Key West Hidden Gems: The Ultimate Snorkeling Experience

Key West

Key West in Florida is a fantastic location for exploration and a tropical snorkeling excursion. As soon as you put your mask on, the adventure starts as you explore shipwrecks, offshore coral reefs, and colorful fish! Discover the top snorkeling locations in Key West right here, where great weather and various snorkeling options await you!

Best time to snorkel in Key West

Key West

December through May are the ideal ones to go snorkeling in Key West. During these months, the area has the best weather, with bright, breezy days perfect for snorkeling in the Florida Keys. Florida’s hurricane season lasts from June until the end of November. The Keys enjoy gorgeous, mild weather and regular, unexpected thunderstorms during these months. Additionally, there is a significant likelihood of hurricanes and tropical storms. Therefore, if you decide to come during this time. It is strongly advised to pay attention to the weather forecast and keep your travel plans flexible.

Top snorkeling spots in Key West

See Sea Turtles At Cottrell Key

Key West

While snorkeling in Key West at Cottrell Key, you may expect to see a wide variety of underwater marine life, including tropical fish and sea turtles. A ship moored there in the nineteenth century is the source of the place’s name. It is vital to make arrangements in advance since Cottrell Key can only be reached by boat trip due to its isolated position.

Due to the difficulty of getting there. You may enjoy snorkeling in a secluded area where you can discover an underwater environment home to sea turtles, Goliath groupers, sharks, and dolphins. The well-known orange sponge and the expansive coral reefs are two additional attractions for snorkelers. On the seabed, there is a lot of sand and outcropping coral.

Fort Zachary Taylor

Key West

When you’re ready to spend time in a diverse underwater ecosystem. You can stroll directly from your vehicle to the ocean at Fort Zachary Taylor since it’s close to a Key West snorkeling beach and is simple. The great range of fish species and active coral reefs make this one of Key West’s top snorkeling locations. 

It’s a great place to snorkel for visitors since rental gear is available if you need to have your own to carry. There are lots of lobster, yellowtail snapper, parrot fish, and hard and soft corral at Fort Zachary Taylor, which is 54 acres in size. It is one of the most popular beach snorkeling destinations due to its easy access.

Sand Key Lighthouse Reef

Key West

Seven miles south of Key West lies Sand Key. An avid snorkeler’s favorite location is this protected region. The Sand Key Lighthouse Reef is one of Florida’s healthiest coral gardens because of its secluded location and rigorous no-take rule (which forbids fishing, spearfishing, or lobstering). The whole family will have the best snorkeling experience since the water is often level and tranquil. Around the well-known lighthouse erected in 1853, Sand Key offers a range of snorkeling depths from 1 to 15 feet. Sea turtles, sharks, and other tropical fish species will all be visible. In the Florida Keys, the jellyfish season lasts from late spring until summer. Even though the majority of the jellies in the region are not dangerous to people. Experts advise wearing rash guards or UV-protective gear to protect yourself from the sun, jellyfish stings, and aquatic irritants.

Higgs Beach

Higgs Beach

Higgs Beach’s rich live coral reef, which contains sea fingers, brain coral, soft corals, sea whips, and sea fans, is one of the most well-liked snorkeling locations in Key West. This is one of the most incredible snorkeling locations for beginners. Because you don’t have to worry about swimming too deep in the water. When snorkeling from the coast. You may remain near the beach and enjoy a close-up view of butterfly fish, parrotfish, and angelfish near the pier. Being a place where both kids and parents may engage, it suits families with children of all ages.

Dry Tortugas National Park And Fort Jefferson

Dry Tortugas National Park And Fort Jefferson

Dry Tortugas National Park, which boasts some of the best snorkeling locations in the country, is located 70 miles from the Florida Keys. This area has several beaches with white sand and shallow waves, just 5 to 15 feet deep.

Boat trips and the Yankee Freedom III ferry, where you can purchase the snorkeling equipment you need to see the tropical fish and queen conchs, are the most convenient means to travel to Fort Jefferson. In this location, which is adjacent to the Florida Keys and renowned for its colorful marine life. You can anticipate being surrounded by hundreds of sea stars. Due to its ability to accommodate snorkelers of all skill levels, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most popular snorkeling locations among both residents and visitors. The protected marine sanctuary earns its rank as one of the most incredible snorkeling locations near the Florida Keys because it offers a lot to see and experience when divers explore beneath the surface.

Little Africa Reef – Loggerhead Key

The most significant island in the Dry Tortugas Island Group and the location of Loggerhead Lighthouse is Loggerhead Key. The fact that this key cannot be reached by public transit and that even private sailors require permission to approach the region by boat ensures it remains a tiny paradise. Little Africa is the name of the undeveloped reef on the island’s northern coast, where you may discover amazing marine life in shallow, calm waters. This kid- and beginner-friendly snorkeling location features many soft corals, including sea rods and fans, as well as hard corals like brain and fire corals.


Is snorkeling an intelligent idea in Key West?

Key West provides some of the most incredible snorkeling in the Florida Keys, with a range of beach snorkeling locations and reefs accessible by boat. All levels of snorkelers will appreciate the area’s clear, shallow waters and diverse marine life.

Without a boat, where can I go snorkeling in Key West?

The best beach snorkeling spots in Key West, where you can see Florida’s marine life without taking a boat trip, are the beaches of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach, and Smathers Beach.

Is there free snorkeling in Key West?

In Key West, you may go shore snorkeling for free at locations like Smathers Beach and Higgs Beach. Tour operators provide snorkeling trips to Florida Reef’s snorkeling locations.

Can I go snorkeling in Key West without a wetsuit?

Depending on the time of year you come and your particular tastes. Consider whether you should wear a wetsuit while snorkeling in Key West. In the summer, the water’s temperature ranges from 80 to 82.4F (26.6 to 28C) and from 68 to 73F (20 to 22.7C) in the winter. Most individuals find these temperatures to be pleasant. Still, if you tend to get cold quickly, a shorty or a 3mm thick wetsuit might be helpful, particularly during winter. UV protection apparel is advised to prevent sunburn while not wearing a wetsuit.

Can I encounter sharks in Key West while snorkeling?

While snorkeling at Key West, there is a reasonable probability that you will spot sharks, albeit not guaranteed. The two most often-seen species are nurse sharks and reef sharks. Sometimes hammerheads and lemon sharks may be seen as well. 

Which is better for snorkeling, Key West or Key Largo?

Both Key West and Key Largo feature gorgeous marine life and healthy coral reefs. So it truly depends on your preferences which location would be more suitable for you. If you want to snorkel from the shore, choose Key West. Because it has beautiful reefs that can be reached by boat trips and a few beaches suitable for snorkeling. In contrast, Key Largo has the most well-known snorkeling location in the region. The Christ of the Abyss underwater statue, which you should take notice of.


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