So John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the most popular state parks in the Florida Keys.
It’s located on the “key” (island) of Key Largo.
And THE reason to go to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is for… the coral reef!
It is also possible to do shipwreck snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park.
And one of the best things to do in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is to go snorkeling!
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is considered one of the best snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys.
These are the 2 most popular ways to experience the coral reef of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park:
- Glass bottom boat
In both cases, you will take a boat ride out to the reef.
The “coral reef” as is in the name John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, is not located along the shores of the land of the state park.
Instead, it requires the boat ride to get to the coral reef.
So to see the best of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you need to sign up for a tour.
Amazing Key Largo snorkeling tour you need to consider:
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Can you snorkel from the shore in John Pennekamp State Park?
While the coral reef is the best of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you can also go snorkeling at John Pennekamp from shore.
You can snorkel on your own in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park without a tour, but it is not the best snorkeling that the state park offers.
That said, the shore snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park from the beach can be perfect for beginners.
The John Pennekamp State Park beaches are generally more sheltered so the water will generally be calmer.
There are basically 3 snorkeling spots in John Pennekamp State Park from shore:
So you can snorkel at John Pennekamp State Park without a tour, but the snorkeling is not the best.
To be clear, the best snorkeling will be through a Johh Pennekamp State Park snorkeling tour.
You will see (very?) limited marine life by snorkeling from shore.
But if you want to give it a go, you might see something exciting!
👆 Map of where John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located in the Florida Keys. Along with snorkeling in Bahia Honda State Park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the popular snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys. Explore the Florida Keys tourist map. Explore more things to do in the Florida Keys!
Seaweed on the beach at John Pennekamp State Park
As it goes in the Florida Keys, seaweed can be found all along the coastline.
This includes John Pennekamp State Park.
The seaweed you see on the beach at John Pennekamp State Park, and across the Florida Keys, is said to be an important part of the coastal ecosystem.
It may not look very good, but it’s there for the environment!
John Pennekamp State Park picnic areas
And, as a Florida state park, you can always just stop by John Pennekamp State Park for a picnic!
There is also a food truck. Although it may not always be operating.
More snorkeling in the Florida Keys
- Bahia Honda State Park snorkeling
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park snorkeling in Key West
- Looe Key snorkeling
- What to pack for snorkeling in the Florida Keys
More below about snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park!
How to go snorkeling in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
My snorkeling trip to John Pennekamp State Park was in April 2022. Your experience may vary!
1. John Pennekamp State Park snorkeling tour
A snorkeling tour is THE best thing to do in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
There are a few different snorkeling spots along the reef, and which one you will go to will be based on the snorkeling conditions and where the boat captain decides to take you snorkeling!
The reef snorkeling spots in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park include:
- Turtle Rocks
- Basin Hill Shoals
- Elbow Reef
- Key Largo Dry Rocks (Christ Statue)
- Grecian Rocks
- Higdon’s Reef
- Cannon Patch
- Mosquito Banks
- French Reef
- White Banks Reef
- Molasses Reef
My snorkeling tour went to the Grecian Rocks snorkeling spot.
Once you’ve made it to the reef, you can choose to jump into the ocean or take the ladder down into the ocean.
You’ll get around an hour of snorkeling time in the ocean and swimming in the open waters!
So yes, if you are going to do the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park snorkeling tour, you should know how to swim and be very comfortable with swimming.
👆 Snorkeling at Grecian Rocks in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Spot the colorful fish!
Doing a John Pennekamp snorkeling tour also means a boat ride out to the reef with amazing views.
What can you see snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park and the Florida Keys?
👇 Fish identification guide that was provided on the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park snorkeling tour. You might see some of this marine life when snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park!
Can you do the John Pennekamp snorkeling tour even if you don’t want to go snorkeling?
If you have someone (or some people) in your group who don’t want to get in the water with you, they can still join you on the snorkeling tour.
It can be worth it just for the views if they think of it as a boat ride as opposed to a snorkeling tour.
The cost of the snorkeling tour will still be the same whether or not you get in the water.
If your whole group doesn’t want to get in the water, then there is also the John Pennekamp glass bottom boat tour that you can do. (Although, if you are prone to seasickness it may not be great. I didn’t think of myself as being prone to seasickness, but when I did the glass bottom boat tour I felt like I was starting to feel a little sick being indoors, constantly looking down, and being on the rocky seas!)
John Pennekamp or Bahia Honda for snorkeling tour?
John Pennekamp State Park and Bahia Honda State Park are both state parks in the Florida Keys that offer snorkeling tours. On both snorkeling tours, you’ll take a boat out to a reef.
If you will be heading further down south in the Florida Keys to Marathon FL or Key West FL, then you may want to see about doing the Bahia Honda State Park snorkeling tour instead.
I thought my experience of the Bahia Honda State Park snorkeling was amazing! It was Looe Key snorkeling tour from Bahia Honda State Park.
Looe Key is considered one of the best snorkeling spot in the Florida Keys.
So if you’re considering a snorkeling tour between John Pennekamp State Park or Bahia Honda State Park, I would choose Bahia Honda!
But if you will only be making it as far south as Key Largo, then I do still think the Pennekamp snorkeling tour is worth it.
No matter which snorkeling tour you choose, it’s important to know that sometimes snorkeling tours get cancelled.
It could be for reasons like visibility and snorkeling conditions, or it could be for other reasons.
Snorkeling tours can also sell out.
So it could be best to plan ahead to avoid disappointment.
2. Cannon Beach shipwreck snorkeling from shore
Cannon Beach is the main beach for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
So once you enter the state park, you will drive to the main beach parking lot, and that is the beach.
By snorkeling from Cannon Beach, you can see the remains of cannons from a shipwreck.
👆 Shipwreck snorkeling in Key Largo at John Pennekamp State Park: Spanish shipwreck 1715.
👆 Shipwreck snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park: Spot the shipwreck ruins!
3. Far Beach snorkeling from shore
Far Beach is the beach that is… more far away. 😜
But it’s really not that far.
You will just keep driving maybe an extra minute or so, and you will reach another parking, and that is for Far Beach (and the other snorkeling spot).
The parking lot is much smaller, and there tend to be less people at Far Beach.
I really didn’t see much of anything underwater here, aside from sea grass.
If you want some scenic pictures in John Pennekamp State Park without getting on a boat, you’ll want to go here.
You’ll be able to get pictures of palm trees!
4. Fossil rock beach snorkeling from shore
This snorkeling spot doesn’t have a name, but the swimming area is not directly connected to Far Beach so it’s not exactly snorkeling at Far Beach.
And so, you can consider it a different snorkeling spot.
This spot is marked as another snorkeling spot on the John Pennekamp State Park map.
You will park in the same parking lot as Far Beach.
Then, as you’re facing the water, it will be in the very left area.
You’ll see some big rocks here, and if you look carefully you will see fossilized coral reef.
Once you enter the water, you will swim out to the far left.
Once again, I did not see much here, but I did not go that far out.
If I were to try snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park at this snorkeling spot again, I would try looking around the rocks to see if there are little fishies swimming around there!
If fossilized ancient coral reef interest you, then you’ll also want to check out Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park that’s down the road! (info)
Cost to go snorkeling at John Pennekamp State Park
The minimum to go snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park will be the cost of the state park entry.
You will also need to pay for the cost of state park entry even if you are doing the snorkeling tour.
The cost of John Pennekamp State Park entry is around $5 if you are alone. It will be $9 if there are 2 of you, and then from there it will increase 50 cents per person for more people. This will get you a one-day pass. See current fees.
👆 In 2022, the cost of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park started at $4.50.
If you plan to make this a year of going to a ton of Florida state parks, then there is also the Florida state parks annual pass.
Although, even if you have a Florida state park pass, John Pennekamp State Park won’t be free for you.
This state park charges 50 cents to enter even with a Florida state park pass. This fee is assessed for the Monroe County fee. (aka the county of the Florida Keys.)
If you will only be snorkeling from shore, then the state park entry is the cost your snorkeling.
If you will be doing the snorkeling tour, then the cost of a John Pennekamp snorkeling tour is around $40 per person. See current fees.
Snorkeling gear is not included in the cost of the snorkeling tour.
You can bring your own snorkeling gear, or you can rent snorkeling gear at John Pennekamp State Park.
The cost of renting snorkeling gear is around $17 per person if you rent the snorkel, mask, and fins. (Although you keep the snorkel which is the thing you breathe through.) See current fees.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park map
And that’s a bit about snorkeling in John Pennekamp State Park!
More for your Florida Keys road trip and beyond:
- Florida Key snorkeling spots
- Miami to Key West
- South Pointe Park of Miami Beach
- Things to do in Everglades National Park
- Florida Keys map
HAPPY SNORKELING in JOHN PENNEKAMP CORAL REEF STATE PARK!
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