With its warm waters and sunny weather, the state of Florida makes for a fantastic snorkeling destination. Here, you can float next to enormous manatees in Crystal River, or head out into the ocean to watch fish play next to a historic island fort at Dry Tortugas National Park. Depending on your swimming skill level, you can choose from observing calm, protected lagoons or diving into the open ocean. Book a stay at one of many Florida vacation rentals near these great snorkeling spots for easy access to underwater fun.
1. Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West
Snorkel next to the walls of an 1800s-era brick fort in Dry Tortugas National Park, which sits 70 miles off the coast of Key West. With multiple designated snorkeling spots and crystal-clear water, the park can easily occupy an entire day. Swim along the side of the fort from the south beach to see purple sea fans, and head out to the coral heads to see mangrove snapper, brown finger coral, angelfish, and barracuda. Keep an eye out for the fascinating queen conch that live near the fort. There are no shops on the island, so it’s a good idea to bring your own snorkel gear; if you’re taking the Yankee Freedom II ferry, the staff can offer the use of free snorkels and masks.
2. Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, Big Pine Key
Explore an enormous reef system at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. More than 150 types of fish live here, including angelfish, yellowtail, and the moray eel. You might even spot a ray or shark as you swim through beautiful brain coral, fire coal, and elkhorn coral. The water is famous for its clarity and excellent visibility; on the east end, look out for relics from the 1744 shipwreck of the HMS Looe. Bahia Honda State Park offers daily snorkeling tours to Looe Key, as well as gear rentals.
3. Point of Rocks, Siesta Key
If you’re visiting Florida with children or nervous snorkelers, head straight fro Point of Rocks on the southern end of Siesta Key’s Crescent Beach. This area features calm, wave-free water, so it’s a great option for beginners. Under the water, huge pieces of limestone are home to a variety of sea life, including tiny crabs, brilliant red sponges, snook, and a variety of tiny colorful fish. Dolphins frequent the area year-round, and in the summer, manatees come to hang out near the rocks. Nearby, Siesta Sports Rentals rents snorkel, mask, and fin sets by the day.
4. Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River
Glide through the water next to enormous manatees at Three Sisters Springs. During the winter and spring, herds of these gentle giants gather in the warm waters, creating one of the most exciting and unusual snorkeling opportunities in Florida. Other local species include snapper, redfish, bass, and tarpon. Local tour companies such as Crystal River Watersports can take you directly to the manatees; tours also include all snorkeling gear. If you’re staying at one of the local vacation rentals, get to the river early to have the manatees to yourself before the afternoon day-trippers arrive.
5. Banana Reef, Key Largo
Watch huge schools of tropical fish dance a few feet away in Banana Reef, one of Key Largo’s best snorkeling sites. This fantastic shallow-water reef is home to brain coral, barracuda, and colorful parrotfish; watch for enormous queen conch as they crawl across the ocean floor. The easiest way to see this offshore reef is on a tour with Keys Diver, which provides boat transportation, all snorkeling gear, and insight into the best snorkeling spots.
6. Twin Ledges, Fort Lauderdale
Watch paper-thin blue sea fans waving in the currents at Twin Ledges, a beautiful reef located off the shore of Fort Lauderdale. As you swim above the coral, lobsters dart into crevices and brilliant yellow grunt fish swim nearby. The reef is also home to pufferfish, French angelfish, and a variety of colorful plants. Although this high-visibility snorkel spot sits just 400 yards offshore, it requires a boat ride; Sea Experience dive shop offers regular Twin Ledges snorkeling tours, as well as equipment rental.
7. John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach
Home to an iconic Florida rock reef, the John D. MacArthur Beach State Park offers beautiful snorkeling, just a short swim from the beach. Peek under the rock ledges to see yellow chub, snappers, and sergeant majors. Watch for stingrays and sea turtles, which visit the reef on low-traffic days. The reef is popular with boaters, so it’s a good idea to mark your spot with a dive flag. Bring your own snorkel equipment, and go at low tide for the shallowest water.
8. Sebastian Inlet State Park, Melbourne Beach
One of the most popular snorkeling spots along the eastern coast of Florida, Sebastian Inlet State Park offers a calm, sheltered lagoon and warm temperatures. The area is a hangout for dolphins and manatees, as well as silver jack, snapper, and sheepshead. If you’re a strong swimmer, you can also snorkel along the northern side of the jetty. Visibility is best in the summer, and for safety. The park requires you to be within 100 feet of a dive flag at all times.
9. Devil’s Den Spring, Williston
Explore the water inside a spectacular prehistoric cave at Devil’s Den Spring. As you dip beneath the water, a massive tunnel system opens up beneath you, creating opportunities to spot catfish, crayfish, and rockfish. The most exciting species in the cave lived thousands of years ago. Now, you can spot their fossils in the ancient rock. Don’t worry about packing in gear; snorkels, masks, and fins are available to rent on site.
10. Phil Foster Park Snorkel Trail, Riviera Beach
Just south of West Palm Beach in the community of Riviera Beach, the Phil Foster Park Snorkel Trail is a fantastic underwater experience for snorkelers of all levels. This artificial reef extends for 800 feet along the beach, and a lifeguard stands sits nearby. Feel free to bring your little ones to this beginner-friendly spot; the water is just 6 to 10 feet deep. As you swim, keep an eye out for more than 300 species that make their home in the rocks, including angelfish, parrotfish, and the fascinating flying gurnard. Six species of seahorse live in the reef, along with lobster and octopus. Just across Phil Foster park, the Singer Island Outdoor Center rents snorkel packages.
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