JOURNEYS

Experience Laidback Style and Water Sports in Key Largo

Laidback Style and Water Sports in Key Largo

The Florida Keys are a favorite getaway for Floridians and out-of-towners alike. Comprising 44 islands linked by 113 miles of roadway and 42 bridges, it’s a vast and varied tropical destination worthy of months of exploration. For a week-long vacation, it’s best to choose one island as your base and Key Largo, the biggest of them all, measures more than 30 miles long. It’s particularly famous for scuba diving. But sea lovers can also spend their days snorkeling, sport fishing, swimming at various beaches, or participating in dolphin encounter programs. This five-day itinerary touches on a bit of it all, with plenty of time on the water.

The Everglades National Park

TRIP HIGHLIGHT

The Everglades National Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is the United States’ largest tropical wilderness and home to Florida alligators and panthers, American crocodiles, and even black bear. Kayak some of its 734 square miles to travel deeper in the pristine landscape.
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TRIP DESIGNER

The Florida Keys & Key West

With miles of beaches, an abundance of eclectic cultural riches, and communities known for welcoming, laidback attitudes, The Florida Keys & Key West invite you to “come as you are.” Enjoy tranquility and relaxation; fishing, diving, and boating; and top-tier dining, plus museums, artists and history, in island settings of stunning natural beauty.
Scuba diving in Key Largo

Scuba diving in Key Largo

Day 1 Introduction to Key Largo

You can suddenly find yourself in the islands after just an hour’s drive from South Florida’s two major airports—that’s part of the beauty of Key Largo. Head south from Miami and enter the Overseas Highway, the gateway to the Florida Keys. Savor the view as you see why it’s often referred to as “The Highway That Goes to the Sea.”

Check in at the Reefhouse Resort & Marina for your four-night stay in Key Largo. This stylish resort has an outstanding waterfront location, which makes it a favorite among scuba divers. Take advantage of the waterfront views and get a room with a balcony. After settling in, explore the 17-acre property. Try out amenities like a fitness center, full-service spa, several pools, and beach access along the Gulf of Mexico.

That night, partake in a happy hour of frozen drinks like strawberry mojitos or piña coladas at Flipper’s Pool Bar. It will whet your palate for the seafood feast to come. At Gus’ Grille, dine on lobster tail or coconut-crusted grouper while you bask in the gentle sea breezes.

Everglades National Park in Key Largo, FL

Day 2Into the Everglades

Key Largo is where the mangrove-covered swamps of the Everglades slowly give way to the white-sand beaches associated with the Florida Keys. After breakfast, you’ll head out to explore the 1.5 million acres of Everglades National Park and discover why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s great natural treasures.

Get oriented at Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and learn about ranger-led activities happening that day, such as kayaking or bicycle tours. Or ask about the top places to stroll the boardwalks, and where you have the best chances to spot alligators swimming or herons stepping through the waters.

As the sun begins to lower, that’s your signal to return to Key Largo for a memorable dining experience at the Fish House, an iconic Key Largo spot full of local flavor. Don’t miss the Fish Matecumbe–the house specialty–featuring locally caught fish topped with tomatoes, onions, and capers.
African Queen Key Largo

Day 3Venture Deeper

Today you’ll go further west into Key Largo. First, wake up with a generous, Florida Keys-style breakfast at local favorite Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. That could mean one of their signature dishes like crab cake Benedict or freshly caught fish and grits. More adventurous eaters might go for the two eggs and alligator sausage. Then return to the resort to take a quick dip in the pool.

Next up, the African Queen. Yes, it’s that African Queen, the steam engine-powered boat from the 1951 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. The voyage departs from the Marina Del Mar and navigates the Port Largo Canals to the Atlantic Ocean. The small group size means you can expect lots of interaction with the captain and fellow passengers.

Following the boat ride, enjoy a quiet dinner at Key Largo Conch House. This family-owned spot inside a cozy, peach-colored gingerbread house features fresh takes on favorite regional dishes centered around sustainable seafood, like conch tacos and fish crusted in coconut and macadamia. It also provides a slew of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
embark on a cruise in Key Largo

Day 4Fun on the Water

First things first, fuel up with breakfast at Harriette’s. Harriette Mattson has been running this Florida Keys stalwart, decked out in palm tree curtains, for decades. If you’re there on the weekend, try the conch Benedict with a homemade biscuit crowned with chopped conch and green onions, a poached egg, and homemade Hollandaise sauce. But whatever you order, save room for at least one of the restaurant’s signature Key Lime muffins.

Next on today’s agenda is a visit to Dolphins Plus (which also runs the Dolphins Plus Marine Mammals Responder, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing dolphins). During the Caring for Dolphins Demo, a professional trainer educates visitors on how the facility cares for these sea mammals. But those interested in something more hands-on can schedule a private swim to get a one-on-one experience with one of the animals.

On the other side of the Overseas Highway lies your next destination–Cruisin’ Tikis. You’ll embark on a two-hour cruise while the sun sets over shimmering waters. Plus, you can even bring along your own snacks and drinks.

You’ll disembark at Snooks Bayside Restaurant, your lively dinner destination for the night. Find island-inspired dishes like pistachio-crusted yellowtail with chili beurre blanc and shrimp cakes garnished with sweet Thai chili and mango chutney. And if you’re still energetic after all the day’s activities, you can stay for drinks and live music.

The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary in Key Largo

Day 5Key Largo Wildlife

Check out of the hotel after having breakfast there. By then, it’s time for one last activity before your Key Largo vacation. The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary cares for more than 90 birds that can’t be safely rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Visitors are welcome to take a self-guided tour through the sanctuary to see hawks, owls, pelicans, vultures, herons, and more.

Finally, depart Key Largo on a sweet note. At Café Moka, order one of their famous almond croissants and a coffee to go before journeying back to the mainland. Or, if time permits, you can take your order to the courtyard and dine al fresco one last time, relishing the sea breezes and warm, tropical air.

While relishing the sea breezes and warm, tropical air, it’s the perfect place to reflect on your extraordinary trip to Key Largo. Hopefully, Those laid-back vibe from the islands will linger long after you return home. Whenever you need another dose of relaxation, you know you can always return.