Home to the third-largest coral reef in the world and one of the best spots for diving in the United States, Key West is a destination for scuba divers and snorkelers, from those who are just dipping their fins in the water to more experienced divers. These are some of the best spots.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (Florida Reef)
This large marine sanctuary protects the 220-mile (354-kilometer) Florida Keys Reef, the third largest coral barrier reef in the world and the only living coral barrier reef in the continental US. The reef runs from Key Biscayne to Dry Tortugas, with plenty of spots for diving and snorkeling along the way.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas National Park, made up of seven small islands, is situated in the middle of a coral reef and offers some of the best snorkeling in Key West. Many tour companies offer snorkeling excursions for either half or full day that focus on reef viewing or shipwreck exploration.
Key West National Wildlife Refuge
The crystal clear waters of Key West National Wildlife Refuge allow snorkelers to spot sea turtles and other marine critters living among the mangrove forests. The park is also popular for kayaking, and the two activities can be combined into a single guided outing.
Though not the most famous of the world’s wrecks-turned-reefs, the Vandenberg—sunk in 2009—has a growing fan base of divers. Located at a depth of around 100 feet (30 meters), this World War II troop transport attracts a variety of marine plants and animals as an artificial reef.
This 75-foot (23-meter) tug boat isn’t too deep, making it an excellent spot for beginning scuba divers. Underwater, you might spot eels and colorful fish swimming around the soft and hard corals that have made this wreck their home.