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Key Largo Is One Of Florida's Best Snorkeling Destinations

Fort Lauderdale is an unbeatable tourist destination and place to live. It has popular beaches, fine dining and entertaining nightlife. Yet, it lacks a worthwhile spot to go snorkeling. 

In order to really experience South Florida's snorkeling scene and what it has to offer, I like to suggest taking a day trip to Key Largo whenever I have visitors in town. It’s the perfect way to explore Florida’s natural beauty and exotic wildlife. 

Key Largo isn’t really known for its pristine beaches or having a ton of things to do, but what it does have are stunning reefs. 

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Local charter company Keys Diver Snorkel Tours makes it easy for people to rent gear and to explore the reefs. It’s a must do for all South Floridians.

Getting There

The drive to Key Largo from Fort Lauderdale can be painful, or painless, depending on the time of day. It usually takes about two hours by car to get from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys Diver Snorkel Tours location. 

The best snorkel excursion it offers is at noon every day. It includes a three-reef location tour for 4.5 hours, with two full hours of snorkeling—the longest snorkeling trip offered in Key Largo. The tour company offers five snorkel excursions daily, but the noon tour is the only one that goes to all three reefs in one trip.

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Photo via Facebook/Keys Diver

So if the excursion starts at noon, leaving Fort Lauderdale around 10 a.m. should be a relatively painless drive. But you never know with South Florida traffic…  

On the day of my own excursion, around 9:30 a.m., I rounded up my group of friends, packed the car with snacks, towels, sunscreen and a good playlist and hopped on I-95 South towards the Florida Keys. 

We arrived at our location around 11:45 a.m. and checked in with a friendly receptionist who seemed genuinely excited that we were about to embark on this adventure. 

The Dive

At Keys Diver, masks, fins and snorkels are included in the overall price of $39.95 for the noon snorkel trip—which meant no stops at Outdoor World for us on the way there. 

Once the diving trip began, we planted ourselves at the front of the boat, eager to get some sun and a good view of the clear, blue ocean ahead. 

As the boat zipped us through the flat waters, we were greeted with dolphins jumping through the wake, as if they were saying, “Come on in; the water’s fine.”

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Photo by Marina Nazario

Up first: the Grecian Rocks. It’s a shallow reef, but a good starting point to jump in the warm water and swim around. You won’t see much at this reef other than coral and colorful clown fish—maybe a glimpse of a barracuda, if it feels like being social. 

key largo fort lauderdale
Photo via Facebook/Keys Diver

The next stop is Banana Reef, deeper than the Grecian Rocks with more room to explore. The water is crystal clear and you’ll see schools of fish, rays and groove reefs. The tour gives you ample time to swim around and explore—just be sure to pop your head up every now and then so that you know where you are. It’s easy to get distracted by the colorful world below. 

The last and final stop on the tour is a large, deep reef that includes a statue of Christ of the Abyss. Before jumping in, the captain let us know where it was and what to expect. 

key largo hotels
Photo courtesy of Keys Diver Snorkel Tour

Warning: Do not touch the statue. It’s filled with fire coral, which gets its name from the painful stings it inflicts on divers.

I’ll admit though, after jumping in the water and seeing the magnificent nine-foot tall statue, I couldn't help but swim a few feet down and give it a high-five. 

That reef is my favorite because you get to see various species of fish, coral and even turtles, rays or nurse sharks, if you’re really lucky. 

With our time coming to a close, the captain blew his horn and it was time to head back to the shore. 

Dinner and a Show

After three reefs, pruning fingers and a lot of sun, we munched on a snack at the front of the boat and chatted with the friendly crew before heading back to the docks. 

Once at the docks, we cleaned up the boat, rinsed off in the showers and hopped in the car. It was time to head home, but not without a Key Largo dinner first. 

We headed north on a short drive to Sundowners. While Key Largo doesn't offer much in terms of fine dining, this place is a gem. 

key largo resort
Photo via Facebook/Sundowners-Key Largo

When you go, make sure to sit outside and order the “hot tin roof” fish sandwich—blackened mahimahi served on Cuban bread with tomatoes, scallions and mozzarella. It’s served wrapped in tin foil to keep in the flavor and moisture of the fish. It’s absolutely mouthwatering. 

Sitting back and relaxing, exhausted from a long day in the ocean, the sun began to set and we enjoyed the view of the calm sea before making the two-hour journey back to Fort Lauderdale. 

A full day immersed in Florida’s wildlife is well worth the day trip out of the city. It’s a cheap and unique adventure that you won’t experience anywhere else. What are you waiting for? 

Keys Diver Snorkel Tours, 99696 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; 305.451.1177; keysdiver.com

Sundowners, 103900 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; 305.451.4502; sundownerskeylargo.com