Panama City Florida snorkeling

8 Spectacular Panama City Florida Snorkeling Sites By The Gulf Of Mexico!

Loads of holidaymakers flock to Panama City northwest in Florida to enjoy the stunning beaches and crystal clear waters. Not surprisingly, a great way to experience the beauty of the ocean is by snorkeling.

With the Gulf of Mexico stretching out on one side and St. Andrews Bay on the other, the location is blessed with crystal-clear waters that make for an unparalleled snorkeling experience.

Whether you’re a pro at snorkeling or a beginner, Panama City is a great place to explore. From guided tours to solo expeditions, there’s something for every type of water enthusiast.

Affiliate disclosure: I only recommend tours, services and purchases I know and love on this website.

Popular Snorkeling Sites in Panama City

Some of the most popular spots for snorkeling in Panama City include the following (and they are not just limited to the salty waters of the Gulf of Mexico!).

1. Saint Andrews Park

St Andrews State Park is a great place for Panama City Florida Snorkeling
Not JUST for snorkeling here the surf is also great

When you are looking for a thrilling way to experience the crystal-clear waters of Panama City, snorkeling in St Andrews Park should be on top of your list.

With its diverse ecosystem and abundance of marine life, this park is a must-visit destination for avid snorkelers.

As you explore the underwater scenery, you’ll come across a variety of fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional manatee.

The rock formations and artificial reefs provide the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable snorkeling experience. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant and captivating world of St Andrews Park.

2. Shell Island

Big shell on a White sand beach in Florida

Shell Island, located just a short boat ride away from Panama Beach, is where you can explore the beauty under the crystal-clear water a bit off the beaten track.

With a vast and diverse marine life, ranging from colorful fish to sea turtles, snorkeling on Shell Island is an incredible experience.

Take in the picturesque views of the sea as you move through the warm water with the help of a snorkeling mask.

The almost tepid waters of the Gulf of Mexico make this a comfortable place for beginners and experienced snorkelers alike.


3. Mexico Beach

The crystal-clear waters off Mexico Beach, a little bit south of Panama City, are home to a plethora of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even manatees!

If you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or just someone who wants to experience something new and exciting, snorkeling in Mexico Beach will offer you a unique and remarkable experience.

As you head below the surface, you’ll feel like you’re in a whole new world, surrounded by the mesmerizing beauty of the underwater ecosystem.

The warm, sunny weather and calm waters make it easy to enjoy the breathtaking scenery and create sweet and leisurely memories for life (and cooler winter days).

Also read: 9 Best Places For Snorkeling in Marathon Florida By A Local

4. Panama City Beach Artificial Reef System

Tropical fish on the reefs outside Panama City in Florida

Snorkeling in Panama City Beach Artificial Reef System in Panama, Florida, is truly a unique experience like no other.

This is a man-made area that attracts an abundance of marine life, making for an interesting snorkeling adventure.

The artificial reef system was specifically designed to create a habitat for marine life and is now home to an abundance of sea creatures.

From sea turtles to stingrays, you never know what you might encounter on your snorkeling adventure. The Panama City Beach Artificial Reef System is an unforgettable experience that’s definitely worth exploring.

5. Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park on a sunny day outside Panama City in Florida, to the Gulf of Mexico

Exploring the underwater world of Grayton Beach State Park, a little to the west of Panama City, Florida, is a thrilling experience in itself, but snorkeling takes it to a whole new level.

What makes this destination even more special is the vast array of tropical fish and sea turtles, and you might even see dolphins if you are lucky.

The crystal-clear water allows for an unobstructed view, making it the perfect spot for underwater photographers to capture some stunning shots.

Combined with the warm waters and pristine white sandy beaches, Grayton Beach State Park in Panama City, Florida, is undoubtedly a dream come true for snorkelers and beach lovers alike.

6. Morrison Springs Park

Morrison Springs Park in Florida inside Panama City

Popular Morrison Springs provides a unique opportunity for snorkeling enthusiasts to immerse themselves in crystal-clear fresh water with an abundance of marine life to observe below the lake’s surface.

Whether you’re partial to colorful fish or enjoy discovering the unique geology of underwater caves that you find here, Morrison Springs is sure to be a highlight of your time in Florida.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to explore the underwater world in one of the best snorkeling spots in Panama City.

7. Apalachicola Bay

An oister boat outside Apalachicola Bay in Florida, US

Apalachicola Bay boasts stunning turquoise waters that are home to a diverse array of marine life, including schools of colorful fish, playful dolphins, and even majestic manatees.

This sandy beach bay is situated around a one-hour drive from Panama City to the east, a little south of Mexico Beach.

With clear visibility year-round, every snorkeler is guaranteed an unforgettable encounter with the underwater world.

8. Vortex Springs

Underwater photo of fish in blue water with the surface in a distance in Vortex Springs, Florida.

If you’re searching for a one-of-a-kind underwater adventure, look no further than Vortex Springs in Panama City, Florida.

This is not in the sea, but a freshwater lake.

The Vortex Spring basin is 50 feet deep at the mouth of a deep cavern. Here you can meet Catfish, Redhorse Suckers, Koi, Gar, American Eels, Blue Gill, and Bass to name a few.

These will eat right out of your hand, which is an underwater photographer’s dream. The cavern continues to a depth of 115 feet at the cave system security gate, and the sandy white bottom and brilliant air pockets create an exceptional experience.

The water is crystal clear and super cold, which feels amazing on a hot summer day. They have even sunk a few things there to give you something to look at while you’re swimming.

The spring itself, the swimming area around the mouth of the spring, and the cave are all impressive. As you explore Vortex Springs, you’ll be amazed at the impressive limestone walls and the thriving ecosystem.

What You Need to Know Before Going Snorkeling in Panama City

If you’re planning on going snorkeling in Panama City, Florida, there are a few essential things you should know before diving in.

First and foremost, the water temperature stays relatively warm throughout the year, so you won’t need a wetsuit unless you’re particularly sensitive to chilly water.

Additionally, some of the best snorkeling spots are located around St. Andrews State Park, so be sure to add it to your itinerary if you’re looking for prime underwater viewing opportunities.

Finally, don’t forget to bring your own gear or rent from a reputable shop, as ill-fitting or unreliable equipment can quickly turn a fun adventure into a frustrating experience.

With these tips in mind, you’re sure to have a fantastic time exploring the breathtaking underwater world of Panama City.

Tips For A Fun And Safe Snorkeling Experience In Panama City

Panama City beach in Florida on a hot summer day with lots of people.

As you have seen, with its abundant marine life and diverse coral reefs, Panama City offers a unique and unforgettable snorkeling experience.

Don’t forget to keep safety in mind when venturing into the waters.

  • Before diving in, make sure to check weather conditions and water temperature.
  • Wear appropriate gear such as coral-safe sunscreen and a life jacket, and maybe even gloves, or don’t touch anything (corals are bacteria bombs!)
  • It is also recommended to snorkel with a partner and stay within designated snorkeling areas.
  • Lastly, don’t forget the safety of the marine inhabitants as well! Respect the environment and its inhabitants by not touching or disturbing them, and leave nothing but bubbles behind.

With these tips in mind, you can enjoy a fun and safe snorkeling experience in Panama City.

Where to Find Rental Gear and Professional Guides for Snorkeling in Panama City

When it comes to snorkeling in Panama City, Florida, you want to make sure you have the best rental gear and professional guides to enhance your experience. Luckily, there are plenty of highly rated options to choose from.

One popular choice is Adventures at Sea, which offers both gear rentals and guided snorkeling tours.

Another option is Shell Island Shuttle, which has knowledgeable guides and a variety of rental gear available.

For those looking for a more personalized experience, Panama City Diving offers private snorkeling tours and a wide range of equipment to choose from.

No matter which option you go with, you’re sure to have an unforgettable time exploring the beautiful underwater world in Panama City.

Best Times of the Year for Snorkeling in Panama City

The glass-clear waters make it easy to spot everything from colorful corals to schools of vibrant fish here all year round. But when is the best time to take a dive?

While the water temperature remains temperate throughout the year, the ideal time for snorkeling in Panama City, Florida, is in the summer months, from June to September.

You can even have a great experience in the shoulder seasons, which can easily include the months of April and October.

During this time, the waters are calm and clear, providing excellent visibility for snorkelers to explore the diverse marine life in the area.

Scuba Diving In Panama City Florida

There are almost infinite spots to go scuba diving around here in the gulf, ranging from small, vibrant coral reefs to large-scale sites like ships that were sunk intentionally to create marine habitats and for diving trips.

Around Panama City Beach, there are a variety of dive shops and dive tour agencies that will take you on incredible scuba diving tours outside the soft sandy shores!

Where is Panama City in Florida?

The white arc on the Panama City Beach florida entrance

Panama City, located in the northwestern region of Florida along the coastline facing the Gulf of Mexico, is the perfect place to enjoy a delightful vacation.

With its warm climate, refreshing water, and beautiful beaches, Panama City offers everything a beach-loving vacationer could want.

You can find several world-class snorkeling and scuba diving spots around the city, perfect for experiencing the beauty of the ocean.

The natural undersea features are brilliant, with colorful fish, stunning corals, and majestic sea turtles all around, just to mention a few things.

FAQs Panama City Florida

What is the best time to visit Panama City, Florida?


Panama City, Florida, is a popular destination year-round, with peak season falling between April and October.

The warmest months usually bring the most visitors, but you can also find affordable deals during the winter months and the shoulder seasons.

What kind of activities are available in Panama City?


Panama City is full of exciting activities to keep you entertained.

From its gorgeous beaches to its unique attractions, you won’t be lacking in things to do. Popular activities include parasailing, jet skiing, fishing, kayaking, and more.

What kind of food can I find in Panama City?

Panama City is known for its delicious seafood, with a variety of restaurants offering fresh catches from the Gulf of Mexico.

From fried shrimp to crab cakes, you’ll find plenty of delicious options. Not in the mood for seafood?

Don’t worry; Panama City also has plenty of other options like Mexican, Italian, and more.

Are there any natural attractions in Panama City?

Panama City is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, ranging from lush forests to stunning beaches.

Check out St. Andrews State Park for a variety of activities, or take a trip to the Panama City Beach Conservation Park to explore the area’s natural flora and fauna.

Are there any cultural activities in Panama City?

Panama City has plenty of cultural events for visitors to enjoy. From art shows to live music performances, you’ll find plenty of ways to immerse yourself in local culture.

The city also hosts several annual festivals, such as the Spring Fest, Lobster Fest, and Pirate Fest.

Are there any family-friendly activities in Panama City?

Panama City is a great destination for families. It has plenty of attractions for children, such as ZooWorld and Gulf World Marine Park, as well as fun activities like mini golf, go-karts, and more.

Plus, the beach is a great place for a family picnic or a relaxing day of sun and sand.

Wrap-Up Panama City Florida Snorkeling

The cool thing about your snorkeling options in Panama City, Florida, is that you can alternate between the brilliant waters of the Gulf of Mexico and fresh, clear waters inland!

You have the opportunity to meet a lot of different marine life and even check out intriguing cave systems if you feel adventurous.

Whatever you prefer, this part of Florida has beautiful and fun adventures in store for visitors, and you will not regret taking your holidays here.

Related blog posts:

21 Best Beaches In Southwest Florida For Happy Summer Days

Florida in December: Is Florida A Good Winter Destination?

Snorkeling with Sharks in Florida: The Ultimate Adrenaline Experience

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *