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    Key Largo: what to see between beaches and nature reserves

    Who I am
    Martí Micolau
    @martímicolau
    SOURCES CONSULTED:

    wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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    Unforgettable views and beaches, a pleasant climate for outdoor life and the ideal setting for various water sports make Key Largo an ideal destination for everyone and in particular for those who want to experience the sea to the fullest. First jewel of the Florida Keys in the Monroe County, the town presents itself as a quiet, welcoming place, with excellent accommodation facilities, good food and joie de vivre.

    The name of this very long island (it stretches for almost 50 km) derives from the Spanish Cayo Largo. Key Largo is considered the diving capital of the world because here the absolute protagonist is the Florida Reef, the amazing barrier Reef which attracts hundreds of scuba divers, snorkelers, kayaking, parasailing and sport fishing enthusiasts who find something for their teeth in the waters of Key Largo. If that's not enough, those who have chosen Florida as a destination for ecotourism, in addition to visiting these beautiful natural areas, can also take advantage of the proximity of another Florida gem, the Everglades park: About 60 km for a 50-minute journey separate us from the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, the southernmost of the park.



    Index

    • How to get there from Miami
    • What to see in Key Largo and what to do
      • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
      • Other water activities
      • The beaches of Key Largo
      • Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
    • Events and festivals
    • Where to eat
    • Where to sleep in Key Largo

    How to get there from Miami

    For the visit of the Keys and other surroundings of the great city of Florida, we always recommend to rent a car in miami to be completely autonomous and easily reach more peripheral stages; however, if you are not of this opinion, you will have no problem getting to Key Largo with them bus area of G.



    Taking Miami airport as a reference point, we calculate approx 1.30 hours (traffic permitting) drive along the Ronald Reagan Turnpike and US-1 S: ​​they are 100 km of road the ones you need to get to Key Largo, the northernmost and largest of the many islands that make up the Florida Keys archipelago. Clearly, it is almost obvious to suggest continuing along the road and also visiting Islamorada, Marathon and Key West itself, without neglecting the natural wonder of Bahia Honda State Park.

    The last part of the itinerary is noteworthy: leaving the southern suburbs of Miami, at Florida City, take the spectacular bridge between Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the legendary one. Overseas Highway which on its way south has Key West as its terminus. Crossed by this road, Key Largo develops in length and width both to the west and to the east, with side streets where there are residential areas with large green spaces.

    Curiosity In the vicinity of many houses we notice mailboxes really special, with bizarre shapes linked in a particular way to the sea: to see! If you like the idea, you can also consider exploring the city in bicycle (All Keys Cycles at The Pink Plaza, oppure Riva Yamaha South, 98750 Overseas Highway).

    What to see in Key Largo and what to do

    Virtually all of Key Largo's activities are related to the sea, exploration of tropical nature and coral reefs.

    John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

    Our exploration of Key Largo begins with the island's most famous natural park: the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (102601 Overseas Hwy.), Which owes its name to the Miami publisher of the same name whose efforts also contributed to the formalization of the Everglades as a protected area. Founded in 1963, it was the first underwater park of the United States, although water-related activities here take place both underwater and on the surface. The fascinating coral formations and abundant tropical vegetation formed by mangrove swamps rich in marine and poultry fauna make this place a local must see.



    The park is open tutti i giorni from 8 to sunset. The entrance ticket it costs $ 8 for vehicles that accommodate 2 to 8 people, $ 4 for single-person vehicles or motorcycles, and $ 2 for bicycles and pedestrians.

    Tour to see the coral reef

    If you want to see the reef you will have to remember that first it is absolutely forbidden to touch the coral. Here's how you can do it:

    • you can join one of the Snorkel Tours at the following times: 9.00, 12.00, 13.45, 15.00. The cost of the tour ($ 29.95 for adults, $ 24.95 for under 18s) includes the wetsuit, but masks, fins and more must be rented separately on site. The Snorkel Tour is also the only way to see the Christ of the Abyss, a statue of Christ in the depths of the sea.
    • if you are experienced in diving and have a certificate, you can join one of the tour di Scuba Diving departing from the marina at 9.00 and 13.30. Also in this case, those who have not brought the equipment can obtain it on site by renting it. The cost is $ 55 per person.

    For those who do not like diving there is also a tour with the Glass Bottom Boat. As the name implies, you will be dry on a glass-bottomed boat, ideal for seeing the rich depths of the park (Molasses Reef). Tours lasting 1.30 / 2 hours depart near the Visitor Center, shifts are at 9.15am, 12.15pm and 15.15pm. The tour price is $ 24 per person ($ 17 for children under 12). Remember that with this boat you cannot see the Christ of the Abyss.



    As an alternative to this tour, boats and speedboats can be rented from dealerships in the port.

    What else to do in the park?

    Kayaking and canoeing enthusiasts can rent boats and paddle along the indicated routes between the mangroves. Call her fishery you should know that it is possible to practice it only in some areas of the park with the license for salt water and with the ban on taking tropical fish.

    At l 'Enviromental Education & Visitor Center You learn a lot about the coral ecosystem and the surrounding nature through programs created periodically for visitors and guided walking tours. Then in the Visitor Center building you can see a large one aquarium, while in the theater you can enjoy videos and exhibitions on the marine environment and the nature of the place.

    In the Concession Building and in the Drive Shop Building, wi-fi is free. A nice picnic? In the park there are special areas for this and also grills for the barbeque but it is strictly forbidden to light fires.

    Other water activities

    The Pennekamp dealer bottom glass boat is not the only one available in Key Largo: a good alternative is there Key Largo Princess Glass Bottom Boat (99701 Overseas Hwy). 2-hour day tours allow you to see the underwater beauty of Key Largo's coral reef. Drinks and snacks are available on board for a fee. The cost is $ 32 for adults and $ 18.50 for children.

    For those who do not want to miss anything on this island, they can plan a tour on theAfrican Queen (Overseas Hwy Mile Marker 100, at the Holiday Inn hotel). This is the boat that became famous for the homonymous film shot in 1951, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. The boat, built in England in 1912 and used in Africa as a means of transport on behalf of the East Africa British Co., is now used for day cruises (45 minutes in the canal and then tours in the Atlantic), dinners and private events. After the boat experience, many guests stop by to review the film.

    For diving enthusiasts we recommend encounters with marine life in the wreck of the Mirror Grove and in that of USCG Duane, reported as two of the best dive sites, including guided ones. The two reference agencies are Rainbow Reef (100800 Overseas Hwy) and Horizon Dives (105800 Overseas Hwy). Be careful to choose days without strong currents that would complicate visibility.

    Da Key Largo Water Sports (13 Seagate Blvd.) boats, kayaks, boards can be hired and guided boat tours can be taken. Those who love to fish have various options including day and half day fishing, night fishing and shark fishing. Also Grecian Rocks it is a special place for snorkeling: access to the area is by boat only but it is worth getting there for an experience to remember.

    Activities with dolphins

    We can't wait to spend some time with the Dolphins and then we reach the Dolphin Plus Bayside (101900 Overseas Hwy) for a close encounter with these cute marine mammals. You can swim and paint with them, train for a day and learn more about marine biology. But in Key Largo there is also another extraordinary site: Island Dolphin Care (150 Lorelane Pl.) Where the dolphins are the "therapists" and help people who are undergoing rehabilitation programs, both children and adults.

    The beaches of Key Largo

    The two beaches of Key Largo are both located within the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, so they are paid.

    • Cannon Beach: so named for the presence of cannons dating back to the 17th century, it is considered the best place to practice snorkeling. At a distance accessible by swimming you come to a wreck, a replica of the Spanish ship that used those guns. The beach is wide and sandy, the large car park is immediately adjacent.
    • Far Beach, the other beautiful beach of the John Pennekamp is ideal for swimming or walking in the shallow water and relaxing in the shade of the palm trees; in fact there is more shade here than at Cannon Beach. The beach is small in size and surrounded by tropical vegetation, which makes it very similar to a natural swimming pool. The parking is adjacent.

    Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

    A little further north we meet the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park (905 County Rd.), A state park named after a local environmental activist. In this long green strip there are more than 80 protected species of animals (including the American crocodile) and plants (of note the wild cotton and the mahogany mistletoe, a type of Florida mistletoe). Most of the paths are paved; the walks, self-guided or in the company of rangers, offer great opportunities for observation, study and high-level photographic shots. You can also opt for bike rides or you can relax with a nice picnic. The park is accessible year-round from sunrise to sunset, and admission costs $ 2.

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    Events and festivals

    Some Events citizens make a stay in Key Largo even more enjoyable.

    • In January, in different locations, the Key Largo Uncorked Food & Wine Festival during which you can taste refined foods and fine wines from around the world, meet professional chefs, attend culinary demonstrations and listen to live music. Some Key Largo artists donate their artwork to the festival. The event also takes place in Islamorada, approximately 25 minutes from Key West.
    • Il Key Largo Original Music Festival (104450 Overseas Hwy.) Is an important May event that attracts music lovers and not only; gathers American songwriters and bands who perform on different stages including pop, rock, blues, jazz and country styles. The next two events that we report take place in October.
    • At the Playa Resort & Spa (974500 Overseas Hwy.)Humphrey Bogart Film Festival which pays homage to the famous actor. On the occasion, films of the actor are proposed, talked about them at a round table, sipping a welcome cocktail and it is possible to view memorabilia that belonged to the actor and his family.
    • On the weekend of Columbus Day there is an event called Downtown Key Largo Songfest. In addition to listening to good music, it is possible to hear from the artists some curiosities about the genesis of musical pieces (“the story behind the song”). The event ranges from jazz to blues, from pop to country through rock & roll.

    Where to eat

    Here are some tips for those who want to try the restaurants in the area.

    A characteristic restaurant with a casual, familiar and affordable style is the Sharkey’s Pub & Galley Restaurant (522 Caribbean Dr.), open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with an air-conditioned lounge and patio near the waterfront. Among the various proposals on the menu we find tasty omelettes, fried coconut shrimp, tacos, chicken salad and smoked burger. Try the drinks from the pub.

    A waterfront paradise, an oceanfront oasis, it is Skipper’s Dockside (528 Caribbean Dr.) recognizable from the outside by the shape of an old icebox. Excellent the key lime pie, the typical Florida pie, to which are added roasted or marinated chicken and tacos. The restaurant offers happy hour from Monday to Friday from 15 to 18 with beer, wine. Musical events are reported on the site.

    Shipwreck’s Bar & Grill (45 Garden Cove Dr.) is a "keys style" restaurant located on the waterfront with indoor and outdoor spaces. Live music is played on weekends. Among the proposals on the menu at reasonable prices we point out the mozzarella sticks with tomato sauce, coconut shrimp, barbeque sandwich, caesar salad and basket with chicken or fish.

    On Florida Bay we recommend the Sundowners (103900 Overseas Hwy). From the window in the living room you can enjoy a splendid view, or you can sit on the veranda and on the tropical patio. There are various proposals: tropical chicken salad, grilled shrimps and snapper, tartar sauce sandwich with cheese and smoked fish, but the essential thing is to leave room for one of the desserts: chocolate cake, peanut butter cake and fried ice cream. Key lime.

    For a dive into Key Largo's history there is a bar that is a local icon, the Caribbean Club (104080 Overseas Hwy), founded in 1938. It should be visited not only for the fact that the film African Queen was filmed there, but because nowadays it is a venue that offers spectacular sunsets, events, game nights, live music, sparkling.

    Where to sleep in Key Largo

    Between the structures receptive of Key Largo we point out:

    • Il Long Beach Resort & Spa (97450 Overseas Hwy), a hotel surrounded by lush greenery. The rooms and suites, each with its own particularities, enjoy a spectacular view. The hotel features a spa, fitness center, banquet and conference room, boat ramp, marina, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts.
    • Il Coconut Bay Resort (97770 Overseas Hwy.) Is the “dream come true” of an elementary school teacher in Key Largo. Directly overlooking Floria Bay, the property features 21 rooms and cottages in a lush garden with orchids, hibiscus, bougainvillea and fruit trees. The rooms are bright and designed for guests' comfort; there is also a swimming pool and a private beach. Every morning Peg, the owner, prepares coffee and scones, small sweet rolls to fill.
    • Al Kona Kai Resort & Gallery (97802 Overseas Hwy.) The pleasant rooms and suites are located in a structure within a garden. Each is decorated differently. The hotel has a private beach with soft sand, free parking and free wi-fi.
    • Overlooking the coast we point out theHampton Inn Key Largo (102400 Overseas Hwy.) With comfortable rooms equipped with free wi-fi, mini fridge and microwave. There is also an outdoor pool, business center, and fitness center. The hotel has a beautiful tropical garden.

    Search all the hotels in Key Largo

    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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