Snorkeling and Diving BEST Hotspots in Florida Keys & Overseas Highway

Snorkeling and Diving Hotspots in Florida Keys & Overseas Highway

Welcome to the mesmerizing world beneath the surface of the ocean, where vibrant coral reefs, teeming marine life, and captivating underwater landscapes await your exploration. The Florida Keys, a string of tropical islands stretching southwest from the Florida mainland, offer some of the most breathtaking snorkeling and diving experiences in the world. Paired with the scenic Overseas Highway, which connects the Keys like a lifeline, this region beckons adventurers and nature enthusiasts alike to immerse themselves in its azure waters.

In this blog post, I’ll embark on a journey through the aquatic wonders of the Florida Keys and the enchanting destinations along the Overseas Highway. From the bustling coral reefs teeming with colorful fish to the mysterious wrecks that whisper tales of maritime history, there’s something here for every underwater explorer.

Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a novice snorkeler, the Florida Keys and the Overseas Highway offer an unparalleled opportunity to witness the beauty and diversity of marine life. Join us as we delve into the top snorkeling and diving hotspots in this captivating region, uncovering hidden gems and must-visit locations along the way.

So, grab your snorkel gear, don your diving fins, and get ready to plunge into a world of wonder and discovery beneath the sparkling waters of the Florida Keys and the scenic routes of the Overseas Highway. Let’s explore the depths and embark on an aquatic adventure of a lifetime!

1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park - Florida Keys Best stops for snorkeling and diving

Kick off your underwater odyssey at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, located in Key Largo. As the first underwater park in the United States, Pennekamp is a haven for snorkelers and divers alike. Explore the vibrant coral gardens teeming with tropical fish, or venture to the famous Christ of the Abyss statue, a submerged bronze sculpture nestled within the park’s boundaries. With crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life, Pennekamp promises an unforgettable snorkeling and diving experience.

One of the most renowned dive spots within John Pennekamp Park is the Christ of the Abyss statue, a submerged bronze sculpture nestled among the coral reefs. This iconic landmark serves as both a tribute to divers lost at sea and a mesmerizing attraction for those exploring the underwater realm. Divers can also explore the park’s numerous dive sites, each offering a unique glimpse into the rich biodiversity of the marine environment.

In addition to snorkeling and diving, John Pennekamp Park offers a variety of other activities for visitors to enjoy, including kayaking, paddleboarding, and nature trails for those who prefer to stay on dry land. Educational programs and guided tours are also available for those eager to learn more about the park’s ecosystem and conservation efforts.

2. Molasses Reef

Molasses Reef - diving hotspots along the Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

Just a stone’s throw away from Key Largo, Molasses Reef beckons with its breathtaking coral formations and diverse marine ecosystem. This underwater paradise is home to a plethora of marine species, including colorful reef fish, sea turtles, and majestic eagle rays. Dive beneath the surface to discover towering elkhorn and staghorn corals, or snorkel along the shallow reefs to encounter playful parrotfish and elusive moray eels. Molasses Reef offers something for snorkelers and divers of all skill levels, making it a must-visit destination in the Florida Keys.

Situated within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Molasses Reef boasts crystal-clear waters, stunning coral formations, and an abundance of colorful fish species. Its proximity to the Gulf Stream ensures warm waters year-round, providing an ideal environment for snorkeling and diving activities.

One of the highlights of Molasses Reef is its diverse marine biodiversity. Snorkelers and divers have the opportunity to encounter a wide array of marine creatures, including tropical fish like parrotfish, angelfish, and sergeant majors, as well as larger species such as barracudas, moray eels, and even the occasional sea turtle or reef shark. The coral formations themselves are a sight to behold, with intricate structures and vibrant hues creating a mesmerizing underwater landscape.

3. Sombrero Reef

 Sombrero Reef - Best snorkeling places for your stay in the Florida Keys (Overseas Highway).

Located near Marathon Key, Sombrero Reef is renowned for its shallow coral gardens and abundant marine life. This protected marine sanctuary boasts crystal-clear waters and exceptional visibility, making it ideal for both snorkeling and diving. Glide over vast fields of elkhorn and brain corals, keeping an eye out for colorful tropical fish darting among the crevices. Encounter graceful southern stingrays gracefully gliding along the sandy bottom, or marvel at the majestic beauty of the resident green sea turtles. With its accessibility and unparalleled natural beauty, Sombrero Reef promises an unforgettable underwater adventure.

Sombrero Reef is home to some of the healthiest coral reefs in the Florida Keys. The coral formations here are stunning, featuring intricate structures and a wide variety of coral species. These reefs provide vital habitat for countless marine organisms, making it an excellent location for underwater exploration.

4. Looe Key

Looe Key - Florida Keys - Best snorkeling and diving places.

Venture further south along the Overseas Highway to discover Looe Key, a hidden gem nestled within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This remote reef system boasts some of the healthiest coral formations in the region, attracting an impressive array of marine life. Dive into the depths to encounter schools of vibrant fish swirling around towering coral pinnacles, or snorkel along the surface to glimpse the resident nurse sharks lazily patrolling the reef. With its pristine waters and thriving ecosystem, Looe Key offers a true paradise for snorkelers and divers seeking adventure off the beaten path.

Diving at Looe Key is a journey into a vibrant marine ecosystem teeming with life. Named after the HMS Looe, a British warship that wrecked nearby in the 18th century, this reef system boasts an array of colorful coral formations, including elkhorn and brain corals, as well as gorgonians swaying gently in the current. These corals provide essential habitat for a diverse range of marine life, from tiny colorful reef fish to larger species such as barracudas, nurse sharks, and even the occasional sea turtle or manatee.

Snorkelers also find Looe Key to be a paradise beneath the waves. With crystal-clear waters offering excellent visibility, snorkelers can easily observe the marine wonders below. Even from the surface, one can catch glimpses of the vibrant coral gardens and the kaleidoscope of fish darting in and out of the reef.

5. Spiegel Grove

Spiegel Grove - Where snorkeling?  Best Florida Keys and Overseas Highway.

For those seeking a more adventurous diving experience, look no further than the Spiegel Grove wreck off the coast of Key Largo. This former Navy ship turned artificial reef is one of the largest and most impressive wreck dives in the Florida Keys. Descend into the depths to explore the massive shipwreck, now adorned with colorful corals and bustling marine life. Swim through cavernous cargo holds and towering superstructures, encountering schools of barracuda, snapper, and goliath grouper along the way. The Spiegel Grove promises an exhilarating dive adventure filled with history and intrigue.

Spiegel Grove was originally an American Navy ship, USS Spiegel Grove (LSD-32), a Thomaston-class dock landing ship. It was intentionally sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef off the coast of Key Largo, Florida. The sinking didn’t go as planned initially, as the ship landed on its starboard side. However, after some adjustments, it eventually settled upright on the seabed.

Spiegel Grove offers a unique and memorable underwater experience, blending history with vibrant marine ecosystems, making it a must-visit destination for any diving or snorkeling enthusiast in the Florida Keys.

6. Aligator Reef

Aligator Reef - Best spots for snorkeling in the Florida Keys.

Aligator Reef is a renowned snorkeling spot nestled within the picturesque Overseas Highway, a scenic route that stretches across the Florida Keys. Located off the coast of Islamorada, Aligator Reef boasts an abundance of marine life and vibrant coral formations, making it a must-visit destination for snorkeling enthusiasts.

One of the highlights of snorkeling at Aligator Reef is the opportunity to explore the remains of the historic USS Alligator, a naval schooner that sank in 1822. The shipwreck now serves as an artificial reef, providing a fascinating glimpse into maritime history while serving as a haven for a diverse array of marine species.

To get to the snorkeling spots, you can hire a jet ski. To discover the best places to rent jet skis in the Florida Keys, check out my blog post about that here: Top 8 Jet Ski Destinations in the Florida Keys: Rentals Companies Included!


From vibrant coral reefs to historic shipwrecks, the Florida Keys and Overseas Highway offer an unparalleled underwater paradise for snorkelers and divers. Whether you’re exploring the shallow coral gardens of John Pennekamp State Park or diving deep to discover the Spiegel Grove wreck, the Florida Keys never cease to amaze with their natural beauty and abundant marine life. So pack your snorkel gear or scuba tank and dive into the depths of this captivating destination – adventure awaits beneath the waves.

πŸ‘ Find out more:

Overseas Highway Florida Keys Travel Guide - 101 best stops by Mark Watson

Explore the finest attractions along the Overseas Highway and Florida Keys with my travel guide, ‘Florida Keys Overseas Highway Travel Guide – 101 Best Stops,’ now available on Amazon. This comprehensive guide is your ultimate companion for those seeking adventure and wonder along THE OVERSEAS HIGHWAY & FLORIDA KEYS! Discover 101 amazing places with convenient ‘Scan QR and go’ functionality for easy navigation.


Pacific Coast - Mark Watson

Mark Watson is a California-based member of a Los Angeles motorcycle club and an avid traveler. He has completed seven full journeys along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway on his Harley-Davidson and is passionate about promoting this historic drive to others. Mark has also explored the Alaska Highway and Route 66, and has authored four bestselling travel guides on Amazon: “Route 66 Travel Guide – 202 Amazing Places,” “Alaska Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops,”, “Pacific Coast Highway Travel Guide – 202 Best Stops”, and “Florida Keys Overseas Highway Travel Guide – 101 Best Stops.”

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