Amidst the sparkling waters of the Florida Keys, Key Largo Fisheries has furnished kitchens and kebabs with fresh seafood fetched from local fishermen and exotic locales since 1972. Succulent shellfish including lobster ($10.99/lb.), stone crab ($12.99–$29.99/lb.), and shrimp ($9.99–$15.99/lb.) newly plucked from nearby waters unbutton their hard-shell exteriors to reveal butter-ready meat. Grouper ($15.99/lb.), yellowtail snapper ($12.99/lb.), and other finned fare make enticing grilled or fried main dishes, and an array of premade items including crab cakes ($7.99 for two) and smoked fish dip ($15.99/qt.) supplies gatherings with quick, convenient eats. To sate seafood cravings or cede to mermaids begging for scraps, the Take Away Cafe populates its menu with a range of oceanic ambrosia.
Paired up with a Professional Association of Diving Instructors Divemaster, adventure-hungry divers and snorkelers board the Looe Key Reef Resort and Dive Center’s 45-foot catamaran boat to explore the sandy bottom abundant with sea creatures. Consisting of coral fingers and sand channels, the Looe Key Reef spans 5 square miles and carries a protected status thanks to its partially endangered sea dwellers. After a brief 5-mile boat ride, patrons can dive or snorkel up to 30 feet into the depths to witness angelfish, turtles, parrotfish, and nonbiting sharks go about their daily lives performing mundane chores and routine errands. Clear, 80-degree waters provide a comforting, almost-otherworldly experience as swimmers glide past ocean flora and extraterrestrial interlopers. Click here to check out pictures from past expeditions.
Lifelong diver Captain Slate is very popular with an unusual demographic: fish. For more than 35 years, he's been cuddling with nurse sharks, petting moray eels, and feeding barracuda by holding bait in his teeth. These animals—who have been featured with him on many television programs, including Ripley's Believe It or Not—have grown so accustomed to people that they report in regularly for Captain Slate's Creature Feature excursion, a dive that allows groups to touch the tamer beasts instead of just sketching them in waterproof notebooks.
Captain Slate labels the Creature Feature as his favorite dive, but it must have been hard to choose from so many different sites. On any given day, he might take clients through coral kingdoms or the hull of a shipwreck, such as The Eagle. (Look out for the two goliath groupers that live there—they're the size of cars.) New divers can earn their flippers beforehand at one of many diver certification classes. And, if you meet someone special during a trip, Captain Slate can even conduct your underwater wedding.
Florida Keys Kiteboarding promotes board-based enjoyment of the sparkling ocean tides around the island of Marathon through kiteboarding and standup paddleboarding (SUP) lessons and rentals. Before strapping into a parachute, novice kiteboarders can start out with a beginner lesson or work on fundamentals with a trainer kite to help build muscle memory. SUP presents ocean-goers with a more easygoing activity, allowing them to paddle their boards across the placid ocean surface at their own pace. The team also runs SUP yoga classes, during which participants move into yoga poses while balancing atop their floating boards.
Understanding that rock stars aren’t made overnight, Music Depot shepherds along aspiring golden gods with brand-name gear and detailed training. Their sprawling space boasts shiny electronic and acoustic axes from Fender and Ibanez as well as name-brand speakers, gear, and music software. Private lessons teach basic musicianship, and the Depot’s ensemble programs let performers develop essential professional skills such as timing, collaboration, and who gets stuck playing the thimble in Monopoly.
As you stroll across Fruit and Spice Park's grassy fields, an occasional piece of fruit falls from a neighboring tree. But it's not an apple or a berry you can easily find in a local supermarket—rather, it may be a specimen native to the Caribbean or South America, its shape foreign to your teeth, which want so badly to bite into its juicy flesh but aren't sure how. At Fruit and Spice Park, seasoned gardeners grow abundant specimens from tropical areas around the world, including 70 kinds of bamboo, 15 types of jackfruit trees, and edibles such as Fiji longan and jaboticaba across 39 acres.
Visitors meander freely through banana groves and African baobab trees, and they can also follow a guide during tours to learn more about plant species and which fruit seeds bear an uncanny likeness to Abraham Lincoln's silhouette. Throughout strolls, guests may help themselves to any of Mother Nature's home cooking that has naturally fallen to the ground, including mangoes, dragon fruit, and papayas, or venture to the tasting table at the entryway to sample the season's bounty.
Park staffers also gather visitors for a range of events such as stargazing, outdoor festivals, and plant-use tutorials, where they divulge helpful information such as which plants are medicinal and how to play dead during tree attacks. During regular park hours, chefs at the Mango Café pile plates with casual fare, often using the park's own fruit and vegetables, and the gift shop lets guests bring home harvest jams and aromatic teas.