So you want to go to snorkeling as part of your time in the Florida Keys!
The Florida Keys are not generally known for having good snorkeling from shore.
But if you get lucky and go when the fish are there… it’s possible to have a fun Florida Keys shore snorkeling experience from the beach!
And, emphasis on POSSIBLE…!
The marine life is wild so they do what they want when they want and there’s no guarantee to see them!
That said, you do have a good chance to see lots of fish in the Florida Keys… if you go snorkeling in the right spots!
As per my experience, you might have to look around for them when you go snorkeling in the Florida Keys!
Snorkeling in the Florida Keys from the beach can be a fun shore snorkeling experience!
I spent 2 weeks in the Florida Keys and went snorkeling at a bunch of spots on my own, and this is my experience!
1. Calusa Beach, Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is on an island of its own, Bahia Honda Key, and you can go snorkeling on both sides of the island.
Calusa Beach is the calmer side of the island.
For the best chance of having a fun Florida Keys shore snorkeling experience at Calusa Beach in Bahia Honda State Park, be sure to go swimming around the rocks!
Calusa Beach is not that long and has a swimming area that is roped off.
There is only one rocky area within the swimming area.
As you are facing the water, you will see the the iconic old bridge off to the left.
On the far right end of Calusa Beach, you will see a rocky jetty.
So the Bahia Honda snorkeling spot at Calusa Beach is to the far right of the swimming area.
And actually, even before you go snorkeling, have a walk out onto the jetty.
On the right side of the jetty (non-swimming side), I could actually see a bunch of fish from above.
Another time I was there, there was a lady who said she saw a turtle!
There is a state park entry fee for Bahia Honda State Park.
The cost to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys at Bahia Honda State Park is around $8 for your group. This is the cost of the state park entry fee. See current fees.
See more about snorkeling at Calusa Beach.
2. Loggerhead Beach, Bahia Honda State Park
Loggerhead Beach is the ocean side of the Bahia Honda Key.
It’s possible there will be a current that will move you along the shoreline without you doing anything.
Loggerhead Beach is a rather long beach and I did not snorkel the whole length of it.
Basically, I went snorkeling around most of the area that is off to the right of the bathroom when facing the ocean.
There are picnic tables right next to the Loggerhead parking lot, to the right as you’re facing the ocean.
In that direction, there’s a walking path. You can basically keep walking and choose any section of beach.
I took one of the first set of stairs down to the beach and then walked a little down the beach and did some snorkeling around there.
The shore off of Loggerhead Beach has a lot of sandy bottom too.
You’ll want to look for some rocky areas in order to find the fish!
Again, there may be currents at Loggerhead Beach and you may want to first figure out which direction the water is moving to determine which direction you want to go too!
I usually don’t swim with snorkeling fins, and instead just wear water shoes when snorkeling. I never think much about it.
But because of how much the water was pushing me along, I was thinking that this is a situation where fins would be especially useful!
Snorkeling fins make it so that you can move further ahead with each kick compared to no fins. So basically you will be able to swim more distance with less effort.
Loggerhead Beach does have a swimming area that is roped off.
Everything I saw was within the swimming area.
You are allowed to go beyond the swimming area, but if you do, you need to have a diver down flag, per Florida state law.
But I did not find it necessary to go beyond the swimming area. Plus I did not have a diver down flag!
You can buy a diver down flag at the Bahia Honda State Park gift shop. I also saw diver down flags for sale in Key Largo at the Publix grocery store. Key Largo is a top diving spot in the Florida Keys. I also looked for diver down flags in another Publix in the Florida Keys but didn’t find any. (I think that was in Marathon FL.)
Loggerhead Beach is the same Bahia Honda State Park entry as Calusa Beach. Pay one time, go snorkeling at 2 beaches!
There are 3 beaches in Bahia Honda State Park, actually. I didn’t go snorkeling at the other one.
There is basic food that’s sold in Bahia Honda State Park at the cafe, but you are better off stopping at Publix on the way and bring along some prepared food and/or picnic food to be able to spend the day there!
See more about snorkeling at Loggerhead Beach.
3. Horseshoe Beach
Horseshoe Beach that is a 5 minute drive from Bahia Honda State Park.
If you didn’t know about Horseshoe Beach, you wouldn’t even know it exists!
Horseshoe Beach isn’t really much of a beach.
It’s also been called the Horseshoe Cove, or just the Horseshoe.
At Horseshoe Beach, I started off snorkeling off to the right side. I did see some cute fish and I thought it was nice.
Then, I saw someone snorkeling around the mounds of rocks off to the left side, so I decided to go see if there was anything to be seen over there.
And, there were so many fish!
It is FREE to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys at Horseshoe Beach!
The beach entry is free and the beach parking is free!
There are no facilities.
Epic Key West activities you need to consider:
- Key West snorkeling tour to North America's only living coral reef
- Jet ski tour of Key West's backcountry
- Key West dolphin watching tour + reef snorkeling
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4. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West
For the best chance of having a fun Florida Keys shore snorkeling experience at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, be sure to go swimming around any of the mounds of rocks you see!
You can see the rocks from shore, and there are several mounds.
I did have a fun Florida Keys snorkeling experience at Fort Zachary State Park by swimming around the different groups of rocks.
When I was in the water, one guy said he saw a stingray.
It sounds like it was in one spot for a pretty long time. He pointed in the area he saw it, so I went over to see if I could see a stingray, but no such luck.
This was in the sandy area between 2 of the groups of rocks.
There is a state park entry fee for Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
The cost to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is around $5-10 for your group. This is the cost of the state park entry fee.
It will be around $5 if you are alone by car, and it will be less than $10 for your group. It starts at a base rate, and then increases by 50 cents per person. So it’s not necessarily $5 per person. If you are arriving by foot or bike, it’s around $3 per person. See current fees.
See more about snorkeling in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
For the best chance of having a fun Florida Keys shore snorkeling experience at Higgs Beach, be sure to go swimming around the ruins of the old pier!
You will know when you see it!
I did have a fun Florida Keys snorkeling experience at Higgs Beach by swimming almost the entirety of the old pier.
It is FREE to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys at Higgs Beach!
The beach entry is free and the beach parking is free!
See more about this Florida Keys snorkeling spot:
Snorkeling in Key Largo
According to the Florida Park Service, there are “snorkeling beaches” in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo.
I did not find the John Pennekamp beaches to be great for snorkeling, so I didn’t include it in the list above.
But maybe your experience will vary, and the best beach to try would be Cannon Beach.
If you want a Key Largo shipwreck snorkeling spot for beginners, then Cannon Beach is your beach! You can see a shipwreck from the 1700s no matter what.
I just didn’t see many fish.
Otherwise, it will require a bit of planning as the best John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park snorkeling is by boat to the reef which can sell out.
If you won’t be driving to the Lower Keys, then it will be worth it to do the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park snorkeling tour as your one and only Florida Keys snorkeling tour.
There is also a glass bottom boat tour at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park which will also take you out to the reef.
There is the John Pennekamp State Park campground if you want to stay here as part of your Florida Keys snorkeling trip.
Key Largo to Key West is around a 2 hour drive if there’s no traffic.
Snorkeling in Marathon
I saw Sombrero Beach often listed as a snorkeling beach in the Florida Keys, so maybe you want to give it a try.
I didn’t really see anything when snorkeling at Sombrero Beach.
Maybe I was snorkeling in the wrong spot. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like being out there for long. 😜
So your experience could very well be different.
Note that there is Sombrero Beach and there is Sombrero Reef.
These are 2 different locations and activities.
Sombrero Beach is the popular Florida Keys beach in Marathon FL.
Sombrero Reef is said to be a good snorkeling spot in the Florida Keys, but you need a boat to get there.
I did not go snorkeling at Sombrero Reef, but I did (try to) go snorkeling at Sombrero Beach.
If you’re looking for a good beach in the Florida Keys without snorkeling being a priority, then Sombrero Beach can be worth a visit for the beach itself.
Sombrero Beach is known as one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys. Free parking!
Seaweed in the Florida Keys
It is common to see seaweed along the shoreline of the Florida Keys, and that includes the Florida Keys snorkeling beaches.
Seaweed and sea grass are considered to be an important part of the coastal ecosystem, so most of the time it doesn’t get removed and it’s just a part of your Florida Keys snorkeling experience!
Can you snorkel in the Florida Keys without a tour?
Yes, it’s possible to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys without a tour.
There are a few shore snorkeling spots in Florida Keys that you can get to by swimming from the beach.
But you do need a boat to go to North America’s only living coral reef.
So if you want to go to North America’s only living coral reef from Key West, you need a tour for that!
🐠 Read the reviews for the highly rated Florida Keys snorkeling tour:
Is snorkeling free in the Florida Keys?
Yes, it’s possible to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys for free.
Although you need to pay to go to North America’s only living coral reef by doing a snorkeling tour, there are free snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys.
And then there are more snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys that you should also highly consider that are not free, but they are not expensive either!
They are the state parks in the Florida Keys with good snorkeling!
Yes, you can snorkel off the beach in the Florida Keys!
And if you do want to go shore snorkeling in the Florida Keys, it’s important to not only go to the snorkeling beaches, but to know where to go specifically when you start swimming!
Or else, you have a greater chance of being disappointed because you may not see much if you don’t go snorkeling around specific spots at these beaches!
Which are the best beaches in the Florida Keys for snorkeling?
The best snorkeling beaches in the Florida Keys are further south in the Lower Keys area.
It’s a one hour drive between Bahia Honda State Park and Key West.
You can go camping in Bahia Honda State Park as part of a perfect camping + snorkeling Florida Keys trip!
You can also take snorkeling tours from Bahia Honda State Park (maybe) and Key West (definitely).
👆 Map of where the Florida Keys is located in the United States. Along with snorkeling in Hawaii, the Florida Keys has the best snorkeling in the US! Explore the Florida Keys tourist map. Explore more things to do in the Florida Keys!
Snorkeling around rocks or structures in the Florida Keys
Rocks seem to be a good spot to try no matter where you are snorkeling from shore in the Florida Keys!
So when you are snorkeling in the Florida Keys, look for the rocks or fixed structures underwater!
Basically all the snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys that I thought was good snorkeling (aka I saw a lot of fish!) it was around rocks and fixed structures.
All that said, your best chance of seeing stingrays, queen conch, starfish, and certain other types of marine life that might get you excited will be along the sandy bottom away from rocks!
So you will want to be on the lookout as you are swimming across the sandy bottom too!
Florida Keys snorkeling tour or snorkel Florida Keys on your own?!
Short answer: BOTH! 😜
So there are snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys that you can access on your own from shore.
It’s possible to snorkel off the beach in the Florida Keys.
If you want to go snorkeling in the Florida Keys, you don’t NEED to go on a snorkeling tour to do so.
But if you want to go to what is considered to be among the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys, then you DO need to book a snorkeling tour.
There are Florida Keys snorkeling tours that go to different areas of the reef off the shores of the Florida Keys that attract fish.
I did shore snorkeling on my own in the Florida Keys at a few different spots. They were fun snorkeling experiences.
But my favorite snorkeling experience was through a snorkeling tour.
I did a Looe Key snorkeling tour from Bahia Honda State Park and a Grecian Rocks snorkeling tour from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. (There is basically just one snorkeling tour that you sign up for at each of the state parks so the snorkeling spot location is determined for you.)
Another famous snorkeling spot in the Florida Keys is Dry Tortugas National Park.
You can’t drive to Dry Tortugas National Park.
Instead, you need to take a boat or a seaplane to get to Dry Tortugas National Park from Key West.
It’s popular to take a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park from Key West, and the Dry Tortugas ferry often sells out far in advance.
You can also stay overnight at the Dry Tortugas National Park campground by tent camping. Although, I’m not sure I’d want to do that after reading about a terrible campground review about rats there. 😜
Snorkeling alone in the Florida Keys (and the dangers of snorkeling)
While it is best to not snorkel alone in the Florida Keys (or anywhere), if you are traveling to the Florida Keys alone, the listed beach snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys I would generally say would be fine if you are a solo snorkeler in Key West, for the reason that there will likely be many people around.
It might be possible that Horseshoe Beach will be empty. When I went there was a small period of time when I thought everyone left and it seemed like I was all alone. And it did make me feel a little uncomfortable! But then I spotted another snorkeler. (And then actually that is what got me to investigate the other great snorkeling spot at Horseshoe Beach!)
But going to snorkeling beaches with other people around at least gives you more of a chance that someone sees you if you get into trouble in the water.
None of the beaches in the Florida Keys have lifeguards… or didn’t when I went.
That said, people have died snorkeling alone… on “safe” beaches, in calm conditions… and some were even with others but were noticed too late. Read the stories.
Whether you are snorkeling alone or you have a snorkeling buddy, be sure that you take care when snorkeling, always!
The ocean is beautiful, but it’s also powerful and can be dangerous!
NOT snorkeling alone will always be safer…
Joining a Florida Keys snorkeling tour can also give you comfort in knowing there’s someone experienced in ocean safety looking out for you.
What to pack for snorkeling in the Florida Keys
1. Waterproof phone case
Pack a waterproof phone pouch for snorkeling for a CHEAP way to waterproof your phone so you can capture some underwater memories!
2. Water shoes
Pack water shoes if you won’t be wearing fins when you snorkel!
Water shoes can help to protect your feet from rocks on the beach.
They are also helpful if you accidentally kick the rocks, ruins, and coral reef you’ll be snorkeling around.
All of the above can feel sharp!
3. Sunscreen that’s considered reef-safe
The type of sunscreen that you wear is kind of a big deal for locals in the Florida Keys.
The City of Key West had voted to ban the sales of any type of sunscreen that is not deemed to be reef-safe sunscreen.
Now, this ban ultimately did not hold up because of push-back at the state level.
But if you consider the reason they wanted it to happen (“save the reef!”), it would likely be very appreciated if you wear a type of reef-safe sunscreen that locals prefer to help the reefs in the Florida Keys!
Key West locals wanted to do what Hawaii has been successful at doing, which is limiting the type of sunscreen you can buy in Hawaii. There is even an island in Hawaii that will soon limit the type of sunscreen you can even wear on Maui.
The ultimate goal of getting everyone to wear reef-safe sunscreen is to limit the exposure of harmful chemicals to reef surrounding the shores.
See more about how to know if your sunscreen is the good type for snorkeling in the Florida Keys:
4. Swimming goggles or snorkeling set
The minimalist way to go swimming is to simply wear swimming goggles.
But if you don’t want to have to worry about coming up every so often for a breath, then you’ll want snorkeling gear.
It is possible to rent snorkeling gear in the Florida Keys, and you can also find some basic snorkel sets sold in stores like Publix or Walmart.
But it can be convenient to not have to spend time shopping for this when you don’t have a lot of time during your Key West vacation!
My Florida Keys snorkeling trip was in May 2022. Your experience may vary!
HAPPY SNORKELING IN THE FLORIDA KEYS!
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