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With its warm climate, stunning beaches, and an array of attractions, Florida is a hub for tourism in the USA. Amusement parks and beach resorts are the go-to destinations for the 10 million guests visiting each year. But, its true highlight is its coastline. Having the 2nd longest coastline in the US (1,350 miles) and the 3rd world’s largest reef system, there are so many fish and reef systems to discover.
Snorkeling tours are the best way to see the hidden treasures of Florida. From scenic tours to wild adventures, there’s something for you in the Sunshine State. Join us and read along as we present to you the best snorkel tours in Florida.
Manatees are hard to find in the wild as they are classified as endangered species and their numbers are dwindling. However, there is a spot in Florida where they are easily found and snorkeling with this gentle giants are permitted by law.
From Crystal River, hop onboard and go on a scenic cruise towards Kings Bay where the manatees are taking refuge all year long. Once you’re in the water, you might see up to 40 manatees swimming in a close knit. Snorkelers are not allowed to chase or touch them–making it a safe and sustainable way to interact with these gentle giants.
Combine adventure and serenity on this airboat and manatee snorkeling tour, one of the best for people who enjoy a blend of thrillseeking and relaxing in warm, tropical waters.
At the start of your tour, you will boat over to Crystal River and snorkel with manatees. After your manatee tour, you usually have spare time to spend on a local wildlife tour to see alligators and flamingos in Homosassa Springs. While both of these micro-tours are serene, slow and calm, you will cap your tour with a fast ride on the Withlacoochee River using airboats that can reach a speed of up to 40mph.
Mornings in Florida are usually a quiet time as most tourists rarely emerge from their hotel rooms before 10am. But why be lazy when you can hop on a sailing catamaran and go snorkeling in the third largest barrier reef system in the world?
From the marina in Key West, you will set sail on a seven-mile journey towards the Great Florida Reef. With gin clear waters, fun and marine interaction are always guaranteed. Pop on your snorkeling mask to see fusiliers, butterflyfish and angelfish. After your snorkeling, the sun deck is the place to be, where you are offered drinks as you sail back to the marina. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and frigate birds who are usually spotted on your journey back to port.
Want to visit several iconic snorkeling sites on one short trip? Then book a Key Largo Marine Sanctuary Snorkel Tour. In just 3.5 hours, you’ll visit two popular reefs. Your choices of destination include the 9-foot bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss, the half-mile long crescent shape reef called Grecian Rocks, John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, or the unique topography of Elbow Reef.
The Florida Keys Paddle and Shark Snorkel Tour is a unique experience since it will take you to observe three major ocean ecosystems: mangroves, seagrass, and corals. With the use of either a kayak or SUP, you’ll paddle across these beautiful environments. Typically, the mangrove forest is your starting point. While paddling, bird watch as herons and pelicans flock the tree canopy. As you paddle further, you’ll reach the seagrass beds–home to manatees. Your final stop is the coral reef to snorkel with reef sharks. Don’t worry, you’ll be swimming with nurse sharks who usually spend their days lounging on the seabed.
The 25-mile long John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the first underwater park in the US. While it is a popular snorkeling and diving destination, it is usually offered only as a stopover site. However, this tour is dedicated exclusively for this underwater park.
From the marina in Key Largo, you’ll cruise towards the park. Since the underwater park is the main expertise of the crew, you will be taken to the site with the most marine inhabitants. While snorkelers from other tours will only see the regular attraction, what you’re in for are the specials like the southern stingrays. And don’t worry about equipment, this tour has an extensive line of snorkeling gear, including masks with prescription lenses.
Tampa is not just about museums and cultural attractions. It is also known as a jump-off point to nearby snorkeling sites. From Tampa Bay marina, you will hop onboard a 30-mile cruise towards Shell Key.
While half of Shell Key’s land is closed for seabird protection and propagation, the other remaining half is open to the public where they can admire seashells and snorkel. Shells of all kinds can be found both at the shore and underwater. As you go deeper, more and more shells can be found, interspersed with small reef fish like damselfish and wrasse.
With a massive intracoastal waterway system teeming with Gondola rides, Fort Lauderdale is considered as the Venice of America. However, with the reef thriving in front of its coast, snorkeling is now a growing attraction in this part of the Sunshine State.
Unlike other snorkel sites in Florida that requires a boat, this tour only requires shore entry as the snorkeling site is close to the shoreline. The maximum distance that you’ll need to swim out and reach the reef is only 300 meters. There, you’ll find a reef loaded with tropical reef fish like butterflyfish, damselfish and angelfish.
Since this is a shore entry tour, you need to bring along a surface marker buoy. This marks your presence at the surface lets passing boats know not to come close.