There is plenty to explore with a mask and a snorkel in and around Miami! Not surprisingly, this top bucket-list destination in the US has something to offer for everyone, whether you are an amateur swimmer or an experienced snorkeler. From shallow reefs with easy shore access to artificial snorkel trails and shipwrecks, you will surely find some exciting spots on this Miami snorkeling spots list to add to your itinerary!
Table of Contents
- What are the best snorkeling spots in/near Miami?
- Miami South Beach – South Pointe Park Pier
- Haulover Beach
- Pompano Beach
- Hollywood North Beach Park
- Vista Park Reef
- Red Reef Park – Boca Raton
- Virginia Key
- Half Moon Underwater Archaeological Preserve
- Key Biscayne
- Emerald Reef
- Rainbow Reef Miami
- Neptune Memorial Reef
- Biscayne National Park
- John Pennekamp – Key Largo
- Phil Foster Park – Blue Heron Bridge
- Peanut Island – Riviera Beach
- Coral Cove Park – Jupiter
- Ocean Reef Park – Singer Island
- Best time to go snorkeling in Miami
- What to see while snorkeling in Miami?
What are the best snorkeling spots in/near Miami?
It is hard to pick the best place to snorkel in Miami, so here are some of our top choices. Some spots are in Miami, while others are just a short day trip away.
Miami South Beach – South Pointe Park Pier
If you are looking for free snorkeling in Miami near the center, the best place you can go is South Pointe Park Pier. This iconic area in Miami South Beach is not only a tourist hotspot with a spacious soft sandy beach but when the ocean is calm, it offers surprisingly good snorkeling from the shore.
The area where you need to snorkel is basically at the southern tip end of Miami Beach, around the South Pointe Park jetty. The water might be cloudy close to the shore, but it clears up as it deepens while swimming toward the end of the rocky breakwater.
Expect to see here some of the common Florida reef fish species including barracudas and sergeant majors. If you are lucky, you might encounter moray eels, nurse sharks, stingrays, or even manatees while snorkeling in Miami South Beach.
Be careful and do not swim on the other side of the pier as there is the port entrance so the boat traffic is intense on that side.
Although Haulover Beach earned its fame by being Florida’s oldest official naturist beach, many of us visit this stretch of sand because of its fantastic snorkeling. In my opinion, the best snorkeling area here is around the jetty on the south side where you can see tons of fish, especially in the early morning. Sometimes it is even possible to bump into a manatee family in the water!
Haulover Beach is free to access and offers all the facilities you could ask for to have a comfortable day by the ocean; there are restrooms, changing rooms, food trucks, lifeguard surveillance, and abundant parking.
Those who do not want to drive down to the Keys but still want to enjoy seeing a good amount of marine life including coral reefs and shipwrecks should visit Fort Lauderdale snorkeling sites. Pompano Beach is just north of Fort Lauderdale, about 40 minutes drive from Miami.
The area offers spots for snorkelers at all levels, most of them within a quarter mile of the beach. The most popular Pompano Beach snorkel sites are Suzannes Ledge, Hall of Fame, and the magical SS Copenhagen Wreck.
Hollywood North Beach Park
If you want to go snorkeling near Miami, another destination you do not want to miss is Hollywood North Beach Park, less than an hour north of the city. Starting at about 500 ft/150m offshore are a series of rocky ledges separated by sand patches.
Swim from the lifeguard tower near the beach entrance and head towards these sand patches. The ledges are a popular hangout for sea-dwelling creatures. You will see a variety of tropical fishes, barracuda, snook, and even nurse sharks. The water depth at Hollywood Park varies between 13 and 20 feet/4-6 meters.
Vista Park Reef
A hidden gem, mainly known to locals -and now, you- Vista Park Reef in Fort Lauderdale is one of the best snorkeling places near Miami. The water here is no more than 20 feet (6 m) deep and perfect for anyone new to snorkeling. Plus, the coral reef is just 800-1,000 feet (240-300 m) offshore, making it accessible without a boat.
The coral formations create a beautiful habitat for marine life, such as gray angelfish, blue tangs, damselfish, starry puffers, porkfish, stingrays, and nurse sharks. High slack tide brings clear water and is the best time to go snorkeling at Vista Park Reef.
Red Reef Park – Boca Raton
You could not find a better destination for snorkeling in Florida with your family than this park in Boca Raton, nestled between the ocean and the spot where the Intracoastal widens into Lake Wyman! For starters, you do not need to venture too far from the beach to snorkel at Red Reef Park.
The snorkeling area is just offshore at the south end of the beach, making it an approachable dive for snorkelers just learning to find their sea legs. Plus, lifeguards patrol the beach year-round, a bonus for families with children!
The artificial reef (which doubled in size in 2021 to attract even more marine life) is festooned with a variety of fishes, such as the colorful parrotfish, sergeant majors, moray eels, and barracudas. You might even spot eagle rays and nurse sharks too around the limestone boulders!
Virginia Key is a barrier island in Biscayne Bay to the north of Key Biscayne, just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Miami. The historic Virginia Key Beach Park on the island is an excellent location for those who want to enjoy the stunning views of Miami’s skyline and for those who want to learn how to snorkel.
The beach area is shallow, and the visibility is good, making it easy to snorkel off the beach. It is not like snorkeling around reefs as there is no coral here, but you may see different kinds of fish, stingrays, occasionally manatees, and sea turtles too in shallow, approx. 3-5 ft deep water (1-1.5 m).
Half Moon Underwater Archaeological Preserve
How would you like to snorkel at an underwater museum? Yes really! A historic shipwreck with a storied past, Half Moon is a designated underwater archaeological preserve -Florida’s seventh- in 2000. And you have easy access to it!
Embedded on a shoal off Key Biscayne near Miami, this wreck is especially suited for snorkeling because of its shallow depth. Soft corals and sponges thrive on the hull, while reef fish find a happy home in the inviting nooks below the deck of the 154-foot-long German sailing yacht. You will see angelfish, enormous pufferfish, and lobsters. Snorkel at high slack tide for the best experience.
One of the top contenders on our list of Miami snorkeling spots is the idyllic barrier island of Key Biscayne, due south of Miami. There are two main areas to snorkel here; Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park.
Crandon Park Beach at the northern end of Key Biscayne boasts shallow waters and is ideal for beginners and kids. The underwater fossilized mangrove reef at Crandon Park is home to an assortment of sea creatures, such as angelfish, crabs, rays, barracuda, and nurse sharks, sure to wow snorkelers.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park sits at the southern tip of the island. And while there may not be any reefs at Bill Baggs Park, the seagrass beds make for great snorkeling too!
This shallow, only boat-accessible patch reef can be found a mile east of Key Biscayne, south of Miami Beach. With very clear waters around and a maximum depth of 30ft/10m, Emerald Reef is an excellent spot to visit for snorkelers. In fact, it offers such good conditions that it is one of the most visited dive and snorkel spots in the Miami area!
At this prime Miami snorkel site, you will see healthy corals (elkhorn corals, sea fans, sea rods, and lots of vibrant sponges) and rich aquatic life including a galore of reef fish such as angelfish, parrotfish, barracudas, and snappers, but lobsters, nurse sharks and sometimes turtles frequent the area too.
Rainbow Reef Miami
Just a little north of Emerald Reef, there is another worth-visit spot if you want to see a thriving coral garden! The name ‘Rainbow Reef’ suggests how colorful the underwater world is here; numerous soft and hard coral species including the rare Staghorn coral and a variety of Florida sea creatures will make you feel like swimming in an aquarium!
Neptune Memorial Reef
No Miami snorkeling itinerary can be complete without visiting the famous Neptune Memorial Reef. Just about 3 miles off Key Biscayne, this man-made reef system was built to represent the Lost City of Atlantis.
The structures were designed by marine biologists, are shaped to support algae and coral growth, and have holes to provide a hiding place for fish and sea creatures. It really shows how successful the project is that after only two years, the reef became abundant with life and the diversity is continuously increasing. The depth of this underwater attraction is 40 ft/12 m, however, there are shallower parts (20 ft/6 m) that are perfectly suitable for snorkelers and freedivers.
Biscayne National Park
With vibrant coral reefs, diverse aquatic life, and shipwrecks, the draw of Biscayne National Park is undeniable! This watery wonder, about an hour south of Miami, is not only home to a portion of the world’s third-largest coral reef system but also over 600 species of native fish! Anemones, green moray eels, rainbow parrotfish, and angelfish are just a sampling of reef-dwellers you may run into in the crystal-clear waters at Biscayne Park.
Popular Biscayne National Park snorkeling spots include the Mandalay ship site on the Maritime Heritage Trail and the base of the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse. This marine park is only accessible by boat. Want a guided experience? Take one of the tours offered by the Biscayne National Park Institute.
John Pennekamp – Key Largo
Whether you want to see colorful coral reefs teeming with marine life or the iconic submerged effigy of Christ, this veritable underwater wonderland in the Upper Keys of Key Largo is an absolute must-do and one of Florida Keys’ prime snorkeling sites! The first underwater park in the country, John Pennekamp Park boasts an impressive 70 nautical square miles.
While snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you will witness Florida’s rich marine life at its best. Hide and seek in vibrant coral gardens, swim along colorful fish, and look for macro sea creatures such as shrimps and nudibranchs. Occasional encounters with manatees, sea turtles, or dolphins are also possible. Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera for a photo-op with “Christ of the Deep”!
While you can visit these popular snorkeling spots on your own if you own or rent a boat, you also have the option to take an organized tour if that’s what you prefer. Several Miami snorkeling tours are available to take you on an adventure to the reefs and shipwrecks offered by the park or other local operators. Either way, you are in for a memorable experience!
Phil Foster Park – Blue Heron Bridge
Crystal-clear waters, a snorkeling trail just about 200 feet (60 m) offshore, and a kaleidoscope of marine creatures. You get all this and more while at Phil Foster Park under the Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach!
The average water depth ranges from six to ten feet (2-3 m) and is ideal for all skill levels, from beginners to advanced snorkelers. What’s more? The underwater trail is 800 feet (240 m) long and offers much to explore, including a string of artificial reefs, a small shipwreck, sculptures, and believe it or not, even shopping carts and shark statues!
You will see diverse aquatic life, from colorful cruisers like angelfish and parrotfish to reef fishes like grouper, grunt, and snapper. Sightings of squid, octopus, spotted ray, and starfish are common here. You do not want to miss this destination if you happen to be snorkeling near Miami!
Peanut Island – Riviera Beach
Don your snorkeling gear and plunge into the underwater realm on this man-made island for an unforgettable adventure! An hour and a half drive from Miami, Peanut Island is accessible only by boat.
Snorkeling at Peanut Island is the most rewarding at high tide when the incoming tide sweeps in an ever-changing medley of sea critters. Common Florida reef fishes such as parrotfish, blue tang, snapper, and grouper are bountiful in the lagoon. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for manatees!
Best part? Predictable, calm conditions at Peanut Island make it an ideal Miami snorkeling site for families with children. Feel adventurous? Head out of the lagoon into the rockier shore areas of the island.
Coral Cove Park – Jupiter
Grab your gear and head over to Coral Cove Park, at the south end of Jupiter. The rock-strewn expansive beach is a natural draw for marine life, and with calm, clear waters, it offers some of the best snorkeling near Miami for newbie snorkelers and kids.
With multiple rock formations within wading distance, you will be snorkeling literally from the shore. Swim with a host of tropical fishes, eels, stingrays, and seahorses. Snorkeling is best at high tide at this lifeguard-protected beach.
Ocean Reef Park – Singer Island
No wonder Ocean Reef Park is considered one of the must-stop Miami snorkeling spots for beginners! This park on Singer Island in Riviera Beach (West Palm Beach) is a lifeguarded area protected from passing boats.
The water is clear with good visibility, shallow and the reef is close to the shore and perfect for those wary of swimming too far out in the ocean. And you will see a lot of colorful fish, maybe even wrasse, crab, barracuda, and nurse shark if you are lucky.
The beach has lots of shells offering good beach combing. Moreover, if you are coming in August, you can also see baby turtles hatching!
Best time to go snorkeling in Miami
Snorkeling in and around Miami is possible year-round because of the tropical climate; however, be aware that weather and sea conditions will be crucial driving factors in your snorkeling plans.
Spring, from March to May, offers the best of all worlds: pleasant temperatures, hurricanes nowhere off the coast, and warm waters. So, spring may be the best time for an optimal snorkeling experience.
Wintertime is pleasant weather-wise, although the water is at its coldest during these months. Therefore, you may need to work a wetsuit into your snorkeling plans. UV protective clothing is a must year-round to avoid getting sunburned and to protect yourself from jellyfish stings, although most Florida jellyfish are not dangerous.
It is worth noting that the hurricane season, which primarily runs from July to November, can cut off access to the sea for extended periods. It’s probably better to avoid potential disruptions to your plans.
What to see while snorkeling in Miami?
The dynamic and diverse ecosystem in and around the city supports an astonishing array of marine species. Miami Fl snorkeling is a fascinating study of colors, shapes, and textures. A visual treat awaits snorkelers at every turn. You will see vibrant coral canyons hosting various hard and soft coral species that take your breath away.
Tropical fish abound! Angelfish, parrotfish, blue tangs, french grunts, grouper, and yellowtail snapper are common. Other marine creatures include sea stars, eels, spiny lobsters, stingrays, sea turtles, and even nurse sharks. Anytime you go on a snorkeling excursion, keep your eyes peeled for mammals, such as manatees and dolphins.
But that’s not all! The waters surrounding Miami hold more than just aquatic life. You will even see sunken ships and sculptures on your snorkeling or scuba diving trip. The underwater world in and around Miami is nothing short of stunning!
Find answers to frequently asked questions to plan the ultimate snorkeling trip to Miami.
Miami sits surrounded by crystal-clear waters that contribute to good visibility. It is home to coral reefs and bays that form ideal snorkeling sites. And the sublime underwater landscape supports an extraordinary array of marine creatures. With all this, you are guaranteed a wonderful experience snorkeling in Miami Florida! The submerged shipwrecks in the surrounding waters kick it up a notch.
While snorkeling from the shore is not as spectacular as snorkeling by the reefs, it is ideal for newbie snorkelers and children. Some popular spots to snorkel off the beach are South Pointe Park Pier in Miami South Beach, Coral Cove Park in Jupiter, Ocean Reef Park on Singer Island, Phil Foster Park and Peanut Island in Riviera Beach, Red Reef Park in Boca Raton, Hollywood North Beach Park, Vista Park Reef in Fort Lauderdale, Crandon Beach Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne.
South Beach Miami is one of the best snorkeling spots in Miami. Enter the water at South Pointe Park Pier and swim with reef fish species, sharks and stingrays that frequent the area near the breakwater.
Absolutely! Miami’s reef tract stretches from Miami Beach to the southern limits of Biscayne National Park. And it is part of the only living coral reef in North America!
The best coral reefs near Miami can be found in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and are accessible by boat. The best reefs that are accessible from the shore are Vista Park Reef in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach Drop Off, and Phil Foster Park Snorkel Trail at Blue Heron Bridge in Riviera Beach.
A hard comparison to make! Both Miami and Key West boast living reefs, crystal-clear waters, and an incredible diversity of marine life. However, Key West provides a better snorkeling experience than Miami. It has not only more extensive reefs and therefore richer marine life but also lesser boat traffic and tourist influx than Miami.
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