Crystal-clear, azure waters and warm year-round temperatures make Key West one of the top destinations for snorkelling in the U.S. Just 5 miles offshore, you’ll find a living coral barrier reef (the only one in the continental U.S.).
The reef is teeming with marine life, including nearly 500 species of fish and 55 varieties of colourful coral. During optimal weather and water conditions, snorkelling and diving visibility can be as much as 80 feet.
To make the most of your time on the water, a snorkelling excursion may be just the ticket. U.S. News identified the following outings as the best available consulting both expert opinion and traveller sentiment.
Fury Water Adventures Key West – Morning Reef Snorkel
Fury’s 65-foot catamaran sets sail daily at 9:30 a.m. for this three-hour snorkelling adventure. The spacious boat features a large sun deck, a shaded lounge area and restrooms.
The total travel time is approximately two hours, so patrons will have about one hour to snorkel at the reef. Prices start at $32.95 for snorkelers ages 4 to 10 and $45.95 for participants 11 and older. Children 3 and younger ride for free.
The excursion fee includes the use of snorkelling gear and reef-safe sunscreen, professional instruction and complimentary beverages.
Wine and beer are available after snorkelling. Wetsuits cost an additional $12 per person and are available seasonally. Most tour-takers say this snorkelling tour provides an incredible experience, adding that the crew is engaging and informative. Others mention that it’s common to spot sharks, barracuda, eels and dolphins. Fury’s other excursions include parasailing outings and sunset cruises, among other options.
Sunset Watersports Key West – Key West Snorkeling Trips
Sunset Watersports offers two three-hour snorkelling tours onboard their sailboat, The Sandie Cat. The Rise & Reef Morning Snorkel excursion begins at 9 a.m. and features a light breakfast while sailing out to the reef. Complimentary mimosas are available after snorkelling.
The Sip & Dip Afternoon Snorkel trip departs at 1 p.m. and includes additional alcoholic beverages like margaritas, beer and wine. Adult tickets start at $40 for the morning snorkel and $45 for the afternoon sail.
Tickets for children ages 6 to 12 start at $22, while kids 5 and younger ride for free. Each outing fee includes the use of snorkelling gear and safety vests. Participants comment that the crew is friendly and knowledgeable. They enjoy the overall experience, including breakfast in the morning and cocktails after snorkelling.
The company also offers a dolphin tour, boat rentals and dinner cruises, among other excursions.
Sebago Watersports – Key West Reef Snorkel – Afternoon
This three-hour afternoon snorkel is available daily at 12:30 p.m. and takes travellers up to 7 miles off of Key West’s coast. Exact snorkelling locations may vary by day. (Sebago Watersports’ captains select the spot based on the weather.) The 69-foot catamaran boasts more than 2,300 square feet of deck space and plenty of room to relax in the sun or shade.
On the sail back, you can relax with a cold beverage (wine and beer are complimentary, while cocktails carry an extra fee). Most patrons have positive comments about the crew and tour.
However, a few mention that the boat feels crowded at times and that it’s difficult to get a large group back on board when the water is choppy. Tickets cost approximately $60 for adults and about $30 for children ages 4 to 11. Kids 3 and younger sail for free.
Rates include snorkelling gear and instruction. Sebago Watersports also offers other experiences, including a morning snorkel trip, schooner tours, several types of sunset sails and private charters.
Island Jane Charters – Snorkel Adventure
Snorkel one of several reefs on either the north or south side of Key West with Island Jane Charters. Florida, the company’s 54-foot yacht, and its crew host a limited number of people on two daily snorkels at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Tour-takers appreciate the smaller size of the group and the crew’s expertise. Tours start at $69 for adults and $49 for children 12 and younger. Prices include the use of snorkelling gear and complimentary water, soda and alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, margaritas and Champagne).
The company also operates a sunset cruise every day and various private charters.
Honest Eco Tours – Dolphin Watch
Travellers can watch wild bottlenose dolphins during this four-hour eco-friendly excursion. They’ll then have a chance to snorkel in Key West’s pristine waters. The exact snorkelling location varies depending on the season and weather.
The company runs its trips on SQUID, it’s custom-designed electric boat that reduces the company’s impact on the environment. Additionally, trained guides teach travellers about the area’s ecology and the importance of protecting the environment.
Patrons rave about the clean and eco-friendly boat, as well as the expertise of the engaging crew and guides.
In fact, a few people call it the “best experience of their lives.” Small group tours, which can accommodate a maximum of 15 passengers, depart twice daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets start at $99 for adults and $79 for children ages 3 to 12. Kids 2 and younger ride for free.
The price includes all gear, wetsuits in the winter months, individualized instruction and organic snacks. Honest Eco Tours guarantees that tour-takers will see dolphins during their trip or the next outing is free. The company also offers a sunset sail and private charters.
Dry Tortugas Snorkeling at Fort Jefferson
The seven small islands comprising Dry Tortugas National Park boast some of the best snorkelling in North America. Located approximately 70 miles west of Key West, the park’s shallow waters are brimming with tropical fish, coral, starfish and conch. Snorkelling equipment is available on-site, and you’ll have several hours to snorkel.
To get to the park, you’ll board the Yankee Freedom III catamaran at the Key West Ferry Terminal. This day trip departs from Key West every day at 8 a.m. and returns around 5:15 p.m. Prices start at $190 for adults and $135 for children ages 4 to 16.
Each ticket includes a catamaran ride, a breakfast snack, a boxed lunch, use of snorkelling gear and entrance fees to the park. You’ll also get access to Fort Jefferson and a 45-minute narrated tour of the fort. On the return trip, beverages, snacks and a cash bar for adults are available for an additional cost.
Tour-takers highly recommend this outing, saying that the experience is well worth the trip. They enjoy the snorkelling, park history and tour of the fort, adding that the views from the fort are stunning.
Danger Charters – Sail, Snorkel, Kayak
Danger Charters’ snorkel trip will not only let you swim around sponge gardens and reefs, but it will also give you opportunities to kayak through mangroves and help sail the company’s schooner. Additionally, you can take in a historical chart talk while viewing the abundant marine life and birds.
The company also provides complimentary snacks, water and soft drinks throughout the day. Reviewers rave about the expertise of the friendly and accommodating crew.
They also enjoy the free-flowing wine and beverages after snorkelling. Half-day (4 ½-hour) excursions leave daily at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., while full-day (6 ½-hour) tours depart daily at 9:30 a.m. (Note: Departure times may vary slightly by season.)
Ticket prices range from $60 to $120 per person, depending on the participant’s age and which excursion is selected.
For a relaxing and picturesque evening cruise, book Danger Charters’ Wind & Wine Sunset Sail.