Snorkeling in the Florida Keys (Key Largo, FL, USA)

Florida Keys Map
Yes, they really are that long.

As a part of my post-graduation trip I went snorkeling in the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys is a series of islands located south of mainland Florida, USA (about an hour south of Miami).

There is a ton of different activities and things to do in the Keys but the largest attractions all involve water: scuba diving, snorkeling, jet-skiing, parasailing, or just hanging out on the beach.

Through this blog post I want to describe my experience snorkeling in the Florida Keys and everything I would recommend and if there was anything worth skipping.

Day One: Molasses Reef Snorkeling Trip

My girlfriend and I decided to do two separate snorkeling trips on different days, but with the same company. We chose Key Divers as our guides and they did an amazing job. I would definitely recommend them. Because we did two separate trips we got to work with two separate crews and on different boats. Both were fantastic.

Molasses Reef
Beautiful crystal-clear water. Photo Credit: UnitedCreativity.org

The first day we did a 1pm snorkel of Molasses Reef off of Key Largo. This was an amazing location and came highly recommended from all the other reviews we read online before visiting. Believe the hype.

One of the awesome parts of the reef is on the far end from where the boat drops you off. If you venture off a little ways you can reach the edge of the reef and stare into the deep blue abyss where the sea floor plummets from 6 feet at the Reef to 40+ feet deep. Being the chicken I am, I stared in awe for a moment then promptly turned to swim back to safe and shallow waters.

Spotted Stingray
Slightly larger than the one I saw. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The most breathtaking moment of the dive took place when I saw and pursued a small spotted stingray. Up to this point in my life I had never seen a stingray in the wild and the way they glide through the water is mesmerizing.

I was able to follow the stingray and swim alongside it for about 20 feet before it got annoyed with me and took off. There were plenty of other amazing sights as well. Clownfish, angelfish, barracudas, and a hundred more that I wouldn’t ever be able to identify.

 Day Two: Christ of the Abyss & More

The second day we snorkeled we got to see three locations: White Banks Reef, Christ of the Abyss, and a final reef (name is escaping me at the moment).

Spiny Lobster
Like this, but twice as big and defending their turf.

White Banks Reef was smaller than the Molasses Reef but still had amazing wildlife to view and snorkel around. My favorite part of that experience was coming face to face with a GIANT ocean lobster that was ready to snip-snap my face off! I hovered around in amazement looking at the lobster until it finally backed away into a hole in the reef to avoid me.

The second place we visited was the famed “Christ of the Abyss” that many snorkelers and divers seek out in their adventure. You can read more about the “Christ of the Abyss” statue in this article. It is basically a 8.5 foot tall statue of Jesus Christ that is submerged in about 20 feet of water. That means that you have to swim down about 9-10 feet to touch the palms and get a better look.

Christ of the Abyss
Beautiful, yet overrated.

One of the funny stories mentioned by our guide is to NOT touch the rest of the statue. Ironically, the statue of Jesus Christ is covered in nasty fire coral, and your skin will feel quite spicy if you touch it!

Overall the Christ of the Abyss statue was worth seeing but in my opinion overly-touristy and less impressive than the beautiful and natural reefs. If you have to decide between Christ of the Abyss and a reef, pick the reef. I would definitely recommend that you try and hit multiple spots rather than just viewing the statue.

Nurse shark
Awesome!

The final location was a reef (I think it was nicknamed “Staircase Reef”). My favorite moment of snorkeling over the two days and four places was here. My girlfriend and I swam out pretty far away from the boat to try and view some unannoyed sea critters and encountered a nurse shark! I knew it was a possibility to see a shark whilst swimming in these waters but it still took my breathe away to know I was swimming with a  real live shark.

I swam to about 20 feet away from it (it was about 5 feet long) before I decided that was close enough. It was actively hunting down a smaller fish that was swimming for its life and I didn’t want to become a part of that meal! I know that the shark wasn’t interested in attacking or eating humans but it still was a bit nerve-wracking to see one so up close.

Conclusion & My Recommendations

Snorkeling in the Florida Keys was an amazing adventure and I would highly recommend it for all ages (as long as you can swim). The only slightly disappointing part was the Christ of the Abyss because I came in with high hopes and it was very crowded.

My recommendation is to book a snorkeling trip that includes three different locations, including the Christ of the Abyss and two reefs. Comment below if you have any questions about my experiences or want to hear more!

D & E
On board and ready to snorkel!