Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling at Alligator Reef in the Florida Keys

The only living coral barrier reef in the United States, also happens to be one of the largest reef systems in the world. Where is this reef located you may ask? Well, it is located in the Florida Keys, and we are lucky enough to live a short drive away. The Florida Reef’s northern end lies in Biscayne Key at Biscayne National Park and it spans all the way down the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys; it stretches approximately 220 miles along the coast. Apparently, the most fascinating part of the reef rests off of Key Largo near John Pennekamp State Park, but we still have yet to visit this part of the reef.

On a recent day trip to the Keys, we decided to take a last minute snorkeling trip with my sister-in-law and her friend who were spending the weekend with us. They went parasailing through Key Largo Parasail and were offered a $10 off coupon for snorkeling with their partner company Islamorada Boat Tours, making the snorkeling trip just $25. Since they had never been snorkeling, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, and 1.5 hours later, we were on the boat waiting to depart!

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Micah and I have been snorkeling many times in the Keys and other places such as Hawaii and Curacao; most of our Keys snorkeling experiences have been slightly lackluster, but thankfully, I have to say this trip changed my views on snorkeling in Florida. It’s not that our previous trips were bad, they just didn’t quite live up to our expectations. Perhaps it was due to bad timing with water clarity and locations, but this time, our snorkeling was the best experience by far and it really makes me want to plan a day snorkeling around the reef near John Pennekamp State Park!

Our tour started at 1:30 in the afternoon and upon boarding the boat, we were greeted by the friendly captain and mate. The captain was not the regular guide, but he really made the tour and boat ride enjoyable with his upbeat and energetic personality. After a short boat ride, we stopped at the first reef, Cheeca Rocks. The captain told us that the visibility wasn’t that great, only around 20 ft., and that we would probably have much better luck at the reef a bit farther out, Alligator Reef, as they had 100 ft. visibility the day prior. Collectively, the group decided to go the extra distance, and we were all so glad we did! The area was much less crowded and the visibility and marine life were great.

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Right off the side of the boat, there were swarms of yellow tail snapper, and at the nearby reef, we spotted parrotfish, great barracuda, blue tang and many others that I couldn’t identify. Unfortunately, Micah was having a few issues with sunscreen in his eyes, a bout of seasickness, and a nearly full memory card on his camera, so most of the photographs of the actual reef were snapped with my iPhone camera and not nearly as exciting, clear or colorful as they should have been! Oh well, it happens I guess–at least we got some fun photos of the yellow tail snapper!

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

Alligator Reef is located about 4 nautical miles from Indian Key, and the reef is home to a lighthouse appropriately named Alligator Reef Lighthouse. The lighthouse stands 136 ft. tall and was named to honor the Navy schooner, Alligator, that ran aground here in the early 1800’s. The schooner was a part of the Anti-Piracy Squadron that helped keep pirates away from the Florida shores. After multiple ships were destroyed from running aground, a lighthouse was built to warn sailors of the reef. The reef is one of the largest in the Upper Keys and home to over 500 different marine life species. Depths near the reef span from 8 ft. to 40 ft., and with its many crevices, it makes for a great dive site as well.

Snorkeling in Islamorada, Florida

After an hour or so of exploring, we returned to the boat for our 30 minute ride back to shore. Snorkeling with beautiful marine life turned out to be a great adventure, and we would recommend you not miss this experience when spending time in Key Largo!

Do you like to snorkel? Where is your favorite snorkeling spot?

 

24 Comments
  • Lance
    Twitter:
    Posted at 13:33h, 25 February Reply

    I hate to admit this but I’ve never been snorkeling. Maybe one of these days. I’m obviously missing a great time.
    Lance recently posted…Kilchurn Castle: Uncovering a Scotland GemMy Profile

  • Angela Travels
    Twitter:
    Posted at 15:20h, 25 February Reply

    Great post and experience. I went snorkeling for the first time in Key Largo. I probably would have enjoyed it more if I understood the snorkeling techniques. I had so much water going down the snorkel, that it was hard to enjoy. Once I got the hang of it, it was more enjoyable but towards the end of our tour. I would love to do it again. Key Largo really doesn’t have many beaches from what I remember, so snorkeling is a great option!
    Angela Travels recently posted…Peruvian Rainforest – Wasai Lodge ExcursionsMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 15:34h, 25 February Reply

      Thanks, Angela! Yeah, there aren’t many beaches–I agree, snorkeling is a great option. That’s unfortunate–snorkels full of saltwater can definitely ruin the experience! Hope you get to go again sometime and it goes better!
      Jenna Kvidt recently posted…Snorkeling at Alligator Reef in the Florida Keys My Profile

  • Rachel
    Twitter:
    Posted at 14:19h, 26 February Reply

    Glad you had a great time! When we lived down by Key West we used to explore the reefs all the time. Next time you should try some freediving!
    Rachel recently posted…Truck Bed Camping- The Key To Your Next AdventureMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 23:57h, 26 February Reply

      Thanks! Yeah, I can see where you would be out in the water a lot living there! We will have to try that sometime for sure–sounds like fun!

  • Anna
    Twitter:
    Posted at 14:02h, 27 February Reply

    WOW! That’s gorgeous! The water looks perfect! And AWESOME selfie BTW!!!
    Anna recently posted…How I Afford to Travel: Saving Money on WaterMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 14:37h, 27 February Reply

      Lol, thanks! Can never resist a snorkel selfie–they are always so funny! It was a great day for water clarity too!

  • Corinne
    Twitter:
    Posted at 05:16h, 28 February Reply

    I love a good snorkeling expedition. I have never snorkeled off of the U.S., except in Hawaii…maybe this summer. Looks great!
    Corinne recently posted…Handicraft Villages of Kudat, MalaysiaMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:51h, 02 March Reply

      I bet Hawaii was great though! We went snorkeling there once too and loved it. Hope you get to go more this summer!

  • Marysia
    Twitter:
    Posted at 09:00h, 05 March Reply

    I love the colours! Amazing. But where are the alligators? I was hoping on some crazy pictures after reading the tittle 🙂 Ha ha ha But seriously I know it may sounds strange but I have never snorkelled in my life, while I dive all the time….need to try one day 🙂
    Marysia recently posted…Friday Lens Affair #59My Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:39h, 17 March Reply

      Lol, yeah it is misleading! The reef was named after a ship that sunk there–it was named the alligator 🙂 You should try snorkeling for sure just to try it, but I think I like diving more because you can get so much closer to everything! Both are fun though 🙂

  • Megan
    Twitter:
    Posted at 00:17h, 07 March Reply

    You have an awesome knack of posting these amazing articles just a few weeks before we head to the same spot! Love all of the info – thanks!!!
    Megan recently posted…Wildlife News: Snake Swallows Australian Crocodile WholeMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:44h, 17 March Reply

      Too funny! Hope you guys have a great time 🙂

  • Erin Bender (Travel With Bender)
    Twitter:
    Posted at 23:54h, 07 March Reply

    I love snorkelling, the best was in Hawaii so far in a sea filled volcano, but the water here looks amazing. Alligator kinda puts me off lol

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:49h, 17 March Reply

      Ha, yeah the name is a bit off putting 🙂 We loved snorkeling in Hawaii too–such a pretty area!

  • Beth
    Twitter:
    Posted at 23:59h, 07 March Reply

    For being called Alligator Reef, I was expecting more alligators 😉
    Beth recently posted…A Day Fit for a Princess: Hina MatsuriMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:51h, 17 March Reply

      Right?! It’s funny, for some reason I didn’t even think of actual alligators when they told us where we were going, it dawned on me quite some time after we got home. Not sure where my mind was that day!

  • Bret
    Twitter:
    Posted at 18:37h, 08 March Reply

    Nice underwater selfie! I snorkeled the Keys once, but it was over 20 years ago. Dying to go back and Scuba dive there now that we’ve gotten our certification.
    Bret recently posted…Are Backpackers Destroying the World? Q&A With Gringo Trails Director Pegi VailMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:59h, 17 March Reply

      Lol, thanks–couldn’t resist! I would love to go diving there too! Hope you get to make the trip soon 🙂

  • elaine schoch
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:21h, 11 March Reply

    I love to go snorkeling but I haven’t had a lot of success in doing so – water clarity. The best and only time is was beyond grand was in Mexico, outside of Tulum. We had hired a taxi driver to be our “guide” for the day and he took us a remote lagoon he claimed only locals knew about. It was amazing…

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 01:15h, 17 March Reply

      Wow, that sounds like a great experience! Always fun to have the inside scoop 😉 Hope you have better luck in the future!

  • Ron
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:07h, 12 March Reply

    I love snorkeling but have yet to have gone in the Keys (although I am a Florida native). I think to date my favorite snorkeling spots would either be in Puerto Rico near Flamenco Beach or in Kona, Hawaii. Both fantastic spots with beautiful crystal clear waters and a plethora of marine life!
    Ron recently posted…Going Underground in Nepal: Gupteshwor Mahadev CaveMy Profile

    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 01:17h, 17 March Reply

      Those sound like some amazing spots to snorkel! I enjoy snorkeling here in Florida, but those other spots sound hard to top!

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