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Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

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Salt Lake City, Utah
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Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

Hi everyone! I've been given a week in a timeshare location of my choice for 2010, and am having a difficult time picking where to go! My husband and I love the turquoise waters of the caribbean & bahamas, but would love to stay within the USA for this next trip. I figured the Florida Keys were the closest thing I could get to the turquoise crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. Am I right?

I'm just looking for the best place to snorkel. Is it Key West? Or is another key better?

Thanks in advance!

Bemidji, Minnesota
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1. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

The reef lies a few miles offshore, roughly paralleling the Keys. No one spot has the best, all are roughly equal with the same coral and fish. I'd recommend you spend your time looking at the other things available in the various Keys and make a decision based on what is on land rather than what is in the water. Key West has the most to offer with history, food, beverages, and choices of water activities.

Memphis, TN
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2. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

The reef, about 10 miles off of Key West is a great place to snorkel. There are several very good operators who run half and full day excursions. Read some of the reviews, the overview page and forums, and you will learn more about what KW has to offer. Another nice place to swim and snorkel is at the Dry Tortugas National Park. It is 70 miles west of Key West and 2 operators run day trips there.

Charlotte, North...
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3. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

With the exception of Dry Tortugas, I've snorkeled all areas of the Keys. I love Key West, but must confess the reefs we snorkeled out of KW are the most damaged that I've seen in the Keys. Plenty of tropical fish and other sealife, just very damaged/dead coral. Very sad. My favorite place to snorkel is Looe Key, there are snorkel boats in Big Pine Key and also Bahia Honda State Park that go there. It is not a bad drive from Key West; around 45 minutes, so you could stay in KW and still snorkel Looe Key.(the drive from KW to Big Pine is beautiful) In my opinion, the next best snorkeling in the Keys is in John Pennecamp State Park in Key Largo. There are State park snorkel boat tours and also private tour boat companies that go to those reefs. Key Largo is okay, but if you never get any further in the Keys than that, you will have missed a lot. Sombrero Lighthouse reef off of Marathon, would my 3rd choice. If it's just you and your husband, I think the most fun place to stay would be Key West. Great nightlife, food, museums, etc. And the historic homes in Old Town are just beautiful. I suggest renting bikes and touring the historic areas of the town. Kayaking is another of my favorite things to do in the Keys. Lazy Dogs in Key West is a good oufit; there are also others in town.

Los Angeles
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4. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

I agree with most of the above post!

There can be good snorkeling out of KW but the reefs aren't prime.

But I have been out to the reef at Fort Jefferson and can say that it was the best I've seen. They had huge coral heads fish of all sizes, including some BIG grouper, and conch, sting rays, etc. And you can get to the reef straight from the beach, which makes for a much more romantic day. You can pick your own secluded spot on the beach for your gear, swim out a few hundred yards to the reef and after you're too tired, or your mouth starts to hurt from the snorkel, you can return to your sun-warmed towels and lay out soaking up the sun.

Of course if the weather is working with you there are many places that can be good. But if there is too much wind or rain it can ruin even the best places.

I noticed that Key Largo seems much more dive oriented than Key West, with more choices for shops and boats. But almost every key will have a place with boats going out. Probably best to sample several keys and decide what suits you best.

Pjk
New Jersey
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5. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

To be fair, snorkling at the reef out of Key West can be very good with clear water and a variety of fish to see, but it can also be not so good with cloudy water, cooler air temps, and you might not see many fish. But the actual snorkling is just part of the trip. There is also the sail out and the description of the area by one of the crew, the snorkling itself, and then the sail back with a few drinks. You invariably meet some other people from your state or even your town and swap stories, and even meet new people and share suggestions about what else to see in Key West.

I think this is why I've never been too interested in snorkling off the shore. And you will notice people on the trip who don't snorkel who are just along for the ride.

Pjk

Juno Beach, Florida
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6. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

Looe Key - last summer I went 3 times and all 3 times I saw great tropicals and sharks

Los Angeles
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7. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

Yes, Looe Key has these fingers of coral that rise almost to the surface and then drop down maybe 20+ feet! Each finger seemed to have its own barracuda, usually a big fat one that seemed to just hang out and try to intimidate new snorkelers!

We took the boat out of a Lower Key, I think it was Big Pine.

With great water clarity you will see so many fish that you might not even get to see in a major aquarium.

Pjk
New Jersey
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8. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

This is how the reef is laid out at Sand Key where the Sebago or Fury or Floridays will ususlly try for on a day trip. Fingers of coral that you can swim up and down and where there are lots of fish. You can sometimes find a good spot and just hang there and let the fish come to you.

Pjk

9. Re: Best Snorkeling in the Florida Keys?

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