Diving Key Largo

Home  |  Locations  |  North America  |  USA  |  Key Largo

Key Largo, USA

Bluestriped-Grunts.jpg
Key Largo554697960478681b7f10b554635424900363aab95b55463280874934d0e8dab

Beginner Intermediate Expert

Shore Day Trip Live Aboard

Family Friendly

Country: USA  Area: Florida

Water Temp: 21 - 30°C (70 - 86°F)

Visibility: 8 - 30m (26 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 5 - 41m (16 - 135 ft)

Book A Diving Trip Online
 

An hour drive from Miami, Key Largo is the first island in the chain that makes up the Florida Keys, stretching from the southern tip of the state westward into the Gulf of Mexico.  At 53km (33 miles), it is the longest island in the chain.

Book A Dive Center Online

When you leave the tip of the Florida mainland, the fast paced urban life disappears and a laid-back island frame of mind welcomes you to unwind. Touted as the diving capital of the world, Key Largo is a nature lover’s paradise offering eco-tours, nature trails, botanical gardens, a wild bird sanctuary, and, of course, some of the best diving in the world.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall put Key Largo on the map with the classic movie of the same name.  To celebrate this history, every May, Key Largo holds the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival.

Spotted Moray Eel, Credit

Marine Conservation

For more than 100 years, the Florida Keys have held to a commitment of responsible stewardship of the natural environment.  The John Pennekamp Coral Reef Underwater State Park, founded in 1960 was the nation’s very first marine preserve.

Volunteer opportunities for environmental conservation are available through several non-profit organizations.  Dive and work with coral restoration experts through the Coral Restoration Foundation or conduct fish surveys for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF).  If you visit in April or September, join in the ‘Adopt-A-Reef Clean Up’ campaign.  Volunteer divers join together to remove monofilament fishing line and tackle from the reef.

Queen Angelfish, Credit

Island Dolphin Care is a non-profit organization that offers educational programs and dolphin-assisted therapy for kids with emotional and physical challenges.

Area businesses have joined conservation efforts by participating in the ‘Florida Green Lodging Program’.  These facilities follow a set of environmental guidelines that address a variety of issues, for example: water-saving measures, energy efficient light bulbs, soap dispensers, and food waste reduction.  Several area marinas have implemented similar guidelines and earned the title ‘Designated Clean Marina’.

Nurse shark, Credit

Climate

Key Largo has a subtropical climate with ocean breezes that moderate the heat and humidity.  Daytime temperatures range from an average of 24°C (75°F) in January to 32°C (89°F) in July and August.  The wettest months are June, August and September.  The waters are warm and generally calm throughout the year.  The dive season is year round.

Hurricane season is from June through November, although the likelihood of a storm is greatest from August 15 through October 15.

 
Read more…
Hide content

Didn't find the information
you we're looking for?

Ask a question

Most questions are answered by our
diving community within 24 hours

See Dive Centers

The Diving

Key Largo is one of the first areas in the world to take an active role in marine conservation.  In 1960, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef Underwater State Park was created and in 1975, the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary came into being.  The John Pennekamp Coral Reef Underwater State Park covers 330 sq. km (178 nautical sq. miles) extending 4.8km (3 miles) into the Atlantic.  Within this park is a 40km (25 mile) long portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.  Five decades of protection have allowed the coral reef and fish populations to flourish.

Filefish, Key Largo,Credit

With depths of 5m – 9m (15ft. – 30ft.), shallow reef dives are plentiful.  Mooring buoys mark popular dive sites, making it an easy area to explore on your own.  The reefs are home to over 80 species of coral, including brain, elkhorn, star coral, and sea fans.  Anemones, sea urchins, and ‘glow-in-the-dark’ brittle stars cover the reef.  Divers are likely to see angelfish, nurse sharks, groupers, moray eels, lobsters, barracudas, and a rainbow of colourful reef fish.  Known for large populations of green moray eels, Davis Reef is a great spot for night dives.  Davey Crocker is perfect for the underwater photographer with its patch reefs along a sandy bottom.  At Pickles Reef, you can still see remnants of a civil war wreck.  With an abundance of tiny marine life, this site is a macro photographers dream.  Molasses Reef  (so named because of a shipwreck that spilled its cargo of molasses in the sea) is one of the most popular sites in John Pennekamp Coral Reef Underwater State Park.  The spur and grove reef formations and calm waters to the interior are perfect for all levels of diver.  The outside edge of the reef is perfect for drift diving.  The anchor from a Spanish galleon can still be seen among the stands of Elkhorn coral.  The ‘Christ of the Abyss’, a 1,492kg (4,000 lb.) bronze statue of Christ, sculpted by Guido Galetti can be viewed at the Key Largo Dry Rock Reef.

Sea sponges and corals, Credit

Conch Wall begins at 15m (50ft.) and ends at 33.5m (110ft.) on a sand bottom.  Strong currents necessitate a drift dive at this site.  It is recognized for the massive barrel sponges and large marine life.  Endangered black coral grows at 26m (85ft.).  Eagle rays are often seen schooling toward the bottom.

The USS Spiegal Grove, a 170m (510ft.) retired Navy transport ship, is the second largest artificial reef in the world.  The ship is so large that it takes at least two dives to see her.  When she was sunk in 2002, human error caused the ship to rest on her starboard side.  Mother nature lent a hand in 2005, when Hurricane Dennis pushed the ship upright.  The USS Spiegal Grove has attracted large resident barracudas and goliath grouper.  The wreck lies in 41m (135ft.) of water and diving requirements include nitrox certification.

Mahogany Snapper and a French Grunt near Brain Coral, Credit

The ‘USCG Duane’ and the ‘USCG Bibb’ are 100m (327ft.) Coast Guard cutters donated for artificial reef in 1987.  The ‘USCG Duane’ sits upright with her crows’ nest at 18m (60ft.).  The ‘USCG Bibb’ lies on her starboard side.  This dive site has strong currents and a maximum depth of 130’, best reserved for advanced divers.

Resting on her starboard side, ‘The Eagle’ is an 87m (287ft.) freighter sunk as artificial reef in 1985.  The ship is encrusted with corals, sponges, and invertebrates, and lies in 23m – 34m (76ft. – 112ft.) of water.  There are several areas of the ship where divers can penetrate the interior.

Didn't find the information
you we're looking for?

Ask a question

Most questions are answered by our
diving community within 24 hours

See Dive Centers

How to Get there

Miami International Airport is 70.8km (44 miles) from Key Largo.  Hollywood International Airport in Ft. Lauderdale is 148km (92 miles). 

All major car rental agencies are represented at both airports.  From Miami, take the turnpike to US 1 south.  From Ft. Lauderdale, take 595 west to the turnpike and follow the signs.  Greyhound Bus lines follows a regular schedule between Miami International Airport and the Keys.  Keys Shuttle provides service between the Keys and both airports.

Diver, Bonaire, Credit

For experienced boaters, traveling by sea is the only way to go.  Make reservations at a marina well ahead of time.

Once on the island, the easiest way to get around is to use the regular island shuttles or bicycles.

Didn't find the information
you we're looking for?

Ask a question

Most questions are answered by our
diving community within 24 hours

See Dive Centers

Where to Eat & Drink

Key Largo has over 40 restaurants serving Caribbean, Mexican, Asian, Italian, and American cuisine.  You will find casual alfresco dining (often waterfront), family style dining, and take-out.

Nothing says ‘islands’ more than Key Lime pie, so it’s not surprising that Key Largo’s number one rated restaurant is not a restaurant at all but a bakery.  The Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory serves the classic key lime pie, key lime cookies, and chocolate dipped frozen key lime pie on a stick.

For burgers and cold beer, the Category Three Bar & Grill is the place to be.  They are famous for their Black Angus burgers, but don’t miss their daily specials.  Thursday night is steak night and Saturday night’s special is smoked BBQ baby back ribs.

Blue Parrotfish, Credit

Enjoy a cup of Keyribbean Konk Chowder as you watch the sunset at the Bayside Grille & Sunset Bar.  They serve a wide selection of fresh local seafood with a Caribbean influence.  After dinner, take a walk on the dock.  It is lit with underwater LED lights, so there’s a good chance of seeing fish swimming around the pilings.  Then join the party at the bar.  Local musicians and bands play on most nights.

The nightlife in Key Largo is as laid-back as everything else on the island.  At Sharky’s Pub & Gallery Restaurant, you can listen to live music, play a game of pool, grab a bite to eat, have a drink or two, and swap dive stories.

Opened in 1963, the Caribbean Club is an example of Old Key Largo.  It was one of the filming sites for the movie ‘Key Largo’ which stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  Memorabilia from the movie fills the walls of this local watering hole.

Didn't find the information
you we're looking for?

Ask a question

Most questions are answered by our
diving community within 24 hours

See Dive Centers

Other Activities

Sport fishing is as popular as scuba diving.  Around the Keys, there are three ways to fish.  Try a deep-sea charter in the Atlantic and chase after marlin, sailfish, and mahi-mahi.  Bottom fish for grouper and snapper and bring dinner back.  And experience the fight of your life with a 68kg (150lb.) tarpon on the flats in the Florida Bay.

Canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards are a great way to explore the many secluded coves and mangrove forests on the Florida Bay side of the island as well as across the bay in the Everglades National Park.  A World Heritage Site, the Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country.  This biosphere reserve is also a critical habitat for rare endangered species like the manatee and the Florida panther, and a nursery for many fisheries.

Divers on the USCGC Duane, Key Largo, Credit

The Everglades Alligator Farm has hourly wildlife shows that feature the American alligator and a variety of snakes.  Take a thrilling ride through the everglades on one of their airboat tours.

Boat, jet ski, and bicycle rentals are also available on the island.  For an unparalleled bird’s eye view, try a parasailing excursion.  And at Dolphins Plus, you can swim and interact with dolphins and sea lions.

At the Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary, you can learn about the birds and habitats of the Florida Keys.  The sanctuary is home to many residents who can no longer survive in the wild.  Permanent residents include the rosette spoonbill, herons, hawks, owls, brown pelicans, and many more.

The Beach, Credit

Family Friendly

Dolphins Plus has a number of educational and interactive programs for children.  Those seven and older can swim with the dolphins, become a marine biologist for the day, or paint a picture with the assistance of a dolphin.

The people of Key Largo understand the importance of teaching future generations about the natural environment and how to be responsible stewards of these precious resources.  Many tour operators and charter captains have programs tailored to children for this very reason.

Jacob’s Aquatic’s Center has a water park where kids of all ages can spend the day splashing around.

Didn't find the information
you we're looking for?

Ask a question

Most questions are answered by our
diving community within 24 hours

See Dive Centers

Tips

• Pack sunscreen at any time of year and bug spray (with DEET) during the summer and early fall.  Dengue virus is a mosquito-borne illness that has become more prevalent in the Caribbean over the last few years.  Symptoms of the virus include fever, headache, rash, joint aches, and muscle and bone soreness.

John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, Credit

• Pack handheld VHF and GPS if you will be exploring on your own.  

• Electrical outlets are 120volt.  A 220volt converter and flat two-pin adapter are necessary for British and European appliances.

• Allow 12 – 18 hours between flying and diving to avoid decompression sickness.

Dive Reports

X

Write a Dive Report for Key Largo

Attached files
No files attached
X

Share a tip about diving in Key Largo

X

Ask the dive community a Question

Rating 9/10

Molasses Reef

Key Largo3 Jan 2017 - 3 Jan 2017 with Rainbow Reef Dive Center

I dove here were Rainbow Reef in 6 foot waves with heavy currents so wildlife was not the best but still present and amazing. With 2 dives we saw, Barracudas, Sting rays, Parrot fish, angel fish, Lobsters, Groupers, and Turtles. I can not wait to dive here again when seas are a bit calmer. We chose Eagle Ray Alley and Wellwood. There is a reason this is one of the best dives in north America.

Delete comment?

This will permanently delete the comment. Are you sure?

Your Dive Report has been published.

Would you like to share it on Facebook or Twitter?

Share it on Twitter Share on Twitter

Share it on Facebook Share on Facebook

No thanks - just show me the report

Sign up now and join in!
Sign up now and join in!
Sign up now and join in!