The state of Florida is most known for two things: crippling humidity and Disney. This state stretches down to be the southernmost point of the continental USA. Surrounded by gorgeous white sandy beaches and warm tropical waters this state offers year round enjoyment for beach lovers. Preparing for your snorkeling trip here is quite similar to preparing for a dive vacation. It is best to have your gear with you before you go so you can spend more time in the water.
As Florida stretches into the Gulf Of Mexico, the waters here are warm, clear and full of life. Snorkeling in Florida offers some of the most amazing spots in all of America. With one half of Florida lying in the warm Gulf and the other against the Atlantic Ocean, you will find much diversity in the waters that surround this state.
Nestled near Cuba and The Bahamas it is clear to see why Florida is such a popular tropical vacation spot. There are many top snorkel spots around the state. All that’s left to do is choose the best snorkel and hit the water.
Quick Answer: 9 Best Snorkeling Spots in Florida
- 1. Pigeon Key, Florida Keys
- 2. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach
- 3. Peanut Island, Riviera Beach
- 4. Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach
- 5. Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
- 6. Phil Foster Park Snorkel Trail
- 7. Coral Cove Park, Jupiter
- 8. Dry Tortugas National Park
- 9. Middle Keys
1. Pigeon Key, Florida Keys
This snorkeling spot is by the famous seven mile bridge that connects Knight’s Key and Little Duck Key. You jump on a speedboat to the island where you get the feel of the area. There is a nice sandy beach which makes the entry smooth and easy. It even gives you a place to set up your beach towel and umbrella. This is also not a very well known snorkeling spot so it shouldn’t be too busy. Having some water shoes is a great idea when spending the day here as the sand is known to get quite warm.
There is a $12 entrance fee which includes the boat ride and a tour of the 5-acre island. You will be snorkeling around the base of the bridge and around the little island. You will be able to see everything from parrot fish to barracudas at this location. The water’s depth varies depending on where you launch and swim but ranges from 5 to 30 feet. If you are looking for the most fish head towards the pier and snorkel in that area.
2. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach
Since this is a state park there is a fee of 5$ per vehicle with up to 8 people. This may seem expensive but it’s nothing for a day at this location. The park is 500 acres which include sea dunes, tidal estuary, and even the rock reef. You are able to not only snorkel but also hike through the park. It can be a little bit of a hike from the parking lot to the beach, but a tram is in service that can help with this. Get to this beach early as it can fill up quickly.
This is a favorite spot for snorkelers and boaters alike. You should invest in a dive flag so people know where you are. You will be able to see everything from stingrays to sea turtles on top of all the usual reef fish you come to expect.
Pro Tip: The best time to see stingrays at this reef is from April to October.
The colorful reef isn’t that deep from the surface (between 5 to 12 feet) which makes it great for snorkeling. It also means the visibility is excellent and the water is warm. You may want to wear a shortie wetsuit in this area as the sun is quite strong and having that added protection may be preferred.
3. Peanut Island, Riviera Beach
This 80-acre island has picnic tables with a view for lunch and lots of trees for shade. Like most beaches in Florida, there is an entry fee ($14 for adults, $8 for children) but there are loads of activities to take part in.
Like most of Florida, there is more to do than just snorkeling at this destination. The island has amazing historical sites including the Kennedy Bunker and the Coast Guard Station. There are guided walking tours through these buildings. It also features a campsite with enough room for 20 tents.
This is a man-made island that is accessible by a water taxi. Camping for a single site is around $31 for up to 12 people in 2 tents.
Water in this area is crystal clear and ranges from knee high to around 14 feet. You can see stingrays, manatees and even some small sharks here. Definitely a spot you will want your underwater camera, this is one of the best snorkeling spots in all of southern Florida.
4. Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach
This State Park is on the east coast of Florida right next to the Kennedy Space Center. The waters here are awesome for both all skill level of swimmers. There are four reefs that you can explore which are all within 150 yards from the shore. The farther you go from the shore the stronger the current becomes. Inside the cove is perfect for beginners and kids as the water is calm and on the shallow side. You can expect to see everything from snapper, silver jack to manatees in the bay. This is a great place to wear a full face mask as you are sure to appreciate the uninterrupted panoramic views of the ocean life.
There are also two more places you can swim here. The North Rocks and North Jetty have a current that will take you along the shore. This is only recommended for strong swimmers as you will be carried by the current.
Sebastian South Beach is also another great place to explore. If you have kids this is an excellent place as there is a 50 foot pool with shallow waters. Pools here max out at around 3 feet which is perfect for people looking to learn how to snorkel.
5. Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
This area is predominately for beginners and novice swimmers who are looking to learn without strong currents or tides.
The waters here are a magnificent bright blue while the sand is a beautiful white. This is an excellent place to bring the whole family for a nice relaxing day on the water. There is even a concession stand that serves decent food as well. Get here early to find a shady spot under one of the few palm trees on the beach.
There are two beaches you can choose from at this state park. Bay Side Beach is the better one as it has the nice sand and even better water. You can explore an underwater wall that is a snorkeling favorite.
6. Phil Foster Park Snorkel Trail
This snorkel destination has an 800 foot man made reef that has been set up for the snorkeling community. They have planned it so the water depths range from 5 to 11 feet depending on the tides. All of this sits just 200 feet from the shore and can accommodate any level of swimmer. Simply grab your mask, fins, and snorkel and jump into the warm water.
There are 15 rock piles that are spaced out enough to allow large groups to have fun without it feeling crowded. There have been over 300 species of marine life spotted along these rock formations including seahorses, yellow headed jawfish and even the occasional octopus. At high tide the visibility can reach 80 feet which are perfect for snorkeling. Be sure to avoid swimming too far past the reef as this is a popular boating route.
7. Coral Cove Park, Jupiter
This is a great family friendly snorkeling hub with the sandy shoreline and the constant presence of a lifeguard. Aptly named Coral Cove Park, you can expect to see a vibrant and thriving reef off this coast. The natural limestone rocks that line these waters make for some incredible snorkeling. These impressive geological formations attract a rich amount of marine life to the area so you can expect to see lots of colorful fish.
With much to do in this area, your kids will enjoy the large amount of seashells that get washed to shore. Picnic tables and provided bathrooms make this an ideal hub to spend your entire day at. This beach has a playground your children will enjoy and as a bonus, you can even expect free parking. With everything you need in one place, all you have to bring is your snorkel gear.
8. Dry Tortugas National Park
This may be one of the best views on the list. It features white sand and blue waters with near perfect water conditions. It does take a boat to get here but is well worth it. This is definitely an entire day trip. This is a picturesque area and will blow you away by its beauty. There are even historical tours of the island that will give you a break from the water – not that you’ll need one.
You can see loads of marine life here including everything from queen conchs to starfish. This is also a great place for everyone from beginners and kids to advanced snorkelers. Waters range from 6 to 12 feet and is exceptionally warm.
There are four spots to choose from with entries from beaches. Unlike other sites, the Dry Tortugas National Park has a shipwreck to explore. It is a 261 foot Schooner that is broken into two pieces. Int total this stretches 110 feet long and houses loads of fish and lobster.
9. Middle Keys
Most people think that the southern keys will offer the best snorkeling as they sit in warmer waters. Largely overlooked, arguably one of the best spots in all of Florida to snorkel is the Middle Keys. Located in the middle of the keys, the best snorkeling is only accessible by boat. Well worth the boat ride, this area is home to some of the most colorful marine life you will encounter.
Cheeca Rocks is one of the top snorkel spots in this area. Packed with coral, you will find yourself with much to look at. A bit of a deeper reef it is important to have a dry snorkel in this area as you will likely be tempted to dive below the surface. Here you can expect to see many medium-sized marine life including eels and even sea turtles.
Hen and Chickens is another remarkable snorkeling site in this area. Full of healthy coral and plenty of fish, you are sure to love this impressive area.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse is perhaps one of the best snorkeling spots in the middle keys. A bit further from the shore, this shallow reef is most recognizable from the large lighthouse here. Many thousands of fish congregate to this area to enjoy the shade offered by the lighthouse and therefore makes for an unbelievable spot.
If willing to go deeper, there is a second spot to be explored near the lighthouse. A deeper canyon area is a great place to scuba dive or free dive with your snorkel. Here you will see a wide range of larger sea life. From hammerhead sharks to lazy turtles you will have lots to see when exploring this area.
Snorkeling in Florida makes for some of the best snorkeling in the world. With many unique snorkel spots, you are likely to fall in love with this sport while vacationing here. While the waters are warm, it is important to dress accordingly to ensure you can make the most of your tropical getaway.
Depending on where you go, the currents can get quite strong so it is important to always wear a snorkel vest. Being in these warm tropical waters you will likely be tempted to take your snorkeling experience even further. Florida is a great place to learn to scuba dive as the clarity is ideal and the waters are warm.
Have you explored the waters of the Florida beaches? Let us know your favorite spot in the comment section below.