We are planning a trip to Marathon and looking to find one or two nice snorkeling trips and who to go with.
We’ve done Looe Key twice and are looking for something different for a family of four.
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Galen & Nicole – Dec 16, 2009 – Don’t Miss Snorkeling Sombrero Reef
Hi Cindy, we took a boat out of Robbie’s Marina to go to Cheeca Rocks, and Alligator Reef (well worth doing).
For Hen and Chickens we had a unique experience. Cheeca Lodge at the time was closed for rebuilding after their fire. But they decided to run some of their snorkel boats from a nearby marina. And we took the very first trip. And it ended up being just the two of us on a forty foot boat with the captain and his friend. So that was a pretty nice experience. So I would check in with Cheeca Lodge to see what they are running now that they are open again. But I also think Robbie’s Marina occasionally goes there.
But if you are in the Marathon area, you have to go to Sombrero Reef. It is the highlight of the area. A variety of catamarans go from Marathon.
Have a great time and please let us know how it went when you get back.
Cindy – Dec 29, 2009 – Sombrero Reef then?
Who did you use for Sombrero Reef then?
Your pictures look very nice and sounds like you had a great day for snorkeling. We are going late March. What time of the year did you make your visit to Sombrero?
Galen & Nicole – Dec 30, 2009 – Snorkeling Sombrero Reef
We did our last Florida trip in May and we took the Spirit Catamaran. It was a good experience.
Laura – Mar 27, 2014 – Just Back From Sombrero Reef and Cheeca Rocks
I just returned from snorkeling in the Middle Keys.
My first day out was with Starfish Snorkeling out of Marathon to Sombrero Reef. I would only recommend them if you have reservations (not the call ahead kind). They cancelled the morning trip I was booked on and the guy at the window said it was because of wind. However when I came back in the afternoon and suggested it was because there weren’t enough people for the morning trip, the woman at the window said yes, that was why they cancelled.
It was a 30 minute boat ride out to Sombrero Reef and the water was swelly (is that a word?) so some people got sick. The toilet on board didn’t work and there were 29 of us. Not a great experience. Still, the reef was nice. I would recommend a wetsuit, as I was cold (this was end of March). Lots of fish, but the visibility wasn’t great.
My next day was out of Islamorada with Islamorada Boat Tours, whom I would HIGHLY recommend. The trip was only 15 minutes out to Cheeca Rocks and then we also went to what they called “Cuda Reef” about five minutes from the first place.
Both had wonderful coral and fish. I saw turtles, barracudas, spiny lobster and all sorts of wonderful fish whose names I don’t know! The toilet worked, I got a full length swim skin for more warmth, there were only 18 of us and a super knowledgeable captain and helpful crew.
Anne W. – Jul 7, 2017 – Middle Keys Snorkeling
Sombrero Reef in Marathon is one of the most beautiful reefs in the Keys. We go out with Spirit Snorkeling. Awesome corals, some 3-4 feet in length, large schools of Blue Tangs, Sergeant Majors, all types of parrotfish and lovely angelfish just to name a few.
I had my husband and my sister with me for her first snorkeling trip ever. We had her snorkeling everyday throughout the week.
On this reef we were amazed to see a huge school of barracuda that were stacked like bookshelves, 20-30, large too. I have never seen so many in one place. Truly a wonderful experience for her and us!
We live in SW Florida, go there often. We usually go in June and July, crystal clear water, third week of July, like swimming in an aquarium.
August and September have way too many jellyfish, you can’t swim around them, don’t waste your money.
Also try mid-October before the water cools off.
Doug – Jun 22, 2019 – Snorkel Islamorada
I am PADI certified, but now choose to snorkel. I heard about Island Girl snorkel tours on Facebook, and tried them recently. While thinking I was going to Alligator Reef, the morning tour went to Cheeca Rocks. I was pleasantly surprised how nice it was, with loads of fish and all kinds of coral.
I’d only planned on doing one trip, but when they said the next one, at noon, would be to Alligator, I signed on for that. They gave a discount for two trips in one day (not guaranteed.) Alligator was crowded, and we may not have had the best spot, (I don’t know, my first trip there) but the snorkeling was much better than I expected. It was crystal clear, blue water, with tons of fish, none moving fast, until three tarpon hauled butt by me, in a hurry to somewhere.
I’d highly recommend Island Girl tours on Islamorada. Water, soft drinks, snacks, and all gear are provided on board at no extra charge, in addition to great, friendly service.
Annika – May 5, 2021 – Island Girl = Best Crew, Sombrero Reef = Best Spot
Based on the comments above we called Island Girl tours on a Friday while driving from our motel in Florida City to Islamorada. We booked a tour for 2pm and everything was just perfect.
Everyone is super friendly, the tour starts from the Islander Resort, not some small dock next to the road. They offered towels, snorkel gear, soft drinks and after snorkeling, beer and homemade rum punch. Great atmosphere and one girl (Sidney) offers to take great underwater pictures for a fair price. They were running 15 minutes late but said they’d just extend the trip to make up for the time and they did.
They took us to ‘The Donut‘ which is only a 10 minute ride, small reef, great for families. Visibility happened to be awesome that day and we saw lots of fish, even two different sea turtles and parrotfish munching away on the corals. Great experience all together.
The next day we were torn between going with them again or taking Spirit Snorkeling to go to Sombrero Reef. We decided to go to Sombrero, but the tour started 45 minutes late because it was a sunset tour and I had already done the math and noticed we’d not see the sunset if we really left at the set time. They never communicated with us, everyone was melting in the sun and the first mate Kevin kept making stupid jokes, getting into peoples faces while talking to them, bragging about his diving career, etc.
Luckily the reef was just awesome, my absolute favorite and that saved the day. Snorkeling was great, about 45 minutes long and great visibility. The trip on the boat was fun too, watching the sunset after crossing under the seven mile bridge was awesome. They served a nice champagne and had lots of other drinks to enjoy. All in all a great trip, but would definitely try to go with a different crew if you can.
The next day we went with the Island Girl again. It was our last day and it was windy and choppy, but less hot, which was nice. We went to Cheeca Rocks, but visibility wasn’t good at all because of the wind. We still had a good time and even saw a nurse shark.
Mike – Sep 7, 2022 – Time of Year
Loved the feedback on snorkeling the Middle Keys.
I am going to be in Naples in January 2023 for a month. Is the snorkeling good in January? Do the tour groups run throughout the year?
Nicole and Galen – Sep 8, 2022 – Florida Keys in Winter
Hi Mike, well, we tell folks on our main Florida Keys page, in the section about when to go for snorkeling, that you should call the tour companies to see if they will be operating in the winter months because many do close down. Also, the water is chilly so will most likely require a wetsuit. We hope you get it worked out and have a great time!