Key Largo is a hotspot for boaters, divers, and snorkelers. People know this island as the Diving Capital of the World and the home of the largest artificial reef in the world. There is plenty to do here under the sea! We’ll be your snorkeling guide! Here are the top spots in Key Largo to take a plunge:
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
- Underwater Hotel, Jules’ Undersea Lodge
- Benwood Wreck
- Spiegel Grove Wreck
- Molasses Reef
- USCG Bibb
- USCG Duane Wreck
- Snapper Ledge
Is there Coral Reef in Key Largo?
YES! Key Largo is part of the living coral barrier reef. This reef is only five miles off the coast and is a hotspot for nature lovers, scuba divers, and snorkelers. Key Largo’s coral reef is the only living coral barrier reef in all of North America. So put this spot on your bucket list (NOW!)
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
You’ll often hear this state park as an “underwater playground.” John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park features tropical mangroves, coral reefs, and diverse marine life. The best places to dive at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park are the Carysfort Reef Light, the underwater statues, and the colorful, vibrant reef.
Pro Destination Tip: Check out Christ of the Abyss, an underwater bronze statue of Jesus Christ that is nine feet tall and about 25 feet below the ocean’s surface. This is the third statue cast from the same mold created by Egrido Cressi!
The reef is home to more than 260 fish species, 80 species of coral, and dozens of invertebrates.
Address: 102601 Overseas Highway (MM 102.5) Key Largo, FL 33037
2. Jules’ Undersea Lodge
As the name suggests, this underwater hotel is close to the shoreline in Jules’ Lagoon in Key Largo.
This uber-unique hotel sits 30 feet below the water’s surface. It’s a 1970s submarine resting on the ocean floor that offers stunning views of the ocean floor and perfectly silent peace and quiet.
WiFi is available to guests. and even an underwater pizza delivery service. Keep in mind that this stay is a one-of-a-kind. Jules’ Undersea Lodge is the only underwater hotel in the United States.
Address: 51 Shoreland Drive, Key Largo, Florida, 33037
3. Benwood Wreck
Benwood Wreck is a 360-foot-long ship near the French Reef at a depth of 25 to 45 feet. It’s one of the most popular sites for divers to visit and often has schools of goatfish, snappers, and grunts in the vicinity.
History buffs should scuba here. During World War II, in 1942, Benwood made routine voyages from Tampa, Florida, to Norfolk, Virginia, carrying a cargo of phosphate rock. Rumors of German U-boats in the area required her and other ships to travel completely blacked out with the Keys’ coastal lights three miles abeam. Until one day, the Benwood collided with the USS Tuttle.
The ship was declared a total loss, but scuba divers would disagree with this!
4. Spiegel Grove Wreck
This wreck sits not too far from Benwood and is a great spot for historians to explore. The Spiegel Grove ship was an impressive 510 feet long that now sits 65 to 130 feet below the ocean’s surface.
Once owned by the US Navy, it was called “Landing Ship Dock #32.” When she sank, she landed on her starboard side. However, Hurricane Dennis (in 2005) rolled the ship upright. Pro Destination Tip: To scuba here, you’ll need Wreck Diver Training and Certification first!
Spiegel Grove is the heart of the artificial reef system in Key Largo. This ship and its surrounding area support coral, algae, sponges, and vast marine biodiversity. If you dive down to the ship, you will likely see barracuda, goliath grouper, large jacks, and gobies.
5. Molasses Reef
Molasses Reef is a bucket list item for many snorkelers and open water divers because it has so much to see, ranging from a shallow six feet to 90 feet deep.
This is an ideal location to observe spur and grove reef formations. The reef’s outer edge has good currents, allowing divers to drift dive. The area is protected from fishing and collection, so marine life is abundant and diverse.
6. USCG Bibb Wreck
USS Bibb is a sister ship to USS Duane, which rests near her. This ship sits about 120 feet below the ocean’s surface and is 327 feet long.
Unfortunately, this ship landed on her starboard side, so visitors are not as plentiful here. Currents run right through the advanced open water area where the ship landed too, so there are many times when it is completely impossible to dive down. As you can imagine, this is only for advanced divers.
7. USCG Duane Wreck
USCG Duane Wreck is a 1936 Treasury-class Coast Guard cutter ship 327 feet long that sank in 1987. The crow’s nest is submerged 60 feet underwater, while the main deck is another 40 feet below.
This is a spot for advanced open-water divers, but the currents are not as prevalent here, and the ship is upright, so there are more divers at this ship than at the USCG Bibb. You will likely see bull sharks and barracudas around the USCG Duane.
8. Snapper Ledge
Snapper Ledge is a 25-foot reef home to some of the thickest schools of fish you’ll likely encounter. They can be so thick that you lose visibility. When the fish aren’t too dense, this crystal-clear blue water has great visibility.
The ledge got its name from yellowtail snappers. In addition to snappers, you’ll probably see goatfish, hog snappers, butter hamlet, cleaner shrimp, eel, nurse sharks, trunkfish, arrow crabs, and the amazing boulder brain corals.
Pro Destination Tip: The best time to go snorkeling in Key Largo is between April and August. This is because temperatures are pleasantly warm, visibility is great, and local businesses are in full swing to accommodate you!
Discover more boating destinations like Mount Dora, Florida; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago, Illinois at Boating Guides & Resources!
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