Cannon Beach, Key Largo, Florida (Full Review)

Key Largo, proclaimed by Floridians as the Dive Capital of the World, is the largest Florida Key. Neighbors with one of the biggest coral reef systems on the planet, it’s among the favorites of those who love to explore the undersea world.

It takes pride in its John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and within it is the tourist-favored Cannon Beach. As among the tourist destinations in Key Largo, what do people say about Cannon Beach? What adventures await your visit to this Florida Key beach?

Cannon Beach in Key Largo is a popular spot for shore snorkeling and glass-bottom boating, and kayaking. It is within the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and is famous for an old Spanish shipwreck with its anchor and cannons engulfed by marine life.

Read on to know what former and regular visitors of Cannon Beach, Key Largo say about their experiences. You will also discover must-see destinations to explore and activities to indulge in.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

What’s Behind the Name

Even if you’re visiting Cannon Beach for the first time, you will quickly discover how one of the two beaches in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park got its name.

Proudly sitting along the sandy shores of Cannon Beach are genuine 17th-century cannons, giving you a glimpse of Florida’s history.

Inviting Water

As part of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the warmth and tranquility of Cannon Beach’s water are perfect for swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

Stroll along the shoreline of shallow water while admiring marine life like tropical fish. If deep-diving is your game, go further into the beach’s heart and feast your eyes on an old Spanish shipwreck waiting to mesmerize you when you reach the sea bottom.

Indulging Activities

What’s a beach experience without enjoying the water activities that Cannon Beach is famous for? Try one or try them all!


Cannon Beach, Key Largo snorkeling ranks high among locals and tourists.

Snorkeling around the beach allows you to see marine life unabashed by human spectators. From shrimps and crabs to barracudas and tunas, Cannon Beach’s entire area is a snorkeler’s heaven. You may even see larger fish coming out of the water and playing close to spectators standing on the shore.

Be sure to bring a waterproof underwater digital camera (view on Amazon) that can capture 4K ultra HD videos of marine life and underwater beauty.

If you navigate the underwater shipwreck that Cannon Beach in Key Largo is famous for, you’d see marine life like rays, tarpon, and mackerel congregate near the anchor and cannons. A manatee may even swim by you even when you’re just about a hundred yards off the beach.

If you forgot to pack your snorkeling gear, there are shops where you could rent or buy new ones.

Coral Reef and Fishes

Glass-Bottom Boating

Coming as a close second to Cannon Beach snorkeling is this innovative boat ride.

Get a closer look at marine life like squids and turtles, and catch a glance at the cannons on the bottom of the sea.

Other top favorites to see underwater are the Christ of Abyss statue and a large artificial reef.


For less than $100, you and another companion have four hours cruising Cannon Beach in Key largo. A beach staff reviews the kayaking course with you using a laminated map. The map will then be your guide throughout the activity.

Head out toward the marina and explore the numerous mangroves.

Hiking and Camping

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which Cannon Beach is a part of, offers several nature trails to explore.

Its RV sites are relatively self-sustaining with electricity, sewer hookups, and water source. There are selections of wide spaces to choose from without breaking the bank.

Wildlife Watching

Feast your eyes on the variety of bird species soaring the sky or observe local fauna like iguanas in their natural habitats.

Interesting Visits

After exploring the water of Cannon Beach, make sure to check out the following out-of-the-water destinations.

John Pennekamp’s Visitor Center and Aquarium

Walk through the 30,000 gallons salt-water aquarium and marine exhibits that magnetize tourists and locals alike to America’s first undersea park.

The massive aquarium displays diverse marine life like tropical fish, live corals, yellowtails, angelfish, among others.

Surrounding the main tank are mini exhibits that burst in color like the beautiful dancing lionfish and skittish lobsters.

Mangrove Forests

All three types of mangrove forests hug the coastlines of John Pennekamp State Park: black, white, and red. In these forests are nature trails and boardwalks where you could see shorebirds nesting on treetops or along the creek water.

Dolphins Plus Bayside

If you haven’t swum with wild dolphins before, now’s your chance.

Jules Undersea Lodge

So, you’ve been to an undersea park. Why not bundle it up with a stay in an underwater lodging?

Jules Undersea Lodge is Florida’s only underwater hotel. However, you have to dive first to experience this out-of-this-world accommodation.

Average Temperature

From January to December, the average temperature at Cannon Beach creates a convex arc, ranging from 62 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, peaking in July and August. The non-drastically changing temperature makes the beach ideal to visit any time of the year.

Safety and Budget Precautions

At the top of the list are some notable reminders to maximize your enjoyment at Cannon Beach:

  • Florida beaches are always fun to swim, snorkel, or dive into, but be constantly conscious that the sea is also home to predators like alligators.
  • Don’t snorkel after heavy rains because murky water may taint your experience.
  • If you’re snorkeling for the first time, buddy up.
  • As a famous tourist attraction, expect shops with products that aren’t light on your pocket.
  • Cannon Beach has a rocky sea bottom. Don’t forget your aqua socks or water shoes, especially if you enjoy wading in shallow water to observe marine life.
  • When there are big waves, avoid snorkeling too close to rock or reef formations.

Cannon Beach Reviews: The Good and the Bad

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo, Florida Keys

Here’s a peek of why some would keep visiting Cannon Beach and why others would instead try other Florida Key beaches:

The Water

A dip in the warm shallow water of Cannon Beach is a relaxing escape, whether you’re in for a swim or water activities like snorkeling.

The whole water stretch is also clean and clear. Additionally, you get a fantastic view of the shipwreck that sits so close to Cannon Beach.

The lack of waves, including the soft and fine sand, makes Cannon Beach a perfect playground if you’re visiting with the kids. Just keep them away from the roped-off swimming area.

The Park

Among the greatest crowd magnets of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the famous Spanish shipwreck USS Spiegel Grove that sits about 100 feet from the beach.

The park may be relatively small, but it’s very clean and often frequented by amiable people and has graciously hosted wedding ceremonies.

Trekking the nature trails is also a learning journey, with paths creatively named after plants and trees.

Beach Size

Cannon Beach is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a beach getaway to have a tan, swim, picnic, or practice your snorkeling.

However, you won’t find an endless stretch of white sand on this small beach.

Beach Amenities

There are food trucks and vending machines to boost your energy, bathrooms and showers to freshen up, and gift shops to indulge in a few shopping sprees.

You also don’t need to pack a picnic blanket or mat. You’d find a selection of shaded picnic tables and barbecue grills for memorable chitchats over snacks with family and friends. There also are pavilions you could reserve in advance if you’re coming in with a large group.

The Marina

If you’re exploring the marina via unescorted tours like kayaking, there are minimal signs to guide you back to the pier.

However, your view is clear enough to navigate the turns.

Underwater Visibility

Cannon Beach isn’t directly in the ocean but within the Largo Sound. And like other state beaches, the beach is kept in its natural state. Natural elements like seagrass are kept intact in some areas to conserve the shorebirds’ habitat.

As a result, you can’t expect crystal clear blue water in some areas if your priority is Cannon Beach, Key Largo snorkeling activity.

However, if you snorkel around the mangroves that frame the sides of Cannon Beach, you’d be in for a surprise. The mangroves’ intricate root system is a rich underwater environment for tiny silvery fish in schools, parrotfish, and small grunts.

Not for Reef Snorkeling

Cannon Beach in Key Largo is great for shore snorkeling but not for reef snorkeling.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is currently implementing Reef protection. There may be snorkeling boat trips, but they are outside the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park’s boundaries.

Crowded Boat Trips

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park sails out different boats depending on the number of people taking the boat trips. However, these trips are often crowded.

There were also instances when boats from the park sailed out despite windy days and erratic waves while other Key Largo boating tour companies canceled.

You may secure a small charter boat, though, from among the Key Largo boat companies for a private tour.

Conclusion: Cannon Beach, Key Largo, Florida

Cannon Beach, Key Largo may be small in area, but it’s big relative to Florida’s history. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which the beach is a part of, employs conscious efforts to preserve marine life despite the public’s perception of the beach’s seemingly murky water.

Big things come in small packages, and Cannon Beach, Key Largo is one example. Whether on or off the beach, the activities you can explore and indulge in are at par with other Florida Key beaches.

Kris Peter

A positive individual enjoying the journey, and always searching for adventure. I created Sunlight Living to help my parents (and eventually myself) prepare for retirement. About Kris

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