John Pennekamp State Park - Key Largo snorkeling

John Pennekamp State Park - Key Largo snorkeling

us United States

Travel Update: Most places are open. Still, check the official websites and read our crucial BEST TIME tips below to help you AVOID THE CROWDS or secure tickets | Book Tip: 50 U.S. States - 5000 Ideas

When Is the Best Time

When Is the Best Time
Snorkel and weather conditions at the Keys

The summer offers the flattest and clearest water for snorkelers. The downside the summer is also known for its uncomfortably high heat and humidity. In September and October, hurricanes can occur like in 2017. Much got destroyed by Irma here on the keys.

The months from November thru April are much more pleasant, but there can be strong wind and waves which reduce visibility substantially. Cold fronts from Canada with strong winds arrive here in the winter. The temperature drops, and it gets chilly. Also, there can be days where the surf is too high for snorkeling. The worst month with strong winds is January, and it improves in March. The best month for snorkeling is May until Memorial Day. It is still not too hot, water is clearer, and accommodations are not as expensive as in the summertime. September can be a good month as well but consider it’s the hurricane season.

Book your snorkel trip in advance and on a windy day give them a call in the morning to get the tour confirmed: (305) 451 6300

Avoiding crowds

If possible stay at the keys from Monday to Friday and avoid weekends. Weekends are utterly busy, prices for hotels increase and most spots are crowded. The advantage; on weekends guided trips are offered in the John Pennekamp State Park in the morning.

Camping in the John Pennekamp State Park

The popular campground is mainly used by RV’s each of the 45 sites has electricity. The campground provides washing machines and tumblers. If you like to stay here, you have to book 11 months before sharp at 8 in the morning. The alternative; usually sites get canceled shortly before the stay. Check it on Reserve America daily soon before you plan to visit the Keys.

We were forced to look for a motel. There wasn't any affordable campsite available. We stayed at the Conch On Inn for three nights. Luckily, a very comfy bed, WIFI, fridge, coffee machine, BBQ and attentive owners. Great value for money. 

Hotels near the John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.

Where and Tips

Key Largo, Florida
United States

Key Largo is the first island of the Florida Keys chain that tourist encounter when coming down from Miami. And, it is known for a dozen excellent snorkeling dive spots. The most popular snorkeling spots are:

  • John Pennekamp State Park
  • White Bank Reef
  • Dry Rocks
  • Molasses Reef
  • Christ Of The Deep
  • Pickles Reef

All these snorkeling spots require a snorkel tour boat to reach. Most visitors will first stop in the John Pennekamp State Park where there is multiple snorkel boat each day departing the marina out to the Florida Reef offshore. During offshore snorkels, you will most likely encounter angelfish, parrotfish, sergeant majors, wrasses, hawksbill turtles and an occasional shark.

Snorkel trip and glass bottom boat tours booking  

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Named after John Pennekamp an early proponent to protect the reef. He also supported the establishment of the Everglades National Park. The visitor center contains a huge aquarium, exhibitions, and theatre. The volunteers answer all your questions about the park and the reefs. Next to the visitor center is the marina where the boat trips start. There are two short nature trails inside the park; Wild Tamarind Trail and the Mangrove Trail.

Wild Tamarind Trail in the John Pennekamp State Park

Poisonwood occurs in the park. Don’t get in contact with anything of the tree. It contains sap. Even if standing under it while raining it can cause irritation. The fruits of the trees are essential for the endangered white-crowned pigeon when feeding the chicks. There is a small colony inside the park and pigeons make a break here in summer on migration to South America. Due to hurricane Irma, many beaches disappeared. There is still Cannon Beach in the park to relax. 

Map of all reefs at the Florida Keys

Useful Links Key Largo Snorkeling and Snorkeling With Kids

Updated by When to be Where




Our snorkel tour got canceled due to heavy wind. The water was quite murky. Anyhow, we enjoyed our stay at John Pennekamp. We spent some time inside the information center and walked along Wild Tamarind Trail. The biggest surprise we spotted a manatee.

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