Naples has always been recognized for its agriculture and real estate development, and the number of tourists choosing to visit there every year is always rising. Naples is situated in the southwest of Florida, and guests are welcomed to explore the magnificent nature and attractions, both on land and out at sea.
If you’ve seen the Everglades National Park one too many times, or don’t fancy exploring the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge one day, might we suggest touring the snorkeling destinations around the area?
Naples features a coast that faces onto the Gulf of Mexico, which is littered with amazing snorkeling areas. Some are even close to other attractions such as The Florida Keys, so you can tick two activities off the bucket list in one day.
The spectacular place of Naples is on the west coast of the peninsula south. It is 130 miles from Miami and 160 miles from Tampa Bay, so it’ll take you about 2 and a half hours to drive from either city. Not only will you get an amazing road trip out of this adventure, but you’ll also be rewarded with seven miles of pure beach to snorkel down.
Below we’ll be exploring the best sites to snorkel in around Naples, as well as going over the kind of conditions that you can expect for your adventure from past experience and well-known trends that the city has seen over the years.
Snorkeling Conditions in Naples
Naples is famous for its wonderful weather all year round. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s the sun being out in Naples. The tropical savanna climate often offers hot and wet summers with warm and dry winters. It has been reported that Naples experiences 2,900 hours of sunshine every year.
The snorkeling sites situated around Naples are to be enjoyed in the glorious sunshine. When you enter the water at one of these sites, you’ll be surprised about the temperature of the water. You’ll be swimming in 80 to 85°F, or around the same temperature as a bathtub. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Naples sees an increase in tourism during the months of December to February, as it’s often the warmest place in America during the wintertime. Bear in mind that the prices will also increase during these times, so we’d suggest planning your holiday during the months’ March to May. The weather is still great, and the tourism prices have generally dropped back to normal.
The water is relatively clear in Naples, too. You can usually see up to 60 feet below the surface of the water. Having said that, it is possible for this visibility to decrease to around 30 feet if the conditions are subpar. This will affect how well you’re able to see the reef and wildlife, but there is not much you can do to determine the best time for visibility.
Most of the snorkeling sites are located near the shore, so you won’t have to swim too far to find the reef. There are sites that you can only reach by boat though, so bear this in mind. These are often more secluded and less crowded as not as many people are going to pay for this extra privilege.
The Best Snorkeling Sites in Naples
Now you know a bit more about the conditions that you’re likely to encounter during your trip to Naples, Florida, we bet that you cannot wait to pack your suitcase, dust off your snorkel, and get to the beach. But what beach are you going to choose? They all have amazing snorkeling sites, so how do you pick where to go first?
Below you will find a list of the best snorkeling sites that can be found around Naples. We’ve included child-friendly beaches as well in case you’re planning a family vacation. There are also a number of different activities that you can do at each beach, in case you don’t feel like snorkeling for one day.
We’ve listed all the details about each beach or park that you might find helpful when planning your trip. Naples is full of amazing things to do, including canoeing, trail walks, and boat rides, so make sure that you save a little time to do other activities than only snorkeling!
Vanderbilt beach is most known for its amazing white sand. There are plenty of hotels, shopping malls, and restaurants around and therefore this beach is often full of people. However, most of these people prefer to relax on the beach rather than go in the ocean, so there are typically not many snorkellers in there with you.
There is a reef only mere meters from the shore which is perfect for a snorkeller like you. You can choose to hang out at the waters edge, as well, as this is an ideal bird-watching spot. Pelicans have been known to take a pitstop on the sand, so this is a real treat for anyone who has the pleasure of visiting this beach.
Other sports are played on Vanderbilt beach, including volleyball, and you’ll often see people swimming, kayaking, and windsurfing in the water. Another reason why Vanderbilt beach is so popular is because it is a prime spot to watch the sunset over the horizon.
If you travel north from Vanderbilt beach, you’ll find the North Gulf Shore Beach Access, which takes you to another gorgeous beach which is also another prime place to snorkel. If you walk a little further past Gulf Shore Boulevard, you’ll then come across Lowdermilk Beach Park, where you can snorkel, paddleboard, play volleyball or simply hang out.
You can cross a bridge connecting the mainland to Marco Island, which is another amazing place to go for snorkeling. Just mind that you don’t plan on going when there is already an event on, such as Wet paint Live February, March’s Seafood Festival, or the Mullet Festival in January, as this might cause you to have to abandon your plans.
The sandbar on Marco Island is the perfect place to take kids who enjoy playing with smaller fish. Reaching Hernando Drive you’ll find Tigertail Beach which is a lovely area to snorkeling and bird watching. Begin your snorkeling journey in the shallow lagoon and find your way to the hidden beach that leads to Big Macro Pass Critical Wildlife Area. Exit Tigertail Beach by the Sand Dollar Island and say hello to the Fiddler crabs and Decapods.
Bear in mind that the visibility on Marco Island is not always the best, so you might be disappointed if you’re looking for somewhere to see picturesque views. Having said that, this is still a lovely island and a great snorkeling spot. If visibility is a big factor for you, you can opt to visit South Macro Beach which is one acre of beach full of seashells. There are palm trees and beautiful condos to act as your backdrop for a photoshoot.
Delnor-Wiggins State Park
This sandy beach directly faces the Gulf of Mexico and is very popular among tourists who enjoy beachcombing, fishing, snorkeling, kayaking, and making the most of the sun. The park is managed and there is a spot that offers food, drinks, and water sport equipment for you to hire and buy.
There are different parking lots for Delnor-Wiggins State Park, each of which are varying distances from these amenities. If you can, we’d suggest parking in lot 4 as this is both a short walk from the beach and the amenities hut.
This beach is sectioned for all of the different activities that you can do here. The north of the beach is where you’ll find the anglers, and the south is designated for bringing boats onto the shore. The middle of the beach is where the real magic happens, as there is a vast underwater reef to explore with your snorkel.
It’s been known that you can see manatees and loggerhead sea turtles in this reef. However, it’s worth noting that kayaks and paddleboards are also used in this area which may disrupt the wildlife and scare off these rare finds.
Delnor-Wiggins State Park rangers also offer a guided tour down the Cocohatchee River if you get the urge to explore some more. At the end of the tour, you’ll be able to see lots of land turtles, including the endangered gopher tortoise, so it’s well worth doing if you find yourself at this state park.
The Nearby Snorkeling Sites of Key Largo
Not only are there amazing snorkeling sites in Naples, but there are also plenty just outside of it. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one that particularly sticks out to us, as this is actually the home of the United States’ first underwater park. There are colorful reefs full of life, an example being the famous Molasses Reef.
Over one million tourists visit this state park every year, and plenty of boat tours are offered if you’re not in the mood for snorkeling one day. These boats have glass floors so you can appreciate the reef without touching the water. This fact is a big benefit for families with small children who are too young to snorkel but still want to enjoy the nature.
Of course, there are many other nearby snorkeling spots for you to visit near Key Largo. These include the Sea Gardens, Dry Rocks and the Christ of the Abyss, and the White Banks. These are all widely known for their snorkeling sites and are generally easy to travel to from Naples, Florida.
Clam Pass Beach Park
Clam Pass Beach Park is designed for groups of people to visit and enjoy time together. This beach is suitable for families and groups of friends, as everyone will love the white sand beaches that look like they’re never-ending.
Before you can marvel at the beach, however, you first must walk half a mile through a mangrove forest. Don’t worry, there is a wooded pathway for you to walk on and it is very clear which direction you’re meant to be going. Through this forest, you’ll be able to see amazing sights such as seabirds, butterflies, and other insects, as well as unique shells.
While walking over this path, the flow of the tide will determine where you end up on the beach. If the tide is high you’ll find yourself at the mangrove lagoon, and if the tide is low you’ll travel to the mouth of the beach. This means that no trips will be the same!
Travelers who have visited Clam Pass Beach Park to snorkel have described it as lazy because you really have no use for your fins. Instead, let the water carry you while you enjoy the amazing underwater sights. For this fact, it is the ideal place to bring children for their first time snorkeling.
There are communal showers to be used at this park, so don’t worry about having to travel back to your hotel while all dirty and sandy. The only drawback of this park that we can think of is that there is the potential for the current to be stronger than you’d expect. This could drag you out deeper into the ocean which may be dangerous if there is no help around.
That being said, if you don’t feel comfortable snorkeling here due to the uncertain tide, there is still plenty of fun activities for you to partake in. Canoeing is very popular at this park and there is the option for you to visit the Koreshan State Historic Park as well. Here you’ll find amazing bamboo forests and gardens.
You could also travel down the Imperial River, which is naturally the color of tea and is beautifully covered in a canopy of trees. Traveling down this river has been known to be a good way of spotting manatees, which are a rare find in Naples.
Naples Municipal Beach and Fishing Pier
Municipal Beach is one of the longest beaches that you’ll find in Naples, measuring in at a 10-mile stretch. Situated near Gulf Shore Boulevard, this is a spot that not many tourists are happy to miss. The main part of the beach that is considered the most impressive is down the southern end, where you can see the structure of the highly sought after fishing pier.
You can snorkel both in front of the beach as well as near the fishing port, as there are reefs in both of these areas. That being said, the spot near the fishing port has become the more desirable option because the shaded area actually attracts rare fish such as the damselfish, snappers, batfish, and wrasse.
The fishing pier is 1000 feet long and runs alongside the beach. To get the most out of your snorkeling experience, we’d suggest only traveling the first few meters down the pier as the deeper the water gets, the less you’ll be able to see. Moreover, fishermen tend to use the deeper end of the pier to fish from, so you don’t want to mess with their line or hooks.
Other activities other than snorkeling that are offered at the Naples Municipal Beach and Fishing Pier are beach volleyball, paddle boarding, as well as many others. There are a few shops around that you can purchase equipment for your chosen activities. What’s more is that the sunset that can be seen here is gorgeous as it sets behind the Gulf of Mexico.
Naples Snorkeling Boat Excursions
Almost anywhere you visit in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico will offer a boat that you can hire or pay for a guided tour. This gives you the opportunity to take your snorkeling gear out even further from the shore and explore even more marine life than you could at the water’s edge. They take as many people as they have signed up for the boat out to an amazing snorkeling destination that you can only reach via boat.
Granted, there aren’t as many places that offer boats just for snorkellers, but if you find the right shop, you’ll have an amazing day planned ahead of you. You should look inside diving shops for these opportunities. You can also pay to go along on diving boats and snorkel where everyone else is diving. This may not give you the reef that you’re looking for, but it’d still be a fun adventure nonetheless.
Boat excursions are another way to see amazing sights on the way to your snorkeling adventure. Instead of simply walking onto a beach, you get to take in the world around you and you may feel a connection to Naples, Florida that other snorkellers might not have the opportunity to experience.
Perhaps the most popular boat excursion in Naples is Captain Joe’s Charters, which is a three-hour-long snorkeling tour for up to six people. The boat leaves from Sanibel Island, meaning you’ll have to drive an hour from Naples, and the rate often changes considering the season and their demand. You’ll also want to call ahead to book as their availability often fluctuates.
Well, I think that we can all agree that Naples is full of amazing snorkeling sites for the whole family to enjoy. If our list of the best snorkeling sites in Naples, Florida hasn’t sparked you to get all the friends together for a snorkeling vacation, there are still plenty of amazing activities for you to partake in to make your time in this wonderful city.
Naples, Florida is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States of America, so it’s understandable why there are so many amazing places to visit. Each of the beaches and parks are maintained to be as beautiful as possible, so please stick to the rules when you visit each one and leave it as lovely as you found it.
Overall, Naples has an amazing amount of snorkeling sites for the whole family. There are boat trips to take, woodlands to walk through, and islands to visit. If you overstay your welcome and are looking for a different setting, there are also plenty of snorkeling sites to visit just outside of Naples. So what are you waiting for?