Seven mile bridge over to Marathon Key in Southern Florida

9 Best Places For Snorkeling in Marathon Florida By A Local (2024)

Written by: Candice at CS Ginger

Come along as we explore nine of the best places for snorkeling in Marathon Florida.

The Sunshine State is one of the top beach vacation destinations in the continental United States. But a real beach area getaway is about more than just the sun and the sand.

Epic snorkeling locations only a short boat trip away can turn a fun getaway into a vacation you’ll never forget. I just did a road trip down the Florida Keys from Miami this summer to investigate!

Marathon is one of the best Florida vacation destinations, whether you travel with family, as a couple, or you are an avid solo traveler!

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

Where Is Marathon Florida

Sunset over the water and an overwater pier in Key West Florida

Located in the middle keys, Marathon is a 10-mile-long island, around one hour (and 50 miles) from Key West in South Florida and 47 miles from Key Largo in the other direction.

It is popular for all sorts of boating, snorkel tours, and sunset cruises to have a great time. It is also renowned for fishing, including deep-sea and reef fishing.

If you love snorkeling, kayaking, jet skiing, paddle boards, or even scuba diving, this is your destination.

Best of all, the water surrounding Marathon is clear and features the third-largest living coral barrier reef system close to the Caribbean Sea, making for some of the best snorkel locations in the world.

Best Snorkeling In Marathon Florida

1. Sombrero Reef

Huge crayfish in Marathon Florida

Marathon is considered part of the Middle Keys in the Florida Keys, and Sombrero Reef is the largest reef in this portion of the Florida Keys Reef Tract.

Sombrero Reef is roughly 4 miles out from the coast of Marathon, and you can travel there by private boat or on organized or private snorkeling trips.

Sombrero Reef is one of the more relatively shallow reefs in the Marathon area, surrounded by sandy areas and crystal-clear waters.

Some of the reefs’ natural beauty is often visible during low tide, when they are submerged only under a few feet of water.

Depths here range from 2 feet to 30 feet deep, offering snorkeling enthusiasts a great opportunity to explore the reef and its sealife inhabitants up close.

Given the range of depths, Sombrero Reef is a wonderful place for snorkelers and divers of all ages and experience levels to explore.

From vibrant and colorful fish to sting rays, sea turtles, and so much more, you never know exactly what you’ll encounter at Sombrero Reef.

The lighthouse is another fun spot to visit while snorkeling in this area. Completed in 1858, It isn’t open for tours at this time, but visitors can admire it from the water.

2. Coffins Patch

Coffins Patch is another top-notch snorkeling destination in Marathon Florida. It features six different reefs, each showcasing a different coral.

This is highly uncommon and makes for a unique experience, definitely qualifying Coffins Patch as a premier place to snorkel.

Some of the coral you can expect to find on a visit to Coffins Patch include fairy tail pillar coral, star coral, and fire coral. You’ll also be lucky to spot the likes of butterfly fish, blue tangs, angelfish, and so much more. 

Given the diversity of coral and sea life, this is a wonderful place to bring an underwater camera and capture life under the sea.

If you’re traveling with newbie snorkelers and prefer a more shallow portion of the reef to explore, head out to The Stake area. It’s easily identified by the steel pole, visible from the surface. This stretch of reef ranges from 10-15 feet deep. 

The Elbow and Sand Circle reefs here also have relatively shallow water at approximately 15 feet. These are amazing spots to enjoy the glorious coral reef and take in countless schools of fish and even lobsters.

On the flip side, the Outer Edge is the preferred portion of Coffins Patch for those looking to scuba dive.

The reef is about 40 feet deep through this stretch. Other highlights at Coffins Patch include the Three Bag Reef Wreck, which features the remains of a shipwreck that occurred in the mid-1800s.

3. Looe Key Reef

Looe Key Reef is commonly considered the very best place for snorkeling in Marathon Florida. The depth here spans 7-30 feet, making it another great snorkel trip spot for snorkelers of all ages and skill levels.

The clarity at Looe Key Reef varies depending on which part of it you are snorkeling through.

The shallower depths often offer amazingly clear waters, allowing snorkelers to explore the reef and catch sight of nearly 150 different species of fish, including yellowtail, parrotfish, moray eel, and barracuda.

Sharks of different varieties are often spotted at Looe Key Reef as well. It’s a great place to visit for snorkelers interested in seeing larger aquatic life. So be prepared to see bigger marine life on this reef. 

4. Delta Shoal

Schoals of fish outside the Florida Keys. Colorful fish swarming around a coral reef.

Delta Shoal is a great place to visit for visitors interested in exploring shipwrecks.

Though the wreckage would be more easily explored by scuba diving, you can still get some interesting views while snorkeling. 

The depth here ranges from 6 – 25 feet and features some of the most unique coral structures you’ll come across in the Florida Keys.

Several long, finger-like coral forms can be explored here, as well as numerous coral canyons, where snorkelers will likely find droves of fish hiding away.

Look out for grunts, spiny lobsters, and angelfish, as well as an array of interesting sponges.

Even though it’s a great snorkeling spot, Delta Shoal isn’t super popular. Given that it’s relatively close to the busy Sombrero Reef, it’s a great place to come to escape the crowds. 

5. Ivory Shipwreck

The Ivory Shipwreck is not only a fascinating location for exploring and snorkeling in Marathon, Florida, but also a testament to history.

This slave ship sank in 1853 and rests at a depth of about 15 feet.

It’s a really interesting spot to visit and check out, but it is more readily enjoyed as a scuba dive rather than a snorkel session.

Lots of marine life can be spotted here, including bluehead, surgeonfish, and blue tang.

Places to Snorkel Near Marathon, Florida From the Shore

Calm waters outside John Pennekamp Beach in the Florida Keys. Sailboats are visible in the horizon.

6. Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park is a must-visit spot when spending time in Marathon. It’s a gorgeous park above and below the surface.

There are a number of beaches to visit at this park, but Calusa Beach and Sand Spur Beach are the preferred locations for snorkeling. Keep in mind that snorkeling from the shore is very different from snorkeling in a reef environment.

The shore at Bahia Honda State Park would be a great first stop for those new to snorkeling when snorkeling in Marathon.

The water clarity is generally pretty good here, and snorkelers can easily spot colorful fish through the seagrass near the rock jetty at Calusa Beach. 

7. Sombrero Beach

Sombrero Beach is a great place for visitors who aren’t quite ready for a journey out to Sombrero Reef.

The shore snorkeling here won’t offer the same experience that the reef does, as the sea life in the shore areas is much less plentiful.

It is one of the best clear-water beaches in Florida, and the beautiful white sand makes for the perfect spot to spend a beach day.

Beginner snorkelers will be able to see some coral and small fish just off the shore. The rock shelf is an excellent spot to explore, as some marine life lingers there.

8. Horseshoe Beach

Horseshoe Beach is a lagoon encircled by a rock jetty in the form of a horseshoe, hence the name. This isn’t your typical Florida beach, as this small area is fairly rocky and often muddy.

This beach is typically pretty quiet, so it’s a good place for snorkeling if you want to avoid the crowds.

Snorkelers can typically spot some small fish species, including tropical fish and jellyfish, as well as some corals. As for bigger sea life, you might spot manatees, rays, and barracuda.

9. Cannon Beach in Pennekamp State Park

White sandy beach strewn with palm trees, and you can see the green mangrove on the side along the sea shore.

Cannon Beach in Pennekamp State Park is another great place to snorkel off the shore for families or those who are just learning to snorkel.

This spot is great because it’s relatively shallow near the shore and still offers glimpses of some beautiful, colorful fish.

For those comfortable with swimming away from the shore a bit, there’s a shipwreck to explore just off this beach as well. 

Guided Tours Snorkeling In Marathon Florida

Marathon Key: 3-hour snorkeling adventure on a Pontoon at Sombrero Reef!

This three-hour Snorkeling Adventure on a Pontoon at Sombrero Reef is a tour that will transport visitors from Marathon out to Sombrero Reef for an afternoon of snorkeling.

It’s a great opportunity to explore one of the world’s great reefs and see some amazing wildlife and coral in a guided atmosphere.

Starfish Snorkeling Tours carry visitors on a catamaran called The Starfish out to Sombrero Reef.

This is a convenient option for travelers who don’t have their own snorkeling equipment, as a mask and flippers are included as part of the tour.

Again, these tours and snorkeling in Marathon Florida, in general, are great opportunities to take in the beauty of the coral reef and all the different types of aquatic life on display right in front of you.

What to Expect on a Guided Snorkeling Tour

Expect to enjoy a boat ride out to Sombrero Reef, where you may see dolphins and sea turtles.

Once at the departure point on the places to snorkel, you will put on your snorkeling gear and have time to explore the reef and surrounding areas.

At the end of the designated snorkeling time, you will be counted back on the boat and head back to Marathon.

Things to Bring On Your Snorkeling Tour

There are some essentials you should always bring along when planning a snorkeling excursion.

You’ll want to make sure you have all the needed equipment for snorkeling, as well as some personal items to make sure you stay as comfortable as possible.

If you’re planning on joining a snorkeling tour, be sure to check what the tour provides, as some of the needed items will be covered. 

See the list below and load up your beach tote!

  • Underwater Camera
  • Motion Sickness Tablets
  • Reef- Friendly Sunscreen
  • Towel
  • Swimming Suit
  • Wet Suit
  • Water Bottle

Best Time to Go Snorkeling in Marathon Florida

Marathon is a wonderful year-round vacation destination but is best enjoyed in the spring.

This season brings comfortable weather, not too much rain, and most of the snowbird seasonal residents will have left town by then.

If you visit anytime between April and October, you can bet on great snorkeling conditions.

December in Florida is also a good time for the holiday season ambiance, right as the hurricane season has ended.

The water temperature is comfortable during these months, and the conditions are very clear, offering an amazing vision of the sea life.

FAQ: Snorkeling in Marathon Florida

Is There Good Snorkeling in Marathon?

Yes! Marathon is an excellent place to visit if your travel plans include lots of different areas to snorkel.

There are several different spots near the city that showcase some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world!

Can You Snorkel Off the Beach in Marathon, Florida?

Yes, you can snorkel off the beach in Marathon, Florida.

Some of the best snorkeling spots in Marathon Florida are Sombrero Beach and Bahia Honda State Park, where you find some of the best off-beach snorkeling in the Marathon area.

Where is the Best Beach to Snorkel in Marathon?

Sombrero Beach is one of the best beaches to snorkel in Marathon. Bahia Honda State Park is one of the best Florida Gulf Coast Beaches.

Can You Snorkel in Marathon Key?

Yes! Marathon Key may be most known for its various fishing opportunities, but it is also an amazing place to visit for snorkeling! 

Plus, the keys offer some of the best weather year-round. The warmest beaches in Florida in December can be found here!

What Reefs Are Near Marathon Florida?

Sombrero Reef and Looe Key Reef are some of the best reefs to visit near Marathon.

The clarity of the water is astounding in these places, allowing visitors to enjoy the beautiful coral and dazzling variety of fish and other sea life! 

Wrap-Up: Snorkeling in Marathon Florida

There’s so much wonder and beauty waiting to be explored in the depths surrounding Marathon, Florida, as a destination. This middle key is almost right in the middle of Key Largo and Key West.

  1. Heart of the Reef: Marathon, Florida, is right in the heart of the Florida Keys, home to dozens of incredible reefs. It’s like being in the epicenter of underwater beauty!
  2.  World’s 3rd Largest Reef: The waters off the Florida Keys house the third-largest coral barrier reef in the world. Imagine being able to explore one of the most significant underwater ecosystems on the planet!
  3.  Safe and Calm Waters: Marathon’s waters are known for being shallow and calm, making them safe for snorkelers of all levels. So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, you can enjoy yourself without worry.
  4.  Variety of Marine Life: From the beaches to the reefs, the variety of marine life you can observe is simply astounding. It’s not every day you get to swim with the fish, right?
  5.  Sombrero Reef: This popular snorkeling spot in Marathon Key offers excellent underwater photo opportunities. With its 142′ lighthouse, it’s not just about what’s under the water but also what’s above it.
  6.  Experienced Crews: When you go on a snorkeling tour in Marathon, you’ll be in the company of experienced and knowledgeable crews. They can guide you to the best spots and ensure your safety, allowing you to focus on the fun.
  7.  Awesome Snorkeling Tours: Marathon offers snorkeling tours that take you to offshore reefs. These excursions are pleasurable due to the favorable weather conditions and the sheer beauty of the reefs.

Whether you take a tour out to the reef or enjoy the sea life from the shore, here’s to a great snorkeling adventure in the Sunshine State!

So, snorkeling in Marathon, Florida, is not just an activity. It’s an adventure, a marine learning experience, and a chance to witness the vibrant underwater world up close.

Now, how cool is that?

Related blog posts:

Snorkeling with Sharks in Florida: The Ultimate Adrenaline Experience

21 Best Beaches In Southwest Florida For Happy Summer Days

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

About Candice from Exploring The Gulf

Candice knows the value of traveling as a family. They love exploring the United States with their three daughters!

They have crafted  Exploring the Gulf and  CSGinger as supportive resources to encourage other parents and adventurers to jump into the world of travel. 

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