Forget that Kevin Costner movie, Key West is Waterworld. Water water everywhere, and still a lot to drink, but I am mixing my metaphors stronger than Sloppy Joe’s mixed my mojitos. Let’s face it, if you’re coming to the Florida Keys, you better love the water. We found nine Key West watersport activities that will leave you neither high nor dry.
Snorkeling on a Coral Reef
How would we describe the water at Key West? Three words A-Maze-Ing. It’s so clear, warm, and calm. What’s more? Beautiful coral reefs sit within reach of even modest snorkelers. Along the reefs live colorful tropical fish, lobster, eels, sea turtles, and dolphins. It’s like you are swimming in a tropical fish tank.
Kayaking the Mangroves
Mangrove forests are one of the truly amazing ecologies in the world. They are freshwater plants that live in the ocean. How do they accomplish this? Teamwork and sacrifice! The Red Mangrove grows closest to the water. It stabilizes the soil with gnarly roots and pumps extra salt into one sacrificial leaf. The black mangrove grows behind the red, clearing more salt that it deposits on the outside of its leaves. This allows the white mangrove to live on the inside of the mangrove hammock in relatively fresh water.
The mangroves do more than protect each other. They are the nurseries of the ocean, protecting baby fish until they can go out on their own. They also protect the shores from the ravages of hurricanes. No wonder mangroves are a protected species in Florida.
Check out the mangroves for yourself on a Bugeye Backcountry Eco Tour
Splashing on the Beach
The eastern shore of Key West is loaded with beaches from Zackery Taylor State Park to the piers of Higgs Beach and the opulent beach hotels at Smather’s Beach. You can watch the sunrise, explore the forts, or even explore from shore. Key West beaches are more fun than you can shake a snorkel at.
Swimming in a Sponge Garden
‘I beg your pardon, I never promised you a sponge garden,’ might never be a hit song, but it’s an amazing place to explore. There is just so much life in a sponge garden. We saw lobsters in a sunken bathtub (how the bathtub got there is a story for another day). A turtle bopped around, and a dolphin swam right up to us on porpoise. Barracuda and stingrays were plentiful too. It was a veritable who’s who of who lives under the sea.
Racing on a Jet Ski
Touring Key West by jet ski is a thrilling way to explore the island. We left the beach and played a high-speed game of follow the leader around Fort Zachary Taylor State Park until we reached the mansions of Sunset Key. From there, the guide turned us loose to see what these machines are capable of. Spoiler alert – they are incredibly fast and nimble! After playtime was up, we continued our tour around Stock Island. By the end of the trip, I really thought I was getting the hang of these bad boys.
Parasailing in Paradise
All day long we could see operators taking up people parasailing. The view must be fantastic. I wonder if you could see all the way across the azure blue waters to Cuba? It’s a rhetorical question, but I’ll give you the answer anyway. You can’t see Cuba. The rider would have to be a mile in the air to see Cuba, but you will see the surrounding minor keys and feel the joy of flying on these trips.
Diving the Vandenburg
Seven miles offshore and 140′ feet down sits the USS Vandenburg. Its massive radar dishes now breed fish instead of searching the sky for incoming Cuban missiles. Her hull stretches over two football fields in length and tells the story of Key West. The southernmost point has always been the first outpost protecting America from threats from the south, but it’s also a fabulous destination of aquatic explorers.
Want more South Florida Diving? Check out our Fort Lauderdale diving guide!
Sailing into the Sunset
There are sunset cruises for every taste and budget in Key West. From the caviar and champagne crowd to full on multisport adventure, every company offers you their own nautical take on the Home of the Sunset. Is the sunset better from Mallory Square or on the ocean? You’ll never know unless you leave dry land and find out for yourself.
Aquatic Education at the Aquarium
At the Key West Aquarium, you can explore the mangrove, sponge gardens and coral reefs without even getting your toes wet. From sharks to turtles and everything in between, you are certain to find your favorite sea animal. What’s more, their interpretive exhibits teach you all about the ecology of the Lower Keys.
Wrapping up Key West Water Watersports
Key West is full of amazing adventures, romance, but no island trip is complete without entering the ocean. Have you ever experienced any of these watersports before? What did you think? Which one was your favorite or you are most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below.
Disclosure: A big thank you to The Florida Keys and Key West for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts.
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