Visiting the Coral Reef in Key West, FL

September 7th 2022
Rachel Dickey
Visiting the Coral Reef in Key West, FL

The Florida Reef, sometimes called the Great Florida Reef, is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. In addition to the natural reef system, since 1981, more than 23 artificial reefs have been created. These coral reefs in Key West, FL, have been created mainly through the sinking of ships. Fun Fact: The Florida Keys themselves are actually exposed portions of an ancient coral reef!

The reef is only a short boat ride from Key West and the Florida Keys, and offers some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving. See exotic fish, reptiles, reef formations, and more, when you visit the complex and captivating coral reef in Key West.

Table of Contents

  • What is There to See at the Coral Reef?
  • Exploring the Reef
    • Snorkeling the Reef
    • Scuba Diving the Reef
    • Day Trips & Excursions
  • Types of Corals in Florida



What is There to See at the Coral Reef?


tropical fish swimming around beautiful coral

According to a recent Traveler Story, there are many tropical fish, like the one pictured above, at the coral reef


There are almost 1,400 species of marine plants and animals, including more than 40 species of stony corals, and 500 species of fish living on the Florida Reef. Although the Florida Reef lies close to the northern limit for tropical corals, the species diversity on the reef is comparable to that of reef systems in the Caribbean Sea. Incredible wildlife you’re expected to see when visiting the coral reef in Key West include:


wildlife of the key west coral reef


On the way to the coral reef in Key West you might even catch a glimpse of:

  • Dolphins
  • Manatees
  • Sea Turtles
  • Sharks

You never know what incredible marine life you may see in Key West!


Exploring the Reef


explore the reefs in key west by sailboat

*There are many different ways to explore the reef. *


Many sailing charters offer combination tours with both sailing and snorkeling. Even if you only have one day in beautiful Key West, FL, deciding to explore the reef there is a no-brainer! Choosing how to explore it, however, can be difficult.

From snorkeling the clear, beautiful water at your own pace, to diving in and exploring sunken ships, there is a way to check out Key West’s underwater wonderland that will appease both the thrill-seeker and the chill-seeker in your group.

Snorkeling the Reef


Snorkeling the Coral Reef in Key West, FL

*Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities in Key West, and Key West has some of the best snorkeling in Florida! *


Renting a vessel or taking a Key West boat tour is a great way to snorkel wrecks and reefs that would otherwise be inaccessible. Besides the awe-inspiring reef, Key West is home to gorgeous waters, incredible landscapes, and a variety of unique and interesting wildlife. There is so much to see when you’re under the sea in Key West!

{Read Reviews & Book Key West Snorkeling Tours Online}

Scuba Diving the Reef


man scuba diving in key west

Dive down into the depths of the deep blue and discover a diverse underwater universe


For the more ambitious coral reef explorer, scuba diving is an amazing way to see the coral reef in Key West during your visit. If you have never been scuba diving, then be sure to book a beginner trip that does not require certification. If you’re more advanced, then you’ll be able to choose between wreck and reef dives!

{Read Reviews & Book Key West Scuba Diving Online}

Day Trips & Excursions


day trip in key west fl

Day trips & excursions not only take you out for some incredible snorkeling, but many companies will also include fun activities like parasailing, kayaking, sailing, and more


The number of great tour options for snorkeling and watersports in Key West can be overwhelming, and the tours span a large price range. Before you make a choice based on price alone, however, it’s important to think about what other activities you hope to do in Key West, and whether you’re looking for other amenities like complimentary beer and wine.

Day trips and excursions are a great way to combine multiple activities and explore even more of the beautiful Key West! So, if you want to explore the reefs, but also want to take an unforgettable sailing charter, go kayaking, dolphin watching, or catch a famous Key West sunset, then consider booking a day trip that includes all or some of the above, saving you time and money.

{Read Reviews & Book Key West Day Trips and Excursions Online}



Types of Corals in Florida


Corals in Key West-Visiting the Coral Reef in Key West, FL

Corals can grow into many different shapes.


Florida’s Coral Reef is home to more than 40 species of reef-building corals. These corals provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for millions of animals and plants. There are two main categories of corals: stony corals and octocorals. Florida’s Coral Reef host over 45 species of stony corals and 35 species of octocorals.



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