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    Bahia Honda State Park: the wonderful beaches of the Florida Keys

    Who I am
    Joel Fulleda
    @joelfulleda
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    After the pacifying sceneries and tropical beaches of Marathon, our trip to Florida to discover the archipelago of the Keys continues south, towards the Lower Keys. What a show! As we descend towards the Key West "terminus" we meet glimpses whose charm is difficult to resist. After the spectacular ocean bridge called 7 Mile Bridge, the Overseas Highway brings us near the Mile Marker 37, on the small island of Bahia Honda Key, which extends for just over 2 square kilometers. Geologically speaking, this island is based on a coral rock formation of prehistoric origin, from which the material known as "Key Largo limestone" is derived.



    The goal of our visit is Bahia Honda State Park (in Spanish "deep bay"), whose beautiful beaches are the pride of all the Keys. Let's try to describe in a few words this place that entirely occupies the small island: white beach, turquoise waters, coral reef, swaying palm trees, dense vegetation and fauna: practically a corner of paradise still sheltered from mass tourism.

    You don't need many adjectives to describe Bahia Honda; this is one of those destinations where you feel the need to go from time to time, a place where you feel surrounded by nature as a protagonist, that same nature that is however capable of hurting what it has created spectacularly; L'Hurricane Irma is a concrete example (in March 2019 Sandspur Beach was still suffering from the damage) but despite everything, when things like this happen, you always get up, stronger than before.

    Index

    • Where is it and how to get there
    • Prices and times of entry to the park
    • The beaches of Bahia Honda State Park
      • Sandspur Beach
      • Calusa Beach
      • Loggerhead Beach
    • Tours and activities in the park
      • Water Tours
      • Bird watching
    • Where to sleep near the park

    Where is it and how to get there

    For those coming from the north, the entrance to the Bahia Honda State Park is located 19 kilometers south of Marathon, directly on the Overseas Highway.



    For those coming from the south instead, the park exit is at a distance of 56 km from Key West. The closest island is Big Pine Key, famous for the presence of Key deer, the Florida deer, especially endangered: when you have passed it get ready to exit the highway, but not before having made a stop to photograph the last stretch of railway standing on the ocean (the East Coast Railway di Henry Flagler, which we will talk about better). Follow the directions given here to take some unforgettable photos of this historical testimony.

    Prices and times of entry to the park

    The park is open all year from 8 to sunset at a cost of $ 9 for vehicles with more than one occupant, $ 4.50 for vehicles with only one occupant and $ 2.50 for pedestrians and bicycles. Prices are subject to changes over time, so always compare yourself with this page to find out more precisely.

    The beaches of Bahia Honda State Park

    Founded in 1961, the park is known for snorkeling and fishing, among other things. The days when this was a transit area for sailors are long gone: now the marine park is an ideal destination for those looking for an authentic relationship with nature. In the area they stand out three beaches near which it is possible to park for free: one facing the Gulf of Mexico (Calusa Beach), one to the south (Loggerhead Beach) and the other to the north (Sandspur Beach), towards the Atlantic Ocean. The latter is the most popular, thanks also to its tropical aspect.


    For the benefit of all visitors, at Bahia Honda Park there are two small pavilions that make available barbecue grills (electricity and water are not available), picnic tables, toilets, cabins and outdoor showers. In the main building, open from 10 to 17, there is a restaurant area where small snacks, ice cream, water and drinks are served; there is also a well-stocked gift shop that also sells items for maritime activities. You can rent equipment for snorkeling, kayaking, umbrellas, sunbeds and you can take advantage of the free wi-fi.


    Sandspur Beach

    To reach the beach, just turn left immediately after the park entrance: it is the most "remote" area of ​​the park, but we're still minutes from the visitor center. Since there are no lifeguards, the important thing is to observe the signs relating to the dangers caused by the currents: respecting this is essential to safely enjoy the splendid sea.

    Calusa Beach

    Going up a little on the opposite side, towards the interior of the gulf, we arrive at Calusa Beach, which is located in a strategic position not far from the marina. The beach is small, but the main advantage is that the sheltered position allows you to swim in the calm and warm water even when the other beaches have a rough sea. Behind the beach there are showers, cabins and a bar with an adjoining shop.

    We are close to an icon, the old railway bridge designed and built by Henry Flagler between 1905 and 1912 to combine the various keys (they called it "Flagler's Folly" to describe the incredible feat). The bridge was later decommissioned when the current Overseas Highway was created. Calusa Beach, in addition to presenting itself in an inviting way thanks to the sand and the colors of the water, therefore represents a panoramic point of excellence to see the bridge.


    Moreover, the first part of the railway bridge can be covered via a very short walk starting right behind the beach: from up there you can enjoy a beautiful elevated view of Calusa Beach. From a certain point of view, one of the missions of the State Park is precisely to preserve the trace of Flagler's great dream in the best possible way.

    There is another panoramic point, perhaps even more spectacular, which allows you to admire the old bridge, it is from theOld Bahia Honda Bridge, we explained how to reach it in the article on the Florida Keys.


    Loggerhead Beach

    This is the less famous beach in Bahia Honda, but it is impossible not to notice it. Following the main road after the ranger booth, you come to a first car park: in front of it there is the long and narrow strip of Loggerhead Beach, characterized by the presence of a breakwater formed by the rocks. A little further on it is also possible have a picnic in the reserved area.

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    Tours and activities in the park

     

    Water Tours

    When you are here you should not miss the opportunity to rent, perhaps by booking in advance, boats for tours that allow you to appreciate the splendid views of the island, to meet rays, barracudas, sea turtles and bottle-nosed dolphins. The rental currently has a minimum cost of dollars 30 which increases according to the size of the vessel.

    Also from the Marina there are also spectacular boat tours organized by Coral Reef Company to snorkel and to enjoy the beauty of Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, 12 miles offshore in waters ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 meters in depth. (Tour cost: $ 29.95 for adults, $ 24.95 for kids, $ 2 for masks, $ 2 for fins; protective vests are included).

    La fishery is another very popular activity; the important thing is to be in possession of the license that can be obtained online and that is also necessary to rent boats when you go fishing for snappers, typical of this area. It is possible to request the presence of a guide who can indicate the best places to cast the line. Kayaks can also be rented to browse the coast, a very relaxing and inexpensive way to explore superlative waters ($ 18 per hour for a double kayak and $ 12 for a single kayak).

    Bird watching

    Leaving aside the shorelines and the water momentarily, the park is also a paradise for fans of bird watching. Along the way you will encounter waders, herons, ibises, white-crested pigeons. From mid-September to mid-November the show is guaranteed, when you can see if flying in the skymigratory alks. You can also enjoy fun and healthy “bicycle rides” in the 5 paved kilometers of the park, taking care not to invade the sidewalks. Florida law recommends safety helmets for adults and mandatorily requires them for children under 16.

    Where to sleep near the park

    Bahia Honda State Park does not have traditional accommodations but it is a true paradise for those who love camp. Inside the park there are three specific areas with a total of 80 spaces divided between areas for tents and pitches for caravans / campers. There are some rules to observe: vehicles cannot be more than 2 meters tall and pets are only allowed on a leash at a distance that does not exceed 1,80 meters.

    You can also stay in one of the few bungalow that accommodate up to a maximum of 6 people. The prices per night vary according to the season: from May to October about 120 $ and from November to April about 160 $. However, a minimum stay of two nights is required. It is important to book early on the official website.

    If, on the other hand, you prefer to stay overnight in more classic accommodation facilities outside the park, you can click on the link below. Otherwise you can refer to the section dedicated to where to sleep in Marathon which is the city closest to the attraction.

    Look for a hotel near Bahia Honda State Park

     

    Are you planning a Florida tour?

    I recommend these articles:

    • How to organize a Florida tour on your own?
    • Car rental Miami and Florida: low cost practical tips
    • Florida climate: when to go and what temperatures to expect
    • Miami Travel Guide: Useful Tips for Planning a Vacation
    • Low Cost USA flights: how to save money for your flight to the United States
    • America health insurance: how to choose the best policy
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