fort Zachary Taylor
This beach is considered one of the best off-shore snorkeling spots in Key West. It’s located towards the end of Southard Street on Truman Annex at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys.
This snorkeling experience doesn’t require a boat. You can just walk into the water and start exploring the underwater world. There are a variety of tropical fish species and living coral that will captivate your mind. The best is if you bring your own equipment, but you can also rent on the spot. They don’t accept credit cards so make sure to bring plenty of cash to cover the expenses of the day.
Dry Tortugas & Fort Jefferson
The Dry Tortugas National Park is probably the most impressive Key West snorkeling spot. It is located 70 miles west of Key West and accessible by boat or seaplane. The easiest is taking the Yankee Freedom III ferry. They provide complimentary snorkels, masks, and fins for everyone and transport you to the secluded area where you will have the ultimate snorkeling experience.
A Dry Tortugas snorkeling trip is great for families with children too. Like most Key West snorkeling spots, this one also features a beautiful sandy beach with warm shallow waters that are perfect for snorkelers of all ages. Explore the ocean’s vibrant sea life such as thriving corals, queen conchs, sea stars while tropical fish surround you.
Those who look for snorkeling in the Keys without a boat should not miss visiting Higgs Beach. This beautiful beach is located on the south shore, along Atlantic Boulevard. It’s one of the most popular snorkeling spots in the Key West because the US only shore accessible underwater marine park can be found here.
The area is filled with coral reefs, marine life, and coral species such as brain coral, sea fingers, sea whips, sea fans and more. It’s an excellent spot to see an abundance of butterflyfish, angelfish and parrotfish around the pier. It’s a great place for those who are snorkeling for the first time to see plenty of tropical sea life, coral reefs and more. It’s especially memorable for children and families.
Sand Key Lighthouse Reef
Sand Key is located seven miles due south of Key West. This protected area is a favorite among snorkeling enthusiasts. Thanks to its remote location and the strict no-take policy (which means no fishing, spearfishing or lobstering), the Sand Key Lighthouse Reef is one of the healthiest coral gardens of Florida.
The water is often flat and calm which creates an optimal snorkeling experience for the entire family. Sand Key provides varying snorkeling depths of 1 to 15 feet surrounding the famous lighthouse built-in 1853. You will see a variety of tropical fish species, sea turtles, sharks and more!
Bahia Honda State Park
When driving to Key West, make sure to stop at Bahia Honda State Park too. This picturesque state park is located in the lower Florida Keys, south of the 7-mile bridge at mile marker 37.
It’s an excellent spot for beginners as well as snorkelers of all ages and experience. The crystal-clear waters are filled with lobster, sponges, tropical fish, soft corals and a variety of marine species.
It’s a great place for families that have children of various ages. The experience is enjoyable for everyone! You can also venture into deeper waters in the area on one of the exciting boat tours!
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