The Florida Keys is habitat to the 3rd biggest live coral reef in the world. Snorkeling Key West is very popular and entices thousands of tourists yearly. However, due to such a big popularity and high traffic Key West reefs nowadays are no the same healthy and vibrant as Middle Florida Keys.
Snorkeling Key West, Florida
Living Coral Reefs
The best Key West snorkeling spots can be reached by boat as the most healthy coral reefs abundant with marine life are located in about 8 miles offshore.
Among popular Key West snorkeling locations are Cottrell Key, Western Dry Rocks, Eastern Dry Rocks and Sand Key Lighthouse. Cottrell Key is placed in Key West National Reservation which is 8 miles northwest of Key West. The rest 3 spots are close to each other and situated in 8 miles southwest of Key West.
The best snorkeling in Key West is at Sand Key Lighthouse, which is the most healthy reef at the area. This place is habitat for loggerhead turtles, grouper and barracuda and abundant with fire and elkhorn corals. Average depth is 35 feet.
Another prominent Key West snorkeling area is Ten-Fathom Ledge, which is renowned for its overhangs and caves which are home for lobsters, groupers, sharks and eagle rays. The depth here ranges from 35 to 50 feet.
Diving Key West Wrecks
USS Wilkes-Barre is one of the popular shipwreck at the Florida Keys. The 608-foot cruiser was constructed in 1942. In May 1972 during underwater explosive tests the ship was broken into 2 pieces. The stern stands upright, depth ranges from 140 to 250 feet. The bow rests on the seafloor under 250 feet of water. Average depth is 210 feet while the maximum is 320 feet. USS Wilkes-Barre is a perfect wreck for experienced divers.
Another Key West diving site is Joe's Tug wreck. The story of this 75-foot shrimper shipwreck is very funny. Originally the ship sunk at Key West pier in 1986. The vessel was raised with a plan to move it to Miami and make it an artificial reef. However, at night before the move, it was towed out of Kew West port by a group of locals and sunk nearby the harbor. Currently, the wreck is lying under 65 feet of water. With its average deep of 45 feet, the shipwreck is suitable for newcomers and experienced divers.
All Alone wreck is located nearby Ten-Fathom Ledge and covered with 90 feet of water. This settled down 75-foot tugboat currently is a shelter to pelagic creatures including snook and grouper.
Ex-military missile-tracking ship, the USNS Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg became the second largest artificial reef in the world on May 27, 2015. It was sunk in nearly 150 feet of water in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, about 7 miles south of Key West.
Key West Location & Climate
Key West lies in about 130 miles southwest from Miami, Florida. Key West may be reached by car (160 km ride from Miami), by plane or by cruise liner. Key West International Airport is placed in 2 miles to the East from Key West. Local seaport accepts dozens cruise ships daily.
Key West tropical climate has a small temperature variation during the year. January is the freshest month - air temperature ranges from +18C to +24C and average water temperature +21C. The hottest month is July with air temperature variation from +27C to +32C and average water temperature +31C. Key West is the sunniest and warmest spot in the USA.
The period from June 1st until November 30th is official hurricane season, still the main threat of storms is from August 15th until October 15th.
The peak season at Key West is from January to April; May-June & November-December is shoulder season and July-October is off season. The best time for snorkeling Key West should be April and May when the water temperature is about +24C / +26C and air temperature is around +26C / +28C. During this time the humidity is still not very high and the sea is calm and clear.