Snorkel & Sail: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo is popular among the diving and snorkeling crowd, with good reason. The first undersea park in the United States boasts a pale-white sunken algae-coated statue of Jesus Christ with outstretched arms. Unlike the Belize version (that statue of Christ is accessible only by deep-sea divers), the Key Largo version is an aquatic landmark that everyone—including the Lonely Planet Guidebook– seems to know about, and easy to spot while snorkeling out in the ocean.
On a clear day (and there are too many of these to count here), you’ll see endangered sea turtles, which are making a comeback in Florida, and more fish than you’ll have bargained for.
My family and I took a glass-bottom boat tour and loved spotting fat yet graceful pelicans and plenty of brown, red and white mangroves. I also realized that this was possibly the best spot in the world to practice fishing.
Bryan, our skipper, agrees. “This is the best place in the world to hook and cook,” he chuckles, adding that you’re not allowed to fish in the park itself. Indeed, Key Largo and Islamorada are perhaps the best spots in the world for grouper.
The park offers popular snorkeling expeditions which are around four hours long, as well as sandy beach areas.
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Diving in Key Largo
For my first ocean dive I couldn't have chosen a better location. Diving in Key Largo is relatively easy. The water is warm and clear. The reefs I visited weren't deep and they're wasn't much current at all. And it's one of the most beautiful reefs in the world!