Snorkeling John Pennekamp State Park is a mixed bag. We love the park itself and think hanging out in the park is wonderful. There are beaches to swim at, trails to walk around on, nice campgrounds, boats and kayaks to rent, and generally it is the best place to be in Key Largo.
While there are two beaches that the park says have some shore snorkeling, it is not reef snorkeling. The beaches are on a sandy bottomed bay with sea grass beds. One of the beaches is called Cannon Beach because about 100 feet offshore there is supposed to be a cannon from an old Spanish shipwreck along with an anchor you can check out.
So, unless you need some time to get comfortable with your snorkel gear, we don't recommend snorkeling John Pennekamp beaches. When you enter the park, they give you a map with the snorkeling beaches marked on them if you want to check them out.
Given it's name, you would think that there are coral reefs in the park, but this is no longer true. The protection of the reefs is now in the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. So, the snorkeling John Pennekamp boat trips go to the same reefs outside park boundaries that the companies in Key Largo take you to.
What about the boat trips from Pennenkamp? You will find that the park runs different boats for different trips depending on how many people they have to take. They use the boat at right, and the ones below.
We are not that excited about taking snorkeling trips from the park because they tend to be very crowded boats. Also we have seen the boats go out on days when the wind and wave conditions were bad enough that the other companies from Key Largo canceled their trips.
Ideally we think it is better to do a snorkel trip from one of the boat companies located in Key Largo, particularly a private charter or small charter boat. But then come and hang out and go swimming and walking in John Pennekamp State Park.
This is our opinion, but you can read some other people's reviews of the park and the snorkeling on TripAdvisor.
Planning on spending a day in the park is a great idea. Bring a picnic lunch. In fact we would probably plan on hanging out at the park every day of our trip that we are not out snorkeling.
On some of the hiking trails in the park you can find interesting lizards like the one on the right.
There is also a nice boardwalk that takes you out along the canal that you can also paddle in a rented kayak.
Sometimes it is a very busy park though. You may have to wait in line in your car just to get in.
And hey, if it is a nice calm day, and you don't really mind going with a ton of other people, go ahead and take a snorkel trip from the park. Snorkeling is fun!
Here is a link to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park website.
This is the website for the concession company that runs the snorkeling John Pennekamp tours from the park.
A Great Snorkeling Camera