Snorkeling Coffins Patch – The Stake and The Donut

Florida Keys

Snorkeling Coffins Patch is fun and worth doing. Coffins Patch is a collection of about six different patches of reef in a variety of depths, and each very unique.

Snorkeling Coffins Patch with sea fans, sea rods and hard corals at The Stake.

We visited two, The Donut and The Stake, and most boat companies will take you to two or three spots. Sometimes companies refer to this trip as the Stake, because of a steel post sticking out of the water at an angle.

2023 Coral Bleaching Event – Please note that very high water temperatures in the summer of 2023 have caused widespread coral bleaching and death in the Florida Keys. So the descriptions on this page are not accurate. If you wish to see healthy coral reefs we now recommend you visit the Coral Triangle.

Trumpetfish at Coffins Patch

For snorkeling Coffins Patch you take a medium length boat ride from the Marathon, Vaca Key area. The patch is about three and half miles offshore. And although they are patches, they are close enough to the barrier reef that the visibility is better, and there are more species.

Like many of the reefs around this part of the Florida Keys, this location was named for a shipwreck (supposedly a ship carrying coffins).

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Snorkeling Coffins Patch – The Donut

The Donut is just that, a round donut mound of rocks that sits in a bit deeper water, which makes it a better spot for divers than snorkelers.

School of Chubs seen while snorkeling Coffins Patch.

Still, we enjoyed this spot, and it is pretty interesting for snorkelers mainly for the abundance of beautiful sponges present.

Orange Sponges at Coffins Patch.
Green Vase Sponge at Coffins Patch.

There was a decent amount of fish at The Donut, but not as much as at other places. The depth was about 15-20 feet. So unless you freedive, getting decent pictures was not that easy. We saw a fair amount of sea rods and fans, but not a lot of hard coral.

Below you can see a Bubbling Neoprene we encountered. They are fun to watch sometimes.

Divers and a school of chubs at Coffins Patch.

To get decent pictures Galen had to freedive down a bit. In this picture you can see him coming back up from taking a picture of the wonderful Hogfish and grouper in the pictures below.

Snorkeler coming back up from a free dive.
Snorkeling The Donut with Hogfish and Brain Coral.
Grouper and a Sergeant Major.

Got Hurt Snorkeling and Travel Insurance Won’t Cover It?

Yes, many travel insurance policies exclude snorkeling accidents, leaving you in the lurch. See our recommended travel insurance that does cover snorkeling.

Snorkeling Coffins Patch – The Stake

The Stake is much better for snorkelers, offering a nice shallow area that allows close viewing of a huge variety of fish. Below you can see what the area is named after, a stake that sticks up above water.

Nice sponges and soft corals at The Stake.
The Stake in Coffins Patch
Snorkeling Coffins Patch – The Stake

Nicole saw our first Puddingwife Wrasse there. We also saw a nice Spotted Moray Eel, almost four feet long, weaving through batches of rocks.

We saw lots of Yellowtail Snappers, Sergeant Majors (including the purple phase), Blue Angelfish, Foureye Butterflyfish, and Spotfin Butterflyfish. Also Gray Angelfish, Blue Tangs, Grunts, Porkfish, Bicolor and Yellowtail Damselfish, a good number of groupers, a Rock Hind, and a Tiger Grouper. We found Midnight Parrotfish, young Rainbow Parrotfish, Striped Parrotfish, Spanish Hogfish, Yellowhead Wrasse, goatfish, Flying Fish, Trumpetfish, Scrawled Cowfish, Spotted Trunkfish, and a lobster.

Blue Anglefish at Coffins Patch.

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Find a Boat Company

We suggest you use TripAdvisor to look for current companies running snorkel trips out of Marathon, Vaca Key, and reviews of them.

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