The south-eastern coast of Florida, from West Palm Beach in the north to Key West in the south, is the snorkeling capital of the United States. It includes the Keys region, a chain of a thousand islands and coral islets situated in the Straits of Florida, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

The most popular snorkeling spots in the area are on the reef of Fort Lauderdale (Twin Ledge), in Key Largo (particularly the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park), in Bahia Honda Key, or in Key West, but you generally need a boat to reach the reefs.

Although the coral formations are not spectacular (mainly sea fan “forests”), a large share of the typical underwater life of the Caribbean can be found there.

Snorkeling the Florida Keys
Florida Keys region (left) is home to nice coral reefs. Right: blue striped grunt and sea fans at Twin Ledges reef, off Fort Lauderdale.

Do you want to experience something really unique? Cross the peninsula to Kings Bay, in Citrus County, to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The warm sources of the bay, constantly at 72°F (22.5°C), provide a unique refuge of heat for the manatees gathering there in the winter months. This is the only place in Florida where the visitors are allowed to swim with these fascinating and peaceful animals.

Snorkeling with manatees at Crystal River
Crystal River is one of a few spots on Florida’s west coast where snorkelers can meet manatees.

When to go snorkeling Florida?

Snorkeling is possible all-year-round in Florida, but in the winter months (particularly in January and February), the cool, windy days can make swimming less pleasant.

The winters (November to February) are mild (68-77°F/20-25°C) and sunny, and the summers (June to September) warm and humid, with average temperatures of 86 to 95°F (30 to 35°C).

In fall and spring, the weather is hot and sunny, with a low rate of humidity and scattered showers. During these two seasons, temperatures range from 72 to 84°F (22 to 29°C).

Bear in mind that the hurricane season, from August to October, can cut off access to the sea for long periods.

Winters are much colder in Citrus County, but the constant temperature of the water in the warm sources (72°F/22.5°) means you can swim all the year-round.

Warm and humid
Warm and sunny

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