Discovering Key West: Is it Good for Snorkeling?

If you’re looking for a getaway that offers more than just sun and sand, then Key West might just be the place for you. With its crystal-clear waters, Key West is a snorkeler’s paradise. But is Key West good for snorkeling? The answer is absolutely yes! Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, Key West is sure to offer you an unforgettable underwater experience.

What makes Key West such a great spot for snorkeling is its diverse marine life. With over 600 species of fish and a variety of colorful corals, Key West’s waters are vibrant and teeming with life. Snorkelers can expect to see everything from tiny seahorses to majestic sea turtles. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a school of playful dolphins. With such a rich marine ecosystem, it’s no wonder that Key West is considered one of the top snorkeling destinations in the US.

Another great thing about snorkeling in Key West is the accessibility of its waters. With close to 300 shipwrecks scattered around the island, there’s always something new to explore. Some of the wrecks are easily accessible from shore, while others require a boat ride to reach. Whether you want to snorkel in shallow waters or explore deeper wrecks, Key West offers something for every level of snorkeler. So if you’re looking for a fun and memorable snorkeling experience, Key West is the place to be!

Best Snorkeling Spots in Key West

If you’re looking for the best snorkeling spots in Key West, you’re in luck! The warm, crystal-clear waters surrounding the island are home to a diverse and beautiful variety of marine life. Here’s a breakdown of the top spots for snorkeling:

  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: This state park boasts one of the most pristine beaches in Key West, and it’s also one of the best spots for snorkeling. The underwater landscape is teeming with colorful fish and diverse coral formations.
  • Eastern Dry Rocks: Located in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, these rocks are home to a variety of marine life, including parrotfish, angelfish, and barracudas.
  • Rock Key: This small island is only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the trip. The shallow waters surrounding the island are perfect for beginners, and you’ll see plenty of colorful fish and coral.

Snorkeling Tips

Before you head out to explore the underwater world, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Always wear a life jacket, even if you’re a strong swimmer.
  • Make sure your snorkeling gear fits properly and is in good condition.
  • Don’t touch the coral or marine life – it’s fragile and can be easily damaged.
  • Respect the environment and other snorkelers by not littering or disturbing the wildlife.

Best Time to Snorkel

Key West is a year-round destination for snorkeling, but the best time to go is during the dry season, which runs from November to April. During this time, the water is clearer and calmer, making for optimal snorkeling conditions.

Month Water Temperature (F) Visibility (ft)
January 72-75 50-70
February 70-75 50-70
March 72-77 60-80
April 76-80 70-80
May 80-83 50-60
June 83-87 40-50
July 84-89 40-50
August 84-89 50-70
September 83-87 50-70
October 80-84 50-70
November 76-80 60-80
December 74-78 60-80

No matter where you decide to snorkel in Key West, you’re sure to have a memorable experience. Just remember to follow these tips and respect the environment for a fun and safe adventure.

Types of marine life to see while snorkeling in Key West

Key West is renowned for its crystal clear waters and magnificent marine life, attracting snorkelers from all over the world. Here are some of the most fascinating creatures you can expect to see while snorkeling in Key West.


  • The Queen Angelfish is a common sight in Key West’s coral reefs. They sport vibrant colors and patterns, making them an aesthetic treat for snorkelers.
  • The Grunts are a popular attraction for snorkelers and are known for their characteristic grunting sounds. These fish are mild-mannered and school in large numbers.
  • The Spotted Eagle Ray is easily recognizable with its wing-like fins and polka-dotted skin. These majestic creatures frequently glide by snorkelers in search of food.

Coral Reefs

Key West’s coral reefs are a beautiful world unto themselves, and snorkeling provides an opportunity to get a close-up view of its diverse ecosystem.

Some of the most common types of corals in Key West include:

  • Brain Coral – with its convoluted surface resembling a human brain, this is one of the most recognizable corals in the reef.
  • Staghorn Coral – its distinctive antler-like branches are a significant element of the reef structure and home to countless marine species.
  • Elkhorn Coral – another essential component of the reef ecosystem, this coral has a distinctive flattened antler-shaped appearance.


Key West also offers snorkelers the opportunity to marvel at its impressive turtle population. The most commonly sighted turtles include:

  • The Green Sea Turtle – known for its greenish-brown skin and warm smile, these turtles are a joy to swim alongside.
  • The Hawksbill Turtle – with their pointed beaks and beautiful shell patterns, this turtle species is also commonly found in Key West waters.
  • The Loggerhead Turtle – while not as commonly sighted as the Green and Hawksbill turtles, this species can be observed navigating the reef with ease.


For those lucky enough to spot one, the Octopus is an elusive and wondrous sight. These intelligent creatures often inhabit crevices and lairs in the reef, where they can be difficult to spot but a delight to see.

Octopus Characteristics Description
Camouflage Octopuses have the remarkable ability to change the color and texture of their skin to blend in with their surroundings. This helps them to remain undetected by predators and prey alike.
Multiple Arms Octopuses have eight arms, each containing hundreds of sensitive suction cups. These arms allow them to navigate the reef with precision and capture prey with ease.
Remarkable Intelligence Octopuses are known to have exceptional problem-solving skills and can even learn and adapt to different situations. They are also thought to have exceptional memories.

Snorkeling in Key West is an unforgettable experience, offering glimpses of some of the most remarkable marine life on the planet. Whether it’s colorful fish, majestic turtles, or elusive octopuses, Key West has something for everyone.

Equipment rentals for snorkeling in Key West

If you’re planning a snorkeling adventure in Key West, it’s essential to have the right equipment to make the most of your experience. Luckily, there are plenty of places to rent snorkeling gear on the island.

Here are some of the best equipment rental locations for snorkeling in Key West:

  • Fury Water Adventures: This popular company offers a range of snorkeling packages that include equipment rental, as well as guided tours of the reef. You’ll find them at 241 Front St, Key West, FL 33040.
  • Barefoot Billy’s: This company offers snorkeling equipment rentals, as well as jet ski and kayak rentals. You’ll find them at 243 Front St, Key West, FL 33040.
  • Sebago Watersports: This company offers snorkeling tours and equipment rental, as well as sunset sails, jet ski tours, and parasailing. You’ll find them at 205 Elizabeth St, Key West, FL 33040.

No matter where you choose to rent your snorkeling gear, make sure to select the right equipment for your skill level and the conditions you’ll be snorkeling in.

Here’s a quick guide to what you’ll need:

Equipment Description
Mask A properly fitting mask is essential for clear vision underwater
Snorkel A snorkel allows you to breathe easily while keeping your face in the water
Fins Fins provide propulsion and makes it easier to swim against current
Rash Guard A rash guard protects your skin from the sun and jellyfish stings

With the right equipment and rental location, you’ll be ready for an unforgettable snorkeling experience in Key West.

Snorkeling tours in Key West

If you want to explore the underwater world of Key West, snorkeling is the way to go. With its crystal-clear waters and diverse marine life, Key West offers some of the best snorkeling experiences in Florida. One of the best ways to enjoy a snorkeling adventure is by joining a tour with experienced guides who can take you to the best snorkeling spots and share their knowledge about the local marine environment.

Top Snorkeling Tours in Key West

  • Danger Charters
  • Sebago Watersports
  • Fury Water Adventures

These are just a few of the top-rated snorkeling tour companies in Key West. Each of them offers a range of tours that cater to different skill levels and interests. Some of the tours include equipment rental, snacks, and drinks, and may also include other activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding, or sailing.

What to Expect on a Snorkeling Tour

When you go on a snorkeling tour in Key West, you can expect to be taken to some of the region’s most popular snorkeling sites, such as the coral reefs of the Florida Keys. You’ll be provided with all the necessary gear, including a mask, snorkel, and fins, and you’ll receive a safety briefing before entering the water. Snorkeling guides will lead you through the shallow waters and point out various marine creatures such as tropical fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins if you’re lucky.

Snorkeling tours are suitable for all ages and skill levels, and you don’t need to have any previous experience to participate. Bear in mind that some tours may have minimum age requirements, so always check in advance.

Best Snorkeling Sites in Key West

Key West has an abundance of snorkeling sites to choose from. Here are some of the most popular:

Snorkeling Site Description
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Located in Key Largo, this is the only underwater state park in the US and offers some of the best snorkeling in the Florida Keys.
Dry Tortugas National Park Situated 70 miles west of Key West, this remote park boasts crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life.
Sand Key Lighthouse This historic lighthouse is surrounded by a shallow reef, making it a perfect spot for novice snorkelers.

No matter which snorkeling site you choose, you’ll be amazed by the stunning coral formations and colorful marine life that call the waters around Key West home.

Weather conditions for snorkeling in Key West

Key West is a world-renowned destination for snorkeling enthusiasts due to its crystal clear waters, pristine coral reefs, and diverse marine life. However, before planning your next snorkeling adventure in Key West, it is important to understand the weather conditions that may impact your overall experience.

Here are the essential things you need to know about the weather conditions for snorkeling in Key West:

  • Temperature: The year-round warm weather in Key West makes it an ideal destination for snorkeling. Water temperatures range from 78°F (26°C) in winter to 86°F (30°C) in summer.
  • Wind: Winds can significantly impact water visibility and the overall snorkeling experience. Generally, mornings in Key West are calm, making it the best time for snorkeling. In the afternoons, winds can pick up and create waves, making it difficult to see the underwater world.
  • Rain: While rainfall is prevalent during the summer months, it is usually short-lived and does not significantly affect snorkeling conditions. However, during a heavy rain, runoff from streets and lawns can decrease visibility.
  • Hurricanes: As a tropical destination, Key West is susceptible to hurricanes between June and November. Not only can hurricanes disrupt travel plans, but they also have a significant impact on the marine environment, including visibility and coral reef health.
  • Tides: The tides can also affect the snorkeling experience in Key West, with low tide being the most challenging time to snorkel due to shallow waters and limited visibility. High tide, on the other hand, offers the best visibility and the opportunity to see more marine life.

To make the most of your snorkeling adventure in Key West, it is essential to plan your timing carefully and choose a reliable snorkeling tour operator who can provide real-time updates on weather and water conditions. By understanding the basics of Key West’s weather, you can ensure a fantastic snorkeling experience in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.

Month Temperature (°F) Rainfall (in)
January 68 – 75 2
February 68 – 76 2
March 71 – 79 2
April 74 – 82 3
May 78 – 85 5
June 81 – 88 9
July 82 – 89 7
August 82 – 89 8
September 80 – 87 8
October 77 – 84 4
November 73 – 80 2
December 69 – 76 2

The table above shows the average temperature and rainfall in Key West by month. Keep in mind that weather conditions can vary, and it is always best to check the current weather forecast before planning your snorkeling adventure.

Safety Tips for Snorkeling in Key West

If you’re planning to go snorkeling in Key West, it’s important to be aware of some safety tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are six key tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose a safe location: Before you go snorkeling, make sure to research safe and appropriate snorkeling locations in Key West. Ask locals or tour guides for their recommendations, as they will have the most up-to-date knowledge of the area.
  • Check the weather: Always check the weather forecast before heading out for a snorkel. High winds, rough seas, and lightning storms can make snorkeling dangerous and unpredictable.
  • Use proper snorkeling gear: Invest in quality snorkeling gear, including a well-fitted mask, fins, and a snorkel. Poorly fitting gear can cause discomfort and even increase the risk of injury.
  • Learn snorkeling techniques: Take the time to learn proper snorkeling techniques, such as how to clear your mask and snorkel, and how to conserve your energy while swimming.
  • Buddy up: Never go snorkeling alone. Always bring a buddy or join a guided tour, as it’s always safer to have someone keeping watch over you.
  • Be mindful of marine life: Remember, you’re a visitor in the underwater world. Respect the marine life and never touch or disturb any creatures you may encounter. Similarly, be aware of your surroundings and avoid coral reefs or seagrass beds to minimize the risk of damage.

Common Snorkeling Risks in Key West

Despite taking all necessary precautions, it’s important to be aware of the common risks associated with snorkeling in Key West:

  • Dehydration: Snorkeling can be a physically demanding activity, and it’s easy to become dehydrated while submerged in the water. Make sure to bring plenty of water and hydrate regularly.
  • Sunburn: The Florida sun can be strong, especially when reflected off the water. Apply sunscreen regularly and bring protective clothing to cover up when necessary.
  • Jellyfish stings: While not common, encounters with jellyfish can occur while snorkeling in Key West. If stung, immediately rinse the affected area with vinegar and seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Boat traffic: Always be aware of boat traffic in the area and avoid swimming in heavily trafficked areas.

Emergency Procedures

Although rare, emergencies can happen while snorkeling. It’s important to be prepared and know what to do in case of an emergency. Here are some key procedures to keep in mind:

In the event of:

Emergency Type Procedure
Drowning Call for help immediately and try to keep the person afloat until help arrives. Administer CPR if necessary.
Marine animal attack Get out of the water as quickly and calmly as possible. Rinse the wound with fresh water and seek medical attention if necessary.
Hypothermia Get out of the water and seek warmth immediately. Remove wet clothing and cover with dry blankets or clothing.
Disorientation Stay put and try to signal for help. Use whistle or anything bright that can attract attention.

By following these safety tips and being aware of the potential risks and emergencies associated with snorkeling in Key West, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for yourself and others.

Best time of year for snorkeling in Key West

When it comes to snorkeling in Key West, the best time of year to do so depends on several factors. These include weather conditions, water temperature, and marine life patterns. Here are seven things to keep in mind when planning your snorkeling adventure in Key West:

  • Winter months: December through February are the coolest months in Key West, but they also offer the clearest waters for snorkeling. Plus, you’ll have a better chance of spotting larger marine life during this time of year.
  • Spring break: If you’re planning a spring break trip, keep in mind that March can be quite crowded in Key West. However, the water temperature starts to warm up, making it a great time for snorkeling.
  • Summer months: June through August can be hot and humid in Key West, but these months offer the warmest water temperatures for snorkeling. You’ll also have a better chance of spotting tropical fish during this time of year.
  • Fall season: September through November is the off-season in Key West, which means fewer crowds and lower rates. The water temperature is still warm, but this time of year can be affected by hurricane season.
  • Water temperature: The water temperature ranges from the low to mid-70s in winter to the mid-80s in summer. It’s best to wear a wetsuit or rash guard, especially during the cooler months.
  • Visibility: The visibility in Key West can range from 40 to 100 feet depending on the time of year and weather conditions. It’s best to check conditions before booking your snorkeling excursion.
  • Marine life: You can expect to see a variety of marine life while snorkeling in Key West, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional shark. However, some species are more prevalent during certain times of year, so it’s always a good idea to do your research beforehand.


Overall, Key West is a great destination for snorkeling year-round, as long as you consider the factors mentioned above. Whether you’re looking for clear water, warm temperatures, or the chance to spot unique marine life, there’s something for everyone in Key West.

Season Water Temperature Visibility Marine Life
Winter Low to mid-70s 40-80 feet Larger marine life
Spring Mid-70s 60-100 feet Tropical fish
Summer Mid-80s 50-70 feet Tropical fish and sea turtles
Fall Mid-70s 60-80 feet Smaller marine life

Remember to always check the weather and water conditions before booking your snorkeling trip to ensure the best possible experience.

Differences in snorkeling experiences between Key West and other Florida Keys

Snorkeling in Key West stands out from other Florida Keys. Here are some of the major differences in snorkeling experiences:

  • Accessibility: Key West snorkeling spots are easier to get to than other Florida Keys. Several locations are within walking distance from the island’s beaches, while others can be reached by short boat rides, making it more convenient for tourists.
  • Biodiversity: Key West’s snorkeling sites have a more diverse marine ecosystem compared to other Florida Keys. These sites have an abundance of marine life, including colorful fishes, corals, and other sea creatures, making it a visual treat.
  • Visibility: The clarity of water is one of the biggest factors that differentiate snorkeling experiences in Key West. The waters are crystal-clear, with a great visibility of up to 100 feet. In contrast, other Florida Keys have murkier and cloudier waters that impact snorkeling experience.

Here is a comparison table that highlights the differences in snorkeling experiences between Key West and other Florida Keys:

Snorkeling experience Key West Other Florida Keys
Accessibility Easy access by foot or short boat rides Requires longer boat rides or additional transport
Biodiversity More diverse marine ecosystem Less diverse marine ecosystem
Visibility Crystal-clear waters with a great visibility of up to 100 feet Murkier and cloudier waters with lower visibility

Overall, Key West offers a more convenient and visually stunning snorkeling experience compared to other Florida Keys. It is a great destination for beginners and experienced snorkelers who want to explore the rich marine life of Florida.

Recommended Snorkeling Companies in Key West

When it comes to exploring the underwater world of Key West, one of the best ways to do it is through snorkeling. With a plethora of snorkeling companies in the area, it might be overwhelming to pick one. We’ve put together a list of some of the top recommended snorkeling companies that will provide you with a fun and memorable experience exploring the stunning marine life of Key West.

  • Sebago Watersports: Established in 1986, Sebago Watersports offers a variety of water-based activities, including snorkeling tours. They provide their customers with top-notch gear and make sure everyone is safe and comfortable while out exploring. Their expert guides have extensive knowledge of the area, making it a great option for those looking to get the most out of their snorkeling experience.
  • Fury Water Adventures: With over three decades of experience, Fury Water Adventures offers numerous snorkeling tours that cater to all levels of experience. They provide their customers with well-maintained equipment and have friendly and knowledgeable guides who are passionate about showcasing the beauty of Key West’s waters.
  • Danger Charters: Danger Charters specializes in small-group tours that allow for a more intimate experience of the areas they visit. Their snorkeling excursions are led by experienced guides skilled at finding the most interesting marine life to observe. They also offer a floating platform for swimmers that want to take a break and enjoy their surroundings.

No matter which snorkeling company you choose, make sure you feel comfortable with the level of safety and guidance they provide. You’ll be enjoying the clear blue waters, coral reefs, and schools of fish in no time!

Environmental conservation efforts and snorkeling in Key West

Key West is a beautiful, biodiverse location that offers visitors a chance to explore the coral reefs and marine life through snorkeling. However, with the increase in tourist activities, there are concerns about the impact on the environment.

The local government and community have taken steps to address these concerns by implementing a variety of environmental conservation efforts in Key West. These initiatives aim to balance the appeal of tourism with the preservation of the natural environment.

  • Beach and Waterway Cleanups: Volunteers regularly organize trash pickups on beaches and waterways, removing debris that can harm marine life and pollute the water.
  • Coral Restoration: Organizations such as Mote Marine Laboratory and the Coral Restoration Foundation work to restore damaged coral reefs, essential habitats for fish and other marine animals. Tourists can even participate in coral restoration dives.
  • Sustainable Tourism: The Monroe County Tourist Development Council promotes responsible, eco-friendly tourism practices. Many snorkeling tour operators have started using larger boats with electric motors or have switched to biodiesel fuel to reduce their impact on the environment.

By supporting these conservation efforts, snorkelers can help protect the environment and ensure a sustainable future for Key West’s marine life.

Snorkeling in Key West is an experience unlike any other. With a diverse array of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even shipwrecks, it’s a great way to explore the underwater world. Here are a few popular snorkeling spots:

  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: This state park boasts crystal-clear waters and a thriving coral reef ecosystem, providing snorkelers with a unique underwater adventure.
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: Located 70 miles west of Key West, this park is home to the historic Fort Jefferson and coral reefs inhabited by a variety of marine life.
  • Smathers Beach: Known for its shallow waters and abundance of marine life, such as parrotfish and sergeant majors, this beach is an ideal spot for snorkeling beginners.

Overall, visitors can enjoy snorkeling in Key West while supporting environmental conservation efforts. With responsible tourism practices and ongoing conservation initiatives, the Marine Sanctuary and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will remain home to a diverse and thriving ecosystem for years to come.

Location Features
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Crystal-clear waters and a thriving coral reef ecosystem
Dry Tortugas National Park Historic Fort Jefferson and coral reefs inhabited by a variety of marine life
Smathers Beach Shallow waters and an abundance of marine life, such as parrotfish and sergeant majors

Ready to Dive In?

So there you have it, folks. Key West is an absolute gem for snorkeling enthusiasts. Its crystal-clear waters, diverse marine life and lively coral communities offer some of the best snorkeling experiences in the world. From the vibrant reefs of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park to the exotic shipwrecks of Vandenberg and Eagle, Key West has an infinite variety of spots to explore. So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to dive in! Thank you for reading, folks. We hope you’ve found this article helpful in planning your trip to Key West. And remember to visit us again soon for more exciting travel tips and insights. Happy snorkeling!