Low-budget snorkeling in the Florida Keys

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of April 11-18, 1996
Biking and hiking in Nevada
Utah's Fishlake National Forest
Camping in the Hawaiian Islands
Exploring Canada's remote Ellesmere Island
Low-budget snorkeling in the Florida Keys
A family vacation in Jamaica

Low-budget snorkeling in the Florida Keys
Question: Where is a good, low-budget place to go snorkeling in the United States--preferably with beaches and good seafood?

Dan Furman
Newark, NJ
[email protected]

Underwater park and beautiful beaches at Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Adventure Adviser: Low-budget snorkeling can mean anything from donning a mask and fins and heading out to the local lake to really taking the plunge and making a by-the-books vacation out of it.

If you choose the latter route--which isn't a bad idea, since western New Jersey isn't known for its beaches--put the Florida Keys on your list of not-yet-heinously-overpriced destinations. Key Largo's Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a good place to start, with its schools of yellowtail snappers and parrot fish, not to mention about 650 other species. Coral Reef Park Company rents out snorkel equipment for $10.75 a day--including fins, mask, and snorkel--or sign on with their three-hour charter for $24 per person. For more information, call 305-451-1621.

For wallet-friendly accommodations, pitch your tent in the park's 47-site campground, where a patch of level ground and a picnic table will run you $24 a night. Reservations are taken up to 60 days in advance by phone; call 305-451-1202. While you're there, you might as well head on down to Key West, the southernmost island in the 100-mile chain. With its Bahamian architecture, "Floribbean" restaurants, and white-sand beaches, it's probably as close to the laid-back Caribbean as you can get without leaving the States. Key West Pro Dive Shop runs four-hour snorkeling trips out to Ten-Fathom Ledge and other reef sites for $35 per person; call 800-426-0707.

If you're looking for something a little more remote, sign on with Key West Seaplane Service's half-day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles from the fire-eaters, tropical bagpipers, and tourists of Key West. Known for its clear water and healthy coral reefs, Dry Tortugas is ideal for snorkeling, which is included in the tour. For reservations or information, call 800-224-2359. Extend your trip and stay overnight in the park's first-come, first-served campground; call 305-242-7700.

If this sounds at all tempting to you, check out "The Florida Keys" in our winter 1995-96 Travel Guide for more details.

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