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Why we ❤ Molasses Reef

diver underwater with lighthouse in background
March 15, 2022

Have you ever gone to a place so much that you got kind of tired of it… then you stop going there for a long time… and then you go back and remember how wonderful it is?

Back in the day when I was working with a bigger scuba diving operation here in Key Largo, the dive boat would visit Molasses Reef on a regular, sometimes daily schedule. During these frequent visits I got to learn some of the dive sites pretty well!

Then Jill and I started Lucky Fish Scuba out of Garden Cove Marina on the northern side of Key Largo. Our most frequently-visited dive sites tend to be the Elbow and Carysfort reefs, with very few ventures to Molasses.

​However, we’ve started taking our regular customers down south to dive Molasses again.

It’s about 12 miles south of us and — if the weather and seas are agreeable — it takes about 30 minutes to get there from our dock.

lucky fish scuba dive locations
Molasses Reef is in upper right corner of map

In the intervening 3 years I had forgotten which mooring balls were which but with the opportunity to dive quite a few spots the last 3 weeks, I quickly picked up where I left off. I got underwater and almost instantly started remembering that particular site. Even I was amazed* that I found my way around again so easily!

With a mixture of spur and groove, ledge and even some wreck structures at depths of 20′-45′, this reef area has it all. There’s lots to look at and fun swim-throughs for practicing buoyancy. The visibility has been great with only slight current.

Goliath groupers, sharks, turtles of all kinds, stingrays and moray eels in abundance on almost every dive. Whether you enjoy serenely swimming along with sea creatures or witnessing “Wild Kingdom” moments** underwater, Molasses has something for you!

My favorite sites right now include:

  • Winch Hole and the nearby moorings that lead to it
  • Spanish Anchor
  • The Wellwood
  • Eagle Ray Alley
  • The Aquarium
  • Hole in the Wall

Last week we dived the south end which I had never really explored. Wow, west of Fire Coral Cave was wonderful and I can’t wait to explore the south end some more. Of course, the currents on the south side tend to be stronger than central and northern Molasses.

One downside of Molasses: it’s a very busy reef with 30+ mooring balls and boat traffic is an issue! Professional captains from the regular scuba charters and the glass bottom boats are very good. But casual boaters with less knowledge about safe boating and no-fishing rules in this Sanctuary Preservation Area (SPA) can be annoying, if not a little scary. We brief our divers to keep well down below the surface and be careful when ascending!

And some final fun facts about Molasses Reef: its lighthouse-looking structure collects wind data that’s used to forecast sea conditions for this part of Key Largo… and that forecast location is the Windfinder app’s #1 most visited spot in the US!***

*yes even seasoned dive guides like me regularly amaze ourselves when we successfully navigate around a dive site!

​**Click here for serenely swimming with a sea turtle… or here to see a completely-safe-but-kind-of-dramatic “Wild Kingdom” moment!

***In other words, when we tell you the waves are going to be so big that you won’t enjoy a boat trip to the reef, this is how we know!

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