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Florida Keys- To explore or not to explore
SeaWitch - 5/14/2014 3:17 PM
Category: Travel
Replies: 7

Me and my husband are thinking about going to the keys this year for vaca! Haven’t been there yet and can’t wait to go. We were debating about flying directly to Key West or to Miami then renting a car and exploring the islands, possibly staying overnight at a few places. He doesn’t dive so I’ll keep the diving to a minimum.

So my question is what dives absolutely need to be seen, which islands need to be seen, restaurants need to be eaten at and are there any hotels you recommend? We don’t need anything super expensive or lavish. Time of year may be before Thanksgiving.
Danola - 5/14/2014 5:33 PM
Flying into Miami is probably much cheaper and there are plenty of dives between there and Key West. John Pennekamp in Key Largo is a must see, Sombrero reef in Marathon is pretty cool also. There are lots of big wrecks in the 100ft range but I am a novice diver so can’t go that deep yet. The 7 mile Hogfish Sandwich at Sunset Grille in Marathon next to the 7 mile bridge is awesome. The Conch Chowder at Willie T’s is excellent also. If you do like lavish, dinner at the Little Palm Island Resort is as good as it gets. It is VERY expensive but if you can spend the money and still enjoy yourself it is something to see. We just started going to the Keys a few years ago and love it. We have not had the best luck with weather but still had a great time every trip. Oh yea, if you want to see Key Deer go to Deer Key at sunrise, they are everywhere. I have not personally seen one any other time of the day but at sunrise I have found them every time.
LatitudeAdjustment - 5/14/2014 5:52 PM
I always stop at Hobo’s in Key Largo for lunch or dinner although the new place lacks the charm of the old dive.
If either of you are into birds there is a bird rehab place on A1A south at the bottom of Key Largo, small easy to miss sign on right.
Agojo - 5/14/2014 6:37 PM
Fly to Miami and enjoy the leisure scenic drive to Key West. I like the Doubletree in Key West as they run a shuttle to both ends of Duvall St. The first stop for the shuttle is at Divers Direct which is a few minutes walk to Conch Republic (great place for dinner), then a 5 minute walk to Mallory square to watch the sunset while listening to the entertainers. Dive the USS Vandenberg (it is advanced but a great dive). Go to Stock Island and eat at the Hogfish Bar & Grill. If you sit outside you can feed the fish. You may want to take in Mel Fischer’s museum also.
ScubaGrunt - 5/15/2014 3:44 AM
I would recommend flying into Ft Lauderdale versus Miami. To me it’s worth the extra 20 minute or so drive. It’s just a much more user friendly airport and the proximity to rental cars and the turnpike and 95 is simpler to me. I consider the Keys a true National Treasure every American should see at least once in their lifetime. They market it "The Florida Keys and Key West" for a reason. There’s the Keys, then there’s Key West. Culturally speaking, they are rather different. Key West is good bit more urban and touristy whereas the rest of the Keys have somewhat of a semi-rural feel to it. It’s all awesome though. On Key Largo I would recommend eating at Ballyhoo’s, that’s where the locals go a lot. In Tavernier on the south end of Key Largo the Sunrise Cafe will offer the best Cuban sandwich and cafe con leche you will find. For diving there I would recommend Conch Republic or Rainbow Reef for charters. For gear, SCUBA Outlet, ask for Warren there. I can’t help you in Marathon much, sorry. Looe Key Reef is a must and the operators out of Bahia Honda State Park are good to go in my opinion. I’m not a big fan of the diving out of Key West other than the wreck diving but others may offer better insight. I hope this helps. Have fun!
LatitudeAdjustment - 5/15/2014 6:52 AM
From ScubaGrunt: I would recommend flying into Ft Lauderdale versus Miami.


MIA has the worst record for lost and stolen luggage! FLL is much easier to navigate.

When driving down get over to the Florida Turnpike and head south to A1A, I-95 will drop you off in downtown Miami and it’s a crawl south on US1 thru town :(
Capnd - 5/17/2014 5:09 PM
I just returned from the keys . i have been there many times . this was the first time i flew into key west . I decided to leave early ,the wind was bad and there was small craft advisories all week , I have seen and done everything outside of diving that i have interest in there so i opted to return home rather than to run expenses up . if you fly to key west its all good unless you need to leave early and then getting a flight out is very expensive . so i drove miami and got a flight out instead ,always a scenic drive .if you go to key west you should eat at a locals place called the hogfish bar and grill, people and food are great . key west has many options but rememember it is a tourist trap . there is the mel fisher museum among all the shops and eateries .I have dove the vandenburg a couple of years back and it was very cool . i have dove with a shop called dive key west on roosevelt street . they were pretty good . there was another shop called seaduction i have dove with but i found out they are now closed .theres an evening event at mallory square where people gather to watch the sun set and street shows. there is much to see and do in key west . if you travel north up U.S 1 across the 7 mile bridge to marathon , there is a really cool shop called captain hooks marina and dive center . Ask for Denise and Dave , They are the greatest , very helpful and the friendliest people you could want to meet . I went on a trip to marathon 6 years ago and dove with captain hooks and have been returning every since . i have taken my friends and my son there and every one came home with great things to say about them .I stayed at holiday inn there in marathon this time but just a few miles north is hawks cay resort ,That place looked awesome with plenty to do ,and the price was close to holiday inn this time of year . I would recommend some night dives and if you go to marathon check out the thunderbolt site . Also if you do get to marathon ,the island fish company is right across the street from holiday inn. great food ,a little pricey . also the dockside bar and grill is really good , they have live music (eric stone band they are great ) . there are many sites to see and fun things to do . i could go on and on . keep an eye on the weather ,now go dive !!!
BigTex1836 - 5/17/2014 5:15 PM
I agree with the in either Miami or Ft Lauderdale and drive down. I’ve done both and had no issues at either. When you get to Key Largo, I really like heading out to Molasses Reef. There’s 40 or so balls they moor too. Ask for Aquarium as one of your drops, probably my fav. There are plenty companies that go out to it. Check the boat capacity when you do...some are cattle cars others are 6 packs. If you want a recommendation, drop me a note.

Wish I was heading there myself....but Cozumel is coming up soon for us. :-D