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Pennekamp Park FL: Is John Pennekamp State Park the Best Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in the Continental U.S.?

Updated on March 20, 2011

John Pennekamp Park FL

Florida is one of the greatest states in the U.S., with its wide variety of attractions to satisfy someone looking for their next vacation… Whether it’s a fun theme park, a white sandy beach on the coast, or visiting some of Florida’s natural wonders such as the Everglades or a spring somewhere, you will surely find something that will excite you about being there! If you love the water, then it won’t take you much time at all to start your vacation… Are you a scuba diver or snorkeler? Then head down to the Florida Keys and Pennekamp Park FL!

The Keys are a long stretch of islands starting just south of Miami and ending up in Key West, and offers the visitor some of the best diving available in the continental United States! Each section of the Keys has its own distinct beauty and charm, but you will find probably the most dive shops and charter boats for hire in the Upper Keys, near Key Largo. This part of the Keys is still pretty close to Miami, so they stay pretty active for day visitors just coming down to fish or dive. Plus there are some fantastic reefs and wrecks just off the coast where you can enjoy a whole day or even part of a day… So if you’re a scuba diver or a snorkeler, then Key Largo and Pennekamp Park FL is a great place to plan your stay from.

Great Diving in Pennekamp Park FL...

Another great attraction for Key Largo is the Pennekamp Park FL, or Pennekamp State Park as it’s called. It’s very common for people to misspell it as Pennecamp Park, but it is still the same. This is one of the best dive parks in the U.S., and is probably the official base for the Marine Sanctuary just offshore here. They do offer diving from shore here in a sheltered area which includes a platform and underwater “wreck” designed to look much older, but the best diving is offered from a dive boat which is available from here as an option. Both snorkeling and scuba diving trips are offered at the state park, and it’s recommended to take a boat out to the reefs as a minimum. You may even see the famous “Christ of the Abyss” statue on your snorkeling trip!

The reef is located from 3 – 8 miles offshore from Pennekamp Park FL, so it will take a little bit of time to get there, but with good weather you should enjoy the ride! This area was designated America’s first underwater park and marine reserve, and they try to keep the environment as untouched as they can. It’s very important when snorkeling or diving to avoid very shallow areas, because you don’t ever want to touch the live coral in any way if you can avoid it. They are very fragile and touching them could kill the live outer layer. It’s takes years, if not centuries for the coral to grow back successfully, so do your best to help preserve this park for others to come after you.

Christ of the Abyss

Camping in Pennekamp Park FL...

If you would like to stay here at the park overnight, they do have camping available at Pennekamp Park FL if you’re so inclined. Camping down in the Florida Keys is a great experience, and you never know what critters will come out of the woodwork after the sun has gone down and the day visitors have left! For sure you’ll see some raccoons and maybe an armadillo or two at night, and maybe you’ll make a few more friends…

However, if you prefer a 5 star resort instead of a campground, there are plenty of these available in Key Largo as well! They may not jump out at you as you drive along, but that’s because most of the really nice ones are more hidden among the trees and mangroves by the shore and beaches. You can really get a good view of the whole Key Largo area from 1000 feet up as you are parasailing, so if you get a chance I highly recommend it! From that height, it’s easy to see across to the other side of the key and the water beyond… Parasailing is one of those incredible activities that you can do in the Florida Keys, while you are there for your diving trip. Also, be sure to spend a day or so driving further south toward Key West so you can experience more of the Keys and what they have in store for you! Closer to Key West, there is a “key deer” sanctuary where you can actually see some of these pint size deer in the wild. This is a great experience and I highly recommend it. Stop in near here and see if ol’ Charlie the Alligator is still around at one of the freshwater gator holes in the park.

The Florida Keys is a fantastic place for scuba diving, snorkeling, or just about any water sports that you can imagine, so I urge you to head down for your next vacation and check it out! Key Largo is a really popular dive spot and Pennekamp Park FL in particular. Have fun, and see you out on the water!

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