The towering sails of the Quicksilver rise like a snowy mountain over the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, cutting a picturesque figure amid the early morning sky. The tranquility of this postcard-worthy scene is interrupted by the whoop of a lone figure running and jumping off of the catamaran, her body plunging into the waters with an ebullient splash. This bold leap prompts her fellow snorkelers to follow suit with hapless hurdles and controlled submersions into the water. Champions of introducing visitors to Florida's awe-inspiring reefs and the diverse wildlife therein, Reef Roamer Catamarans leads guests through the secrets of the salty depths with daily snorkeling adventures in and around John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Setting sail on one of two 50-foot, custom-built catamarans equipped with on-board bathrooms and shaded cockpits, Reef Roamer's US Coast Guard master captains and first mates pilot groups of aquanauts out to open waters for early morning, midday, and sunset snorkeling sessions. Sojourns under the sea afford guests resplendent views of protected reefs teaming with multicolored citizens such as about 55 types of coral, more than 600 species of fish, and graceful turtles.
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.
It's hard to find views more stunning than those at Casa Morada. Located on a secluded side street in Islamorada, the 16-room mini resort has a Raymond Jungles–designed garden that features oversized palm fronds that elegantly frame Florida Bay. But there's more to Casa Morada than looks.
Seeking adventure? Casa Morada lets guests use its bicycles, kayaks, paddleboards, snorkel gear, and boat dockage free of charge. Outdoor adventurers can also take in their surroundings on one of the resort's 30-foot boats, Skipjack or Sol Sister, or schedule private eco-tours and snorkeling trips.
Wanting to relax? Lounge by the bayside bar with a glass of wine, champagne, or beer; unwind with an in-suite massage; or participate in a complimentary yoga class. The resort's concierge is also available to arrange other activities.
Hoping to bring a furry friend? Casa Morada's property is pet-friendly, so that's no problem. There's also plenty of natural beauty to take in on long walks around the island and outdoor showers where pups and their parents can clean up afterward.
When you're on the cusp of North America's only living coral reef, you don't want to squander the opportunity. So, Silent World Dive Center pulls out all the stops: they handle certification courses, equipment rental and repair, and daily excursions out into the briny deep. Their team consists of certified dive professionals, each of whom is well acquainted with the best spots for encountering wildlife and the most complex verb conjugations of the Glub Glub language.
Silent World's United States Coast Guard inspected vessel makes regular stops at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. There, groups of up to 12 divers can explore beautiful reef formations and their accompanying fauna. Other trips take experienced divers to the wrecks and artificial reefs of the Keys, including the sunken LSD-32 Spiegel Grove, where gigantic goliath grouper roam.
Before they were the owners of All In Watersports, Robert Bortell and Matt Hungerford had essentially spent their entire lives out on the water. Matt grew up on the shores of Mississipp, but he took a sailing trip to Key West in 2009—and hasn't left since. For his part, Robert grew up in coastal south Florida, enjoying many family trips to Islamorada throughout his childhood. Today, both men are certified captains on a collective mission to share what they love most about life on the water: the activities. With All In Watersports, they accomplish just that with a list of adventures that includes the following:
Day trips that include all those water activities, plus fun on the land in the form of rock climbing, trampolines, and more.
Sail Fish Scuba owners Chris and Jennifer Kerr want their clients to be able to do it all, exploring the water above and below with the necessary equipment, skills, and know-how. Beginner and advanced scuba divers can begin or further their underwater educations, or head out on one of the guided reef and wreck dives in a number of locales. Snorkeling outings are ideal for more casual explorers, as no extensive training is needed for open-water dives, and guides snap photos of participants during the trip that they can show to all their envious camel friends. Other outings include guided kayak tours, or leisurely boat rides through the mangrove trees.