Beginner’s guide to Looe Key snorkeling

Despite what the recent trends of this blog may suggest, I do actually venture outside of the state of Colorado. I used to spend my winters working in Florida (less glamorous than it sounds, believe me) and I’m willing to try almost anything once (unless it involves jumping out of anything or close encounters with carnivorous animals). My boyfriend and I headed down to Key West for a weekend getaway and had an absolute blast snorkeling in Looe Key.

The Looe Key Reef Resort and Dive Center is reasonably priced and highly recommended by yours truly (and our resident Key West expert/friend who lives in the Keys). For $39 per person, you get a half day of snorkeling plus all the equipment that comes with. If you’re stupid and forget sunscreen (totally NOT me and Billy), they also sell biodegradable, reef-friendly sunscreen for only a few bucks (I was 100% convinced I would shell out $20 for an 8-ounce container. Not so!).

The dive center is actually located on Ramrod Key, about a 35-minute drive from Key West proper. We were staying on Summerland Key, so it was a bit shorter from there. It’s super easy to find and is literally right off the highway, so you can’t miss it.

Previously mentioned friend/Key West expert recommended Looe Key, which in retrospect should have been an indicator that this was a bit more adventurous than what I originally envisioned (snorking around right by the shore). Considering the person who told us to go to Looe Key goes spearfishing on a regular basis, I should have known better.

I didn’t realize we were legitimately going out into the ocean. Quickly, the shoreline shrank and disappeared as we motored into open water. Couple with the fact that our boat captain told us we would see “anything and everything” (read: sharks), by the time we stopped at our first dive site I was starting to worry I was getting in over my head.

I reminded myself that thousands of idiots go snorkeling every year, and silenced the anxiety devil on my shoulder. I hopped in the water with only a sliiiight death grip on Billy’s hand. As soon as I looked underwater (again, no experience necessary – put on the mask, the fins, keep the tube above water, and breathe) I knew this adventure was going to be worth it.

Goodbye, comfort zone…

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the thousands of beautiful tropical fish we saw amongst the coral reef, so you’ll have to take my word for it that they were there. They have a professional photographer that follows you around, but I quickly discovered I looked much less graceful underwater than I had previously imagined. We didn’t get any photos. We saw a ton of different species, including a goliath grouper that scared the pants off of me. They weigh about 200 pounds, and this one was particularly friendly and kept trying to swim at my face.

And yes, we saw a shark. A small-ish blacktip shark that was very far away and not swimming at me. Thanks to the herd mentality, I remained calm and could actually enjoy the fact that I was seeing this incredibly cool creature. It’s amazing what happens when you’re in a group of 19 other people that are dying to see a shark.

The staff at Looe Key is awesome and have the sense of humor that comes with running a touristy business. We had everyone from experienced scuba divers to extremely stupid spring breakers on our boat, and we all had a blast. Except for the one spring breaker who got horrifically seasick, which was actually awesome because he wasn’t barfing, just sick enough that he stopped talking, which is what everyone really wanted.

For the forever hungry, like myself, there were snacks on the boat and our captain even grilled up some hot dogs. You have to pay for lunch, but the captain just keeps a tab and charges your card when you get back, which is super convenient. After lunch, we motored around to another destination for more diving, before circling around a shallower area to look for sea turtles.<

For completing your dive, you also get a drink ticket to the oh-so-Floridian tiki bar back on dry land. Delicious tropical drinks, excellent adventuring, and plenty of sunshine – what more could you ask for?

Answer: this hat.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. whitswilderness says:

    I’m interested in this reef friendly sunscreen! What’s it called?


    1. Laura Cardon says:

      I wish I could remember! They just sold it at the dive shop and I’ve yet to see it anywhere else, but I have seen other reef-friendly brands after googling for a separate trip. Wish I could be more helpful!


  2. Liz says:

    This post is great! I’ve gone snorkeling and I’ve gone swimming with sharks (both intentionally and not-so-intentionally) and the experiences were amazing! I was thinking a trip to the Keys would be fun, especially for snorkeling (and now maybe to do some volunteering too), and it sounds like this was a great place for that 🙂 Way to go out of your comfort zone in the open water and it sounds like it was a fantastic experience! Haha I laughed out loud at the grouper being particularly friendly and the spring breaker making everyone happy by being just sick enough not to talk much 😂 And I hope you bought that hat!!


    1. Laura Cardon says:

      I didn’t, and it’s probably one of my biggest regrets in life. Glad you liked the post!!


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