French Key

The small French Key site has one of the best preserved reefs on the south coast of the island of Roatan. This lagoon with translucent waters sheltered by a coral reef is ideal for snorkeling. Although it is not easy to access (and there is almost always an entrance fee), the abundance of fish, lobsters and coral make it one of the most beautiful snorkeling spots on the island.
How to get there?

French Key is near French Harbor. From Coxen Hole or the airport, head north-east along the main road for 6 miles or so. The French Key reef is accessible either by the privately owned islands of Big French Key and Little French Key or by the Fantasy Island Resort. The latter option is the best because it gives direct access to the reef, but in all three cases you need to pay for admission to the site for the day (from $30 per person). The resorts also offer 2-hour snorkeling packages including equipment, transport by boat and one or two snorkeling stops from $25 per person (on top of the daily admission fee). It is also possible to rent swimfins, masks and snorkels for about $10 per day. It is difficult to get to the reef by other means, unless you rent a boat.

Water entrance

The best option is to enter the water from the main beach of the Fantasy Island Resort. You can also swim to the reef in a few minutes from Little French Key. If you are on an excursion, follow your guide's instructions.

Aerial view


The area to explore covers a strip of about 50 yards wide along the inside of the barrier reef between the Fantasy Island Resort and Little French Key. The depth of the water is the same throughout the area (↕3-6ft/1-2m). The area shown on the aerial shot can be extended to the west.

Snorkeling Report French Key Lionfish Roatan
Lionfish at French Key

If you swim from the Fantasy Island Resort beach, you first come across sandy areas before the first coral appears (mainly lettuce coral) and grows denser. The coral is in calm waters, protected from the waves, and is unusually fine. You will soon spot large shoals of grunts living near the coral beds. Move closer to the reef and you will come across a large number of fine lobsters, which are seldom to be seen elsewhere, nestling in the crevices in the rocks and given away by their white antennae. But the rocky shelter is also the chosen home of much more fearsome creatures. Dozens of lionfish have taken up residence in the reef. Sometimes, in groups of 3 or 4, they rest in the shelter of the coral. They are highly elegant, with their wing-shaped gills, and not aggressive, but you should not touch them as their sting is dangerous. Here more than anywhere else, you should avoid placing your hand on the rocks or setting foot on the sea bed, and stay continually alert. Lionfish are an invasive and voracious species that causes great damage to the underwater life of the Caribbean (unlike in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, their original home, they have no known predator in the Caribbean). Killing them is authorised in all Roatan reefs. As you continue to explore, you may also see reef squid, butterflyfish or fine specimens of jacks. It is not unusual, in the deepest area behind the reef, to come across southern stingrays, but they always swim off straight away into the ocean blue, darting above the sand and the seagrass.

You will probably be surprised by the clearness of the water, highlighted by the white sand sea bed. The shallow waters make this an ideal spot for underwater photography.

Restaurants & accommodation

The French Key resort provides meals as part of the package or outside it. This is the only food and drink on the site. You should also take along some water and snacks.

Snorkeling Report gives the most precise tips possible about the snorkeling spots and potential dangers, but each one of us is responsible for our own safety in the water. For more information, take a look at the snorkeling safety page. If you want to add extra information or make any corrections to the spot descriptions, please contact us.

Spot’s weather forecasts (°C)

Spot tips

  • Type of spot
  • Level of difficulty
  • Maximum depth
    8ft (2.5m) in the lagoon, 20ft (6m) in the channel
  • Water entrance
    Easy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential Dangers
    Many lionfish, boats in the channel
  • Lifeguard
  • Visitor numbers
  • Access costs
    Admission fee (from $30 pp.)
  • Restaurants nearby
    Yes, expensive
  • Public toilets & showers

Spot map

Spot photos

Underwater spot photos

Species you may spot while snorkeling French Key

Common name Scientific name Abundance Fishbase Wikipedia
Southern stingray
Dasyatis americana
Common lionfish
Pterois miles
Spotfin butterflyfish
Chaetodon ocellatus
Banded butterflyfish
Chaetodon striatus
Foureye butterflyfish
Chaetodon capistratus
Atlantic blue tang
Acanthurus coeruleus
Doctorfish tang
Acanthurus chirurgus
Bluestriped grunt
Haemulon sciurus
French grunt
Haemulon flavolineatum
Mahogany snapper
Lutjanus mahogoni
Schoolmaster snapper
Lutjanus apodus
Smooth trunkfish
Lactophrys triqueter
Yellowhead wrasse
Halichoeres garnoti
Harlequin bass
Serranus tigrinus
Trachinotus falcatus
Calamar de récif des Caraïbes
Sepioteuthis sepioidea
Sabella sp.
Equetus lanceolatus
Bar jack
Carangoides ruber
Queen conch
Lobatus gigas
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You encountered a specie at this spot that is not listed here?