Key West Shark Viewing: Best Spots and Safety Tips

Key West is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a wide variety of marine life. Among the many activities available to visitors, shark viewing has become increasingly popular in recent years. Tourists flock to Key West to experience the thrill of seeing these apex predators up close and personal in their natural habitat.

There are several ways to view sharks in Key West, ranging from snorkeling and diving tours to boat excursions. Visitors can choose from a variety of options depending on their level of comfort and desired level of adventure. Some tours even offer the opportunity to attract sharks using scents, providing a unique and unforgettable experience. With so many options available, it's no wonder that shark viewing has become a must-do activity for those visiting Key West.

Understanding the Sharks of Key West

Types of Sharks

Key West is home to various types of sharks, including lemon, nurse, hammerhead, and bull sharks. Lemon sharks are the most common species found in the waters surrounding Key West. They are light yellowish-brown to dark brown in color and sometimes have small dark spots. Nurse sharks are also common and have a flattened body and a broad, rounded head with two conspicuous barbels between the nostrils, which are used to help find food. Hammerhead sharks are less common, but they are easily recognizable by their unique head shape. Bull sharks are also present in the area and are known for their aggressive behavior.

Shark Behavior

Sharks are apex predators, which means they are at the top of the food chain and have few natural predators. They are not inherently aggressive or predatory towards humans and will typically only attack if they feel threatened or confused. It is important to respect their space and avoid provoking them.

Sharks have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to the scent of blood and other bodily fluids. It is important not to enter the water if you have any open wounds, as this can attract sharks. Additionally, feeding sharks is illegal and can lead to aggressive behavior towards humans.

Shark Habitat

Sharks can be found in a variety of habitats, including shallow reefs, deep ocean waters, and even freshwater rivers. In Key West, sharks are commonly found in the shallow reefs surrounding the island. These areas are rich in food sources, such as fish and crustaceans, which attract sharks.

It is important to note that while sharks can be dangerous, they play a crucial role in maintaining the health of marine ecosystems. As apex predators, they help to regulate the populations of other marine species and keep the ecosystem in balance.

The Shark Viewing Experience

What to Expect

Key West is known for its pristine backcountry waters and the abundance of marine life living in it. A shark viewing trip is an exciting way to experience the beauty of the underwater world and get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures.

Departure points for shark viewing tours vary depending on the tour company, but most depart from the Key West Historic Seaport. Tour companies like Key West Extreme Adventures and Best On Key West offer state-of-the-art tour boats like the Tiger Cat, which is comfortable and equipped with all the necessary amenities for a comfortable journey.

Upon arrival, guests will be greeted by experienced captains and guides who are knowledgeable about the local waters and know the best spots for shark viewing. Guests will receive a confirmation email with all the necessary details, including what to wear, what to bring, and what to expect during the trip.

Safety Measures

Safety is a top priority for all shark viewing tours. All tour companies follow strict guidelines and restrictions to ensure the safety of their guests and the marine life. Guests will be provided with fins and snorkel masks to aid in their underwater experience.

Captains and guides are trained in safety procedures and are experienced in handling all weather conditions. Guests are advised to follow the guidelines and restrictions provided by the tour company to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Guidelines and Restrictions

To ensure the safety of both guests and the marine life, there are certain guidelines and restrictions that must be followed during a shark viewing tour. Guests are advised to avoid touching or feeding the marine life, including the sharks. It is also important to maintain a safe distance from the sharks and other marine life.

Tour companies have their own set of restrictions and guidelines, so it is important to read and understand the terms and conditions before booking a tour. Some restrictions may include age limits, weight limits, and health restrictions.


Shark viewing tours are available year-round, but availability may vary depending on the season and weather conditions. It is recommended to book in advance to ensure availability and to avoid disappointment.


To make the most out of the shark viewing experience, guests are advised to bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and a camera to capture the unforgettable moments. It is also important to wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

Overall, a shark viewing adventure in Key West is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is both thrilling and educational. With experienced captains and guides, comfortable tour boats, and strict safety measures in place, guests can enjoy a safe and unforgettable journey into the underwater world.

Marine Life in Key West

When it comes to marine life in Key West, visitors are in for a treat. The waters surrounding the island are home to a variety of sea creatures, from dolphins and turtles to barracudas and tarpon. Here are some of the most commonly spotted marine life in Key West.

Dolphins and Turtles

Dolphins are a common sight in the waters around Key West. Visitors may spot them jumping and playing in the wake of boats or swimming alongside them. Sea turtles are also a common sight, with loggerhead, green, and hawksbill turtles all calling the waters around Key West home. Visitors may even be lucky enough to see baby sea turtles making their way to the ocean.

Birds of the Florida Keys

Key West is also home to a variety of native birds, including cormorants, herons, and white pelicans. Visitors may also spot sea birds like eagles and falcons soaring overhead. The waters around Key West are also home to a variety of bait fish, which attract larger fish like barracudas and tarpon.

Other Sea Creatures

In addition to dolphins, turtles, and birds, visitors to Key West may also spot a variety of other sea creatures. Stingrays are a common sight, and visitors may even spot sharks from the safety of a boat. The waters around Key West are also home to a variety of smaller fish, crabs, and other sea creatures.

Overall, Key West is a haven for marine life and wildlife enthusiasts. With so much to see and explore, visitors are sure to have an unforgettable experience.

Planning Your Shark Viewing Tour

If you're planning a shark viewing tour in Key West, there are a few things you should know to make the most of your experience. Here's what you need to consider when planning your tour.

Booking Information

When booking your tour, it's important to choose a reputable company with experienced guides. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor to find the best options. Some tours offer hotel pickup and drop-off, while others require you to meet at a specific location. Make sure to check if there is parking available if you are driving.

It's also important to consider the type of tour you want to take. Some tours offer shark cage diving, while others allow you to view the sharks from the boat. Make sure to choose the tour that best fits your interests and comfort level.

Lastly, check the cancellation policy. Some tours offer free cancellation up to a certain point, while others require a fee for cancellation.

What to Bring

To fully enjoy your shark viewing experience, make sure to bring the right gear. Polarized sunglasses are a must to reduce glare and see the sharks better. Sunscreen and a hat are also recommended to protect from the sun.

If you're taking a boat tour, it's important to bring motion sickness medication if you are prone to seasickness. Additionally, bring a water bottle and snacks to stay hydrated and energized.

Getting There

Depending on the location of your tour, you may need to plan ahead for transportation. If you're staying in Key West, many tours are located within walking distance. If you're coming from outside the city, make sure to plan for travel time and parking if necessary.

Note that some tours only operate on certain days of the week. For example, some shark tours may only be available on Wednesdays. Make sure to check the tour schedule and plan accordingly.

By considering these factors when planning your shark viewing tour, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in the Florida Keys.

Additional Tour Features

Snorkeling Opportunities

Many Key West shark viewing tours offer snorkeling opportunities in addition to the main attraction. Guests can take a dip in the clear blue waters and explore the vibrant coral reefs and marine life. Snorkeling gear is usually provided, but guests are welcome to bring their own equipment if they prefer.

It's important to note that snorkeling is not always guaranteed on every tour, as it depends on the weather and sea conditions. However, if snorkeling is a must-do activity for you, make sure to choose a tour that specifically advertises it as a feature.

Photo and Video Keepsakes

Capturing the moments of your Key West shark viewing experience is essential, and many tours offer photo and video keepsakes for guests to take home. Some tours provide a professional photographer who takes photos of guests during the tour, while others offer GoPro cameras for guests to use themselves.

Make sure to ask about the photo and video options before booking your tour. Some tours may charge an additional fee for these services, while others may include them in the ticket price.

Refreshments and Snacks

Most Key West shark viewing tours provide bottled water and juice for guests to stay hydrated during the tour. Some tours also offer light snacks such as chips or granola bars.

If you have any specific dietary requirements or preferences, it's best to bring your own snacks and drinks. However, make sure to check with the tour operator beforehand to see if outside food and drinks are allowed on board.

Overall, Key West shark viewing tours offer a range of additional features to enhance your experience. Whether you want to snorkel, capture the memories, or enjoy some refreshments, there is a tour out there that will meet your needs.

Key West Restaurants

When visiting Key West for shark viewing, it's important to also explore the local dining scene. Key West offers a range of restaurants with various cuisines and atmospheres. Here are a few options to consider:

Duvall Street Key West Restaurants

Duvall Street is a popular destination for dining in Key West. This street is lined with restaurants, cafes, and bars. Some notable options on Duvall Street include:

  • Blue Heaven: This restaurant is known for its Caribbean-inspired cuisine and laid-back atmosphere. They offer outdoor seating in a tropical garden and live music in the evenings.

  • Santiago's Bodega: This tapas-style restaurant offers a range of small plates with international flavors. They also have an extensive wine list and outdoor seating.

  • El Meson de Pepe: This Cuban restaurant is a Key West staple, serving traditional dishes like ropa vieja and Cuban sandwiches. They also have live music and dancing on certain nights.

Key West Restaurants on the Water

For a scenic dining experience, consider visiting one of the many restaurants located on the water in Key West. Some options include:

  • Latitudes: This restaurant is located on Sunset Key, a private island just off the coast of Key West. They offer upscale seafood dishes and stunning views of the ocean.

  • The Conch Republic Seafood Company: This restaurant is located on the historic Key West Bight Marina and offers fresh seafood dishes and a lively atmosphere.

  • Alonzo's Oyster Bar: This restaurant is also located on the Key West Bight Marina and is known for its seafood dishes and extensive oyster selection.

When dining in Key West, it's important to keep in mind that many restaurants have a casual dress code and may not accept reservations. It's also a good idea to check the restaurant's hours of operation, as some may have limited hours or be closed on certain days.

Eco-Tourism in Key West

Key West is a popular destination for eco-tourism, offering a variety of activities that allow visitors to experience the natural beauty of the area while also promoting conservation efforts. One of the most popular eco-tourism activities in Key West is shark viewing, which provides visitors with an up-close look at these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation efforts are an important part of eco-tourism in Key West. Tour operators take great care to ensure that their activities do not harm the marine ecosystem or disturb the animals that live there. They also work closely with local conservation organizations to promote the preservation of the area's natural resources.

Respecting the Ecosystem

Visitors to Key West are encouraged to respect the ecosystem by following a few simple rules. For example, they should avoid littering and should dispose of their trash properly to help maintain the cleanliness of the area. They should also avoid touching or disturbing the animals they encounter, as this can disrupt their natural behavior and cause them stress.

During eco-tours, visitors are often reminded of the importance of preserving the marine ecosystem and are provided with information about the various species they encounter. This helps to promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the natural world and encourages visitors to become advocates for conservation efforts.

Overall, eco-tourism in Key West offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the area's shallow waters and backcountry while also promoting conservation efforts. By respecting the ecosystem and supporting conservation efforts, visitors can help to ensure that this beautiful and unique atmosphere remains intact for future generations to enjoy.

Reviewing Your Experience

Shark viewing in Key West is an unforgettable experience that many tourists and locals alike enjoy. Reviews on TripAdvisor show that Key West Extreme Adventures Shark Tours is a popular choice for those seeking a thrilling shark viewing experience. With over 1,300 reviews, it is clear that many visitors have had a positive experience with this tour company.

One reviewer described their experience as a "wonderful shark viewing experience." They praised the tour guides for their knowledge and expertise, and said that the shark feeding was "awesome." Another reviewer noted that they saw plenty of dolphins on their tour, in addition to the sharks.

Overall, reviews suggest that shark viewing in Key West is a must-do activity for adventure seekers. Key West Extreme Adventures Shark Tours is a reputable and reliable option for those looking to take part in this thrilling experience.

It is important to note that while shark viewing can be an exciting and educational experience, it is also important to approach these animals with respect and caution. Tour companies should prioritize the safety of both their guests and the sharks, and follow guidelines for responsible wildlife viewing.

In summary, reviews on TripAdvisor show that shark viewing in Key West is an unforgettable experience that many visitors highly recommend. Key West Extreme Adventures Shark Tours is a popular choice for those seeking a thrilling and educational shark viewing experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some popular shark viewing tours in Key West?

Key West is a popular destination for shark viewing tours. Some of the most popular tours include the Shark and Wildlife Viewing Adventure in Key West, Key West Extreme Adventures Shark Tours, and Fury Water Adventures. These tours offer the opportunity to see a variety of shark species up close in their natural habitat.

Which companies offer shark boat tours in the Florida Keys?

Several companies offer shark boat tours in the Florida Keys, including Fury Water Adventures, Key West Extreme Adventures Shark Tours, and Shark and Wildlife Viewing Adventure in Key West. These companies offer a range of tours that cater to different interests and experience levels.

What is the best time of day to go shark viewing in Key West?

The best time of day to go shark viewing in Key West is early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Sharks are most active during these times, making it easier to spot them in the water. Additionally, the lighting during these times can make for some great photo opportunities.

Are there any restrictions on shark viewing in Key West?

There are some restrictions on shark viewing in Key West. For example, it is illegal to feed sharks in Florida, including in Key West. Additionally, it is important to follow the guidelines set by the tour companies to ensure the safety of both the sharks and the visitors.

What are some safety tips for shark viewing in Key West?

When shark viewing in Key West, it is important to follow the safety guidelines set by the tour company. This may include staying a safe distance from the sharks, not touching or feeding the sharks, and wearing appropriate safety gear such as a wetsuit or snorkeling gear. Visitors should also be aware of their surroundings and keep an eye out for other marine life in the area.

What other marine life can you see while shark viewing in Key West?

In addition to sharks, visitors to Key West may also have the opportunity to see a variety of other marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and a range of fish species. Some tours may also offer the opportunity to see other wildlife such as birds and reptiles.