K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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Key Largo is the first and most easily accessible of the Florida Keys. A slice of Caribbean-like paradise, enjoy everything from tropical drinks on pristine white sands to all sorts of outdoor adventure. There is a wide range of accommodation options, including family-friendly hotels, mid-range and luxurious resorts for basing your stay as well as a long list of things to do, including these options.
America’s first undersea park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is Key Largo’s most popular attraction, protecting and preserving the country’s only living coral reef. This top attraction in South Florida is linked to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and together they include over 178 nautical square miles that make it ideal for exploring this incredible underwater world. Look forward to scuba diving, snorkeling kayaking and glass-bottom boat tours. There’s also a visitor center that features a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and a theater showing nature films as well as a shell-covered beach, small swimming area and picnic spots.
The Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is just a short drive outside of Key Largo in Tavernier. It’s a must-visit for bird lovers, and admission is free although donations are accepted. Enjoy close encounters with pelicans, hawks, herons, ospreys and other birds that can’t be released back into the wild, taking self-guided tours along the boardwalk to watch the feathered creatures that live in spacious screened enclosures. Take a stroll over to the Mangrove Wetland to visit the beach where birds roam free.
Kayaking through the strikingly clear emerald waters of the Keys is one of the most popular things to do in Key Largo and throughout the region. Visitors can join Garl’s Coastal Kayaking Everglades to take its short tour that begins here, exploring Florida Bay’s marine environment, including a guided snorkeling experience with a certified biologist/naturalist guide. The outfitter also offers kayaking adventure tours that paddle through nearby Everglades National Park ecosystems, starting from the park’s main entrance in Homestead.
Kona Kai Resort hosts the Gallery of Kona Kai, one of the most sophisticated in South Florida. It showcases an impressive array of local and international works from artists around the world. Collected by husband and wife owners Joe and Veronica Harris, both guests of the resort and visitors can check out the many pieces the pair have amassed over nearly 40 years.
Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge preserves and protects American crocodile habitat. While viewing the crocs is an opportunity only for volunteers, guests can visit to learn about the animal’s ailing, delicate habitat and how it can be helped, as well as visit the Butterfly Garden. It attracts many different pollinators with over 50 different species of native plants and features meandering paths for viewing.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park features six miles of scenic trails to walk as well as 80 rare protected plant and animal species, including American crocodiles. A bird watcher’s paradise, there are more than 20 species of wood-warblers in the spring and fall along with mangrove cuckoos, white-crowned pigeons and more all year-round. Be sure to keep an eye out for the zebra longwings and ruddy daggerwings that soar through the hammock. Look forward to a variety of summer events, walking and biking paved trails and exploring the self-guided nature trail that offers details about the park’s wildlife and ecosystem. Ranger-guided tours are available too.
For an adrenaline-filled ride, take a Jetpack Water Flight. The flights offer a thrilling ride with certified instructors with two different options to choose from, both of which require balance rather than strength. The more skilled you become the faster you’ll go, and you can even attempt to go cart-style turns in the air. You’ll get 30 minutes of flight time, and even beginners can typically master flight control and stability in just a few minutes before trying more advanced maneuvers like high drops, underwater submarines and walking on water.
The Florida Keys draw many fishing enthusiasts from across the globe with the opportunity to reel in all sorts of big fish like marlin, giant wahoo, tuna, mahi-mahi, shark and more. There is a long list of outfitters to choose from whether you’re looking for a half-day, full-day or more. Book a party charter boat, go reef fishing, flats fishing, venture into the backcountry, and perhaps combine a trip with snorkeling and/or bird watching too. You can also rent fishing equipment or bring your own to test your luck from the shore.
Key lime pie is the Keys’ signature dessert, made with limes that were introduced here in 1830. This tart and creamy treat is a must-try in the Florida Keys and it can be found on many restaurant menus, including Mrs Mac’s Kitchen, the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory and the restaurant at Baker’s Cay Resort. Dessert chefs here create a white and pecan chocolate crust that perfectly balances with the zesty lime flavor.
The Florida Keys, including Key Largo, are famous for jaw-dropping sunsets – in fact many songs have even be written about them. One of the best ways to experience one of the region’s most mesmerizing is to embark on a sunset sailing catamaran cruise, gliding across the tranquil glistening sea with a glass of rum punch, wine or cold beer in hand. Reef Roamer, Calypso Sailing and Sail Key Largo are just a few of the top choices for this experience.