In the middle of the Florida Keys past Key Largo lies Islamorada — a village comprising of six of the islands tapering off into Florida’s Gulf waters. Water sports are obviously a big deal, and fans of snorkeling and dive charters are in for a treat.
If you’re visiting for this reason, check out a nearby hotel to enjoy easy access to top snorkeling spots off the island. Then you can look forward to quick daytrips out to one of these locations during your time in Islamorada.
In 1985, The Eagle — a Danish freighter — sustained heavy fire damage. The ship was too badly burned for repair, so it was taken to the Florida Keys and intentionally sunk to create a dive site. You can visit this location, which is about 6 miles off the island’s shores, to see the wreckage. The water here gets up to 115 feet deep, and you might spot some sharks cruising nearby.
It just takes a short boat ride to get from the coast of Islamorada to the reefs at Cheeca Rocks. You can dive down to depths of up to 20 feet for a closer look at dozens of fish and other wildlife, including species such as hogfish, angelfish, parrotfish, and blue tang. You might even spot some sea turtles.
Davis Reef is unique for two reasons: the green morays that interact with dive masters and the statue of Buddha, which divers placed at the site in 1989. You’ll see tons of grunts and snapper in this area in addition to an array of other animals attracted to the colorful reef. The water in the area is much shallower than The Eagle site at about 20 feet at its deepest points. The depth makes it a wonderful location for beginners.
Pickles Reef is another spot where you can find eels and hundreds of other underwater inhabitants. The reef is home to many tiny residents — including banded coral shrimp and cowries — in relatively shallow waters. You might also see some Caribbean reef squid and octopuses. If you’re curious about the name, it comes from the nearby “Pickle Barrel Wreck,” which references a Civil War-era ship that sank in these waters.
You’ll spot Alligator Reef by the quaint lighthouse that marks this location. Though the lighthouse is no longer operational, you can go snorkeling around its iron skeleton framework and explore the nearby reef. This reef is a bit farther from Islamorada than some of the other spots on this list, and the remote location means you can count on fewer crowds. Some sea life that frequent this spot include parrotfish, great barracuda, blue tang, and snapper.
The 220 miles of reefs that run along the Florida Keys comprise one of the largest reefs in the world and the only living coral barrier reef in the U.S. Are you ready for a closer look? Take a boat out to one of these incredible spots near Islamorada.