Year-round sun, golden sand, warm tropical waters, and coral reefs all make Florida the perfect destination for a snorkeling vacation. From gorgeous beaches and mysterious shipwrecks to crystal clear freshwater springs and tranquil lagoons, the state has everything snorkeling fans could want, and more.
Snorkeling in Florida guarantees amazing experiences wherever you are in the state. The diversity of options and habitats is incredible, with stark contrasts between the warm waters of the Gulf, the remote islands of the Keys, the rougher Atlantic, and the clear natural springs of North Florida. From tropical fish, dolphins, sharks, and stingrays to manatees and turtles, life underwater in Florida is remarkable and well worth discovering.
With over 1,000 miles of coastline to explore, deciding where to go snorkeling in Florida can be tough. We’ve put together a list of some of the best snorkeling spots in the Sunshine State, so all you need to do is pack your gear and plan your perfect Florida snorkeling vacation!
Florida Springs in North Florida
North Florida is famous for its extensive system of freshwater natural springs, where locals and tourists alike flock to escape the heat and humidity of the summer months. These picturesque destinations are also superb snorkeling spots, with the crystal clear waters providing spectacular visibility.
Crystal River is probably the most famous snorkeling spot in North Florida. Emptying into the Gulf at Kings Bay, this beautiful waterway is home to various colonies of manatees who migrate to the warm waters during the winter months. The fresh, spring-fed water offers perfect visibility of these remarkable herbivorous mammals, whose curiosity and friendliness often allows you to swim alongside them.
An incredibly popular spring system with the locals, Ginnie Springs is a superb spot for a family day out. The recreation area, co
mplete with a volleyball court and a kids’ playground, offers a load of distractions, while the seven springs are a little slice of classic North Florida. The crystal clear water in the springs offers amazing views of freshwater fish and turtles, and the warm water makes the experience truly relaxing.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park is widely considered to be the crown jewel of North Florida and is certainly one of the most picturesque places in the state. This national natural landmark is bursting with natural beauty, and the springs that make the park what it is are pristine and breathtaking. Snorkeling at Ichetucknee Springs in the cool, inviting depths of the Blue Hole or the open beauty of the main Head Spring is a delightful experience and is possible year-round, thanks to the natural warmth of the waters.
Only a short drive from Orlando, Alexander Springs is beautifully located in the heart of the Ocala National Forest. This wide, gentle, first magnitude spring is surrounded by gorgeous yellow pine forests, and its wide sandy beach makes it a lovely spot to relax and get back to nature. Snorkelers will enjoy exploring the natural limestone rock formations in the spring boil, and discovering all manner of aquatic life including bass, turtles, otters, and even Alice, the 12-foot alligator who calls Alexander Springs home.
Blue Springs State Park
A delightful collection of natural springs and a shallow spring run just a few miles west of High Springs, Blue Springs State Park on the Santa Fe River is the newest Florida State Park. The natural springs offer a number of possibilities for snorkeling, with the clear spring waters providing exceptional visibility and the chance to see turtles, sunfish, bass, and catfish.
Stretching out into the Gulf of Mexico towards Cuba, the Florida Keys is a special part of the world. With colorful coral reefs and an extraordinary array of sea creatures, life underwater is pretty exciting too.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
Most snorkeling adventurers who come to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo are here for the iconic underwater statue of Christ the Redeemer, and it is a very impressive draw indeed. 4,000 pounds of bronze standing three meters high submerged in the shallow waters near Dry Rocks, this beautiful sculpture is an exciting sight to encounter on a snorkeling trip. The coral reef here is a stunning sight too, an underwater state park created thanks to a huge conservation effort, with a variety of species to encounter, including barracuda and tarpon! While the best snorkeling can be had from the tour boats out on the reef, swimming out from Cannon Beach is almost as exciting, with the wreck of a Spanish galleon complete with cannons to be discovered.
Bahia Honda State Park
The 500 acres of Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key are a wonderful choice for beginner snorkelers and young families. The reef is shallow and the waters are calm, and loads of stunning corals and fish can be found just a few strokes from the shore. The gorgeous golden beach fringed with palms makes the perfect place to relax, and there’s even a concession that serves tasty snacks.
Alligator Reef Lighthouse
Heading out on a boat tour from Islamorada will take you to Alligator Reef, one of the more picturesque snorkeling spots in the Florida Keys. A shallow reef, some way from the shore, provides an amazing gathering spot for literally thousands of tropical fish, while more advanced snorkelers might be tempted to head to the deeper reef wall near the lighthouse. This spot offers the chance to see barracuda, sea turtles, and even hammerhead sharks!
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas offers an altogether different experience than most other snorkeling spots in Florida. Remote, even by the standards of the Florida Keys, this marine national park is about 70 miles west of Key West, so a boat trip is necessary. Once you get out here, you’ll find a paradise of shallow coral islands, deep open water, and famous Windjammer Wreck, the sunken remnants of a ship built-in 1875. Snorkeling around this wonderful little slice of paradise is the perfect opportunity to get up close to a huge variety of electric tropical fish, huge queen conch shells, lobsters, and starfish. Due to its distance from Key West, Dry Tortugas has one of the healthiest coral reefs in Florida and is well worth a day trip.
Plenty of people who visit South Florida think that to get good snorkeling they have to head down to the Keys, but there are plenty of excellent snorkeling destinations around Miami and Palm Beach, as well.
Biscayne National Park
The main event for snorkelers at Biscayne National Park is the Half Moon shipwreck. This ship, originally named the Germania, was moored offshore from Miami during the Prohibition era and was sunk in Biscayne Bay in 1930. It now lies just 10 feet below the surface, making great viewing for beginner and expert snorkelers alike. The rest of Biscayne Bay is just as lovely, with shoreline mangrove forests and pretty coral reefs.
Phil Foster Park
Phil Foster Park boasts an outstanding snorkeling trail just 200 feet from the beach, which stretches for over two acres. The artificial reef system that has been created here attracts over 300 different species of marine life, including yellow-headed jawfish, seahorses, and even the occasional octopus! A nearby lifeguard stand makes it a safe place, even for beginners.
Coral Cove Park
Some wonderful natural limestone formations and the nearby Blowing Rocks Preserve make Coral Cove an excellent place for snorkelers. The rock formations attract a wonderful diversity of marine life, with brightly colored tropical fish in abundance. On a good day, you might even see larger species such as nurse sharks, barracuda, loggerhead turtles, and eels.
A man-made island just off the coast of Palm Beach, Peanut Island boasts a tranquil lagoon that is home to plenty of tropical fish, as well as stingrays, small sharks, and even manatees. It is incredibly easy to access and provides a load of helpful amenities for non-snorkelers, including picnic tables, campsites, and the Kennedy Bunker historical site.
Jose Cuervo Margarita Bar
For something completely different, snorkeling enthusiasts and lovers of weird underwater sights might want to head to the Jose Cuervo Margarita Bar. Built as a promotional stunt for Jose Cuervo, it was deliberately sunk during the Cinco de Mayo Festival in 2000 and now sits at the bottom of the sea just off Miami Beach. Join the fishy regulars at what is probably the most unusual snorkeling spot in all of Florida!
Gulf of Mexico
Florida’s Gulf Coast is a real contrast from the glitz and glamor of Miami and the East Coast. Here, the lifestyle is more laid back and relaxed, and the lush tropical landscape makes for the perfect backdrop. The ocean conditions on this side of the state don’t always favor snorkeling, as the water has a tendency to be murky, but there are a number of excellent snorkeling spots in the Gulf if you are willing to look closely.
Destin really lives up to its Emerald Coast billing, with dazzling green waters and perfect sandy beaches. Snorkelers will find a wealth of potential underwater destinations here, from the soft white sand of Norriego Point and the clear Gulf water of Henderson Beach State Park to the artificial reefs at East Pass and Destin Jetties.
St. Andrews State Park
A former military installation with over one and a half miles of beach, St Andrews State Park is a gorgeous spot full of fascinating natural life, thanks to its five distinct ecological habitats. The extensive shoreline and rock jetties provide ample opportunities for snorkelers to explore marine life, while the beaches are equally perfect for swimmers and surfers too.
In 1940, the SS Regina sank off the coast of Sarasota in Southwest Florida. Now the remains of this huge tanker sit on the bottom of the sea at Bradenton Beach near Anna Maria Island and provide the best snorkeling experience in the area. The sea can get rough and murky in bad weather, so it is worth waiting for calm skies and tranquil seas before heading out to the wreck site.
There are a few decent snorkeling spots around Naples, a delightful town south of Sanibel Island just outside the Everglades in Southwest Florida. Delnor-Wiggins State Park offers a shallow coral reef that is easily accessible from the stunning beach, while in good weather you can even snorkel off Naples Municipal Beach. The jewel in the crown here though is Tigertail Beach at Marco Island, a short drive down the coast. The beaches and seas here are pristine due to its somewhat remote location, and the site is well known for dolphin sightings close to shore!
When to snorkel in Florida
Florida’s tropical climate means that it boasts warm weather year-round, and has the mildest winters in the continental US. Depending on where you go, you can find great snorkeling spots all year long. If you are heading to the Florida Keys or South or Southwest Florida, you’ll want to visit in summer, when the weather is warm and dry. Central Florida is great in the spring and early summer, while the springs of North Florida are the perfect place to cool off if you are on a summer vacation. But whenever you visit, you’ll always be able to find amazing snorkeling spots in this wonderful vacation destination.