If you see smoke rising from someone's ears at Peppers of Key West, don't reach for the fire extinguisher: they've just discovered their limit at the store's free hot sauce-tasting bar. Though not all of the shop's offerings are that hot, many of them are?in fact, some bottles in the collector's vault require you to sign a waiver before purchasing.
That blistering collection is a testament to how serious the proprietors of Peppers of Key West take their hot sauce. The Florida-based company makes and bottles all of its original sauces, dips, and marinades, and ships them to online shoppers around the globe. But fans looking to infuse a little extra heat into their lives don't have to rely solely on sauces or focusing an enormous magnifying glass on their house. They can also raid the Peppers of Key West snack cupboard, which contains everything from spicy beef jerky to habanero popcorn and jelly beans.
To learn the history of Key West, one could spend hours in the history section of a local library. Or they could just hop aboard a City View Trolley for an illuminating trip through the island burg. Tours take place inside open-air trolleys with experienced guides at the helm narrating the backstories of every landmark and distinguished seagull they pass. Visitors can depart from any one of nine stops, meandering along streets to leisurely explore sites including Audubon House, Clinton Square, Harry Truman's Little White House, and Key West Winery before hopping back on board their trolley.
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.
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.
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.