KEY LARGO, AN ECOUTOURIST PARADISE IN THE FLORIDA KEYS
First and northernmost of point of the Florida Keys, entrance gate to the Upper Keys, 30-mile-long Key Largo - Cayo Largo ("Long Key") in spanish - is made of North Key Largo, Key Largo, and Tavernier.
Over the centuries, Key Largo changed from a plantation area (pineapple, limes) into an authentic eco-tourism haven. Unique natural parks and preserves like the nearby Everglades National Park, the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center make of key Largo a fantastic first encounter with the Florida Keys region.
Key Largo is also called "diving capital of the world" thanks to its incredible diving post, in particular the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and its world-famous underwater statue of Jesus located in the Dry Rocks area.
KEY LARGO MAP
Insider Travel Tips
- First and northernmost of point of the Florida Keys, Key Largo is just 18 miles south of Miami and a short hour's drive from South Florida's main international airports like Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and Miami International Airport.
- To enjoy the best weather in Key Largo, November through March offer perfect warm and dry conditions, however this is also the high season with more visitors and higher prices.
- For diving, the best period to explore Key Largo is definitely summer time from late May to early August, while September and October bears more risk of setback since it is the high season for hurricanes.
- Accomodation in Key Largo ranges from the luxurious Hilton Key Largo Resort to a wide array of motels, inns and lodges, like the Bay Cove Motel, as well as family-oriented hotels such as The Marina del Mar Resort, private homes for rent and campgrounds like King’s Kamp.
The Diving Capital of the World
- Key Largo's monicker of Diving Capital of the World is not usurped, as the area abounds with major spots for snorkeling and scuba diving to deepwater diving.
- The most sought after diving area is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, one of the world's most prominent underwater natural preserve. World famous for its iconic underwater Christ of the Abyss statue, the 70-square-mile large park encompasses the only living coral reef in America and extends three miles offshore.
- Another hot diving spot is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that spans over 2,900 square nautical miles of ocean waters. As the name implies, it is not a regular park but a natural preserve watching over 6,000 marine species, shipwrecks, and archeological treasures. Diving activites are therefore regulated, but you can enjoy an unforgettable experience by booking a trip with the Blue Star Program.
- Othe popular diving spots are those featuring shipwrecks such as the Spiegel Grove (Navy ship, sunk in 2002), Benwood Wreck (WW II shipwreck), The Elbow (several historic shipwrecks), and Bibb & Duane (two 327-foot US Coast Guard cutters), which harbor countless marine species such as living corals, gigantic gorgonians, barracudas, moray eels, and much more.
Nature, wildlife and eco-tourism
- Graced with a unique environment, Key Largo is a prime spot for ecotourists looking to get closer to nature in an eco-friendly way. Numerous Key Largo eco-tour operators offer guided visits of your favorite area which you can discover by sailboat, kayak, canoe, paddle-boat, and many other ways.
- Home to over 80 protected species (plants and animals), The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park also harbors the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the USA. The park is your chance to encounter the mighty American crocodile, as well as rare tropical birds along self-guided or Ranger-guided nature trails.
- Over five acres of preserved wetlands, Key Largo's Florida Keys Wild Bird Center offers a unique perspective on nature preservation and features flocks of native and rare birds which you can see from up close at the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary.
- One of the two frost-free tropical gardens in the continental US, The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort is an ethnobotanic eductional garden which you can visit with guided ethnobotanic tours, or better yet stay a few days at the Kai Resort to enjoy a garden scenery like no other, day and night.
Other not-to-miss activities at Key Largo
- Since Key Largo is a very popular sport-fishing spot especially for Miami week-end goers, you will find many fishing guides and charter captains to go after bonefish, redfish or tarpon.
- Dolphin Cove is a one-of-a-kind five-acre lagoon and a great place for family fun, where you can encounter marine mammals and even swim with dolphins and sea lions.
- The Jacob’s Aquatic Center is a great place for families to relax with watery fun, where dads and moms can swim in a 25-meter 8-lane pool or 12-foot deep diving pool, while kids have tons of fun at the play pool/water park and its makeshit Pirate Ship.
- If you're looking for family-oriented beaches, the Harry Harris Park and Beach - located in Tavernier - got you covered. Protected from big waves and large fishes, this man-made beach features covered picnic tables and barbecues, a bath house, a chlidren's playground, a basketball court and two Baseball Fields.
- Old-school Hollywood fans will not miss The African Queen, the famous boat from the namesake movie featuring Humphrey Bogart, who made the area famous with the movie Key Largo, and even has a festival by his name in Key Largo, the Humphrey Bogart Film Festival which is held annually in October.