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.
Splashing out into the waters of the upper Keys, clients of Paddle! the Florida Keys explore surrounding waterways atop kayaks and standup paddleboards. Both professionally guided and self-guided tours are available, including the popular eco-tour, where paddlers will learn about the rich natural history of the area while keeping an eye out for manatees, dolphins, and wise old fortune-telling sea turtles. Hourly and daily rentals are available for watercraft?as well as bicycles?so visitors have an array of options for exploring by land or sea. Those that find they love paddling or that a seagull has stolen their favorite sun hat can purchase everything they need for a day at the beach in the onsite shop, too.
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.
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.