If you’re visiting the Florida Keys and want to go snorkeling, Islamorada has some great spots. Whether you’re looking for shallow waters for kids and inexperienced snorkelers to deeper areas with more challenging features, Islamorada has something to suit everyone.
Different spots also allow you to see any number of coral, fish, and other ocean life. Some of the places even have some interesting wreckage and historical sites to explore. We’ve rounded up ten of the best snorkeling spots and a few honorable mentions as well.
Top 10 Snorkeling Spots in Islamorada
Below are ten of the best places to snorkel in Islamorada.
1. Cheeca Rocks
Cheeca Rocks is a great little reef for snorkeling in Islamorada. You’ll need to take a short boat ride to get there, but the trip is well worth it. You can expect depths between eight and 20 feet, so you can snorkel or free dive.
Cheeca Rocks are located about halfway between the barrier reef and the keys, so you can expect the water to be greener than other reefs you may explore. This green color is due to algae growth. It’s a beautiful reef, but if you’re planning to do some underwater photography, you may want to choose a different reef with better visibility.
One of the best features of Cheeca Rocks is the variety of ocean life you can see there. If you want to see a lot of fish, this reef will undoubtedly be a delight. Snorkelers report seeing multiple schools of fish in a variety of colors and sizes. You can also find animals like turtles and several types of coral.
2. Indian Key State Park
If you want to kayak and snorkel, Indian Key State Park is a great place to go. From Islamorada, it’s less than an hour to kayak to the small island where Indian Key State Park is located. The best place to snorkel is on the side of the island that faces the ocean.
Indian Key State Park is home to part of the ancient barrier reef, and there is much to see underwater. There’s a lot to see here, particularly if you’re hoping to see schools of fish. Some snorkelers say they saw more ocean life here than in any other spots in Islamorada.
You may want to bring water shoes as there are many jagged rocks as you make your way to the reef. It’s easy to cut your feet. If you’re into history, you may also enjoy wandering around the island itself. The place was once the county seat for Dade County and had a rich and compelling history.
3. Hen and Chickens Reef
If you plan to spend a while snorkeling, Hen and Chickens Reef is a good option. It’s a short ride from Islamorada, and it’s perfect if you don’t feel like traveling out to the main barrier reef. Hens and Chickens Reef gets its unusual name from the way it looks when seen from above. The main patch reef looks like a hen, surrounded by smaller reefs that look like chickens.
There’s quite a bit to explore at this more extensive reef. You can find several types of coral at different depths. There are also many nooks and crannies to explore. Visibility can sometimes be a little low due to algae growth, but there are still lots of fish and coral to explore.
You’ll also find lots of other ocean life at Hen and Chickens Reef. You may get a chance to see a ray or even a sea turtle. In addition to the beautiful coral, you’ll also see sea rods and fans, worms, and sponges.
4. Alligator Reef
If you’re up for a longer boat ride, then consider a trip out to Alligator Reef. It’s located along the main reef. One of the most exciting things about this reef is that it’s situated under and around an old lighthouse. Another thing you’ll love about Alligator Reef is its visibility. It’s much more transparent than some of the more algae-laden reefs.
Since the water is clear and the lighthouse offers a lot of shade, many fish are drawn to the spot, so you have a chance of seeing some incredible ocean life. There are three areas to explore. You can find some ballast stones left over from the sinking of the ship the Alligator in the shallow parts. You’ll find many smaller tropical fish here.
You can also explore the area below the lighthouse. There are many supports here where the fish like to hang out. You may even see some barracudas. Many snorkelers consider this spot the best place to snorkel in Alligator Reef. If you want to see bigger fish, you’ll need to take a short boat ride to a deeper area near a wall. You may even get the chance to see a shark.
5. Founders Park
If you’re snorkeling in Islamorada with kids, especially kids who are new to snorkeling, you may not be comfortable taking them all the way out to the reef until they’ve gotten a little more experience under their belt. One of the best places in the area to snorkel with kids (or anyone new to snorkeling) is Founders Park.
You can snorkel right off the beach here; no boat rides to the reef necessary. The water is shallow, and along the beach’s north side, you can find a jetty wall with some great hiding spots where you’re sure to find some fish.
If you want more, you can swim about 15 yards out and find a few different types of coral. If you’re lucky, you may see manatees, starfish, and rays. This spot can be perfect for kids who are more experienced snorkelers and are ready for a challenge.
6. San Pedro Wreck
If you enjoy archaeology, you’ll definitely want to check out the San Pedro Wreck. The site is located around a mile off the Indian Key State Park and can be accessed by boat. It features a sunken ship that dates back to 1733. This spot is unique because most shipwreck sites are so deep they can only be accessed by divers. This wreck is in shallow waters, perfect for snorkeling.
While much of the boat has been recovered, there’s still a lot to see underwater. There are still plenty of the original ballast stones you can enjoy. You can also find a replica anchor and canons and a plaque with information on the site. Besides, there are several other shipwreck sites along the Florida Keys a little ways off from Islamorada that you might find exciting to see.
There’s also lots of marine life to check out while you’re there. With all the cover, you can expect to find a wide variety of fish and several types of coral as well.
7. Davis Reef
Davis Reef is also known as Davis Ledge. If you’re hoping to see a variety of schools of fish, you’re in luck. Davis Reef is one of the farthest out reefs, so you’re sure to see many fish and lots of other ocean animals, such as sharks, green morays, lobsters, and eels. Be sure to look around the ledge, as that’s where a lot of the sea life prefers to hang out.
While Davis Reef is pretty far out, it’s also shallow, making it ideal for experienced snorkelers who don’t want to dive (although there are plenty of good spots to dive at Davis Reef as well). Be sure to also search for the Buddha statue and rub its belly for good luck.
8. Crocker Reef and Wall
Crocker Reef and Wall is another great snorkeling location where you can spot a plethora of marine life. The area boasts several types of coral in an array of beautiful colors. There’s also a fairly steep dropoff leading down into a canyon.
One of the best features of this spot is that it’s suitable for photography. If you want to get some gorgeous pictures, you can expect clear waters and various fish that are more than willing to get close enough for the perfect shot.
9. The Eagle
Another great shipwreck to explore is the Eagle. Since the shipwreck was torn apart by Hurricane Georges, there is much to see here. The ship itself is covered in colorful coral, and you can also find multiple types of fish here. Not only can you see schools, but you can also see some larger species that you won’t find in many of the other reefs.
10. Victory Reef
Victory Reef is considered one of the most beautiful in the Keys. It’s a short boat ride from Islamorada, and it’s a spur and groove reef, unlike most of the patch reefs listed here. It gets its name from the V shape of the reef.
Victory Reef is one of the most extensive coral formations in the keys. Due to its size, you never know what you may find here. It’s definitely a place to snorkel a few times.
A Few Other Snorkeling Spots in Islamorada Worthy of Mention
- Pickles Reef
- Conch Wall
(You might be interested in reading about Best Snorkeling Destinations in Florida)
Islamorada boasts some of the most beautiful, diverse spots for snorkeling in the Keys. While many of these spots are only accessible by boat, you’ll definitely think it was worth the trip once you see the incredible ocean life.