Snorkeling near Pensacola Beach is ideal due to the crystal-clear and warm waters.  Since Pensacola’s deep-channel port has been used since the 1600s by sea-going vessels, there are plenty of man-made reefs to enjoy.  More, Snorkeling is affordable, easy to learn, and you can enjoy it with friends and family.  Snorkeling is the perfect activity to take advantage of the emerald waters of the Gulf Coast, so what are you waiting for?

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Andre Gide

Whether you’re a beginner or experienced at snorkeling, we have worked diligently to provide you with the complete guide to snorkeling Pensacola, so please take some time to learn about this activity and take advantage of  your time here in paradise!  You will find the best places to snorkel in Pensacola.  We will give you all the details on the very best snorkeling tours in Pensacola Beach.  Whether you’re interested in classes or just want to jump in the water and try it out, we’ll give you all the information you need in one spot.  Still can’t find what you need? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

Snorkeling in Pensacola Beach

Table of Contents

  • What is Snorkeling?

    Snorkeling is the act of swimming through water while equipped with a breathing tube.  A snorkeler usually also utilizes a mask, which allows them to see better underwater, and swim fins, which allow them to move more easily through water.  When the water temperature drops, a wetsuit can be worn.

    Why Should I go Snorkeling?

    Whether you want to check out all the sea life that is under the water, want to engage in a mild and entertaining exercise or just to relax – snorkeling in Pensacola Beach is instant fun from the very first time you try it!  Unlike many beach visitors who just enjoy the sand, wind and waves – you’ll get a first-class ticket to disover the underwater world.

    To Discover

    Water covers 70% of the earth’s surface, much of it unknown to humans.  Under the waves the ocean brims with life, colors, shapes and combinations you can only imagine.

    To Exercise

    Snorkeling can be a great leisure activity, but it can also get your heart beating and allow you to enjoy exercise the way nature intended.  No need to push heavy weights, run for miles or do those dreaded lunges – everytime you kick your fins, you’ll burn calories.

    To Relax

    While snorkeling, there’s no need to push yourself, measure your performance or compete with the snorkeler beside you.  Here, away from the routine of life, you can let the sea engulf you and be a visitor in this strange underwater world.

    How do you Snorkle?

    Do you breathe now? if you answered “yes”, you can snorkel! Follow these steps below to get started:

    Get the right equipment

    To go snorkeling in Pensacola Beach you will need a mask, a breathing tube and swim fins.  Get a snorkel and mask you’re comfortable with.  Try them on, adjust the straps until they fit, then try them out to make sure they don’t leak.  Adjust and retest.  The mask and straps should seal around your eyes and nose, no water should come into the mask.

    Get In the Water

    Lay down flat on your stomach in the water, placing your head so that the mast and breathing tube are at a 45 degree angle.  Bite down gently on the mouthpiece, allowing your lips to seal around it.

    Breath Easy

    Breathe slowly and deeply, be cautious.  Do not panic, you can always lift your head out of water to get all of the air you want.  You’re bound to get water in your snorkel from time to time – be sure not to inhale the water, instead clear your tube of water by exhaling forcefully through the tube.

    Be Safe

    Wearing a buoyancy vest will allow you to float to the surface of the water with ease.

    Who Can go Snorkeling?

    It really doesn’t matter if your skinny or fat or just right, people of all sizes can go snorkeling in Pensacola Beach.  Whether your a child or an elder adult, snorkeling is fun for all age groups.  If you have medical conditions be sure to go with at least one partner and to always wear a buoyancy vest.  If you choose lessons or a tour guide, they will be experienced in educating all age groups and sizes – and often, those with disabilities.  As always, make sure the equipment fits and does not leak water.  Children should always be monitored and supervised closely while in water.

    When is the Best Time to go Snorkeling?

    Coastal weather can change in a moments notice, so try to choose a time when the forecast says there will be several days of sunshine.  Snorkeling is best in clear, calm water – so if you want to look at the beach flag, a “green flag” would indicate the best day to go.  But let’s look at each of the variables that will impact your experience of snorkeling in Pensacola Beach


    The cooler the water is, typically the clearer it will be.  Near Pensacola the water is rarely cold though – averaging mid-60’s in the winter months and mid-80’s during summer months.  During some colder days, you can choose to wear a wet suit to prevent yourself from getting too cold.


    Tide is a big factor when deciding when to go snorkeling.  Along the gulf coast, rip tides can pull you out to sea quickly, and even the most experienced and seasoned swimmer can get into trouble quickly.  When snorkeling near Pensacola, you should always wear a life preserver.  You can check online at to know when to expect low-tide and when high-tide will roll in.  Typically when there are out-going tides, the sand/silt is being pulled out, meaning you will have the clearest view.


    Calm seas make for clearer viewing and a more relaxing adventure.  Moreover, you’re less likely to get a mouthful of water when the seas are calm.  You can check online at for the Pensacola Beach Surf Report and Forecast.

    Time of Day

    The earlier in the morning the better – primarily because the least amount of people around, the less disturbance they will cause.  If you want to go snorkeling in Pensacola Beach during peak tourist season, less humans means more sea life!

    Where to go Snorkeling in Pensacola Beach?

    The emerald waters around Pensacola offer much to snorkelers!  There are many shipwrecks which are now amazing man-made reefs. Some of the wrecks are the Russian Freighter, Navy YDTs, Pete Tide II, Sylvia, Philip, Born Again, Catherine, USS Massachusetts, Tug Heron, Antares, and the Avocet.  Since you’re looking for snorkeling spots in Pensacola, let’s walk you through just a few of the very best places to snorkel in Pensacola.  For a list of GPS coordinates to many sites, including the ones below, be sure to check out

    Pensacola Beach Gulf Snorkel Reef

    The Pensacola Beach Gulf Snorkel Reef is about 450 feet east of the Pensacola Beach fishing pier.  This is the site of the old Pensacola Beach fishing pier, which has become an artificial reef.  Here you will see sharks, sea turtles and more – all in about 12 feet of water.  A bit further east of this reef is a shipwreck.  The shipwreck is in about 15 feet of water and partially covered in sand.

    Jacobi Reef

    The Jacobi reef is near Pensacola’s public beach, just west of the Pensacola Beach fishing pier.  You can find it by spotting the rows of concrete pilings, however, shifting sands frequently cover and uncover the pilings.  This reef is in about 10 feet of water.

    USS Massachusetts

    A designated underwater archeological preserve, the 350-foot ship commissioned in 1890 saw action during the Spanish-American war.  In 1921 it was sunk by the U.S. Navy.  It’s located about a mile out to sea near Pensacola Pass.  Most of the wreck is in about 25 feet of water, but part of the ship is exposed.  During low tide the gun turrets of “worst battleship ever made” can be seen sticking out of the water, making it easy to spot.

    Santa Rosa Island

    There are three beach dives around the Northwest end of the island.  Fort Pickens Jetty is on the north side, opposite the bay from Pensacola.  The Sport, which sank during a 1906 Hurricane, is in shallow water near the entrance to the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  The Norwegian Catherine is another wreck that ran aground in 1894.  It can be found in about 15 feet of water West of the National Seashore.

    Pensacola Bay Snorkeling Reef

    Perdido Key

    Johnson Beach in Perdido Key is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.  There is a reef about 500 feet offshore at the public beach area on Sandy Key Drive.

    Snorkeling Pensacola FAQ

    Do I need to know how to swim?

    Yes! a personal flotation device is recommended, but you should know how to swim before you go snorkeling.

    Are there aggressive marine life near reefs?

    There are no fences in the ocean – you may encounter sharks, stingrays and barracudas.  However, you do not look like food to marine life, we are far larger than what they normally eat.  The sharks along the Gulf Coast are nocturnal – they sleep during the day and feed at night.  If you see a shark during the day, it’s probably because it had it’s nap disturbed and is looking for another place to complete their nap.

    How Much Does it Cost?

    To go snorkeling, you only need to buy a good snorkel, mask and fins.  If you want lessons or guided snorkeling, prices start at around $60.

    Are there any age restrictions?

    Many children as young as 4 are able to snorkel well, however be prepared to assist young children frequently.  The child should be able to swim.

    What should I wear?

    A bathing suit and lots of sunscreen.  We recommend loading up on sunscreen before heading to the beach to save you time and money!

    Do I need lessons?

    No, you do not need lessons, you can practice along any beach or even in your own bathtub to get started.  However, there are some great local businesses that offer tours where guides can provide tips if you’re new to snorkeling in Pensacola Beach.

    What are the weight limits?

    There are no weight limits.  You should be capable of swimming and some physical exertion.

    Are reservations required for snorkeling tours?

    Typically reservations are required.  It’s recommended you call ahead of time to reserve the best days and times.

    Is it okay to snorkel if I’m pregnant?

    There should not be any issues if you are pregnant, but you should consult with your doctor first.

    Is it okay to snorkel if I’m on my period?

    Yes, sharks and other aquatic life won’t be attracted to that.

    What regulations should I be concerned about when snorkeling?

    Diver-down Flag

    • A diver-down flag is required by Florida Law for snorkeling and diving.  The size of divers-down flags must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. Divers-down flags must be displayed above the vessel’s highest point so that the flag’s visibility is not obstructed in any direction.
    • Divers must stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets, or navigation channels.
    • Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets or navigation channel.
    • When divers are out of the water, a dive flag should not be displayed

    Other Considerations

    • Reefs are not patrolled by life guards – use at your own risk! Be aware of boats, marine life and weather conditions.
    • Snorkelers must adhere to beach warning flags.
    • While not required, you should always go with a buddy.
    • While not required, you should use a personal flotation device.

    Pensacola Snorkeling Directory

    These are not paid or affiliate links. A site’s inclusion on this page should not be considered an endorsement of their service.  Consequently, all users should carry out their own due diligence before paying for any services offered.  Certainly, if we missed including a local business in this directory, please contact us!

    Further Reading

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