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Key West Snorkeling Tips      

Snorkeling Key WestIf you plan on driving down to Key West, either all the way from home or after you fly down and rent a car there are lots of places you can stop along the way and enjoy the clear blue waters of the Florida Keys. Some side trips you may want to check out and plan ahead for. As you are just about to leave the mainland you may want to check out both of these. Everglades National Park and Key Biscayne National Park. Most people do not realize just how close they are to the Everglades. I highly recommend a quick trip to see just part of it. The main south entrance is just 20 minutes from US1 the main welcome center is just outside the main gate so you can just pop in and browse with out paying to get into the park. I do recommend going in to just the first exit a few miles in to the Anhinga Trail. Walk the boardwalk with its self guided tour and you will see just about everything the glades has to offer depending on the time of year lots of alligators are guaranteed in the winter months. The whole tip from Burger King on US1 to doing the visitor center and the walk around first trail and back to US1 4 Hours tops.
Key West Life is Good
Try and make this detour before entering or if the timing is better as you leave the Florida Keys. Now if you make a left at Burger King you head toward Key Biscayne National Park about a half hour drive from US1 here you can get some snorkeling in. Its a nice side trip but i would wait till you get to John Peenakamp State Park for a few hours of snorkeling it is right on US 1 in Key Largo. As you drive down the keys there are lots of places you can just pull of the road and take a quick dip and snorkel. There is no coral but you never know what you may find as you go snorkeling around and helps keep the kids from getting too cranky. Ann's Beach at MM 72.5 ( MM= Mile Marker little green signs on the side of the road Homestead on the mainland is about MM 120 and Key West is MM 0) Next big place is Baja Honda State park MM 36.5. great of hours of beach fun and snorkeling and it is one of the few beaches in the Florida Keys with real sand and small waves. Another great side trip to take either on the way in or leaving the Florida Keys, so plan to squeeze it in. If no time just south of the park on US 1 is Veterans Memorial Beach MM 40 another quickie for snorkeling. Just Keep in mind that just about anywhere you can pull the road you can go snorkeling. A good tip for those of you spending the week in Key West and driving down with the middle and upper keys having so much to offer you may want to break up your trip explore the upper Keys on your first day grab a hotel for the first night then explore the middle keys then drive to Key West for the rest of your vacation. You can even flip that around and spend you last night in marathon and check out the upper keys and everglade before you have to catch the plane home its all about timing.

Snorkeling the Key West waters
Its a very good thing to have all your snorkeling gear with you before you get into the Keys. A main thing to realize is that you do not need fins for the most part while just Snorkeling around as you drive down and they are a pain to pack for the trip. If you want you can buy snorkels and mask at home and bring them with you small and easy to pack. Most K Marts have them If its the winter months they will not. No worries there is a big Wall Mart just off US 1 in Homestead just north of where the turnpike ends at US1 they have mask and snorkeling gear year round at a good price. Trick on the right size for mask put it over your face suck in some air thought your nose and see if it stays on. Underwater cameras are a big must have you will find them lots cheaper if you buy them ahead of time. For most off shore Snorkeling there is not a lot to take pictures of other then the others in your group snorkeling that you can do with your digital camera but once you start going snorkeling out at our reefs there are a must. ( Tip while taking pictures while Snorkeling for the best colors same rules Apply as on land Keep the sun to your back in most cases. The only time you may not want to do this is when your trying to get a picture of rays of light piercing though the Water.) Another good thing to bring are some beach shoes you can wear while you snorkeling around. Because the water here is so shallow you may have to walk out a little bit before you can start snorkeling the beach may be sandy but as soon as you enter the water you will find its a soft mushy bottom with pieces of coral that makes it hard to walk. You can pick them up at the same places you get your mask they usually run $6 to $10 but more than well worth it. If you are coming down in the winter months bring a sweat shirt the waters are still warm but when you get out the air can be quite cold especially on windy days.

Snorkeling Key West Turtle

Now if you are Flying all the way into Key West you can either bring it with you or get it once you get here. We have a K Mart, CVS, and Walgreen's plus many of the grocery stores carry you snorkeling Supplies. They are located in what we call new town on North Roosevelt Blvd. Plus there is a CVS and Wal-Mart right on Duval Street for those of you staying in Old Town. You will have no trouble getting what you need to enjoy our waters surrounding Key West.

Where to get some beach snorkeling in in Key West. there are three main places you can snorkel you will not find corals but lots of small odds and ends if you look closely. Smathers Beach by far the most popular beach here in Key West. Its typical of the Keys. Your sitting on a nice sandy beach with the palm trees waving in the breeze looking out over the water usually calm and flat ( no waves ) looks peaceful. This beach you have to walk way out to get into water up to your knees with a soft mushy bottom of plants and coral chunks ( beach shoes ) For the kids and the young at heart as soon as your in about a foot of water start snorkeling and see what you can spot hiding among the sea grasses. When snorkeling off then beaches here in Key West always keep watch out in front of you and see what trying to get out of your way, and if you got the patience and look hard enough you may spy seahorses clinging onto the sea grasses they are had to spot their color matches the grasses. Higgs Beach is where I usually go for a quick dip the right side has a long wooden pier and when it ends pilings form and older dock continues way beyond it snorkeling under the pier you find lots of fish hiding in the shade with plant growth covering its pilings. Snorkeling you will spot sand dollars, Sea Biscuits and pointy sea urchins.

The first too will look strange they will be covered with plants growth the waters are shallow so the sun penetrate way down this enables it to grow on there host in exchange it gives them good camouflage. Even the Blue crab and conch shell you may come across are covered. If you snorkeling in a group to the left of Higgs beach is the concrete fishing pier which makes for some nice snorkeling. Just keep an eye out for people fishing and stay clear of those areas. ( Tip for those of you who do not have Snorkeling gear you can rent it right on the beach. For families with kids snorkeling for the first time this is a great beach to practice on before you pay out $30 to $40 to go out to the reefs and jump into 20 feet of water. You will see just how relaxing snorkeling is floating on you stomach and get use to the snorkel and mask. The last place to snorkel off the beach at Fort Zackary State Park. Here the water gets deep fast so most people do their snorkeling around the Rock Jetty here you may spot your first Parrot Fish and hear then scrap the vegetation off the rocks to eat. The one must do on any trip to Key West is to get out and do some snorkeling on the reefs. Off Key West mostly your snorkeling on patch reefs. Whichever charter you choose they provide all the snorkeling gear that you need. For the most part they take you too Sand Key about 7 miles from key West. there are a few different ways you get out to the reefs to Snorkel. The big Catamarans like Sebago and Fury make trips out a few times a day morning noon and sunset. They hold a good number of people so you will make lots of new friends. Then there are all day sails that include snorkeling these usually go to other places and not sand key. You can just charter a boat and sail and snorkel like Danger Charters. Being you and you family and friends are the only ones on the boat they can cater you trip to what you want to do. You can even take a catamaran out to the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Thumbs up to snorkeling
These are all day trips that let you explore the fort there and snorkel around it. you will have lots of option depending on you budget and time to get some snorkeling in. One big question lot of our visitors like to know is when is the best time to go out snorkeling morning, midday, or sunset. Each has its pluses and minuses. The Morning snorkel trip are good because the water is its clearest. No boats or other snorkelers stirring up the bottom since then sails the day before. the clarity of the water more than makes up for the average lighting that get better as the sun rises in the sky. For those who tends to party the night before this may not be your best choice. the Midday snorkeling trips Are great for their bright colors with the sun right over head. This gives you the best opportunities for picture taking. These trips are also when its the most crowed out there. The sunset snorkeling trips are good because they time them so that as you are coming back to Key West you get to enjoy our great sunsets. The lighting is not the best on these trips and the visibility is the poorest for the day. You may want to make sure that you go out a few times during your visit once midday and one sunset. On most these trip once you finish snorkeling for those over 21 you can drink some its include in the price of the ticket for soda. beer, and wine. With a cash bar for other drink. This varies fro charter to charter. There are things you should be aware of while you go snorkeling in Key West.

Family Fun Snorkeling in Key West
Jellyfish can give you a nasty sting if you snorkel into their long tentacles. A few fish live in the waters surrounding Key West both can ruin your vacation one is the scorpion Fish its camouflage colors blend in with the coral as it lays motionless on the bottom. The other is out new unwelcome guest here in the keys the Lionfish its long spines make it look very pretty, but can send you off to the emergency room. You will also see spiny sea urchins. these critters are easy to avoid just by not touching or standing on the bottom. We also have Fire Coral which is not a coral but a Colony of hydroids can give you a good burning sting. Again do not touch any thing and no worries. Do not stand on the coral once you leave Key West you are now under Maritime Law. If a Captain of a boat sees you standing on coral they have the right to shoot you (Just Kidding) or am I. Please do not touch or stand on anything while you snorkeling. If curious as to what coral feels like it much like running your hand over a red brick. Living here I only go out snorkeling on calm days much more relaxing but I know you can not always pick a perfect day for snorkeling. If its windy you will hence waves out there small but waves. Lots of our coral reaches almost to the surface. If you are snorkeling do not swim over top these. You may be at the top of a wave but after it passes you find yourself crashing down on top of it. Not good for you or the coral. If as many of you are coming down in the winter with no tan be careful going out snorkeling most the time you will be floating on you stomach. With the cooler water you have not notion just how much sun you are getting so getting a bad sunburn is easy.

Snorkeling Key West blue waters

Most sun block wash off very fast in the water there are a few scuba divers use that last longer. Me I found the best way is ti just wear a light color tee shirt and problem solved. Legs and arms get the sun block. A very good practice is swim with a buddy Mom Dad brother or sister in case there is a problem you have fast help right at hand. If going out by yourself its easy to make friends out there to buddy up with. Avoid wearing shiny jewelry it tends to attract barracuda. I have never heard of one biting but it can be uncomfortable when they get close. I have seen lots of article warning about sharks in the Florida Keys I have not seen that as a problem here we do have all the types but our waters are so clear they see you from far away and they know you are not part of their menu. Unlike up the east coast where the visibility is poor and swimmers and surfers get mistaken as something they are not. For those of you coming down to Key West time is your biggest problem. There is so much to see and do so a little planning ahead helps. You want to enjoy as much of our waters as you can. I recommend getting in some snorkeling as soon as you can and hopefully the waters are calm. If you have the bad luck of coming during a windy week try and pick a day that is calmest, so of the smaller charters will take you to some protected areas from the wind. I always got my first snorkeling in my first or second day and squeeze another one in later. For Families a good first stop is the Eco Discovery Center it free and the kids can get a good understanding of what they will see and how its all tied together. It's never too early or late to instill a sense of stewardship in both young and old alike.