biscayne national park snorkel tour

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

Snorkel or scuba the beautiful, clear waters of Biscayne National Park while learning about its unique marine habitat and inhabitants. Half-day and full-day scuba or snorkel tours on our powerboats go to the reef, wrecks, or bay, based on the weather. As we cruise in Biscayne National Park, enjoy great bird watching as you’re immersed in a gorgeous natural environment of turquoise waters dotted with mangrove islands.

Full-day sailboat trips stay in the bay and can snorkel in the fringes of the mangroves. Many times we see dolphins, rays, sea turtles, in addition to the tropical fish and invertebrates you see when snorkeling in Biscayne National Park. Your captain/guide is a member of the Biscayne National Park Institute staff who teaches you about the park’s interconnected habitats and its history on your unforgettable scuba or snorkeling in Biscayne National Park!

  • Departs From: Homestead
  • Calendar Daily
  • Hour Glass 3.5 hours
  • Tags Snorkeling

Snorkel Experience

Explore reef, mangrove, or shipwreck sites on a snorkeling adventure! See some of the over 600 species of fish found in the park, private trips are available.

  • Hour Glass 6 Hours
  • Tags Sailing , Snorkeling , Paddling

Sail, Paddle and Snorkel

Sail from the mainland to snorkel and paddle in the clear waters of the park on a full-day adventure!

  • Departs From: Coconut Grove
  • Tags Snorkeling , Island Visit

Snorkel and Island Visit from Coconut Grove

Snorkel patch reefs, mangroves, or shipwrecks and visit an island of Biscayne National Park departing from Coconut Grove’s Dinner Key Marina.

  • Tags Snorkeling , Paddling

Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure

Join us for an intimate exploration of the waters both above and below in Biscayne National Park! Snorkel, Paddle and see some of the amazing wildlife found in the park.

biscayne national park snorkel tour

Biscayne National Park Snorkeling: Coral Reefs, A Shallow Shipwreck And Coastal Mangroves

This article is part of our Top 9 Snorkel Spots In Florida .

On top of the world’s 3rd longest coral reef , Biscayne National Park is one of our “go to spots” for anyone visiting the northern Florida Keys. Our readers know how much we love Florida , that’s why we explore and review some of the most remarkable snorkel spots within this southeastern state.

If you didn’t already know, Biscayne National Park is more of an “underwater world” that includes islands , coral reefs and mangroves . Since 95% of the park is submerged, this snorkel location is all about joining a boat tour. However, don’t worry, because these tours are all waiting for you at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center (at the Biscayne National Park Institute in Homestead).

From this little harbor (see the above picture) both snorkeling and kayaking tours depart towards a variety of nearby locations. Popular and impressive areas include the Boca Chita Lighthouse, Sand Key, Elliott Key, the Mandalay shipwreck and several mangroves. Here’s a simple map:

How to get there

Miami International Airport is a commonly used nearby airport. From there you could either hire a car, grab a taxi or use public transportation.

We always use Skyscanner , especially because there’s an option to combine your flight with some great deals on airport car hire. If you don’t have specific travel dates in mind, try their “ Flexible dates ” function (you’ll get this option once you select your departure date). That’s where we often find some great deals!

Snorkeling In Biscayne National Park

First and foremost, your biggest concern is the weather. Since the healthiest coral reefs are located offshore, the water needs to be calm enough to allow for proper snorkeling. If you catch a windy day, boats may only depart to a limited amount of nearby locations. However, don’t worry just yet, because there’s a good chance you’ll be just fine. Let’s say you catch a windy day, there’s usually still a chance to snorkel at one of the mangroves along different coastlines. We snorkelers are mainly interested in the coral reefs, but you can just as well combine snorkeling with paddle boarding. There’s not “one perfect” snorkel spot within the park, so depending on the weather, let the guides pick the “best location for the day”.

Coral Reefs

We wouldn’t be too concerned about which coral reef you’ll end up exploring, they’re all pretty similar and just as marvelous. Like we said, the guides will pick the best spot for that typical day so simply leave it up to them. Tow popular reefs are Anniversary reef and  Ball Buoy reef , both located south east of Elliott Key.

Boat trips usually last between 3-4 hours, unless it starts to rain. Sunny days could also involve a short visit to one of the nearby islands. Most powerboats only take a handful of people so there’s enough room for some privacy and relaxation. The best part is this: Once you reached your destination you’ll be floating above all the action. Simply enter the water from the boat and the marine life will be waiting a few feet below the ocean surface. How awesome (and easy) is that!

If you’re interested, here’s a link to the Biscayne National Park Institute snorkel excursion . You need to bring water, snacks, a towel, spare clothes and reef safe sunscreen. If you don’t own any snorkel gear yourself, there is a possibility to rent basic equipment. Snorkel vests are included and mandatory to wear. Common marine life to observe includes angelfish, parrotfish, nurse sharks, sergeant major and elkhorn coral. But of course, there are more popular reef fish in Florida . Who knows you might even observe a sea turtle. For the more adventurous snorkelers out there, consider to request a snorkel trip to a shipwreck.

Mandalay Shipwreck

You might have heard of the “ Maritime Heritage Trail “, which provides access to 6 shipwrecks. Unfortunately for us snorkelers, most of these wrecks are better suited for divers. However, the Mandalay shipwreck lies just below the ocean surface, which is awesome! Whenever we hear about a shipwreck we’re usually disappointed because of its depth (even though we do a little scuba diving here and there).

In other words, if snorkeling around a shipwreck is on your bucket list and you’re anywhere near Homestead, consider Mandalay wreck (which sank in 1966). You can expect a lot of schools of fish around this wreck. Shipwrecks often provide shelter from predators, so who knows a lobster will be showing it’s face. Be on the lookout for floating trumpetfish as well. They try to blend in with the darker colors of the wreck, but who knows you have a sharp eye for detail. The opportunity to snorkel above a shallow shipwreck doesn’t come along every day. Most of our readers already know how much we enjoy underwater photography. Well, this is one of those locations where you definitely want to bring your camera (if you have one). Feel free to also read our guide about snorkeling with a GoPro . Be aware of possible jellyfish.

With about 270 square miles of water, the coastlines are home to a number of mangroves. Mangroves are often visited by paddle board, but snorkeling is fantastic as well. Mangrove trees filter water that comes from the mainland, which means clear water for us snorkelers. If you choose to paddle board, expect some brown pelicans within their branches.

You can explore 3 types of mangrove trees : Red, black and white. The mangroves at Elliott Key are definitely worth a snorkeling adventure. That’s where some of the boats head out to. The mangrove coastlines are shallow and packed with loads of smaller fish species. It’s just as if you’re floating through an underwater jungle, always discovering something new. You have to be a little careful though, because the water could become too shallow and you might get in contact with rocky areas. The sea grass may look soft, but you never know what hides below.

Whenever water conditions are not ideal for offshore snorkeling, visiting the mangroves is probably still possible. You could decide to do a little bit of paddle boarding (and observe the pelicans), followed by a refreshing underwater exploration. Fast forward to about 3:30 minutes for the snorkeling part:

Biscayne National Park Visitor Center

Your starting point for all of the above activities is simple: Dante Fascell Visitor Center (about 9 miles east of Homestead). Before joining any of their available tours, prepare for a little history and relaxation. There’s a museum and an art gallery that will inspire you about the area. Of course, it’s all about the outdoors. Take a walk through the park with its amazing sea views, find a picnic table and enjoy the sunshine. You can even go fishing if you don’t feel like boat trips for whatever reason (like becoming seasick for example). One last advise from us to you: Bring some bug spray (mosquitoes are always present) and also pack comfortable hiking shoes.

Boca Chita Island And Lighthouse

Within the entire park, Boca Chita is the number 1 visited island. Yes, the lighthouse is its main attraction, but don’t forget that there’s a magnificent hiking trail to follow. Visiting Boca Chita is often part of a (half) day excursion, and not necessarily meant for snorkeling. Consider it a lovely stop before or after snorkeling at one of the nearby reefs (or mangroves). Bring some drinks and snacks because the island provides picnic tables. Camping is also possible, however, we don’t think that looks too promising. There’s a restroom available, but no showers (as far as we know).

Biscayne National Park Marine Life

Like we said, there are hundreds of fish species to observe when snorkeling any of the above locations. However, let’s summarize some of the most common marine life to expect: Parrotfish, blue tang, snapper, sergeant major, angelfish, barracuda, pork fish, trumpetfish, lobster, nurse sharks, sea turtles and manatees.

Final Thoughts

Biscayne National Park is packed with a good amount of very impressive snorkel locations that allow you to observe various fish species. If you can, try to visit one of the offshore coral reefs. The coastal mangroves are a great alternative in case water conditions aren’t ideal for offshore snorkeling. A visit to Boca Chita island is a great addition for a full day trip and for people who enjoy to hike.

Other Nearby Snorkel Locations

If you plan to further explore the Florida keys, here are some of our suggestions (and reviews) to consider. If you stay within the northern part of the keys, snorkeling in Key Largo could definitely amaze you. Slightly towards the southwest of Key Largo (about 30 minutes by car) you’ll enter Islamorada, another location that offers boat tours towards a few shallow reefs. We recently shared a video about snorkeling in Islamorada . In case you decide to drive even further you’ll reach the city of Marathon. If that’s where you’ll stay, snorkeling on Sombrero Beach could be a great option. Last but not least, if you travel all the way to the end of the keys, feel free to also read our guide about snorkeling in Key West .

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Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park: A World Underwater

There I was, in my 50s and feeling incredibly self-conscious among the laughing families waiting for the boat to take us snorkeling in Biscayne National Park. I had never snorkeled in my life, not even in the local pool. It didn’t help alleviate my embarrassment that Brad has been scuba certified since his early teens. Snorkeling was child’s play for him.

Swimmer Snorkeling in the keys of florida near biscayne national park

It turned out that this was the perfect place for a first-time snorkeler! As a National Park, education is key, and the snorkeling boat’s guides ensured everyone learned to snorkel. They went out of their way to show the guests how to see the amazing wonders under the water of Biscayne National park.

In this article, I’m going to share what you should expect when snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, one of the National Parks in Florida . I want to help you plan a trip just as wondrous as mine. After this snorkeling adventure, I was hooked and I’ve gone many times since. I guess it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. Lol!

This post contains affiliate links to make it easier for you to find the products I have mentioned. You don’t pay any extra and in some cases I could earn a small commission.

Why Snorkel in Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is a true gem in the Florida Keys. The underwater National Park boasts crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life. It is one of the best snorkeling destinations in the country. With over 170,000 acres of protected coral reefs, shipwrecks, and seagrass beds to explore, visitors can immerse themselves in a world of vibrant colors and exotic creatures.

Ladona getting ready to jump into Biscayne Bay with snorkel gear

Explore the Coral Reef when you Snorkel in Biscayne Bay

Florida is home to the only coral reef system in the continental United States. The reef runs 350 miles starting at the southernmost tip of the Dry Tortugas National Park, following the keys and coastline of Florida up to St Lucie Inlet (an hour North of Palm Beach.) Biscayne National Park, which protects Biscayne Bay, is home to only a small section of Florida’s reef.

Beautiful to look at, coral is actually an animal, not a plant, closely related to jellyfish and anemones. Coral reefs are formed when coral larvae attach to rocks or other hard structures in the water. Snorkelers love swimming around coral reefs because you experience the beauty of these unusual sea creatures and at the same time you see schools of brightly colored fish.

Snorkel Shipwreck Sites

Biscayne Bay is home to 6 old shipwrecks. If you didn’t know, fish love to live in shipwrecks. The structure provides a safe haven from larger feeder fish and places for baby fish to hide. Two of those wrecks, Mandalay and Arratoon Apcar are in water shallow enough to snorkel around. How cool is that!

Mandalay is a more recent shipwreck, running aground in 1966. The 112-foot schooner was a luxury cruiser returning from the Bahamas when it struck Long Reef. While all the finery has been long removed, the body of the Mandalay is home to a wide variety of aquatic life and the favorite shipwreck for snorkeling.

The Arratoon Apcar was a 261-foot, iron-hulled, steamship that ran aground in 1878. It now lies in ten to twenty feet of water near Fowey Rocks. The structure attracts an abundance of colorful fish.

The other 4 shipwrecks are in deeper water which makes them better for scuba diving.

Infographic showing the best places to snorkel in Biscayne National Park

Baby Fish Everywhere when you Snorkel Bayside near Mangroves

Most visitors are disappointed when they learn the weather made it impossible for their tour to head out to the open ocean of the reefs or shipwrecks. The captain’s backup plan is to snorkel near the mangroves. Although we did not snorkel bayside, word is that you won’t be disappointed once you get to the mangroves!

The mangroves are a fish nursery, full of more baby fish than you could ever imagine. You’ll also find coral under the roots. So don’t despair if the weather doesn’t cooperate with your vacation.

Snorkeling Tour Details

Snorkeling tours in Biscayne National Park are offered daily by the Biscayne National Park Institute . They are a private concessionaire that works hand in hand with the park rangers to provide incredible snorkeling, diving, paddling, and other tour experiences.

Currently, all the expeditions are for small groups to allow for social distancing which also will make for an incredible snorkeling experience. (When we took this snorkeling tour we were in a larger group of 30ish people.) Imagine being in a group of only a dozen people … it will feel like you have the ocean all to yourself.

Types of Snorkeling Tours

I find a chart helps me see the difference between tours quickly and clearly. So I put this one together for you. I’ll describe the difference in a little more detail under the chart.

There are 4 different tours. Each tour is offered as: public group tour – which means you will be mixed with other families to fill the boat. private tours which means you buy all the seats on the boat for your own group.

A private tour is about the same price as a group tour if you have 5-6 people in your family, plus you can include younger children in a private tour so it’s a pretty sweet deal for a family.

Tour #1 Small Group Snorkel Experience

Without a doubt, the Small Group Snorkel Experience is the most popular tour in Biscayne National Park. This ½ day tour leaves from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center and takes you by boat to two snorkeling locations where you can snorkel for a couple of hours.

Why we like this tour:

  • First-time snorkelers will get a taste of snorkeling without getting overwhelmed. And as hard as it is to believe possible if you don’t like snorkeling it is the shortest tour.
  • The shorter window is better for families with younger children.
  • You get to experience snorkeling in 2 different ecosystems.

Red Mangoves and Turtle Grass beds on the flats of Biscayne National Park, Florida.

Tour #2 Coconut Grove Snorkel and Island Visit

The tour that starts at Coconut Grove is the perfect choice if you are visiting Miami without a car. It departs from the Dinner Key Marina which is about 20 minutes South of Downtown Miami and is very easy to access with a short Uber ride.

The snorkeling on this 6-hour tour is very similar to the Small Group Snorkel Experience. It is longer because you will spend more time cruising across the bay to get to your snorkeling location. As someone who loves being on the water, I’m all in for a little extra water time. The tour also makes a stop at an island where you can get out and explore or swim which is perfect for younger kids.

  • Easy access from Miami
  • Island stop is great for families
  • What we don’t like:
  • You’ll miss the Biscayne National Park Visitor’s Center

Tour #3 Sail, Paddle, Snorkel & Island Visit

There’s something very special about a sailboat experience, and this cruise has it all. Over 6 hours you’ll sail to various locations in the bay. You can jump out of the sailboat and paddle in the double kayaks to explore close to shore. Most trips include an island visit. All snorkeling is in the bay’s shallow mangrove areas.

What we like about this tour:

  • The diversity of the activities
  • Your group will learn how to work a sailboat
  • The only snorkeling option is the mangrove shallows.

Snorkel & Paddle Eco-Adventure

Boat across the bay from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center to Jones Lagoon to start your adventure on Paddle Boards (SUPs). Then you head off to a snorkeling location. This tour allows for a lot of time to explore both on the paddle boards and while snorkeling.

  • The quiet exploration from the paddle boards
  • More challenging for families with teens

How to Book a Snorkeling Tour in Biscayne National Park

The easiest way to book a snorkeling tour is online directly with Biscayne National Park Institute . Their booking system is very easy to use right from your phone. If you have questions, you can also book by calling 786-465-4058.

Although you can book your trip at the visitor center, we recommend that you call ahead to ensure there is a place for you.

Biscayne National Park Snorkeling Price

The price for a snorkel tour at the time of this writing is $109 per person for the 3.5-hour tour and $199 for the 6-hour tour.

We also snorkeled once we got to Key West and found the pricing in Biscayne National Park to be about the same. With coupons or deal shopping, you can find cheaper tours in Key West. However, we found the education aspect of the tour in Biscayne National Park to be superior and worth it for a first-time snorkeler.

Coral Reef with fish swimming by in the Florida Keys

What Do You Need to Snorkel in Biscayne National Park?

In theory, you could just show up with only your swimsuit for your snorkel trip. But a little bit of preparation will make your snorkeling adventure a lot more fun and comfortable. Here’s a guide to what to pack for your tour.

Snorkel Gear

You can rent snorkel gear from the Biscayne National Park Institute for less than $20 per person. That set includes the snorkel, a face mask, and fins.

While they sterilize all the equipment between uses, I feel safer bringing my own snorkel mask. Using your own mask also ensures a good fit. Masks vary a lot in pricing, but for casual snorkeling use like this, you can get a really nice snorkeling mask for under $40. If you use your mask more than a couple of times you break even, right?

The one piece of snorkeling gear I might rent is the fins. Fins are required on all snorkeling tours for safety and the BNPI will rent them alone. They take up a lot of room in a suitcase which means if you rent you’ll have more space for other stuff when flying.

Water and Lunch or Snacks

Bring bottles of water for your family, you’ll quickly become dehydrated in the sun. Also, pack plenty of high-energy snacks and a delicious lunch . You’ll burn a lot of calories swimming.

Most boats will have a cooler where you can store your food and water, but you might prefer to bring your own small cooler on board.

Bring along a reef-safe sunscreen. That means one that is certified to be free of chemicals that can harm life in the ocean. My favorite is Alba Botanica Sunscreen because it doesn’t feel greasy and has a variety of formats.

Brad snorkeling

What to Wear

Most of the year, a swimsuit is exactly what you need to snorkel. However, in the cooler months, you might want a wet suit. You can rent one with your tour package.

Because I sunburn like crazy, I usually wear a long sleeve SPF shirt over my suit when on the water. I love how they protect my skin while still keeping me cool. My favorite is my Columbia Tidal Tee , I wore one for our rafting trip through Lodore Canyon where I was in the sun all day for 3 days and it kept me sunburn free.

You’ll likely want a sun hat while cruising. While the boats have shade, it’s nice to gather a few rays while out. Just make sure your hat fits snuggly so it doesn’t blow off in the breeze.

You won’t need a life vest

Snorkel vests will be provided. And if you want a life vest or pool noodle while swimming just ask.

You need to plan ahead so you are prepared to take underwater photos. Even though the photos we took with a cheap disposable camera are not high quality, we really enjoyed looking back on this adventure.

Yellow fish seen snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

Since the coral reefs in Biscayne are shallow, you can opt for an inexpensive waterproof cover on your phone. Just make sure you test that cover before you head out on vacation if you are going to risk your critical device. Even though the most current iPhone models are waterproof, they are not “salt-proof” so a protective cover is still essential.

If you are planning to spend a lot of time in the water while in Florida and don’t want to risk your phone, then it’s well worth the small investment in a point-and-shoot waterproof camera like the Kodak PixPro .

Tips for Your First-Time Snorkeling Adventure

You’ll find snorkeling in Biscayne National Park one of the easiest adventures. The guides will go out of their way to make this a great trip for you and to ensure you know what to do. Here are a couple of tips:

Pay attention during orientation – Staff members will cover how to use your equipment and safety rules. The orientation only takes a few minutes so make sure you are all ears.

Don’t touch – It’s so tempting to touch all the beautiful things you’ll see underwater. But don’t! The oils in your hands can kill the coral. And many fish and plants are like jellyfish and exude chemicals that can cause a rash on your skin.

Keep your boat in sight – When you come up from a snorkel dive, take a look around and make sure you see your boat close by. It’s easy for the tides to slowly move you away from the boat. By checking regularly you won’t have to swim back quite so far when it’s time to leave.

Planning Your Trip

The best time of year to go snorkeling in biscayne national park.

You can snorkel throughout the Keys all year round and the quality of your experience will be the same. The water will be about 10 degrees warmer in the summer, the average water temperature in the keys in winter is 73°F, in spring 78°F, in summer 85°F, and in autumn 81°F. Personally, I find 73 a bit chilly so would wait until spring. However, that’s why you can rent a shorty wetsuit with your snorkel tour.

Some people say to avoid mid-August to mid-October because it is the peak of hurricane season, which means more storms. But Florida usually gets plenty of notice regarding incoming storms so even in hurricane season you’ll have time to change your plans if needed.

Where is Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is 95% underwater, encompassing most of Biscayne Bay. The bay starts on the South end of Miami and continues for 40 miles along the Atlantic Coast of Florida. The visitor’s center and offices for Biscayne National Park are on the South end of the bay, just outside the town of Homestead.

It takes 1.5 to 2 hours to drive to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Biscayne National Park from Miami. We were easily able to make it a day trip from Miami.

You can also get to the park by private boat (no jet skis or wave runners though). Boaters will find mooring buoys near the best snorkeling spots.

It’s only a 30-minute drive to Everglades National Park from Biscayne so many people combine these 2 parks into one adventure.

Where to Stay when Visiting Biscayne National Park

You’ll find dozens of traditional motels and hotels in nearby Homestead. These are very reasonably priced with the exception of NASCAR week in October at the Homestead Speedway.

Check hotel availability in Homestead Here

If you prefer a resort atmosphere on the waterfront then drop on down to Key Largo which is only about 45 minutes South of the park.

Check hotel availability in Key Largo Here

Frequently asked questions about Biscayne National Park Snorkeling

It is definitely worth stopping at Biscayne National Park to snorkel. The coral reefs and shipwreck are home to gorgeous and colorful aquatic life. The tour staff is professional and shares immense knowledge.

You can not snorkel in Biscayne from shore without a boat.

If you don’t want to snorkel, you can still join a snorkel tour with your family and relax in the boat. Or you can join one of the boat tours that don’t include snorkeling.

The tour staff will give instructions for snorkeling before your tour. You’ll be in a small group so it will be easy to get additional assistance if needed.

With water temperatures in the mid-70s to high 80s, most people prefer to snorkel without a wetsuit. During the cooler winter months, you can rent a shorty wetsuit if you are uncomfortable with the water temperature.

Biscayne National Park is a snorkeler’s paradise that offers an unforgettable experience for both novice and experienced divers. You’ll find crystal-clear waters, abundant marine life, and stunning coral reefs in Biscayne Bay. The park provides visitors with a unique opportunity to explore one of the most diverse underwater ecosystems in the world. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day trip or an adventurous weekend getaway, Biscayne National Park has something to offer everyone.

Ladona Stork

The Authors: Hey, we are Ladona and Brad, avid campers and hikers. We are crazy about getting outdoors at every possible moment and have decades of experience exploring nature. Our current goal is to visit all 63 US National Parks and just completed #42. WooHoo! Our mission is to help you plan your own adventures and create memories beyond your imagination!

Lor & Jor Explore

A woman wearing a snorkel mask treading in open water

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park | A Complete Guide

Updated March 2024

This post may contain affiliate links. If you use them, we earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.

There's an overlooked destination hiding beneath the clear waters off the Miami coast. It's the only coral reef system in the continental US. Home to hundreds of different species of birds, fish, and other marine life.

Speeding across the shallow turquoise waters by sail or motor, you might be tempted to think there isn't much to see in Biscayne National Park .

But 95% of its 173,000 acres is below the surface. Centuries old shipwrecks, and a whole ecosystem of marine life.

Coral creates a habitat for a huge diversity of fish. Sea turtles, manatees, and bottlenose dolphins are all regular tenants of the park's waters.

That makes snorkeling an essential way to properly see Biscayne. Over multiple trips we've been able to experience a large amount of the park. We've put together this guide to help you plan your own visit. We're covering the best places to snorkel, when to go, and everything you'll need to bring.

Planning your Snorkeling Trip to Biscayne

Types of tours offered.

The Biscayne National Park Institute is an official partner of the National Park System. Formed under the non-profit Florida National Parks Association, it serves to provide experiences to visitors that are both immersive and educational .

This is who we've chosen to snorkel with on both of our visits to Biscayne. Not only do they offer the best experiences , most leaving directly from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, their proceeds also go back into supporting the park itself, so we know our money is helping to protect this place for the future.

A sailboat is moored in a harbor of turquoise water

Two other vendors authorized to operate in the park are Ace Diving and Diver's Paradise . They cater specifically to scuba divers, but also offer snorkeling trips.

Prices are fairly comparable across all three vendors for a half day on and in the water.

For simplicity's sake we're going to cover the specific tours offered by Biscayne National Park Institute, since that's where we believe you get the best bang for your buck and we have personal experience with them.

Guided snorkel experience

This is a half day tour that leaves from the visitor center in Homestead both in the morning and early afternoon .

You'll take a powerboat across Biscayne Bay to the captain's destination of choice, depending on that day's conditions. Group sizes are up to 16 people and they do offer private trips.

We'll get into the actual snorkeling locations a bit later, but this experience could take you out to the coral reef, the mangroves on the bayside, or even some of the shipwreck sites.

All of the tour guides at BNPI are a wealth of information on the park's wildlife and history. You can expect to return with a head full of new facts about the area and what you've seen.

Note the minimum age for this tour is 8 years old and it's recommended that you are a good swimmer. You do not however need to be an experienced snorkeler and first timers shouldn't be discouraged from going out.

Sail, paddle, and snorkel

For a well rounded adventure we can highly recommend trying out the sail, paddle, and snorkel experience .

Your guide will take you across the bay in a sailboat and will likely encourage your participation along the way . As long as you're comfortable with it, you might be put to work helping hoist the sails, mooring the boat to a dock, or even sitting at the helm and steering.

It's a slower journey across the water, making for a six hour day, but you'll also have plenty of time to relax and soak up the sun.

On arrival at one of the islands, possibly Boca Chita Key, Elliott Key, or Adams Key, you'll have opportunity to walk around and eat the picnic lunch you've brought along. Then, hop in a double kayak and paddle along the shoreline or mangroves. Your guide will lead you out to the best snorkeling spot for the day and give you time in the water.

A man and woman work on putting up a sail on the deck of a boat

Snorkel and island visit

This is the one snorkel experience that departs from Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, a historic neighborhood in Miami, rather than from the visitor center.

Coconut Grove is about 30 minutes away from Miami International, so this could be a great option if you're visiting the city and are either short on time or don't have a vehicle. For perspective, the Dante Fascell Visitor Center is almost a one hour drive from the airport.

On the six hour tour you'll get to experience two different snorkel locations . On the way you'll pass by Stiltsville, which is a group of over-the-water shacks with a colorful history. Lastly, you'll make a stop on one of the park's islands.

Snorkel and paddle eco-adventure

Another great way to get in both a paddle and a snorkel . This tour puts you on a stand up paddleboard rather than a kayak. Your guide will lead you and a small group of no more than five others through the mangroves.

If you're comparing this trip to the sail, paddle, and snorkel experience, note that there's a possibility you'll be taken out into the open ocean for snorkeling around the coral reef. The sailing trip remains inside the bay. Otherwise, the tours are very similar and which one you choose really depends on how interested you are in the sailing portion.

A powerboat loaded with paddleboards cruises across the water

Where to Snorkel

There are some fantastic places to see in Biscayne's waters. However, which locations you end up exploring will depend on daily weather conditions and is ultimately the captain's decision.

If you have a specific place you'd like to visit, your best option is to contact BNPI directly and inquire about the likelihood. Consider booking a private tour for a more tailored experience.

Below are the main snorkeling highlights within Biscayne National Park.

Oceanside Coral Reef

If you plan your visit during the calmer summer months you'll have a better opportunity of getting out of Biscayne Bay and into the open ocean. There, you can snorkel among the patch coral reefs , which are small, isolated outcroppings of reef.

Among these reefs are brain coral, colorful sea fans, and an endangered species called Elkhorn coral, which is considered to be one of the most important for reef-building. These habitats of course invite thousands of fish and other wildlife.

A purple coral reaching up with dozens of thin branches

Biscayne may lie almost entirely underwater, but that doesn't mean it can't have trails, like all the other national parks.

There are six shipwrecks along the Maritime Heritage Trail , three of them being ideal for snorkeling because of their shallow depth. Fish love to take shelter among the wreckage, making them especially interesting.

Mandalay Shipwreck | A luxurious schooner that ran aground in the early hours of New Years Day, 1966. Within no time at all the ship was picked apart by scavengers, who made off with the vessel's instruments, as well as its wealthy passengers' cameras, watches and purses.

Arratoon Apcar | This iron steam ship ran aground on Fowey Rocks in 1878, narrowly missing the lighthouse that was under construction at the time. Remains of the hull and beams, covered in coral, can still be seen in about ten to twenty feet of water.

Unknown vessel | Large ballast stones on the ocean floor mark the site of a 19th century wooden sailing vessel, but not much else is known about the wreckage.

Snorkelers swim above the remains of a shipwreck in Biscayne National Park

Fowey Rocks Lighthouse

This structure, known as the "Eye of Miami" was originally built in the 1870s, but is still maintained by the US Coast Guard. The lighthouse itself is closed to visitors, but there's great snorkeling to be found around its base. It was the most recent addition to Biscayne's Maritime Heritage Trail.

Because coral reefs are such a popular destination for snorkeling, it can feel disappointing to not make it out of the bay, but the mangrove forests are bustling with aquatic life . In fact, they're called the 'nurseries' of young fish.

The stretches of undisturbed mangrove forest in Biscayne sometimes have a maze-like appearance . It was here, while paddling, and then gently floating on the currents while snorkeling, that we saw the most wildlife on our first visit.

A kayak moving through the shallow water of a mangrove forest with vegetation on either side

The best time to visit Biscayne National Park is from December to April . Winter weather is both comfortable and mild, with water temperatures averaging around 73F (23C).

If you're used to colder temperatures like us the water can actually feel refreshing and, once you're in it for a few minutes, you'll probably be just fine. Native Floridians on the other hand seem to think it's a bit too chilly for swimming. If it's a little cold for your taste you can always rent a wetsuit.

Spring is a great time to visit , with the average water temp reaching 78F (26C). This time of year however comes with larger crowds. Fortunately, all of BNPI's tours are smaller in size, so as long as you plan ahead and book online there's no need to worry.

Most experienced visitors to Florida will recommend you avoid the summer months. The reason being very hot and humid days with the highest chance of rain. The mosquitoes this time of year can also be unbearable.

Though hurricane season typically stretches from June through November, the highest chances are actually from August to October. You can certainly still plan a trip during this time, just be aware that you could have to change your plans .

What to Bring

Your snorkel gear . Fins are required inside the park, so don't forget them. If you don't have you own you can rent a full set for $16 or fins for $6. BNPI will provide an inflatable vest as part of your tour.

Reef safe sport sunscreen .

A hat and sunglasses.

Some UV blocking lightweight clothes. If you're going on a winter day consider a windbreaker to block the chilly air on the boat.

Bug spray .

A travel towel .

Lunch or snacks. For the full day tours you'll want to pack your own picnic lunch. There will be a cooler on board where you can store food.

Your boat will have a jug of cold water to keep you hydrated, so be sure to bring a reusable water bottle.

A waterproof phone case.

Dry bags to protect your stuff.

Your camera and a GoPro for capturing photo and video under the water.

Water shoes or sandals.

Want to see Biscayne? Pin this blog post for later!

A woman wearing a snorkel mask in the water with text overlay that says 'Snorkeling Biscayne National Park A Complete Guide'

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Our Wander-Filled Life

2 Awe-Inspiring Biscayne National Park Tours

Last Updated on May 5, 2024 by Bonnie

When visiting Biscayne National Park , your first goal should be to get out on the water. That’s because 95% of the park is underwater. Without your own boat, the best way to do this is with one of the Biscayne National Park tours operated by the Biscayne National Park Institute. Whether you are taking a boat tour or doing something more active, such as snorkeling at Biscayne National Park, the water is where you really experience all that the park has to offer.

On our most recent visit, we actually took two different Biscayne National Park tours: the Snorkel & Paddle Eco-Adventure and the Boca Chita Island Experience. On the snorkel and paddle tour, we had a chance to get in the water and really see the underwater plant and animal life. As you’d expect, it was a physically demanding tour. The Boca Chita Island tour, however, was perfect for those looking for something a bit more relaxed. 

The blue waters of Biscayne National Park.

Whatever your interests, the Biscayne National Park Institute should be your first stop for exploring the park without your own boat.

(Disclaimer: When we link to places where you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes that earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our  Review Policy   for more information.)

About the Biscayne National Park Institute

The Biscayne National Park Institute is a non-profit partnership between Biscayne National Park and the Florida National Parks Association. The Institute provides Biscayne National Park tours and educational experiences for visitors. The proceeds from the various tours and programs are used directly to support Biscayne National Park.

The Dante Fascell Visitor Center at Biscayne National Park.

The Institute offers a variety of Biscayne National Park tours, providing visitors to the park with a wide range of experiences. Visitors looking for some adventure can take a snorkel and/or paddle tour. Those looking for a more relaxed tour can take one of the daily boat tours to picturesque Boca Chita Key or a once-a-month evening cruise through Biscayne Bay.

On each tour, you’ll learn about the history and natural world of Biscayne National Park, as well as the surrounding area.

Snorkel & Paddle Eco-Adventure at Biscayne National Park

I’ll be honest, the Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure is probably not a tour that we would have chosen for ourselves. When the folks with the Biscayne National Park Institute reached out to us and suggested this tour, however, we were intrigued. We thought this would be a good opportunity to push ourselves a little and try something different, so we accepted. 

While parts of the tour were challenging, we really enjoyed it and highly recommend this tour even if you’re not experienced at paddleboarding or snorkeling. Just make sure you can handle the physical aspects of paddleboarding, even if you have to sit or kneel as we did. 

Paddleboarding through the clear waters of Biscayne National Park.

On the 6-hour tour, we spent about 45 minutes getting to the paddleboard location in Jones Lagoon and about two hours paddleboarding through the area. From there, we went over to nearby Adams Key for a picnic lunch. 

After lunch, we relocated again for the snorkeling portion of the tour. The captain/tour guide will decide the best location based on the weather and visibility. We ended up on the bay side of one of the keys. We had about an hour to snorkel before heading back to the visitor center.

Seagrass covering the floor of Biscayne Bay.

One of the things we loved most about this tour is that the boat is limited to only six people. This made the experience much more personal than many other tours that we’ve done.

Paddleboarding in Biscayne National Park

While we have both been canoeing and kayaking, this was our first time paddleboarding. The hardest part of paddleboarding is keeping your balance when standing. Sitting or kneeling on the board, however, really isn’t that difficult. It can be tough on your knees after a while, though. 

Grant kneels on a paddleboard at Biscayne National Park.

Grant attempted to stand a couple of times early on but was never successful. Let’s just say that he figured out the water temperature fairly quickly. I didn’t even attempt to stand until we were close to the end of the tour. I made it upright but was very unsteady. I’ll be honest, I stood long enough for Grant to get a picture, then promptly spent the rest of the tour sitting or kneeling.

What I enjoyed most about this part of the tour was getting to see the underwater plant and animal life up close and personal. Our guide did a great job finding unusual sea creatures, telling us about them and letting us see them up close. 

Bonnie holding a Cassiopea jellyfish on our Biscayne National Park tour.

During our paddle, we saw a sea cucumber, a spotted sea hare (a type of large sea slug), a few starfish, many Cassiopea jellyfish and a couple of small nurse sharks. Of course, we also saw countless fish and birds.

We paddled all around the lagoon and through mangrove tunnels. At times the water level was so low a few people got off and walked their boards through the seagrass. Most of the time, though, the paddling was fairly easy. Staying balanced while sitting or kneeling was, thankfully, much easier than I expected!

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

Grant loves to snorkel and dive. I, however, do not. I’m actually not a fan of open water. 

Grant snorkeling at Biscayne National Park.

I don’t mind being ON the water – in a boat, canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. For whatever reason, I don’t like being IN the water. I am a fairly good swimmer when it comes to pools. There is something about the vastness of the ocean that is overwhelming, though. I can handle shallow water, as long as I can stand, the water is clear and the bottom is free of plants; I really don’t like walking on seagrass or other plants that could be home to little (or big) critters.

When the park offered this tour and the opportunity for snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, I knew this was something Grant would love. Snorkeling is definitely not my thing, but I didn’t want Grant to miss out on the opportunity. 

A vase sponge on the bottom of Biscayne Bay.

As expected, Grant took off snorkeling and explored all over the area. In the open cove, he found plenty of fish and a few pieces of coral. His favorite part was looking in and under the mangroves and finding all the fish taking shelter among the roots. 

I, of course, just hung out at the boat. Thankfully, our guide was very understanding. She got out one of the paddleboards which I used to “snorkel” and still have something to keep me “grounded.” 

Bonnie uses a paddleboard while snorkeling in Biscayne National Park.

While I didn’t get very far away from the boat, I was able to see a variety of plants and small fish. The highlight was seeing an eel hanging out and swimming through the grass. 

I also learned that breathing through a snorkel really isn’t as difficult as I thought it might be.

What to Expect on the Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure

Throughout the boat ride and the paddling, our captain/tour guide provided a history of the park and the area. We learned many great stories of previous island inhabitants and why Biscayne National Park was created. 

Grant and Bonnie take a break while paddleboarding in Biscayne National Park.

As we started out from the dock, our boat had some mechanical difficulties. I really have no idea what was wrong, but the captain handled it very well. She acted quickly, without panicking and got us on our way so we could enjoy the day.

Once we reached the paddleboarding location, our guide gave us the basics of how to paddleboard. You certainly do NOT have to have any experience before this tour. In fact, only 2 of the 6 people on the tour had prior paddleboard experience. We spent about 2 hours paddling with little to no shade, so I’d also suggest reef-safe sunscreen and perhaps a long-sleeved sun shirt. You can get both of these in the Biscayne National Park gift shop when you check in for your tour.

STREAM 2 SEA SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Biodegradable and Reef Safe Sunscreen, 3 Fl oz Non-Greasy and Moisturizing Mineral Sunscreen For Face Protection and Body Against UVA and UVB

You’ll need to bring your own lunch and a water bottle. There was a cooler on board and plenty of water to refill your bottle as needed. 

In terms of snorkeling, our guide helped us all to get situated and in the water. We were free to explore on our own, as long as we stayed within sight of the boat. In addition to me not being comfortable snorkeling, there was another couple who I don’t think could even swim. They did not speak English well, so we weren’t sure. The guide did a great job of working with us all to help ensure we still enjoyed the snorkeling portion of the tour.

Boca Chita Island Experience

The three-hour Boca Chita tour is perfect for visitors of all ages. On the 45-minute ride to the key, the tour guide will tell you some of the history of Boca Chita Key and the other keys in Biscayne National Park. Once we arrived, we had about an hour and twenty minutes to explore on our own before returning to the visitor center.

The ornamental lighthouse on Boca Chita Key.

Boca Chita Key is a small island in Biscayne Bay, once owned by Mark Honeywell. In the 1930s, he developed half of the island to include an ornamental lighthouse, a small chapel and a garage. The other half of the island was left natural and today includes a short walking trail.

The Honeywells often hosted parties, with guests making the trek from Miami Beach aboard luxury yachts. Many of the structures still stand today, including the cannon that was fired to announce guests when they arrived at the island! Visitors can climb the 65-foot lighthouse for an impressive view of the island and the surrounding water.

What to Do on Boca Chita Key

We started our Boca Chita Key tour by checking out the view from the lighthouse. Yes, you have to climb the narrow, winding staircase to the top, but it really was not a difficult climb. The view from the top was well worth the small effort to get up there. The blue water of Biscayne Bay provided a picture-perfect sight in all directions.

Climbing the stairs of the lighthouse during a Biscayne National Park tour at Boca Chita Key.

From the lighthouse, we could also easily see all the private boats, both big and small, tied up in the harbor. When we were there, we spotted what looked like a tugboat converted into a “yacht.” I suppose it is the RVers in us that were fascinated by this.

There is a small man-made beach if you’re interested in sitting out in the sun or swimming.

The view of Boca Chita Key from the top of the lighthouse.

Next, we headed over to the short trail that runs across the undeveloped side of the island. On the trail, you’ll find plenty of shade from the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, you’ll also likely find more mosquitoes. 

The trail used to wrap around the island, but Hurricane Irma destroyed the footbridge, For now, you’ll have to just turn around then retrace your steps back. In all, it took us 15-20 minutes to walk the trail. That was with a few stops for pictures.

Grant walking the nature trail on Boca Chita Key.

There are also plenty of picnic tables if you want to bring lunch with you. We actually brought our lunch but didn’t have time to eat before we had to get back on the boat. By this time, the wind had picked up and clouds had moved in, so the timing ended up being pretty good. 

What to Expect on the Boat Ride

The high-speed boat that takes you to Boca Chita Key is mostly covered, with seating around the perimeter. As we boarded, the captain warned us that we may get a little wet, especially if seated towards the front. As predicted, those sitting in the front did get splashed, some more than others. 

The cannon on Boca Chita Key.

While a few people did get fairly wet, overall the trip wasn’t that bad and everyone dried out quickly. For the most part, it was a smooth and easy 45-minute trip.

By the time we left Boca Chita Key, the wind had picked up and gray clouds covered the sky. It was obvious to us all that the return trip would be a little rough. Indeed, the winds blew water just about everywhere. Everyone in the first half of the boat was pretty much soaked by the time we returned to dock at the visitor center. 

A lot of folks did squeeze in towards the back of the boat for the return trip, but there just wasn’t enough room for everyone to get out of the “splash zone.”

The covered boat to Boca Chita Key at Biscayne National Park.

Pro tip: wear lightweight clothing that will dry quickly.

I’d certainly suggest sandals or some sort of shoes that can get wet. How wet you get will depend on where you are sitting and how big the waves are. Just know that you might want a change of clothes by the time you get back.

Other Things to Do at Biscayne National Park

Both of our Biscayne National Park tours with the Biscayne National Park Institute included great information from the tour guides on the history of the park and its purpose. I would also suggest at least a quick stop at the visitor center, where you’ll find a view exhibits and a park film. The film has a few different parts that provide more information about the underwater life and history of the area.

A bench overlooking Biscayne Bay along the nature trail by the Visitor Center at Biscayne National Park.

There is also a short walking trail just off the visitor center. If you don’t have time for a tour or snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, I definitely suggest that you at least walk the trail. The trail should only take you about 10-15 minutes unless you want to spend more time enjoying the fabulous Florida weather or fishing.

If you have your own boat, you can camp on Boca Chita Key or Elliott Key. Both have bathrooms, but no showers. 

Final Thoughts on Biscayne National Park Tours

When we first visited Biscayne National Park in 2012, we just stopped at the visitor center and walked the short trail. We did not get out into the water at all. While we were happy to “check it off” as a visit, we knew we didn’t really get to experience what the park is all about.

Bonnie standing on a paddleboard at Biscayne National Park.

Getting to do a couple of tours with the Biscayne National Park Institute really was the best way to experience what this park has to offer. We truly enjoyed snorkeling at Biscayne National Park. Since the vast majority of the park is underwater, that is the best way to see all the plants and animals that make a home there. 

If you’re more like me and prefer to stay above water, the boat tours offer much of the same history with a lot less physical activity. Boca Chita Key may not be big but we had a great time exploring. And, it is one of the most picturesque places we visited in the park.

We enjoyed everything about our tours with the Biscayne National Park Institute and highly recommend them both.

A special thanks to the Biscayne National Park Institute for sponsoring our Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure tour. To clarify, we paid for the Boca Chita Key tour ourselves. As always, all opinions are our own.

Looking for more on the Florida National Parks? Check out our articles on Visiting Florida’s Northeast Parks , Things to Do in Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve and our Guide to the South Florida National Parks .

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Nomad by Trade

Biscayne National Park Snorkeling Tour and Tips

Florida , North America , United States

Colorful fish and coral in Biscayne National Park Florida

You all know I’m a National Parks fan, so when I found myself with a free afternoon in the Miami area, I headed straight for Biscayne National Park in Florida’s southeast corner. This park is somewhat unique in that it’s fairly large yet occupies relatively little land . Most of the park can’t even be accessed without a boat, so in order to really enjoy it you have to get out on the water. I joined a Biscayne National Park snorkeling tour for a chance to hop a ride out to one of its many reefs and see some fish. I had an absolute blast and would highly recommend it.

Colorful blue fish swimming along a coral reef on a Biscayne National Park snorkeling tour

The Biscayne National Park Institute is the licensed tour provider for the park and operates several different types of water excursions. If you don’t have a boat (like me) or know how to sail one (also like me) or have friends/family around who have a boat (again like me) they’re your only real option for getting out and exploring Biscayne National Park other than its visitor center. They offer various snorkeling, diving, and boat tours, all departing from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead, Florida.

Sun filtering through turquoise water above a coral reef in Biscayne National Park

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Coral reef in Biscayne National Park

I opted to join their Snorkel Experience tour that took us out to a coral reef, but there are also shipwreck snorkeling tours available if that’s more your thing. The snorkel tour I picked departs twice daily – once in the morning and once in the afternoon – and lasts around 3.5 hours. I’d highly recommend making reservations in advance since the boat is limited to 20 passengers, though I was able to snag a same-day reservation just an hour and a half before departure. There were only two slots left at the time I booked. Biscayne National Park snorkeling is known as some of the best in the United States , so it’s well worth booking yourself a tour if you won’t have access to a boat yourself.

Black and white fish in Biscayne National Park

This fish wasn’t the most colorful one on the reef, but I kind of love its pattern and camouflage.

The reef snorkeling tour cost me $64 and included a snorkeling flotation device. I paid a few more dollars to rent their snorkel equipment and got flippers, a mask, and snorkel. I could’ve also borrowed a wetsuit, but I opted not to because it was hot and sunny that day. Gear is distributed before the tour starts, so be sure to get there a few minutes early to get your snorkels and check in.

Fish hiding along a coral reef

My Biscayne National Park snorkeling tour

Once we met up, we started with a very short ranger talk that gave us a little information about the park’s history and the wildlife you can find in the water and on land there. We also got some info on how the park is trying to preserve its reefs. After that, we walked down to the dock and boarded our boat.

Oceanview in Biscayne National Park

The boat is open air with benches around the edges for seating. There is no bathroom on board , so take care of that onshore before boarding. The tour operator also recommends not bringing anything on board that can’t get wet. I popped my phone in a waterproof pouch for the trip and sure enough, the one bit of spray I caught while we were heading out to the reef would’ve soaked my phone if I hadn’t protected it. There’s also nowhere dry to put bags and the bottom of the boat and benches got pretty wet when people were getting in and out of the water, so even a bag isn’t necessarily a safe place for it.

Woman with windblown hair on a boat

The ride out to the reef took about 45 minutes and on our bright, sunny afternoon, the water looked gorgeous as we headed out from shore. Our captain told us to look out for dolphins, but we didn’t spot any on our trip. During the slower speed (aka less windy/noisy) portions of our trip, one of the crew members told us a bit about the reef we were going to and how to snorkel. (Snorkeling experience isn’t required, but it definitely helped me.)

Woman wearing a snorkel in the water in Biscayne National Park

Our destination that day was Anniversary Key , which got its name from the fact that park rangers went out to snorkel it to assess it for damage and recovery on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Andrew in the ’90s. Andrew was a major storm that did massive damage to the area, including the park infrastructure, so the rangers were pleasantly surprised to see how the reef had recovered in just a year.

Boat floating above Anniversary Key

Once we made it out to the reef, the crew tied our boat up and told us to hit the water. You entered by climbing up on the inflatable sides, taking a seat for a minute to adjust your mask and snorkel, and then sliding off into the water. It was only a couple of feet, so nothing scary, and the water was deep enough that there was no worry about damaging the reef below. Once in the water, you popped your fins on and were good to go. My captain was even nice enough to snap a few pictures of me with my GoPro and then toss it to me in the water (don’t worry, it floats).

Snorkelers preparing to enter the water

Had I known she was taking pictures of me at this moment, I would’ve attempted a more graceful entry.

The tour is recommended for confident swimmers, but we had a mix of people in that category, less-confident swimmers, a couple of kids, and someone who couldn’t swim at all. Your tour ticket includes a snorkeling flotation device that you wear around your neck and strap around your body. You can inflate it as much or as little as you want, but you do have to wear it. I started out with a little air in mine, but quickly found out that even that little amount kept me from diving below the surface, so I deflated mine. The first time I tried to dive, it felt like The Claw from Toy Story grabbing me and pulling me back up. If you want some extra help, you can also grab a pool noodle on the boat. One of our guides was also a trained rescue swimmer, so I felt very safe in the water even though I was swimming around on my own.

Woman wearing a snorkel mask waving at the camera

The yellow thing is my deflated flotation device.

We had about an hour in the water to explore the reef. There was a decent wind blowing that day, so our captain suggested that we try to swim perpendicular to it or into the wind at first so that we didn’t have to fight it as much to get back to the boat. That was great advice because while it wasn’t hard to swim into it, it was definitely noticeable when I wanted to stop and look at something.

Colorful fish swimming above coral

If you need a break from swimming, you can always return to the boat for a few minutes. I ran into another snorkeler while surfacing from a dive and caught a mouthful of saltwater (yuck) and I couldn’t get rid of the taste so I headed back to the boat to chug some water from my water bottle.

Brain coral in Biscayne National Park

When our time was up, we were called back to the boat and we dried off to prepare for the ride back to shore. We were back at the dock by 4:45 and had a few minutes to explore the Biscayne National Park Visitor Center before it closed at 5.

Bright blue fish swimming in front of coral

I also went for a walk along the jetty looking for manatees, but sadly didn’t spot any. It was interesting to take a walk out to the end and look at the tall buildings of downtown Miami in the distance . In such a quiet, peaceful area, it’s hard to imagine a big city being within view.

Bright blue fish swimming near coral

Can you tell I liked these bright blue fishies?

Coral reef in Biscayne National Park

Click on images in the gallery for full-size photos! I had too many gorgeous ones to space throughout the post normally.

Tips for booking your Biscayne National Park snorkeling tour

  • During busy tourist times, you’ll want to book in advance because the tours do fill up. During slower times or weekdays, you may be able to get a last-minute reservation. If you want to book the same reef tour I took, click here .
  • If your tour is canceled due to inclement weather, you’ll receive a full refund.
  • My experience with Florida weather is that you tend to get more storms in the afternoon than the morning, so if you’re concerned about weather, you may want to try booking the morning snorkeling tour.
  • The exact location of your snorkeling experience can vary based on weather and water conditions . Your captain will make the decision for where to go on the day of the tour. There are lots of snorkeling spots in Biscayne National Park, so there are lots of options for them to choose from.
  • I got sporadic cell service in the park and its visitor center, but I wouldn’t consider it reliable. Be sure to look up directions before arriving . I wouldn’t count on being able to order a rideshare service for your trip home, so plan accordingly.
  • You’re allowed to bring food on the boat with you , and there was even a cooler on board that we could use to put any items we wanted to keep cold in.
  • There is a water cooler on board, but bringing your own reusable water bottle is encouraged.
  • Be sure to change into your bathing suit on shore (there are bathrooms at the visitor center). There is nowhere on the boat to change in private.
  • There are also no bathrooms on board the boat, so you’ll probably want to visit the bathroom before heading out on the tour.
  • The tour company recommends arriving 30 minutes before your tour starts so you have time to check in at the shop upstairs and get geared up.

Striped fish swimming in front of coral in Biscayne National Park Florida

How to get to Biscayne National Park

Biscayne National Park is in Florida’s southern tip, in between Miami and the Florida Keys. When using Google Maps, typing in the park’s name or the Dante Fascell Visitor Center will both get you where you need to go. If you’re coming from Miami, expect to spend a little under an hour in the car under good traffic conditions. You’ll want to take FL 874 South to the Ronald Reagan Turnpike and continue on that to exit 6 for SW 137th Ave and take that south to SW 328th St. This will take you all the way to the park entrance, which will be on your left.

Coral and fish in Biscayne National Park

If you’re coming to Biscayne National Park from the Florida Keys, take US 1 north into Florida City and head east on Palm Drive. You’ll take a slight turn to the north around the speedway and then turn east on SW 328th St. Follow that to the park entrance, which will be on your left.

Of course, if you have a boat, you can just sail into it from any direction.

Turquoise waters above a coral reef

What to bring for your Biscayne National Park snorkeling adventure

  • Bathing suit – This one’s a no-brainer. Target has been my go-to bathing suit spot for years and I love the mix and match options they sell every season.
  • Towel – Towels are not provided as part of your tour , so bring your own. I brought this microfiber one I’ve taken on several trips because space was limited in my carry-on. It never seems like it’s going to dry me off, but it always does.
  • Flip flops or water shoes – Everything on the boat gets wet, so wear shoes that can handle the water.
  • Dry bag – As I mentioned before, everything on the boat gets wet, so I’d bring a waterproof bag to store your necessities in and your dry clothes.
  • Waterproof phone case – I’ve taken this one kayaking and on the snorkel trip and expect to get a lot more use from it. It’s a cheap buy on Amazon, and provides a lot of value for your money.
  • Water bottle – I never travel without a water bottle that I can refill. This definitely came in handy because swimming is a workout and you’ll almost certainly get a taste of saltwater.
  • Reef safe sunscreen – Regular sunscreen can actually damage the beautiful reefs that you’re out there to see, so bring some reef safe sunscreen with you. I used Coppertone Kids in a travel size and it wasn’t even any pricer than the normal kind. Look for products using zinc oxide or titanium oxide and check products for kids and people with sensitive skin.

Woman swimming wearing a snorkel mask

Optional items that can enhance your snorkeling experience:

  • Wet suit – It can help if the weather is chillier. You can also rent one from the gear shop on site.
  • Personal snorkeling gear – You can bring your own and save a few bucks by not renting. One family on our trip had the full facemask kind like these. They’re pretty cool because the snorkels also seal underwater, making it easier to dive.
  • Rash guard – If you want to minimize the amount of sunscreen you need, you can wear a rash guard swim shirt that covers lots of exposed skin.
  • GoPro camera – I’ve had my GoPro for a couple years now, but snorkeling in Biscayne National Park was the first time I really felt like I got the full benefit of it. Except for the couple shots I snapped on the boat with my phone, every picture in this post was taken with the GoPro. I love the rapid shoot mode that snaps pictures at one-second intervals and ended up with nearly 1000 photo and video files to sort through.
  • Light jacket or sweatshirt – The boat ride portion of the snorkeling trip gets windy and on cooler days might be chilly. It was in the 80s the day I went so I was plenty warm, but bringing a light jacket with you can help on cooler days.

Colorful coral near Key Biscayne

Check out these other great things to do in Florida:

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  • Go Wildlife Spotting on an Everglades Tram Tour
  • The Grown-Up’s Guide to Disney World for Adults

Don’t forget to save this post for later on Pinterest!

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Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been to Miami but never consider going here, will definitely try and make it next time! Exploring a national park underwater seems like such a cool way to do it 🙂

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Guide To Snorkeling In Biscayne National Park Miami Florida

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Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park is a not-to-miss-out activity if you are in Miami. The park, which is situated a little south of Miami and north of Key Largo, was set up with the purpose of preserving the region’s natural wonders and covers more than 170.000 acres of mangrove forests, sand barrier islands, coral keys within the northernmost portion of Florida’s barrier reef. Although it lacks shore snorkel spots, a variety of beautiful keys and shallow reefs are available by short boat rides within the park’s area, where you can enjoy swimming in crystal clear waters and discover Florida’s diverse marine life. If you want to visit some of the park’s snorkel spots, you will find lots of helpful information in this guide to plan your trip.

Table of Contents

Biscayne National Park Snorkeling Things To Know

Boca chita key, soldier key, mandalay wreck – long reef, fowey rocks lighthouse, stiltsville.

  • The park’s islands and reefs are only accessible by boat: You can reach the snorkel spots by your own boat or by signing up for a guided snorkeling tour. Half-day and full-day trips depart daily from Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead. If you don’t want to drive down to the park, choose a tour that departs from Miami, like this sailing excursion .
  • You can’t snorkel from the shore: There is no beach in Biscayne National Park suitable for snorkeling, and the offshore reefs are only reachable by boat.
  • It is possible to visit the park’s reefs on your own: If you have access to a boat, you can go snorkeling on your own in Biscayne National Park. Most popular dive and snorkel sites offer mooring buoys.
  • You can observe a wide variety of marine species: The park’s waters are home to rich sea life, including various types of soft and hard corals (for example, Brain, Elkhorn, Staghorn, Lettuce corals, sea rods, and sea fans), invertebrates, reef fish, rays, turtles, sharks, and even manatees.
  • The park can be visited year-round : The region’s climate allows water activities, including snorkeling, any time of the year, but the conditions are different each season. The water temperatures are the highest during summer (28-30°C/82.4-86°F), but this is also hurricane season when weather disruptions are possible. Also, stormy periods decrease visibility, which is bad for snorkeling. You can expect clear waters during winter and spring; however, wearing a 3-mm wetsuit is recommended as the sea temperatures are lower in this season (23-25°C / 73.4-77°F).

7 Spots We Found The Best For Snorkeling In Biscayne National Park

If you decide to visit this national park to discover the area’s marine life, you may want to know what spots to visit. Here, we list seven sites that we recommend visiting, with information on what you can see and what to pay attention to.

We marked the sites on this Biscayne National Park snorkeling places map:

Located in Biscayne Bay, Boca Chita Key is the most visited island of Biscayne National Park. It is famous for its iconic lighthouse, which has an observation deck from which you can enjoy fantastic views of the area and Miami’s skyline.

You can reach this little island by a 45-minute boat ride. If you book a tour at Biscayne National Park Institute’s visitor center, a guide will give an overview of the key’s history. Alternatively, you can arrive in your own boat if you have one, but note that there is limited docking available for ten vessels only.

Boca Chita Key - Biscayne Bay

Not only the land scenery is fantastic on Boca Chita Key, but the beautiful clear water that surrounds the island makes it an excellent Biscayne Bay snorkeling spot, too; lobsters, little hermit crabs, and other aquatic critters are hiding between the mangrove roots, and schools of fish swim around in the shallow waters. There is also a well-kept campground on Boca Chita Key so you can stay for the night.

Note the current can be strong around the island, so be careful when snorkeling. Also, there might be jellies in the water. Although the most common types of jellyfish in the Florida Keys are harmful to humans, some might cause discomfort, irritation, or severe reactions for those who have sensitive skin, so it is better to avoid them.

If you want to snorkel in Biscayne National Park, Sands Key is another spot you should visit. This pretty island is located in the lower Biscayne Bay, between Boca Chita and Elliott Keys (don’t mix it up with Sand Key Reef, which is a snorkeling spot in Key West ). Sands Key is also referred to as Saunder’s Key.

The underwater view is very similar to the one you can see around Boca Chita Key. Biscayne National Park snorkel tours often include a stop here in their itinerary (your captain will choose the snorkel site depending on the water/weather conditions to ensure a safe experience). Sands Key (and also Soldier Key, which we will talk about in the next section) are so-called transitional islands, meaning that they are hard rock coral keys with sandy barriers on their north.

Elliott Key is the northernmost island of the Florida Keys and the park’s largest key. This former pineapple plantation island today is a popular spot for camping, swimming, and snorkeling in the Biscayne National Park. There is even a hiking trail on it, and it is pet-friendly, so you can bring along Fido too!

Biscayne National Park - Florida - United States

The island’s mangrove coastline provides a habitat for juvenile fish species and small aquatic creatures; they hide among the roots in the shallow waters. In the deeper waters, around the docks), you can see large schools of fish. Plus, it is possible to see nurse sharks, stingrays, and sometimes even manatees, so keep your camera ready to capture them!

This small key (about the size of a football pitch) lies north of Boca Chita Key, also on the sand bar area (known as Safety Valve) that separates Biscayne Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. We love this key a lot because it is pretty much in its natural state with overgrown bushes and lush mangrove forests; it is a perfect destination for those who are looking for an untouched paradise.

The water is usually clear and calm around Soldier Key, making it a great snorkel spot for families with little kids. The best snorkeling we found on the west side of the island where there is an old sunken dock in approx. 6ft/2m deep water that attracts lots of fish and other marine life.

Shipwrecks in the Florida Keys are numerous and some of them can be found in Biscayne Bay (at least 44 wrecks but the research for more is still ongoing). For snorkelers, the easiest and the most impressive to visit is the wreck of Mandalay, a 112 ft/34 m long schooner that was driven aground on Long Reef (a long reef area that runs parallel to Elliot Key) in 1966 while returning from the Bahamas.

The remains of the Mandalay rest in shallow, 12ft/3.6 m deep water and turned into an artificial reef over the years. Coral species settled on the structure, providing shelter to a variety of Florida reef fish including blue tangs, french grunts, sergeant majors, trumpetfish, parrotfish, and surgeon fish.

You may even spot lobsters hiding in the structure’s holes! Thanks to the shallowness and rich aquatic life of this exciting Biscayne Bay snorkeling site, beginners are welcome, too!

The newest addition to the Maritime Heritage Trail – a trail of interesting wreck sites with installed mooring buoys – is Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, the northernmost of the six Florida Coral Reef Lights, also known as the Eye of Miami.

The lighthouse, which replaced the Cape Florida Light, was constructed in the 1870s to help the area’s passing ships navigate this difficult stretch of reef. Today, the surrounding area of this massive structure is a prime snorkeling site in the Florida Keys ; with an average depth of only 15 ft (4.5m), both snorkelers and divers will have fun here.

Snorkeling is the best around the base of the lighthouse, but the structure itself is not open to the public. This shallow snorkel spot features rich coral gardens (mainly soft corals) and abundant aquatic life: schooling French grunts and sergeant majors, blue angelfish, porkfish, trumpetfish, stingrays, and nurse sharks. Moreover, there are remains of a small steamer ship to the northeast of the tower, which is also worth checking out.

Stiltsville may not be the most beautiful Biscayne snorkel spot, in our opinion, but it is definitely the most interesting one. It is a group of wood shacks on the edge of Biscayne Bay.

The first houses were built sometime in the early 1930s that locals used as campsites. In 1933, “Crawfish” Eddie Walker built a shack to facilitate gambling, which was illegal at that time onshore but was legal one mile off the shore. Later on, buildings were added, clubs were opened, and the area turned into a party center where wealthy Miamians spent their time and money.

The era ended when Hurricane Betsy hit in 1965, damaging many houses. After this, the state decided not to issue new permits, ordered the owners to pay a lease, and required them to remove badly damaged structures.

Another hurricane, Andrew, hit the area in 1992, leaving only seven houses. Stiltsville Trust, a non-profit organization, rehabilitated the remaining structures so they could be preserved to protect and maintain the area’s marine life that settled around them.

When snorkeling here, you will see some common Florida reef fish species and small coral patches. The site is also accessible by kayak, for example, from Bill Baggs State Park. However, before you visit this site, note that a permit is required, which you can get from Stiltsville Trust .

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The Ultimate Guide To The Biscayne National Park Snorkeling Experience

biscayne national park snorkeling

We present this ultimate guide to the Biscayne National Park snorkeling experience for avid explorers and nature enthusiasts who want a unique experience in Florida.  

Nestled along the sun-kissed shores of Florida, Biscayne National Park stands as a sanctuary of marine marvels, inviting you to embark on a snorkeling adventure like no other. Whether you’re a seasoned underwater voyager or a curious first-timer, this guide promises to unlock the secrets of this aquatic haven, providing you with all you need to know to make your snorkeling escapade memorable and seamless.

Exploring The Biscayne National Park In Florida

Located just 30 kilometers south of Miami, Biscayne National Park safeguards the northernmost living coral reef ecosystem in the United States. Over ninety-five percent of the park is “underwater” and is only accessible by watercraft. It consists of a remarkable combination of aquamarine waters inhabited by colorful fish, sea turtles, dolphins, and manatees, attractive islands with mangrove trees, and extraordinary coral reefs. It also has a history of over 10,000 years, including pirates, shipwrecks, pineapple producers, and presidents.

Despite its proximity to one of the country’s largest cities, Biscayne National Park’s wild waters, islands, and mangroves are remarkably pristine. Despite efforts in the 1960s to transform the area into a massive waterfront residential community, the park is thriving today. Its terrestrial and aquatic animal diversity readily matches and exceeds that of every other National Park System unit.

The Biscayne National Park Institute is a non-profit organization where your purchases directly benefit the park. Explore the mangrove estuaries and shipwrecks in the bay and ocean, or dive beneath the waters to observe the vibrant coral reefs. Visit the uninhabited Florida Keys and stroll along their undeveloped beaches and trails. In addition, there are picnic areas and facilities.

The true charm of Biscayne National Park is that each visitor will have a unique experience, which can help you develop a deeper connection to the park’s history and ecosystems. The programs, ranging from a few hours to a full day, highlight the park’s incredible wildlife, rich history, and astounding marine ecosystems.

What Is Biscayne National Park Known For?

Things to do and see when you visit Biscayne National Park by Shore Me Some More

But what is Biscayne National Park known for? You guessed it right! Underwater activities, particularly snorkeling. 

Biscayne National Park is well-known for its outstanding snorkeling opportunities. The park’s crystal-clear waters, teeming with an astounding variety of marine life and vibrant coral formations, make it a preeminent destination for snorkelers of all levels. 

Due to its distance to the Florida Keys and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, Biscayne offers an underwater world that rivals some of the world’s finest snorkeling spots. Snorkelers can immerse themselves in the captivating underwater world, encountering colorful fish darting among coral gardens, graceful sea turtles drifting through the depths, and even the possibility of spotting mesmerizing shipwrecks that have evolved into artificial reefs. Due to the accessibility of these underwater marvels and the simplicity of snorkeling, Biscayne National Park is an ideal destination for those searching for an unforgettable underwater adventure.

How To Maximize Your Biscayne National Park Snorkel Tours

Biscayne National Park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including marine turtles, American crocodiles, manatees, bottlenose dolphins, over 600 native fish species, and hundreds of bird species.

Boca Chita Lighthouse

boca-chita-lighthouse

The Boca Chita Lighthouse , a 65-foot-tall structure constructed in 1938, provides the best view of the Miami skyline in the park. The only way to reach the Boca Chita Key lighthouse is by watercraft. The Biscayne National Park Institute offers a variety of eco-friendly itineraries that include visits to the key and the lighthouse, as well as sailing and snorkeling excursions.

Biscayne Maritime Heritage Trail

Diving the Biscayne Maritime Heritage Trail by VISIT FLORIDA

Out in the Atlantic, snorkelers and divers can explore the Biscayne Maritime Heritage Trail , which connects six shipwrecks within the park’s boundaries, from the 1878-sunken steamship Arratoon Apcar to the 1966 sunken schooner Mandalay. The route runs south of Key Biscayne to Elliott Key’s southernmost point.

Jones Lagoon

jones-lagoon

Source: The Jones Lagoon Waterway by Matt Johnson

The park also offers a Jones Lagoon excursion to an isolated portion known for its nesting colonies and uncommon birds, such as the roseate spoonbill, sea turtles, and baby sharks. The best way for non-boat owners to get up close and personal with staghorn, elkhorn, and other coral species and thousands of colorful tropical fish is through one of the park’s scuba and snorkel experiences.

What Else You Need To Know Before Snorkeling In Biscayne National Park

Before you take the plunge into the enchanting underwater realm of Biscayne National Park, there are a few crucial tidbits to remember. As you prepare for your snorkeling escapade, understanding the park’s regulations, weather patterns, equipment essentials, and safety measures becomes paramount. In this section, we delve into everything you need to know before visiting the park, ensuring that your adventure is immersive and memorable but also safe and well-informed. 

  • Because Biscayne National Park is primarily accessible only by boat, many visits require planning, including boat tours and island lodging reservations. Anyone traveling to Biscayne during the summer should bring insect repellent, as the mosquito population is notoriously aggressive. 
  • Anyone entering the water to swim, scuba dive or snorkel is strongly advised to use reef-safe sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide).
  • Children older than 8 can participate in various guided activities organized by the Biscayne National Park Institute, such as a small-group snorkeling excursion and an excursion that combines snorkeling with sailing and canoeing, as well as an island visit. Others, such as the snorkel and paddle eco-adventure, are available to children aged 12 and up.
  • The park’s navigable waters are accessible around-the-clock. Due to low tides and sensitive coral areas, evaluating the park’s boating regulations regarding marinas, safety, and tide predictions before your visit is essential.
  • To fish in park waters, anglers older than 16 must possess a Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) license. Many areas are off-limits to fishing; consult the NPS website for a list of restricted areas and more information on fishing and lobstering.
  • Service animals are permitted within Biscayne National Park. Elliott Key and the premises of Convoy Point (but not the Dante Fascell Visitor Center) are the only locations where pets are permitted. They are prohibited everywhere on Boca Chita Key, including moored vessels. Pets must always be on a leash no longer than six feet. Visitors must pick up after themselves and dispose of trash responsibly. Find Biscayne National Park’s complete pet policy and service animal guide here .
  • Visitors without a vehicle can reach the park via the Homestead National Parks Trolley (late November through April on weekends), which connects to Miami-Dade municipal bus service.

biscayne national park snorkel tour

Source: View of Biscayne National Park from beneath the water’s surface by Shaun Wolfe

Experience The Best Snorkeling In Biscayne National Park

In the heart of Biscayne National Park lies a world that transcends the ordinary, where azure waters cradle a breathtaking tapestry of marine life and coral gardens. As we conclude this journey, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the allure of this underwater paradise is nothing short of magical. 

From the vibrant ballet of fish darting through vibrant corals to the gentle sway of seagrass beneath the sun’s golden embrace, Biscayne National Park’s snorkeling opportunities promise moments of awe and wonder that stay etched in memory. Remember to embrace the responsibility of preserving this delicate ecosystem for generations to come.

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Biscayne National Park Snorkeling FAQs

Yes, Biscayne National Park is widely recognized as an excellent destination for snorkeling. The park boasts clear, turquoise waters and a diverse marine ecosystem, making it a haven for snorkelers of all skill levels. Its shallow reefs, seagrass beds, and artificial wrecks create a vibrant underwater landscape home to various colorful fish, delicate corals, and other fascinating marine life.

Yes, you can snorkel from the beach in Biscayne National Park, but it’s important to note that most of the park’s snorkeling sites are not directly accessible from the shore. Instead, you’ll typically need a boat or kayak to reach the prime snorkeling locations. The park’s offshore islands and reefs, which house most of its marine life and coral formations, require a short boat ride.

You can snorkel in some areas of Biscayne National Park for free. The park has an entrance fee, granting you access to the mainland visitor center, trails, and some beach areas. However, the prime snorkeling sites located offshore, where you can find vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life, often require boat transportation or kayak rentals.

The park encompasses a mix of terrestrial and marine environments, including beautiful coastal waters ideal for swimming. The clear, inviting waters along the shoreline provide a refreshing opportunity to enjoy a swim and cool off during your visit. Whether you’re looking to swim near the shore, snorkel, or explore the park’s underwater world, Biscayne National Park offers a range of water-based activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the area’s natural beauty.

In Biscayne National Park, the need for a wetsuit depends on personal preference, the time of year you visit, and your tolerance for water temperature. The park’s waters can be warm during summer, making a wetsuit optional for many visitors. However, the water temperature can drop during the cooler months, especially in the winter, and a wetsuit might provide added comfort and protection.

Biscayne National Park is worth visiting, especially if you are interested in marine life, water-based activities, and unique ecosystems. While the prime snorkeling and diving spots require boat access, visiting the park’s mainland area and experiencing its coastal beauty can be rewarding.

The park offers a diverse range of experiences that make it a worthwhile destination for various types of travelers:

  • Marine diversity
  • Outdoor activities
  • Natural beauty
  • Education opportunities

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Biscayne National Park: The Complete Guide

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Things to Do

Fishing in the park, snorkeling and scuba diving, where to camp, where to stay, how to get there, accessibility, tips for your visit, biscayne national park.

Established in 1980 to protect Florida’s northernmost keys and the sparkling seas that surround them, Biscayne National Park is something of an anomaly in the U.S. National Park System as it is made of 95 percent water. This distinguishing detail makes the 173,000-acre park a bucket-list destination for boaters, fishing fanatics, snorkelers, paddlers, and scuba divers as well as anyone who enjoys warm breezes, sparkling shallow seas, subtropical temperatures, lagoons teeming with wildlife, snorkeling or camping on lush islands under palms.

The shorelines, mangroves, and 250 square miles of water are home (or temporary home in the case of migratory birds) to a wide range of tropical, subtropical, and marine animals and plants including more than 500 kinds of reef fish, a menagerie of birds, 20 threatened and endangered species, and unfortunately some pesky and hungry insects. The park also contains more than 10,000 years of human history starting with the migration of Paleo-Indians down the Florida Peninsula, to the arrival of the Tequesta people as the waters rose, through European colonization, and to the present day.

This complete guide contains all the information you need to plan a trip to this scenic and special Sunshine State spot a stone’s throw from Miami including where to camp, what to do and see, and how to get there.

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Start your time at the park with a visit to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. The center features dioramas/exhibits detailing the park’s four ecosystems, a ranger desk, a 20-minute park film called "Connections," a gallery highlighting local artists inspired by the park, and a porch full of rocking chairs. 

Whether you bring your own sailboat or swim in the seagrasses close to the shoreline, getting out on or getting in the crystalline water is a must. Sailing and boating are two of the most popular activities in the park. Homestead Bayfront and Black Point are marinas that feed directly into the park.

Enjoy a Sightseeing Tour

Biscayne National Park Institute  operates a wide variety of private and small-group sightseeing tours including a snorkel experience that stops at a shipwreck. All ages are welcome aboard the three-and-a-half-hour history boat tour that makes an island stop and often encounters wildlife. The guided paddleboard tour through the mangrove-lined waterways of Jones Lagoon is perfect for more active folks and often results in sightings of baby sharks, upside-down jellyfish, rays, turtles, and manatees as well as roseate spoonbills and other birds.

Get Out on the Water

You can also bring your own canoe, kayak, or paddleboard. They are ideal ways to navigate around the mangroves, the shallow bay, lagoons, creeks, and channels south of Caesar Creek. Launch free of charge from the designated area adjacent to the parking lot. Many areas in the park are too shallow for motorized watercraft so paddlers get these scenic spots to themselves and can enjoy some peace and quiet. Jones Lagoon and Hurricane Creek are some favorite spots. For a real challenge, attempt the 7-mile crossing across Biscayne Bay to Elliott or Boca Chita Keys.

Explore the Park on a Hike

While water-based activities like boating, fishing, kiteboarding, and diving around coral reefs are what the park is known for, there are a few stay-dry options like hikes. Two trails twist through the tropical island landscape on Elliott Key. One runs the entire 7-mile length of the island while the other is a 1-mile loop between the bay side and ocean side of Elliott that starts in the marina. The jetty near the visitor center also has a short trail.

The Biscayne Birding Trail has 10 stops including the Fowey Rocks historic lighthouse, Convoy Point, Black Point shoreline, several keys, and the Pacific Reef light. Shorebirds and seabirds like frigates, brown pelicans, and yellow-crowned night herons are very common. The park also gets seasonal winged visitors and a few species that hail from the Caribbean pop over from time to time. It also has one of the largest populations of mangrove cuckoos in Florida.

See the Houses of Stiltsville

Biscayne is home to architecturally significant houses on stilts in the overwater neighborhood called Stiltsville. After Hurricane Andrew swept through the region in 1992, only seven of the kooky houses dating back to at least the 1930s survived. The storied history of the homes—which were annexed into the park in 1985—includes the original Stiltsville pioneer who sold bait, beer, and crawfish chowder, private social clubs with nude sunbathing decks, Life magazine coverage, and lots of hurricane damage.

Public access to the properties is by permit only. To inquire about renting one of the homes for camera shoots, small conferences, artist-in-residence sessions, or small family gatherings (day-use only), reach out to the nonprofit that oversees them,  Stiltsville Trust at least three weeks before your planned stay. Biscayne National Park Institute also offers a two-hour cruise to get a closer look at the homes in the northernmost corner of the park. It leaves from Dinner Key Marina in Miami’s Coconut Grove.

The bustling waters of Biscayne Bay support hundreds of fish species and encourage world-class fishing for spiny lobster (which cannot be taken out of the park), snapper, grouper, tarpon, and bonefish. A Florida saltwater fishing license is required for anyone over 16. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission  sells the permits  and also sets the regulations. Be sure to brush up on the local fishing rules before your visit.

The Maritime Heritage Trail boasts exciting opportunities to snorkel or scuba dive around many of the region's shipwrecks. Six wrecks, spanning nearly from 1878 to 1966, fall within Biscayne’s borders. They can only be reached by boat and have established mooring buoys. Mandalay is the ship site most suited to snorkelers. It is also quite decent around the base of the Fowey Rocks Lighthouse. Erl King, Alicia, and Lugano on the other hand are the best sunken ships for tank dives. For a more guided experience, the Biscayne National Park Institute has a variety of snorkel and scuba tours .

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There are two campgrounds within the park: Elliott Key and Boca Chita Key. As the names suggest, both are located on islands within the park’s boundaries and therefore you must have a boat to get to them. You must also pay the appropriate fee which is $35 per night for docking and camping or $25 per night for camping only. Use Recreation.gov to pay no later than sunset on arrival day. There are no advance reservations.

Boca Chita is the most popular choice with its waterfront views, grassy campsites, and swaying palms. There are picnic tables, grills, and toilets, but no showers, sinks, or drinking water.

Elliott Key, the park’s largest island with 33 boat slips in the marina, offers cold showers, sinks, picnic tables, grills, and drinking water. There’s a group campsite for 10 or more about a third of a mile from the main campground. 

Both islands maintain quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. There is no backcountry camping and all trash must be packed out.

Biscayne is 33 miles from Homestead, Florida and around 35 miles from Miami. Both cities offer dozens upon dozens of hotels of every size, service level, and price range. For some inspiration, check out our round-up of the best hotels in Miami.

Biscayne is in Homestead about 45 minutes south of Miami by car. The visitor center is at the end of 328th Street just before you get to the entrance to the Homestead Bayfront Marina. It can be reached from the Florida Turnpike or U.S. Highway 1.

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To go beyond the mainland shore you'll need a boat, which immediately limits accessibility. But several measures have been put in place to accommodate the needs of visitors with mobility and other challenges including:

  • The visitor center and park headquarters have ramps, elevators, and boardwalks.
  • Audiovisual programs are closed-captioned and available in English and Spanish. Exhibits along the jetty trail are also bilingual and Haitian Creole translations are available at the center’s help desk. Junior Ranger booklets come in those three languages and the park brochure is translated into several more. 
  • On Boca Chita, Elliott, and Adams Keys, restrooms are accessible but some buildings aren’t. Sidewalks are nonexistent on the latter two while Boca only has them around the harbor and restrooms.  
  • Legitimate service animals are allowed in buildings and on all islands.
  • There is no charge to enter and enjoy this park. Some activities like commercial filming, weddings, and memorial services do require permits. Visiting the Stiltsville structures also requires permission and permits from the Stiltsville Trust.
  • The park’s waters are open 24 hours a day year-round. However, the visitor center maintains hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days) and is closed on major holidays. 
  • Pets are only allowed on leash on Elliott Key within developed areas and may not be left unattended. 

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Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

  • Nat'l Parks

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park is spectacular with crystal clear waters, colorful and healthy coral reefs brimming with marine life, and shipwrecks that lie in relatively shallow water.

This underwater paradise is just the beginning of the third largest coral reef in the world (after Australia's and Belize's Barrier Reefs), and it extends southwards for another 170 miles into the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

The offshore reefs within Biscayne National Park waters are only reachable by boat, there is no beach or shore diving at the park from either the mainland or the small keys.

Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

The Park provides year-round daily snorkel tours to the reefs through their Concessioner. The boats leave from the jetty at the visitor center. Programs may differ from season to season so it is best to check before you head out.

Snorkeling Tour at Biscayne National Park

Before our snorkel tour, there was a short orientation about the Park, the reefs, conservation, marine life, do's and dont's to protect the reef and its inhabitants, etc.

The orientations are provided by park staff or volunteers and are a great introduction of what you are about to see.

Then everyone was outfitted with mask, fins and snorkel and a snorkeling vest and we were off! The trip to the reef takes about one hour.

During our tour, they were combining both the snorkel trip with the Boca Chita Key trip . We first dropped off the folks that were going to the island and then the boat took us to the wonderful living corals where we readily jumped into these underwater gardens that exploded with color...

It is just amazing that so much color and life can exist so close to a mega city like Miami, the park is only a half-hour away from the hustle and bustle, practically next-door.

Beautiful Coral Reefs at Biscayne National Park

We spent approximately an hour on the reef and saw a lobster, many schools of pretty fish, beautiful hard and soft corals, little shrimps, fans and sponges, and what we think was a moray eel hiding in the rocks!

There were parrot fish, squirrel fish, trumpet fish, angel fish, and whole school of striking blue tangs...

Beautiful Coral Reefs and Sea Fans at Biscayne National Park

After our snorkel, it was time to get back on the boat. We stopped at Boca Chita to pick up the rest, and headed back to the dock at the Visitor Center. Overall, plan on minimum of three hours, maybe four, it is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon!

What to Bring Along

  • Sun protection: One hour in the water is a long time, even if it is overcast. A thin swim shirt that provides UV protection and is quick drying is great for snorkeling.
  • Towel, sunglasses, hat
  • Lots of drinking water
  • You can bring a cooler onboard to keep snacks and drinks
  • And a waterproof camera of course!

Booking a Snorkel Trip at Biscayne National Park

Tours are ran by the Biscayne National Park Institute. They have daily morning and afternoon trips to the reefs, wrecks or bay depending on the weather and cost $64 per person. These group snorkel tours are temporarily suspended.

Small-Group Snorkel Experience is limited to 6 passengers maximum or 3 groups (families) per trip maximum and cost $99 per person. Private option available.

Mask, snorkel, and fins can be rented for an additional cost. At this time, there is no rental of snorkeling gear, you must bring your own.

There are also longer cruise excursions, about 6 hours, that combine snorkeling, paddling, and island visits and cost $159 per person. These are smaller groups with a maximum of 4 or 3 (family) groups per trip.

Snorkel Tour Boats leave from Biscayne National Park headquarters, you first check in at the store next to the Visitor Center.

At this time, reservations will only be accepted online and with your own device. There will not be a computer or tablet available on site for you to book.

In addition, snorkeling tours will follow enhanced safety and health measures:

  • Facial coverings are required to be worn from the time you are waiting to check-in until you off-board the vessel after the completion of the activity. This is in accordance to Miami-Dade County regulations. Facial coverings are not required for the short time of preparing enter the water to snorkel.
  • A brightly colored swim vest must be worn and will be provided but you are encouraged to bring your own if you have one. At this time, you will be instructed NOT to inflate the borrowed vest since this is done through the mouthpiece. If you require additional flotation you can request a pool noodle. Vests and pool noodles will be sanitized after each use.
  • Social distancing guidelines on piers and boats must be followed.

More Info: Snorkel Trips Biscayne National Park

FAQ - Biscayne Park or Pennekamp Park?

We often get asked which park is better for snorkeling, Biscayne Park or Pennekamp Park in Key Largo. There are plus and minuses to both. Here's our take:

The reefs and what you will see are comparable at both locations, it will depend on the conditions at the time of your excursion and luck, remember that each dive/snorkel is different.

Despite being slightly closer to Miami, Biscayne Park does not get the "tourist traffic" that Pennekamp does. On the plus side, boats at Biscayne are normally less crowded and the pace less hectic than at Pennekamp. On the minus side, if you are set on snorkeling the reef, please keep in mind that depending on weather conditions, this may not be possible and you will snorkel the bayside area instead. You need to inquire on the day of your visit, this is important specially for visitors that come to the park for the sole purpose of snorkeling the reefs.

Snorkel tours are also more expensive at Biscayne Park. Pennekamp snorkel tours for adults cost $29.95 vs $59 - $64+ at Biscayne.

Please note that the Concessioner that provides the snorkel trips is separate from the National Park. There have been many different outfits filling the position over the years, at the moment the current concessioner is the Biscayne National Park Institute. The staff is extremely helpful and will try to accomodate any reasonable requests.

If snorkeling on the reef is a priority, you can also consider heading down to the Keys. Pennekamp is one of the popular options, but there are literally hundreds of operators along the Keys corridor.

Here's more on Snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park .

Here's more on Snorkeling in Miami and nearby .

FAQ - What about Scuba Diving Trips or Glass-Bottom Cruises?

We have not seen any Scuba Diving for certified divers or Glass-Bottom cruises running from the Park's Visitor Center although many are offered by outfits authorized to operate within the waters of the park and leave from their own different locations in Miami, Miami Beach or the Florida Keys. For a list of current tour operators and their offerings click here . Key Largo which is not far away of course offers many alternatives for both activities.

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biscayne national park snorkel tour

Florida Rambler

Snorkel Biscayne National Park to explore a shipwreck

By: Author Bonnie Gross

Posted on Last updated: January 15, 2024

People know about John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, and some may think it’s the only place to go snorkeling on a coral reef in Florida.

But you also can snorkel Biscayne National Park, which is just 20 miles south of Miami in Homestead. Here there are daily snorkeling trips and some have an additional feature — you snorkel a shipwreck.

Biscayne National Park, which is 95 percent underwater, is actually the northernmost section of the Florida Keys. It is composed of 33 small islands formed by fossilized coral reefs and encompasses a 28-mile-long reef.

Snorkel Biscayne National Park and you your visit would include the wreck of  the Mandalay. (Photo: David Blasco)

Biscayne National Park is home to a variety of tours in and on the water, from trips to islands to stand-up-paddleboard outings to snorkeling within the park.

This twice-a-day snorkeling trip is 3.5 hours long and costs $109. (Renting snorkeling gear is $10 extra.) These are small group trips with no more than 12 participants.

Biscayne National Park Institute , a nonprofit organization, operates the tours.

While there’s no guarantee on each trip if you’ll visit a wreck — it depends on weather and sea conditions — one of the most frequent destination is the Mandalay, which is where I snorkeled when I went on the shipwreck snorkeling tour. It has a great story.

Snorkel Biscayne National Park: Divers on Mandalay shipwreck.

Snorkel Biscayne National Park: The story of the Mandalay shipwreck

The Mandalay is a 1928 schooner that sank Jan.1, 1966 on Long Reef.  What’s left of the Mandalay is spread out in about 12 feet of aquarium-clear water, home to schools of colorful fish, gaudy purple sea fans and all sorts of reef flora and fauna.

It took about an hour by boat to reach the dive site. As you leave Biscayne National Park headquarters at Convoy Point, you see Turkey Point nuclear plant looming nearby to the south and Mount Trashmore towering to the north.  (This dump holds what were once big parts of Homestead and Florida City, whacked by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.)  In the distance you see the skyline of Miami.

The shoreline is all mangroves — part of the longest uninterrupted mangrove shoreline on the east coast of the U.S.

The trip to the reef takes you across “the park” — Biscayne Bay. You can look into the clear shallow water to see waving sea grasses and sponges and perhaps spot the occasional dolphin or ray.  The boat passes the uninhabited islands of Biscayne National Park — Boca Chita, Elliot and Adams keys. These are the northern-most keys in the Florida Keys chain of islands, saved from development in the 1970s. (Maps still show these islands as Islandia, a development that was incorporated but never built.)

Family snorkels the Mandalay shipwreck, Biscayne National Park

Beyond the keys is the Atlantic Ocean and the line of reefs that has been wrecking ships for centuries.  The Mandalay is one of 44 identified wrecks in Biscayne National Park, and one of six being designated as part of a Maritime Heritage Trail, which offers mooring posts and laminated maps of each wreck.

The Mandalay is an easy shipwreck for even beginners to snorkel.  While snorkeling around the reef, we saw a variety of common reef fish —  trumpetfish, blue tangs, surgeon fish, four types of parrot fish, smooth trunkfish, schools of sergeant majors.

The tale of the Mandalay is one of those colorful stories of the sea. The 110-foot long, steel hulled schooner was built in 1928 for $177,000. It went through various owners until Windjammer Cruises, Inc., purchased, refitted, and renamed the vessel Mandalay in 1965, for use as a luxury “barefoot” cruise ship. The Mandalay was tricked out with only the best — mahogany, brass, ivory fittings, a teak deck.

Snorkelers at Biscayne National Park begin exploring the Mandalay wreck. (Photo: David Blasco)

It was New Year’s Eve 1965 when the Mandalay was headed toward Miami with 23 vacationers and 12 crew, returning from a 10 day Bahaman cruise. The captain, a 26-year-old Norwegian, went to sleep about 1 a.m., leaving a novice seaman at the helm. In the early hours of New Year’s Day 1966, the Mandalay was driven hard aground on Long Reef. Later, the captain admitted he had miscalculated — the Mandalay was 20 miles off course.

Passengers were safely rescued by helicopter but the ship’s fate was far worse. With the Mandalay unprotected, scavengers stripped it, taking everything of value — including the passenger cameras, watches, and purses. Even the lead ballast blocks — tons of it — were taken by small outboard motorboats and melted into lead diving weights and resold at $1 per pound.

Later, tugboats failed to pull the Mandalay off Long Reef, and 50 years late, fish are picnicking on her while snorkelers enjoy the view.

Visit and snorkel Biscayne National Park

There’s no question: The best way to visit Biscayne National Park is by boat.

A kayak and canoe launch area and rental operation gives visitors a chance to explore the mangrove coastline. But, except for the most advanced and adventurous kayakers, the islands are too far to reach by paddle. (A ranger estimated six hours of paddling over open water.)

Snorkel Biscayne National Park: The Mandalay shipwreck. Photo by Brenda Lazendorf, National Park Service

Both Boca Chita and Elliott Keys have campgrounds, but if you don’t have a boat, you have to arrange transportation to get you there and back. Tent camping is $15 a night; boat camping is $20 a night, which includes dock space and use of a camp site.

Convoy Point, Biscayne National Park headquarters, offers beautifully situated picnic tables — with shade and overlooking Biscayne Bay — and a scenic quarter-mile boardwalk. The visitor center offers exhibits and a movie.

Planning your visit to Biscayne National Park

Admission to the park is free . It’s easy to find, due east of the huge Homestead-Miami speedway.

  • In addition to the basic snorkeling trip, you can opt for a full-day adventure, which includes snorkeling, paddling and visiting an island for $199. This trip is available from Homestead or Coconut Grove.
  • Information about all guided tours and booking tickets.
  • Florida Rambler guide to Biscayne National Park, including trip report on boat tours to Boca Chita Key. 
  • Also from Florida Rambler: Take history-oriented tour of Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park. 
  • Biscayne National Park official website
  • Maritime Heritage Trail
  • Find a room in Homestead

Things to do near Biscayne National Park

  • If you’re driving to Biscayne National Park, you may want to keep going to explore the Florida Keys. Our Florida Keys mile-marker guide is an ideal companion to a roadtrip.
  • Everglades National Park is minutes away. Here are  our tips for visiting Everglades National Park.
  • Robert is Here is a great stop in Homestead for milkshakes (key lime!) plus exotic fruit and variety of farm animals.
  • Drive down scenic Card Sound Road and discover Alabama Jack’s, a classic Keys tiki bar known for its conch fritters.
  • An attraction that belongs on the Florida funky hall of fame: Coral Castle Museum , is minutes away.

All articles on FloridaRambler.com are original, produced exclusively for our readers and protected by U.S. Copyright law. Any use or re-publication without written permission is against the law. Read more: floridarambler.com/licensing

This page contains affiliate links from which Florida Rambler may earn a small commission if a purchase is made. This revenue supports our mission to produce quality stories about the authentic Florida destinations at no cost to our readers.

Bonnie Gross

The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.

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Biscayne National Park Institute

Land & Sea Boating Experiences - Explore & Learn

  • Specialty Experiences and Events
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biscayne national park snorkel tour

Located just 20 miles south of Miami, Biscayne National Park protects the northernmost group of living coral reefs in the United States and its ecosystem. Over 95% of the park is “underwater” and is accessible only by boat. It consists of a rare combination of aquamarine waters, beautiful islands, and unique coral reefs. Its shoreline is covered by various types of mangrove trees which provides habitats for birds, mammals, and marine life. Biscayne Bay, with a maximum depth of about 12 feet, has underwater sea grass beds inhabited by shrimps, lobsters, fishes, sea turtles, and manatees. It also has over 10,000 years of human history, from pirates and shipwrecks to pineapple farmers and presidents. Outdoor enthusiasts can boat, snorkel, camp, watch wildlife…or simply relax in a rocking chair gazing out over the bay.

The Institute provides many educational and exciting experiences while you are visiting the park including wildlife watching, boating, paddle-boarding, sailing, snorkeling, and much more. Explore the mangrove estuaries or the shipwrecks in the bay and ocean or glide under the waves to see the colorful coral reefs. Visit the uninhabited Florida Keys and walk the natural beaches and trails. There are also picnic areas and restrooms. Join a subtropical island guided tour, go camping on an island, or hike the length of Elliott Key.

Intimate Snorkel and Paddle Adventure

An amazing paddle in Jones Lagoon along with a reef, wreck or bay snorkel on a 24' powerboat. Max. of 6 visitors.

Sailing, Island Visit, and Paddle Experience

Sail to Boca Chita or Adams Key where you can hike the islands, snorkel the mangroves, or paddleboard through the beautiful mangrove channels.

Boca Chita Island Experience

Explore and learn about the beautiful island of Boca Chita on a guided boat ride. Climb the lighthouse, walk the trail, wade at the beach, and immerse yourself in the history of the island.

Snorkel Experience

Reef, bay or wreck snorkeling depending on the weather on a 20-passenger powerboat.

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Have you visited jones lagoon yet, find an adventure that’s right for you, experience boca chita, park after dark.

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Biscayne National Park | STILTSVILLE GUIDED TOUR

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Miami Springs Power Boat Club at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Miami Springs Power Boat Club at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Guided Tours Main Page

If you would like to see Stiltsville, a collection of houses built on stilts in Biscayne Bay, but don’t have a boat, you can take a 2-hour tour operated by the Biscayne National Park Institute. The tour is held on Thursdays through Sundays throughout the year. You can get the current tour fee and make a reservation on Biscayne National Park Institute’s Stiltsville Guided Tour web page.

Stiltsville is located in the northernmost section of Biscayne National Park, much closer to Miami than to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead. Because of this, the tour leaves from the Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove, which is 30 miles north of the Visitor Center. A drive between the two takes roughly an hour.

Before arriving at Stiltsville, the tour boat swings past the Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne. The first lighthouse on this spot was built in 1825, and it had a very interesting history. In 1836, Seminole Indians attacked the lighthouse, setting it on fire with two people inside. One man was killed by a bullet, and the second, assistant lighthouse keeper John Thompson, decided to go out in a blaze of glory by dropping a keg of gunpowder from the balcony onto the fire below, hoping to kill as many Indians as possible and ending his own life, which at the time surely looked like it was going to be a death by fire. Instead, the explosion somewhat lessened the strength of the fire. The Indians assumed the two men were dead, and after ransacking the lightkeeper’s house, took off. A Navy ship heard the explosion and eventually rescued Thompson. The lighthouse was beyond repair, but due to continued fighting with the Seminoles, it wasn’t rebuilt until 1847. This is the lighthouse standing today, though it was made taller in 1855: it is 95 feet tall.

Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne

Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne

There are six houses left standing in Stiltsville. A seventh, the Leshaw House, burned down on January 11, 2021, which was just two weeks before I did the tour. The current rule per a 2003 agreement with the National Park Service is that if a structure is damaged by more than 50 percent, it must be torn down and all remnants removed at the owner’s expense. However, the damage assessment is not limited to the house itself, but to the entire structure, including the pylons that the house was built on. Thus, if the pylon structure makes up more than 50 percent of the total structure and it can still support a house, it is possible that a new house can be built. At the time of this writing (March 2021), no decision on the fate of the Leshaw House has been made.

Remains of the Leshaw House in Stiltsville, Biscayne National Park

Remains of the Leshaw House in Stiltsville, Biscayne National Park

It is illegal to set foot on any of the Stiltsville structures without a permit, so the tour boat circles each of the remaining six houses while the tour guide gives the history of Stiltsville. Even so, it’s a pretty cool tour if you like history. Of all the tours I took while at Biscayne National Park, this is the only one that was fully booked (20 participants). This could be due to the draw of seeing a unique destination like Stiltsville, or it could be just because the tour is not offered daily. Regardless, if you are interested, be sure to book your tour as far in advance as possible.

For more photos and information about the history of Stiltsville, see the Stiltsville web page here on National Park Planner.

Bay Chateau at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

Bay Chateau at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

A-Frame House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

A-Frame House at Stiltsville in Biscayne National Park

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How To Visit Biscayne National Park: The Best Tours and What To Know About Visiting

November 6, 2023.

Biscayne National Park is a Florida national park that is 95% water! The South Florida park protects 270 square miles around the northernmost group of living coral reefs in the United States. Biscayne was officially designated a national park in 1980, but the fight to protect this area began much earlier. Don't miss this park on a Florida National Park trip!

In the 1950’s, Americans were taking more vacations to Florida and the Keys. A vision to dredge a canal to the ocean for a new city and a major seaport was forming in the area that Biscayne occupies today.

Luckily, a small group that disagreed with this plan began to fight for public support to protect this area. Biscayne was declared a national monument by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968 and was designated a national park about a decade later.

Entry to Biscayne National Park is free but there is little to do without purchasing a guided tour. This post covers things to do in Biscayne National Park, when to visit and more things to know about visiting this underrated national park.

This blog is based on my experiences visiting the Everglades in March 2022, but has been updated for 2024.

Table of Contents

How to get to biscayne national park, when to visit biscayne national park, camping in biscayne national park, hotels in homestead, take a boat tour in biscayne, other tour companies that operate in biscayne, my experience on the snorkel and paddle eco adventure tour, dante fascell visitor center, nearby biscayne national park, final thoughts.

A large Biscayne National Park sign at the entrance of the park. The sign includes a scene of fish made of bricks

Biscayne National Park is located on the South Florida coast less than an hour’s drive from Miami. Many of the water activities and tours will begin at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center, located a 45 minute drive away from the Miami international airport.

You can also fly into the Fort Lauderdale Airport, which is a little over an hour from Biscayne National Park.

Lydia sitting on a paddle board floating through a mangrove tree tunnel

There is really no bad time to visit Biscayne National Park. If you’ll be swimming, the weather may be nicest to visit during the summer when the temperatures are warm. If you want to camp on one of the islands, you may want to avoid the heat of the summer. Also keep in mind that hurricanes are most likely to occur between August and September.

I visited in March and had very nice weather!

Where to Stay When Visiting Biscayne National Park

If you have a boat or arrange transportation by boat, there are two islands in Biscayne that allow camping. The more popular option in Boca Chita Key. This island has a lighthouse, picnic tables and grills. There are toilets but no drinking water or showers available.

The other island is Elliott Key, which is bigger. Elliott Key has some hiking trails along with cold water showers and drinking water.

If you would like to stay in a hotel, the closest area is Homestead. Homestead is 20 minutes from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center. This is also a great base for exploring Everglades National Park during your trip!

A couple of mid range options with good reviews in Homestead are the Uptown Suites Extended Stay , Hilton Garden Inn and the Hampton Inn & Suites .

The Best Things To Do in Biscayne National Park

In my opinion, a guided tour is definitely the best way to see Biscayne National Park!

There are a handful of tour operators authorized to give tours inside of the park, but Biscayne National Park Institute is the only non-profit. The institute offers a variety of tours, including a historic boat tour, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, sailing and scuba diving.

Tour Options with the Biscayne National Park Institute:

  • Heritage of Biscayne Cruise: Covers the history of the park and takes about 3.5 hours. A popular option if you don’t want to get wet.
  • Small Group Snorkel Experience: Includes two snorkel locations and takes about 3.5 hours.
  • Snorkel and Paddle Eco Adventure: Includes snorkeling, paddle boarding and a stop on Boca Chita and takes about 6 hours. This is the tour that I did.
  • Jones Lagoon Eco Adventure Paddle: Paddle boarding in the Jones Lagoon area for 3.5 hours.
  • Paddle the Mangroves and Seagrass Meadows: 1.5 hours of kayaking.
  • Scuba Eco Adventure: 6 hours of scuba diving.
  • Sail, Paddle, Snorkel and Island Visit: This tour includes a mix of snorkeling, paddling and a visit to Boca Chita on a sailboat. It takes 6 hours and the snorkeling will be in the calmer waters around mangrove trees.

In addition to Biscayne National Park Institute, there are a few other tour operators authorized inside of the park. Wind Addict Florida and South Florida Kiteboarding offer kiteboarding lessons and Explore Miami, Ocean Force Adventures and Miami Sailing Charters offer different options for sightseeing.

The Snorkel and Paddle Eco Adventure is a great option to spend the day seeing a variety of the park. This tour includes both paddling and snorkeling, so you’ll get to see different types of scenery and have a lot of adventure along the way.

An underwater photo of a mangrove root with coral and greenery growing on it

What To Expect:

  • This is a small group tour! The group for my tour was only 6 people.
  • At this writing, this tour costs $179 per person.
  • Snorkel and paddling gear is included but lunch is not.

What to Bring:

  • A packed lunch
  • Reef Friendly Sunscreen
  • Bathing suit

A view of the Boca Chita lighthouse from the water. The lighthouse is made of gray stone and there is a viewing balcony at the top. It is surrounded by palm trees and the ocean water in the foreground is aqua blue.

The tour began with a long boat ride out from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center to our snorkeling location. On the way, our guide told us about the history of the park and the surrounding area.

From the boat, you’ll be able to see the Turkey Point Nuclear Powerplant. One interesting thing about the powerplant is that the saltwater cooling ponds and adjacent freshwater ponds for the powerplant form an ideal environment for endangered crocodiles. The crocodiles are monitored here and this has been a crucial area for increasing the population of crocodiles in Florida.

There are far less crocodiles than alligators than Florida. Crocodiles are larger and have more of a V-shaped snout.

Unfortunately, it was too windy on the day of my tour to go to the Atlantic side and snorkel among the coral reefs. Typically on a nice weather day, you would visit the coral reefs. Instead, we snorkeled alongside mangrove trees at the keyhole of Sands Key. We saw schools of fish, plantlife on the mangrove roots and even some lobsters under a rock ledge.

After snorkeling, we headed to Boca Chita Island to eat our packed lunches. I was a bit surprised to see so many boats docked up on the island playing music, cooking and having a good time. (It honestly took away from the peacefulness of the national park). On the island, our guide unlocked the lighthouse for us and we climbed to the top for an amazing view of the island and the aqua-colored water.

A view of Boca Chita Island from the lighthouse. There is a narrow bit of land with palm trees and bright blue water on both sides.

The lighthouse on Boca Chita, along with the other structures on the island, were built by Mark Honeywell in the 1930’s. It was built as their holiday resort and was meant to be used for parties. The lighthouse actually faces inland instead of at the sea, because it was built to impress guests instead of providing navigation.

In addition to the lighthouse, the island had restrooms, a chapel and picnic tables. We didn’t have much time to explore any other part of the island. Today, all of the buildings on Boca Chita are leftover from the 1930’s, except for the restroom facility.

The best part of Boca Chita was seeing some dolphins swimming around the bay. There were two that were jumping out of the water and swimming around almost the entire time we were there.

The front of a paddle board in the center looking out at the water with mangrove trees on either side

The third part of the tour was paddle boarding in the peaceful waters of Jones Lagoon. On the way, we passed by Adams Key, another island in the park that visitors can explore for day use. There are picnic tables and a short trail on the island.

When we reached Jones Lagoon, we were surrounded by beautiful mangrove trees. Each guest had the option of SUP paddles or kayaking paddles as we made our way through mangrove tunnels. While paddling, we saw nurse sharks, jellyfish and stingrays. It was a beautiful area to paddle and explore.

A nurse shark in the shallow water of Jones Lagoon

Overall, I had an amazing day trip with the Biscayne National Park Institute and learned a lot about the history and geology from my guide. I highly recommend an experience like this for your day trip to Biscayne National Park.

Be sure to explore the Dante Fascell Visitor Center before or after your tour. There is a museum area upstairs where you can learn about the wildlife and ecosystems in the park. There are also some educational films and a touch area where you can feel things like sea sponges and corals.

Portions of Everglades National Park are located less than an hour from Biscayne. On your way to the Everglades, be sure to stop at the Robert is Here Fruit Stand for exotic fruit or a milkshake! For more information on visiting the Everglades, read my Everglades itinerary .

Biscayne is also very close to the start of the Florida Overseas Highway, which leads to Key West. If you are planning a Florida Keys road trip , I have a 5 day itinerary that includes both the Upper Keys and Key West.

I hope this guide helps you plan a perfect trip to Biscayne National Park! This South Florida national park makes for a fantastic day trip from Miami or a great addition to a Florida National Park trip. I hope you can get out on the water and experience the beauty of the park!

For More Florida Travel Guides, check out these guides:

  • The Perfect Everglades National Park Itinerary
  • 5 Things To Do in Titusville, FL
  • An Epic Florida Keys Road Trip
  • Things To Do in Crystal River, FL
  • The Best Things To Do in Orlando Besides Disney

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Biscayne National Park is an underrated Florida National Park full of adventure. This guide shares all of the best things to do in Biscayne National Park.

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biscayne national park snorkel tour

Exiting nps.gov

Alerts in effect, a watery wonderland.

Within sight of Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Evidence of 10,000 years of human history is here too; from prehistoric tribes to shipwrecks, and pineapple farmers to presidents. For many, the park is a boating, fishing, and diving destination, while others enjoy a warm breeze and peaceful scenery.

In a park that's 95% water, boating is the perfect way to explore.

Canoeing and kayaking are great ways to experience the mangrove-fringed shorelines and shallow bay waters.

Learn about our most unique and diverse ecosystem in the park. What makes the coral reef special, and what challenges it faces.

See 3D images of some of the park's shipwrecks and learn their stories through this interactive story map.

Guided eco-adventures depart from the Dante Fascell Visitor Center.

Biscayne National Park protects coral reefs, mangrove forests, Biscayne Bay, Florida Keys and 10,000 years of human history.

Mooring buoys help prevent damage to the fragile coral reef.

By understanding and following applicable fishing regulations, you can be an important steward of the resource.

Last updated: December 18, 2023

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Contact info, mailing address:.

9700 SW 328th Street Sir Lancelot Jones Way Homestead, FL 33033

305 230-1144

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biscayne national park snorkel tour

15 Exciting National Park Adventures to Add to Your Bucket List

T here seems to be a never ending list of family friendly activities in our nation’s national parks. Many parks offer incredible opportunities for family adventure, from hiking and kayaking, to rock climbing and caving. With so many national park adventures, how does one choose where to begin?

Here are 15 national park adventures you can add to your bucket list. This list celebrates the diversity of national parks and is sure to get you excited about getting outside.

Bucket List National Park Adventures 

1. take a boat tour of everglades national park.

There is no way to better experience the alligator-filled river of grass than from the water while at Everglades National Park . The National Park Service offers narrated boat tours of the famed 10,000 Islands area. Explore a wilderness teeming with birds and reptiles while enjoying a tranquil ride across these endangered wetlands.

Prefer to stick to land? Try biking Shark Valley. The Shark Valley Trail is a 14.5-mile paved loop which is a popular spot for spotting gators right next to (and sometimes on) the trail! You can rent bikes at the visitor center or bring your own. 

2. Snorkel in the Warm Waters of Biscayne National Park

Whether your family is discovering a mangrove ecosystem or admiring the fish on a tropical reef, everyone is certain to have a great time in the water at Biscayne National Park .

Downtown Miami may be within sight but Biscayne may as well be a world away. The  Biscayne National Park Institute  can help you enjoy national park adventures like snorkeling at a shipwreck on the Maritime Heritage Trail, taking a boat cruise out to Boca Chita Key and lighthouse, and sailing the water of Biscayne Bay.

While you are there, check out the top 10 things to do with kids in Miami.

3. Canoe Down River at Congaree National Park

Take the family on a guided canoe trip down Congaree National Park’s Cedar Creek. The free, ranger-guided canoe trips are offered to families with children over the age of 5 through the nation’s largest remaining old-growth floodplain forest.

Imagine peacefully paddling through the some of the tallest trees in the Eastern US with nothing but the sounds of birds chirping and leaves rustling accompanying you as your canoe glides silently across the water. White-tailed deer, otter, and raccoon sightings are possible.

Spring and fall are the ideal times of year for this adventure becauser the weather is milder, the wildlife is active, and the crowds are smaller.

Explore the Top 10 Things to do with Kids in South Carolina .

4. Bike Down a Volcano at Haleakala National Park

The sunrises at Haleakala National Park are well-known for being epic. As a matter of fact, they are so well known that the park requires sunrise reservations which can be made up to 60 days in advance.

After watching the sun rise, your family can then bike down the volcano at Haleakala National Park. My absolute favorite memory of my trip to Maui was getting up in the middle of the night, taking a van to the top of Haleakala, watching the sunrise, then hopping on a rented bike and coasting down the volcano. 

We followed the twisting road as we dropped several thousand feet in elevation until we were back at sea level. The views of the island and the Pacific were amazing and the bike ride was a piece of cake since it was all downhill!

Technically, the bike ride begins at 6,500 feet, just below the national park boundary but the experience does involve time in the park for the sunrise. Some tours include a stop for breakfast at the upcountry town of Makawao.

Here is our guide to things to do in Maui with kids and the best Maui resorts for families .

5. Ride a Mule or White Water Raft in Grand Canyon National Park

Riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a classic National Park experience. The mule tour operators have a near perfect 100 year safety record so anyone at least 4’7″ and under 200lbs should definitely add this adventure to their bucket list.

For those looking for an adventure that involves plenty of water and adrenaline,  rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon should be at the top of your family vacation list.

Trips vary from 1 to 25 days and many involve either a hike up or a hike down the canyon. Some do involve a helicopter ride down to the canyon the avoid the strenuous hike. There is a huge range in the intensity level of these rafting tours as well. Both the mule ride and rafting trips need to be booked well in advance due to their popularity.

Read our complete guide to visitin the Grand Canyon South Rim . Heading to the other side? We have a guide to the Grand Canyon North Rim as well.

6. Climb the Granite Walls of Yosemite National Park

What better place to have your kids learn the finer points of rock climbing than in Yosemite National Park? The Yosemite Mountaineering School has been helping families scale their first slabs of granite for over 40 years. Is there really a better place for family bonding than 60 feet above the ground?

They offer classes for newbies as well as those with experience who want to hone their skills or learn something new like crack climbing.

If rock climbing isn’t you thing you can also sign up for backpacking excursions and guided hikes. We also have a full guide on things to do in Yosemite with kids .

7. Ride Horseback to an Old West Cookout in Yellowstone National Park

Although there are many dining options inside Yellowstone National Park, nothing sounds like more fun than taking a horseback ride out to an Old West Cookout . One or two-hour horseback rides through sagebrush, meadows, and woods take you to the spot where the cookout is held. Steak is served along with all-you-can-eat chuckwagon fare.

If your children are too young to ride (8 is the minimum age) or you have people in your group who aren’t up for horseback ride to the cookout, a stagecoach ride across the sagebrush to the cookout will certainly get everyone in the Old West spirit. Both are offered out of the Roosevelt Horse Corral .

Don’t head to Yellowstone without first reading our full guide to visiting Yellowstone with kids .

8. Enjoy a Carriage Tour of Acadia National Park

Experience the famous roads of Acadia National Park just as John D. Rockefeller Jr. intended, in a carriage. Cross cobblestone bridges, weave in and out of the woods, and enjoy incredible views from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage. Can’t you just hear the clip clop of the horses’ hooves just thinking about it?

There are one- and two-hour tours available which circle day mountain and visit some of Mr. Rockefellar’s famed bridges. The season runs from May 27th through October 13th.

Here is our full guide to all the fun things to do in Acadia National Park with kids .

9. View Cuyahoga Valley National Park from a Vintage Train

From the comfort of a vintage train car, experience the stunning natural beauty of  Cuyahoga Valley National Park . If you are lucky you might spot white tailed deer grazing or one of 200 bird species that call the park home throughout the year.

Be sure to pick up headphones for the audio tour so you can learn the history of this amazing park as it passes by your window.

10. Watch Glaciers Calve at Glacier Bay National Park from Your Cruise Ship

The best way for families to see the glaciers that are Glacier Bay National Park’s namesake, is from the water. Vessels will take passengers through iceberg filled water so they can get up close to those massive rivers of ice. The entire Alaska region is teeming with wildlife including bears, moose, sea lions, orcas, mountain goats, puffins, and wolves so don’t forget your camera!

I have had the pleasure of experiencing Glacier Bay from both a large cruise ship and a smaller cruise ship. The Uncruise Glacier Bay experience was significantly better because we could get closer to the glaciers, and take our time when someone spotted wildlife. We were able to watch bears fish on the shore and orcas racce past us. You can read about our full Uncruise Alaska experience.

11. Go Dog Sledding in Denali National Park

Learn how to mush with North America’s tallest peak as your backdrop. Family trips into Denali National Park  on dogsled will create the ultimate winter memories. Dog sledding tours are available from several outfitters within or near the park, with options ranging from short rides to multi-day expeditions. Most tours take place from December to April, when the snow is deep and the temperatures are cold enough for safe dog sledding.

Wildlife encounters are very likely and some of the animals you might see include moose, caribou, lynx, dall sheep, and wolves. Children as young 12 can learn to drive their very own team.

If you visit during the summer, you can still have a sled dog experience and visit the park’s kennels. Sled dogs pull carts in the summer and meeting these energetic and ntense animals is a joy.

12. Learn the Basics of Caving Inside Mammoth Cave National Park

Sure, you can take a regular guided tour of Mammoth Cave National Park but some of us love to be “extra” and do things a little differently.

Learn how to descend down cave walls, climb on your hands and knees under low clearance areas, and squeeze through tight passage ways to view parts of Mammoth Cave National Park  that most visitors never see. Wild Cave Tours are offered where visitors navigate through narrow passageways, climb over boulders, and crawl through tight spaces.

Discovery Tours are a unique caving experience that combines education, science, and adventure. Participants work alongside park scientists and researchers to explore remote areas of the cave system and collect data on the park’s ecosystem

For visitors looking for a more immersive and adventurous experience, Lantern Tours are offered where visitors explore the cave with only the light of a kerosene lantern to guide them. These tours offer a unique and intimate experience, allowing visitors to experience the cave as early explorers did.

13. Kayak into Sea Caves at Channel Islands National Park

Enjoy the rugged beauty of Channel Islands National Park  from a sea kayak. Spend time as a family paddling through the pristine marine environment surrounding the islands. Beautiful beaches and incredible sea caves are just waiting to be explored. Children as young as five can ride tandem in the kayak with their parents on tours with Channel Islands Adventure Company .

Santa Cruz Island is the largest of the Channel Islands and offers some of the best sea kayaking opportunities in the park. Visitors can explore sea caves, kelp forests, and secluded beaches along the island’s rugged coastline. Scorpion Anchorage and Prisoners Harbor are popular launch points for sea kayakers.

Anacapa Island is the smallest of the Channel Islands, but offers some of the most dramatic sea kayaking experiences in the park. Visitors can paddle through the famous Arch Rock, explore the island’s sea caves, and observe abundant marine wildlife including sea lions and seabirds.

14. See the Park on Horseback Like the President Did at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

There are plenty of National Parks that offer horseback riding, but seeing badlands of North Dakota the way Theodore Roosevelt did is an experience unto itself.

Ride the trails and explore the prairies at Theodore Roosevelt National Park that inspired our former president to become one of word’s leading conservationists. Wild horse, bison, deer, elk, coyote, eagle, and prairie dog sightings are possible.

One- and two-hour rides are offered by Medora Stables late May through early October. Riders must be at least seven years old.

15. Float Down the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park

Explore one of the last remaining wild corners of the Continental US as you raft or canoe down the Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park. Enjoy towering canyon walls and riparian desert flora and fauna as you drift along the US/Mexican border.

Trips vary in length from half day jaunts to nearly week-long adventures. Colorado Canyon and Santa Elena Canyon are the most popular destinations. Big Bend River Tours offers several different itinerary options.

Colorado Canyon is the only volcanically formed canyon on the river and the day trip on the river is a great option for families. Rapids are splashy but not dangerous. Children as young as four can take this trip.

The dramatic Santa Elena Canyon is a narrow gorge with sheer cliff walls that tower above the river on both sides. Families with children as young as eight are welcome on these trips.

Excited to visit national parks with your kids? We are too! Visit our National Parks with Kids  page for extensive coverage, tips & tricks for all our nation’s National Parks.

From rafting to climbing to snorkeling and horseback riding, these family-friendly national park adventures are sure to create memories that last a lifetime.

COMMENTS

  1. Guided Tours

    Find out how to book snorkeling, diving, sailing, and other eco-adventures in Biscayne National Park. Learn about the park's shipwrecks, coral reefs, lighthouse, and more.

  2. Biscayne Bay Snorkeling Tours

    Experience the clear waters and diverse habitats of Biscayne National Park with scuba or snorkeling tours on powerboats or sailboats. Learn about the park's marine life, history and conservation from knowledgeable guides and enjoy bird watching, dolphin spotting and more.

  3. Our Biscayne National Park Snorkeling Guide

    Learn how to join a boat tour and explore coral reefs, a shallow shipwreck and mangroves in Biscayne National Park. Find out how to get there, what to bring, what to expect and more tips for snorkeling in this underwater world.

  4. Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park: A World Underwater

    Learn about the coral reefs, shipwrecks, and marine life you can see when snorkeling in Biscayne National Park, one of the best destinations in the country. Find out how to book a snorkeling tour, what to expect, and tips for first-time snorkelers.

  5. Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park

    Learn how to plan your snorkeling trip to Biscayne, the only coral reef system in the continental US. Explore the best places to snorkel, the types of tours offered, and what to expect from the park's wildlife and history.

  6. 2 Awe-Inspiring Biscayne National Park Tours

    Experience the underwater world of Biscayne National Park with a 6-hour tour that combines paddleboarding and snorkeling. Learn about the ecosystem, see unique sea creatures and enjoy a picnic lunch on the bay side of one of the keys.

  7. Biscayne National Park Snorkeling Tour and Tips • Nomad by Trade

    Join a snorkeling tour to explore the coral reefs and marine life of Biscayne National Park in Florida. Learn about the park's history, wildlife, and conservation efforts, and get tips on how to snorkel and what to expect.

  8. Guide To Snorkeling In Biscayne National Park Miami Florida

    Snorkeling in Biscayne National Park is a not-to-miss-out activity if you are in Miami. The park, which is situated a little south of Miami and north of Key Largo, was set up with the purpose of preserving the region's natural wonders and covers more than 170.000 acres of mangrove forests, sand barrier islands, coral keys within the northernmost portion of Florida's barrier reef.

  9. Biscayne National Park Snorkeling

    Yes, Biscayne National Park is widely recognized as an excellent destination for snorkeling. The park boasts clear, turquoise waters and a diverse marine ecosystem, making it a haven for snorkelers of all skill levels. Its shallow reefs, seagrass beds, and artificial wrecks create a vibrant underwater landscape home to various colorful fish ...

  10. The Complete Guide to Biscayne National Park in Florida

    Biscayne National Park. Address. Florida, USA. Phone +1 305-230-1144. Web Visit website. Established in 1980 to protect Florida's northernmost keys and the sparkling seas that surround them, Biscayne National Park is something of an anomaly in the U.S. National Park System as it is made of 95 percent water. This distinguishing detail makes ...

  11. Biscayne National Park

    The 6-hour Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure is for those 12 and older. It departs once a day year-round, typically around 10 AM. The boat is small and space is limited to only six people, so it is best to make a reservation in advance on the Biscayne National Park Institute's Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure web page (the current schedule and fee is given on this page as well).

  12. Snorkeling at Biscayne National Park

    Pennekamp snorkel tours for adults cost $29.95 vs $59 - $64+ at Biscayne. Please note that the Concessioner that provides the snorkel trips is separate from the National Park. There have been many different outfits filling the position over the years, at the moment the current concessioner is the Biscayne National Park Institute.

  13. Snorkel Biscayne National Park and explore a shipwreck

    Biscayne National Park is home to a variety of tours in and on the water, from trips to islands to stand-up-paddleboard outings to snorkeling within the park. This twice-a-day snorkeling trip is 3.5 hours long and costs $109. (Renting snorkeling gear is $10 extra.) These are small group trips with no more than 12 participants.

  14. Biscayne National Park Institute

    Biscayne National Park Institute is a non-profit where your purchase helps directly benefit Biscayne National Park. Located just 20 miles south of Miami, Biscayne National Park protects the northernmost group of living coral reefs in the United States and its ecosystem. Over 95% of the park is "underwater" and is accessible only by boat.

  15. Maritime Heritage Trail Snorkel Adventure

    The 3-hour tour is scheduled for every Saturday with 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. departures. The $45 per person fee includes the boat ride with a ranger as well as all necessary equipment (mask, fins, snorkel, and snorkel vest) and instruction. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call the park's concessioner at 305-230-1100, or visit ...

  16. Biscayne National Park

    Snorkel and Paddle Eco-Adventure. Snorkel shipwrecks and coral reefs and paddle on Jones Lagoon. Kayak the Mangroves. Paddle the bay near the Dante Facscell Visitor Center on Convoy Point. Stiltsville Guided Historic Tour. Sightseeing tour to Stiltsville, a collection of houses built on stilts in Biscayne Bay near Key Biscayne. See the Biscayne ...

  17. Snorkeling and Paddling in Biscayne National Park

    Snorkeling and Paddling in Biscayne National Park. For the final chapter of my big Florida adventure, I didn't have any idea what to expect. Truth be told, I threw myself into researching Everglades and Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Park was heavily pushed to the side. I was intimidated by the fact that the park is mostly water (only 5% ...

  18. Biscayne National Park

    The tour is held on Thursdays through Sundays throughout the year. You can get the current tour fee and make a reservation on Biscayne National Park Institute's Stiltsville Guided Tour web page. Stiltsville is located in the northernmost section of Biscayne National Park, much closer to Miami than to the Dante Fascell Visitor Center in Homestead.

  19. How To Visit Biscayne National Park: The Best Tours and What To Know

    Tour Options with the Biscayne National Park Institute: Heritage of Biscayne Cruise: Covers the history of the park and takes about 3.5 hours. A popular option if you don't want to get wet. ... Sail, Paddle, Snorkel and Island Visit: This tour includes a mix of snorkeling, paddling and a visit to Boca Chita on a sailboat. It takes 6 hours and ...

  20. Biscayne National Park (U.S. National Park Service)

    Within sight of Miami, yet worlds away, Biscayne protects a rare combination of aquamarine waters, emerald islands, and fish-bejeweled coral reefs. Evidence of 10,000 years of human history is here too; from prehistoric tribes to shipwrecks, and pineapple farmers to presidents. For many, the park is a boating, fishing, and diving destination, while others enjoy a warm breeze and peaceful scenery.

  21. 15 Exciting National Park Adventures to Add to Your Bucket List

    5. Ride a Mule or White Water Raft in Grand Canyon National Park. Riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon is a classic National Park experience. The mule tour operators have a near perfect ...