We are often asked where the best free spots to snorkel from the beaches around Miami are. It is worth mentioning that the snorkeling from the beaches is at best mediocre when compared to the reefs that can only be reached by boat.
In spite of that, you always see plenty of kids with their fins and snorkels at the beach, is there anything to see you wonder, besides all the sand being stirred up by the kids?
While not spectacular, and as long as you are not expecting colorful corals and tropical fish in abundance which you find at the reefs, there is still plenty to see.
The sandy bottoms are quite often covered with sea grasses, and this is where you find little critters and fish darting around... If you see sandy patches, a stingray might be resting nearby...
Visibility might not be the best, but snorkeling off the beach takes zero effort other than strapping the fins, mask and snorkel while you are enjoying a glorious day at any of our beautiful beaches.
We snorkel quite often from the beaches and certainly enjoy it. We often see stingrays, barracudas, plenty of tropical fish although not in large schools like you see at the reefs.
Snorkeling from the beach is also a good idea before going on a snorkel boat tour if this is your first time or if you want to "test-drive" any new equipment. That way you adjust everything and make sure it fits and doesn't leak before you jump from the boat.
Here are some of our favorite spots to snorkel from the beach near Miami and nearby. We enjoy coming to these places because they offer a great variety of activities and things to do, we would not come here necessarily "just to snorkel" although that is certainly a popular option. Please note that at some of these places there is a "park entrance" fee, so although the snorkeling from shore is free, as opposed to paying for a boat tour, there will still be a small fee to enter some of the parks.
Bill Baggs is a great park to spend the day, period. The beach is fantastic, and in addition, there are lots of fun things to do at the park: biking, fishing, kayaking, etc.
The beach is shallow with a gentle surf due to the offshore reefs that protect it. It slops very gradually and with almost no waves, it makes entry and exit very easy.
You can snorkel from the beach and look for interesting critters among the seagrass or head over around the rocky jetty
where little fish abound but be careful with the tides and the surf. You don't want to end up crashing against the rocks.
We often see sergeant majors, small grunts and other small colorful fish and occasionally a barracuda darting by.
Another popular spot to try out your snorkel from shore is John Pennekamp State Park. Although the Park is mostly known as one of the gateways to the offshore coral reefs and some of the most spectacular snorkeling and diving in the area, the reefs are found between 3 to 8 miles out and definitely not within swimming distance.
That said, you can still snorkel off the beaches at the park, and although nothing in comparison to the rich reefs offshore, you see few formations among the grassy bottom and some fish darting around. We have seen parrot fish, barracudas, small grunts, and the tiny silvery ones swimming in schools.
There is also the mangroves that frame the sides of the beaches, where you find all sorts of interesting wildlife, both above and below the water.
Bahia Honda is quite a drive from Miami, but it is still one of our favorite places to snorkel from shore.
There are sandy patches interspersed in the grassy bottom where we have regularly spotted stingrays and they are always such a thrill to bump into and then watch as they glide away!
As mentioned before, Bahia Honda is not exactly around the corner from Miami, but if you are headed to the Florida Keys, it is definitely worth it
to include it in your plans!
If snorkeling is the main goal, then a drive up to West Palm Beach will be a must. This is probably the best beach snorkel/dive site in the area. It wins in terms of accesibility and the overwhelming diversity of marine life it offers, from tiny seahorses, pipe fish and nudibranchs to eagle rays, manatees, octupus, turtles... Not surprisingly it featured in 2013 as one of the 50 Best Dive Sites in the World by Sport Diver magazine.
An 800-foot Snorkel Trail was established in 2012, an artificial reef that has since then thrived and where many
varieties of colorful fish and marine life can be observed at a mere six to ten feet of depth.
I'm sure there are many other beaches where it would be fun to take our masks and snorkels. Tell us below in the comments what your favorite spots are so we can share with the rest!
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