snorkeling tampa

Your Tampa Bay Snorkeling Guide

Written by Boatsetter Team
June 16, 2022

Last Updated on November 29, 2023 by Boatsetter Team

If you plan to visit Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, or any part of the Tampa Bay area, you should consider a snorkeling adventure as part of your trip. This area allows one to snorkel from the shore, in the bay, or by boat out in the ocean. Tampa Beach has powdery white sand that is soft and consistently warm all year round. Waters here are turquoise, clear, and warm year-round. Tampa is often called the “Sunshine City” because it averages 361 days of sunshine a year. 

  • Best snorkeling spots in the Tampa Bay area
  • Coral reefs
  • Snorkeling in Clearwater Beach

Explore boats & on-water experiences in the Tampa Bay area 

Best snorkeling spots in the Tampa Bay area

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is known for its bright white, sugar-soft sands, clear water, and good weather. In 2018, it was named TripAdvisor’s #1 Beach in America. People love this beach for swimming, snorkeling, sunning, and recreating because it is always clean, safe, and family-friendly. Every day, the sand is raked and groomed, and every day, lifeguards carefully keep watch during daylight hours. 

The water is calm and clear, so it’s ideal for beginners and young snorkelers who haven’t quite mastered the art of swimming in the ocean. 

There are several hotels, restaurants, and fun attractions in the immediate vicinity, so when you finish snorkeling, there is still plenty to do. 

You can find Clearwater Beach and the Pier 60 Fishing Pier that sits atop 1 Causeway Blvd, Clearwater, FL 33767. 

Find boat rentals in Clearwater—Only at Boatsetter  

Caladesi Island & Honeymoon Island

Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island used to be one until a devastating 1921 hurricane hit the area, splitting the island into two parts. The islands can be reached by boat, ferry, or on foot if you are willing to walk in from Highway 60, which runs from Clearwater to Caladesi Island

Waters here are calm, shallow, clear, and monitored by a lifeguard, usually from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Since Caladesi Beach is a little out of the way,  but if you’re looking for some place less crowded than this is the place to go. Here, you’ll likely see coral, colorful varieties of fish, and even a dolphin or two!

Honeymoon Island is even quieter than Caladesi Island. It is intentionally non-industrialized, making the area feel more cozy and quaint.  

Go to Honeymoon Island Beach to see a large reef teeming with stingrays, sharks, manatees, gopher tortoises, sea turtles, dolphins, fish, coral clusters, and deep crevices on the ocean floor. You’ll also find many species of birds, large and small, on the island and in the air above you.

Caladesi Island State Park can be found at 1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698. You can find Honeymoon Island just north, at 1 Honeymoon Island, Dunedin, FL 34698. 

Treasure Island Beach

Treasure Island has about four miles of beachfront perfect for families, and kite flyers! Each year, Treasure Island hosts a kite festival. 

Treasure Island Beach offers a large beachfront and gentle waters with mild waves. If this wasn’t family and child friendly enough, there is a clean, well-maintained playground area right on the beach too. When you finish snorkeling for the day, make sure you find the Osprey Trailhead to hike the island’s interior. Bring your bug spray to ward away mosquitos and be camera ready for wildlife sighting—bald eagles, hawks, ospreys, great horned owls, tortoises, and more can be found here. 

Pro tip: Tampa, also known as the “Sunshine City,” averages 361 days of sunshine a year, making it the perfect destination for boating and on the water experiences even in the fall and winter months!  

Shell Key & Egmont Key

Shell Key and Egmont Key are great for snorkeling, swimming, and sea shell searching. Wildlife and marine life are abundant here, as is the rich history. Be sure to ask your guide (should you choose to hire one) to tell you all about it. Both keys are on the National Register of Historic Places and serve as a state park and National Wildlife Refuge. You are highly likely to see at least a few of the following creatures:

  • Manatees
  • Nurse sharks
  • Dolphins
  • Gopher tortoises
  • Sea turtles
  • Crabs
  • Tropical fish
  • Sea birds
  • And more!

Underwater, you’ll find sunken ruins of gun batteries that slowly eroded and collapsed into the ocean in the 1980s. Take advantage and snorkel Shell Key and Egmont Key,  rising water levels are eroding these keys at an alarming rate. Most of the shore is 3 feet deep, but further out (like the ruins) is in 9 feet deep water. 

Are there coral reefs in Tampa?

coral reef tampa

There are coral reefs in Tampa, but they are artificial. Most of these are concrete reef balls, broken debris, shipwrecks, bridge rubble, and retired military equipment. Here are twenty-two reefs for snorkelers to spot near Tampa, Florida:

  1. Dunedin Reef
  2. Clearwater Reef
  3. Madeira Reef
  4. Treasure Island Reef
  5. St. Pete Beach Reef
  6. St. Petersburg Bay Reef
  7. Picnic Island Reef
  8. Picnic Island Pier Reef
  9. Port Tampa Reef
  10. Howard Frankland Reef
  11. Courtney Campbell Reef
  12. Ballast Point Pier Reef
  13. Bahia Beach Reef
  14. Port Manatee Reef
  15. Egmont Key Reef
  16. Bulkhead Reef
  17. Southeast Tampa
  18. Manatee River’s Emerson Point
  19. Meisner Barge
  20. Seven Mile Reef North
  21. Three Mile Reef North
  22. One Mile Reef North

There are even more reefs that are further offshore and scattered across the entirety of Florida, which you can find here. 

 Snorkeling at Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach is  an ideal family-friendly beach. It’s easy to access, with warm and shallow waters. If you’re new to snorkeling or with a group of mixed experiences, Clearwater Beach is a great snorkeling spot! These waters are protected giving you and your group a sense of safety and boost in confidence.  You’ll get to see sea urchins, crabs, sea stars, and snails are among the common finds. Did we mention Clearwater Beach waters has great visibility?

More Tampa guides

Are you ready for your snorkeling trip in Tampa, Florida? All you need now is a captained boat, you can find one here!

About us 

Boatsetter is the go-to app for boat rentals and on-water experiences. Whatever the adventure, we’ve got a boat for that—Set sail, start the party, go yachting, make your trophy catch, and hone your watersports skills! Download the Boatsetter app (App Store | Google Play). Make sure to follow @boatsetter on Instagram, and tag us in all your boat day pictures for the chance to be featured.

Rent. List. Share—Only at Boatsetter

Browse by experience

Explore articles