Let’s make sure we understand. You’re going on a Florida Keys vacation but aren’t sure where to start? You know there will be lots of chances to swim and lounge around near the water, but you’re wondering what else The Keys have to offer. Well, wonder no more. We’ve gathered a list of Florida Keys activities so great, so varied and so celebrated that all you have to do is show up.
Behold: the ultimate Florida Keys bucket list. As you’re making your way down to Key West, these are the places you won’t want to miss!
In Key Largo
Where to eat: Hobo’s Café
Hobo’s Cafe is consistently recommended on Trip Advisor and for good reason. It’s a casual eatery that offers American classics as well as mouth-watering seafood. They’re open every day from 11am to 10pm and has vegan and gluten-free options for those with special diets. Their Key lime pie has been voted the best in all of The Keys, so when you visit, maybe you should start with dessert first!
Where to play: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers just about any type of adventure you could imagine. There’s options for action-lovers like scuba diving to an underwater park, boating, kayaking and snorkeling; there are less strenuous alternatives like relaxing on a glass-bottom boat tour and laying on the beach; there are nature trails perfect for unplugging and walking; there’s even a huge saltwater aquarium to enjoy at the park’s visitor center.
The Hampton Inn Key Largo is both affordable and accommodating for guests. It’s not far from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (hint hint), and offers beachfront views, free breakfast every morning and free high-speed WiFi. After playing on the water all day, you’ll want to get refreshed and re-energized here. For those of you looking for a higher end experience, consider Baker’s Cay Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton. There, you can rest indulgently – just as you should.
Where to eat: Food For Thought
Food For Thought isn’t a traditional, sit-down restaurant, but its uniqueness is what makes it special. Inside of an all-natural lifestyle and food store is the Food For Thought cafe. It’s great because you’ll get to browse products that are good for you while eating a meal that’s even better. They offer items like portobello burgers, (walnut) meatball wraps, soups, salads, and even fresh smoothies and organic juices. This is a place that when you leave, you’ll feel both satiated and proud of the choice you made.
Where to play: The Dolphin Research Center
The Dolphin Research Center is great if you’ve always wanted to explore nature and channel your wilder side but in a controlled environment. It’s an educational center that gives guests the chance to learn about the nicknamed puppies of the sea but also interact with them in person and up close! They have a variety of dolphin interactions depending on how involved you’d like to be. Their VIP Experience lets you spend 4 hours with the center’s dolphins and sea lions through activities like dolphin art, a lagoon tour via dorsal pull, behind-the-scenes training sessions and even going back home with a commemorative photo package of the day! And be honest, who doesn’t love splashing around with dolphins?!
Where to rest: Hampton Inn Marathon – Florida Keys
The Hampton Inn Marathon – Florida Keys is near the Dolphin Research Center, Sombrero Reef Marine Sanctuary and Turtle Hospital. If you love marine animals and learning about their natural habitats, this hotel puts you in perfect proximity to engage. There’s an on-site fitness center, a refreshing outdoor pool and free breakfast in the mornings with items like hearty waffles, creamy oatmeal and a variety of juices.
In Key West
Where to eat: Moondog Cafe and Bakery
Don’t let the name fool you. Moondog Cafe and Bakery does feature baked goods and fresh pastries, but they also offer a full menu with breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Located near Duval Street (more on that in a bit), they have tasty breakfast items like steak and eggs, quiche and breakfast tacos with queso fresco and chimichurri. Their dinner menu is just as appealing with meals like truffle mac-and-cheese, tacos, and their signature “moon burger,” which can be upgraded to organic kobe beef and lets guests choose from a variety of burger dressings.
Where to play: Duval Street
You can’t come to Key West without stopping by the renowned Duval Street, which is full of great restaurants, boutiques and bars. In fact, it’s so popular that locals and visitors created a new tradition called the “Duval Crawl,” which takes you to every great bar and restaurant that lines the street for a single night of uninterrupted drinking and fun. If you’re not exactly interested in splitting headaches and nausea the next day, however, there’s also a less hectic version: the Key West Pub Crawl. It kicks off at 8pm and is a guided 2.5-hour tour that includes 5 cocktails and a commemorative tee.
Where to rest: DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Grand Key – Key West
If you do decide to fill up at Moondog’s and participate in one of the bar crawls, there isn’t a better place to recover than this resort. For one, it provides shuttle transportation to and from Duval Street, so you don’t have to think twice about a buzzy commute. Whether your idea of taking it easy is lounging under a cabana at the pool or cozying up in our spacious and plush beds, the choice is yours. You can also rest at the grand Casa Marina Key West, Waldorf Astoria Resort if you want an all-encompassing experience. This resort sits on the only private beach in the city and fuses luxury with the rich, historic nature of Key West.
In the Florida Keys, do yourself a favor and explore the places and the things that make these islands just so fantastic.