If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know that I’m pretty obsessed with finding marine creatures wherever I go.
I heard that stingrays are super common in some parts of Florida and I wanted to see them for myself!
I found that Key West was by far the best place to see and swim with stingrays safely.
I ended up joining this kayaking & snorkeling tour and I’m so glad I did. I ended up seeing at least 20 or more stingrays and got to see them up close.
In the rest of this guide, I’ll tell you all of the exact locations across Florida where you can see and swim with stingrays and how to keep yourself safe.
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Where Can You Swim with Stingrays in Florida?
Stingrays can be found on many of the beaches across Florida. They tend to prefer warm, shallow waters and often bury themselves under the sand on the ocean floor.
Despite their dangerous reputation, stingrays are actually super friendly and docile so you don’t need to be frightened of them.
The rays do sting in self-defense from time to time if you’re not careful so go with a guide to ensure you don’t get hurt (stings are rare and can easily be avoided).
I recommend joining a tour to swim with stingrays in Florida as this ensures you stay safe.
In the following list, I’ve covered locations all over Florida where you can see stingrays including the Florida Keys, Tampa, Fort Myers and more.
1. Key West
By far the best place to see stingrays in Florida is in Key West as stingrays thrive in the warm waters of the Florida Keys.
Key West is Florida’s most southern city giving it a more tropical environment which is similar to that of the Caribbean. This is ideal for spotting stingrays.
Stingrays are so common in Key West that, in fact, you’ll have trouble NOT seeing one.
I’d recommend joining this kayaking and snorkeling tour which is the exact one I did.
This super fun tour involves sailing, kayaking and snorkeling just off the coast of Key West.
We got to kayak through a maze of mangrove covered canals and I saw so much for wildlife including stingrays, sharks, fish and more.
I was genuinely in shock at how many stingrays I saw!! It was incredible.
This is then followed by a snorkeling activity in a coral reef which gives you even more opportunities to observe stingrays and even swim beside them.
Alternatively, you could join this glass bottom boat tour around Key West which gives a different perspective of the ocean.
And if you’re feeling adventurous then you can join this jet ski tour in Key West which takes you through Key West’s tropical blue waterways searching for stingrays.
As well as stingrays, Key West is home to a wide variety of other marine life including sharks, dolphins, turtles, manatees, tropical fish and more.
Stingrays tend to be bottom feeders so can usually be found close to the sea floor. As the water is super clear in Key West, you’ll have no problem spotting them.
- Sailing, Kayaking & Snorkeling Adventure (best option)
- Jet Ski Tour Around Key West (adventurous)
- Glass Bottom Boat Tour Around Key West
Check out this large stingray spotted whilst scuba diving in Key West in the video below:
2. Key Largo
Key Largo is the largest island that forms part of the Florida Keys.
Stingrays love the warm water of the Florida Keys so you have a really high chance of spotting a stingray here.
I found that the best place to spot stingrays was at Molasses Reef which is a large coral reef located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Molasses Reef is a great place for scuba diving and snorkeling and is actually one of the most visited coral reefs in the world.
I spent a good few hours snorkeling here and saw a ton of marine life. The water was ridiculously clear which made seeing stingrays really easy.
I’d recommend joining this Key Largo snorkeling tour which takes you to the best reefs Key Largo has to offer. It’s suitable for all levels including beginners.
You’ll definitely see more than just stingrays! It’s absolutely magical to be able to discover a whole new world under the sea.
Another great place in Key Largo where you can see stingrays is at Tavernier Creek which consists of a huge mangrove forest, home to a wide range of marine animals.
You can join a kayaking tour like this one and glide through the creek looking out for stingrays, manatees, dolphins and more.
A tour is the best option if you really want to see a stingray because the guides have a huge amount of experience and knowledge of the local area so they know where to find stingrays without fail.
Check out the stunning stingray spotted whilst scuba diving in Key Largo in the video below:
Did you know you can also see manatees in Key West? Find out where to see manatees in Key West here.
3. Bunche Beach, Fort Myers
Bunche Beach is a nature preserve located in Fort Myers.
This 718 acre preserve features healthy mangrove forests, shallow bays and beautiful beaches.
I’d recommend joining this kayaking tour around Bunche Beach as the guides will take you to the best spots where you’ll find stingrays.
As this area is so huge, you may struggle to find the rays without a knowledgeable guide.
I did this tour recently and really enjoyed it. As well as stingrays, I saw manatees, dolphins, spoonbills and even a sea turtle at Bunche Beach.
4. Ten Thousand Islands
The Ten Thousand Islands is a chain of islands and mangrove islets that lie just off the coast of southwest Florida.
The best way to explore the Ten Thousand Islands is by joining a boat tour like this one.
You can just sit back and relax whilst enjoying the ride and keeping your eyes peeled for stingrays, alligators, dolphins, manatees and more.
I’ve been to the Ten Thousand Islands several times now and every time I always see so much incredible marine life. It’s one of my favorite places in Florida that’s for sure.
5. Boca Ciega Bay
The Boca Ciega Bay, located in Tampa Bay, is a body of water that is connected to the Gulf of Mexico so it’s the perfect spot for stingrays due to the warm waters.
This bay is a popular spot for spotting dolphins but is also home to lots of other marine creatures including stingrays, manatees and seabirds.
You can join a 2-hour dolphin watching cruise which takes you out around the bay searching for animals. You’ll be able to see both dolphins and stingrays on this cruise.
The types of rays that can regularly be spotted at Boca Ciega Bay include cow-nosed, southern, Atlantic, butter and the larger spotted eagle rays.
- Boca Ciega Bay Cruise (you can see both dolphins and stingrays)
If you enjoy seeing stingrays, you may also be interested in knowing where to see flamingos in Florida.
6. Florida Aquarium in Tampa Bay
The Florida Aquarium has over 9,000 sea creatures to see and is consistently ranked as one of the best aquariums in North America. They are also involved in lots of conservation efforts.
This fun aquarium has a wide range of aquatic animals including sharks, turtles, penguins, seahorses, otters and, of course, stingrays.
They even have hands-on experience with the stingrays in a 5,000 gallon touch pool. This is one of the only places in Florida where you can actually touch the stingrays.
I’d recommend purchasing your ticket beforehand to avoid long queues when you get there.
You can purchase your ticket here.
Address: 701 Channelside Dr, Tampa, FL 33602
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday, 9:30am to 5pm
Check out the stingray experience at Florida Aquarium in the video below:
Other Places in Florida Where You Can See Stingrays
There’s many other places in Florida where you can commonly see stingrays.
In fact, most beaches in Florida actually have some rays present in their waters. They can usually be found hiding in the sand on the seabed.
Stingrays like warm, shallow waters. Try walking 3 to 9 meters out into the ocean as this is where you will usually find them.
These are great places to find stingrays for free if you don’t feel like booking a tour.
Remember to be super careful as stingrays can hurt you if you step on them (I’ve listed some handy tips below to help you avoid getting hurt).
Here’s a list of other beaches known to have frequent stingray sightings:
- Clearwater Beach
- Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island
- St. Augustine Beach
Best Time Of Year To See Stingrays
Stingrays can be found at any time of year however in Florida, stingrays are most active between April and October. This is known as Florida stingray season.
The Florida stingray season is during the warmer months of the year because stingrays love warm, shallow waters.
Stingray mating season in Florida is also from April to October.
What Time of Day are Stingrays Most Active?
Stingrays are most active between the hours of 11AM and 3PM.
This also tends to be the hours that most people decide to visit the beaches.
Swimming with Stingrays in Florida Tips
First time swimming with stingrays?
To ensure that both you and the stingrays remain safe, there’s a few key things to bear in mind when swimming with them in Florida.
- Do not touch, pick up or play with the stingrays. Stingrays do possess poison in their tails which could seriously harm you so don’t touch them.
- Keep a safe distance and admire the stingrays from afar. This is aimed to keep you safe so you don’t accidentally upset the stingray.
- Be wary of the sandy bottom of the ocean. Stingrays often bury themselves in the sand and you could agitate them if you step on them.
- Shuffle your feet in the sand as you walk in the ocean. This is the best way to enter the ocean as you will avoid standing on a stingray and scaring it.
These key tips protect both you and the stingrays.
The Stingray Shuffle
The ‘stingray shuffle’ is a common technique that you can use when entering the ocean on any Florida beach.
It’s a way to avoid being stung by a stingray.
Unfortunately stingrays do sting humans from time to time (painful but very rarely deadly).
This usually happens when a stingray has buried itself in the sand and someone steps on them. The stingray will think it is under attack and sting in self-defense.
It can be very difficult to spot a stingray because they are usually covered with sand.
How To Do The Stingray Shuffle
Don’t take large steps into the water. Instead move slowly and shuffle your feet in the sand as you walk into the ocean.
By shuffling your feet, this gently stirs the sand around you which lets stingrays know you’re there. They will then likely move away.
You can see the stingray shuffle in action in the video below:
And that’s it!
During stingray season, stingrays can be seen all over Florida and you may even get the chance to swim with stingrays in Florida if you go to the right places.
Don’t forget your underwater camera so you can snap some amazing photos of these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.