We finished our brief visit to the Everglades and Miami, so now it was time to pile the family back in the van and head down to the Florida Keys. From the Everglades, we headed south to Key Largo. We decided to stay in Key Largo rather than the more popular Key West for several reasons: First, as we only had a limited amount of time to spend in the Keys, Key Largo is a much shorter drive and we didn’t want to spend a big chunk of our valuable time in the car. Second, accommodations are much less expensive in Key Largo. Third, apart from the college-aged family member on the trip, the rest of us weren’t much interested in the raging night life that Key West is well-known for.
I found a charming, three-story townhouse rental by owner that would accommodate all of us for three nights at a total price that was less than two hotel rooms for just one night. The owner was very accommodating, allowing us the check in/check out whenever we wanted and providing excellent directions. It was a bit funky, but the unit was a short five-minute walk to the ocean and it sat right on a lagoon that turned out to be a very entertaining part of the stay. The lagoon was fed by sea water and was home to a myriad of sea life. Multiple times a day, we would see four huge Parrot Fish zipping by our balcony overlooking the lagoon, and we found a giant lobster hanging out on the side in some rocks. We could swim or snorkel in the lagoon any time, making it a convenient way to cool off on a hot afternoon.
So, what to do in Key Largo? Our vacation party consisted of two seventy-year olds, one of whom had back surgery just three weeks prior to vacation, three 40 and 50 somethings, one twenty-year old college student, and one eight-year old…quite the variety to keep entertained. My wife and I are divers, but the rest of the party was not. We found a perfect solution with Rainbow Reef Divers. Because the diving near Key Largo is generally not very deep and the water is fairly calm, many of the dive boats will take snorkelers as well. So, early one morning, we all loaded onto a boat with diving/snorkeling gear in hand and headed out to sea. The morning dive spots were only about five miles off shore. After the divers hit the water, the snorkelers eagerly jumped in. The very cool thing about snorkeling here was that the snorkelers saw almost all of the same sea life as the divers. At our second dive spot, we saw numerous Spotted Eagle Rays gently gliding through the water. They were absolutely beautiful, and the snorkelers saw them as well! Because of his recent back surgery, Valerie’s dad hung out in boat and visited with the crew while everyone else splashed around in the water; but he still had a good time.
Well, the diving and snorkeling took care of the morning, now how do we keep the family amused the rest of the day? After lunch, we decided to just pile in the van and drive down Highway 1 and see what we could see. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time stuck in the van, so we looked for something fairly close to Key Largo. After driving for about 30 minutes, we stumbled across the Theater of the Sea in Islamorada. Theater of the Sea is a marine animal park that’s both an animal sanctuary and a performance show using the resident land and sea critters. They have dolphins, sea lions, parrots, and sting rays. They have standard shows that are included in your admission fee. For an additional cost, you can swim with dolphins and seal lions, play with stingrays, and all kind of interesting activities. Or, you can volunteer to interact with the animals during the shows at no cost but at great fun! It was a great place to learn about various sea creatures as well as be entertained by them.
Well, that seemed to keep everyone amused for the afternoon. Then it was time to head back to the townhouse to relax, have a few drinks, catch a few rays (sun, not sting), and enjoy the rest of our last full day in the Keys.