Key Largo, the self-proclaimed Dive Capital of the world, is the northernmost part of the Florida Keys. If you continue to drive down The Florida Keys heading south you’ll hit Key West at the end. For those of you wondering, “Key” is the corrupted Spanish word “cayo” for “small island”.
Popular for its tropical weather and clear blue waters, Key Largo is great for adventures of all kinds. From stunning marine life, rusted underwater statues, bountiful coral reefs, and abandoned shipwrecks, Key Largo is home to an array of life—underwater and above.
I got the pleasure of going to Key Largo after a trip to Miami for a Wander Women Retreat thrown by my good friend Alex and we spent our time exploring, diving and also got to take a road trip down to Key West!
Mangroves are an essential part of the ecosystem in Key Largo, Florida. They are known for growing in saltwater with their roots sprawling above and below the water. What most people don’t know is that mangroves are essential for fighting the climate crisis due to their unparalleled ability to store carbon. This, in turn, helps provide for the ecosystem—animals, plants, and humans.
Combine this fun fact with the knowledge that Key Largo is where you can find the world’s absolute largest artificial reef, USS Spiegel Grove. This “reef” spans 510 feet long and 84 feet wide from a Landing Ship Dock that was purposely sunk in an effort to help the underwater ecosystem.
What To Do in Key Largo, FL
From diving to fishing, exploring, and learning, Key Largo is a great place to experience bountiful life and the pleasures of relaxation with the sun warming your skin and the sound of peaceful blue waters filling your ears.
Take a look at all the prime activities I’ve rounded together and make the most out of your trip to Key Largo, Florida!
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There is an array of activities to experience in Key Largo, Florida, each as unforgettable and enjoyable as the last. Take your pick with the many and absolute best options provided below.
Become a Coral Restoration Foundation Citizen Scientist
Want to contribute to the restoration of coral reefs? The Coral Restoration Foundation has made it possible for citizens to collaborate in research efforts in coral restoration and preservation. Participate by going on a dive in one of their OkCoral! outplanting sites, where they are working to completely restore eight different reef sites located on the Florida Reef Tract. Furthermore, all that is required to make a difference on these well-founded and productive dives is a smartphone and their app, OkCoral.
I had the pleasure of taking the Padi Coral Reef Restoration Course while I was in Key Largo and we got to learn how to plant coral and clean the trees. See more about my experience doing that here.
Watch The Sunset at Sundowners Restaurant
You need to catch the sunset at Sundowners Restaurant, a Key Largo favorite. Sitting outside is recommended as the waterfront view is like no other. If you time it perfectly, you’ll have your next phone wallpaper picture with the unforgettable sunset painting the water and sky.
This restaurant may serve seafood, but for those that are gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan, Sundowners thankfully provides alternative options for these diets. In addition, you can enjoy that day’s fresh catch of fish while basking in the sunset’s glow.
Want to try another great spot, hit up Snooks Bayside restaurant for more great views and food!
Paddle Board Through the Mangroves
Take a guided tour through the mangroves in Key Largo, Florida! You’ll see the impact mangroves have on the local ecosystem and hopefully see some dolphins, stingrays, turtles, or manatees! This activity is perfect for all skill levels with a tour guide to lead the way and get the full-on experience of Tavernier Creek.
I personally did a stand-up paddle tour, yoga session and mangrove cleanup with Paddle the Florida Keys and it was awesome.
Check out the sunset and night tours available to experience an extra thrilling adventure!
Visit The History of Diving Museum
Open every day from 10 am-5 pm, The History of Diving Museum is great for all ages. Anyone that’s interested in learning about the international efforts and conservation made through diving will love this. The museum stores artifacts, books, and antiques in-house to share previous and historical efforts made to explore the sea. I was blown away by how people used to dive back in the day with homemade helmets and suits!
Inside you’ll find the world’s largest collection of diving helmets, armored suits, and memorabilia found from all over the globe.
Take A Walk at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Soak in the shade and tropical views at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. This park is perfect to enjoy the luscious Florida landscape. In fact, it is home to around 84 protected species that include: the American crocodile, wild cotton, and mahogany mistletoe. It’s only $2.50 per person for visiting and open sunrise to sunset 365 days a year.
A majority of the trails are paved, making them accessible for wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles. The trails are self-guided, with signs peppering the trails with fun facts, but there are also ranger-guided tours available.
Harry Harris Park
A tad more expensive than Dagny Johnson State Park, Harry Harris Park costs $8 per adult, $5 per youth or senior. If you rented a boat or brought a boat to enjoy the blue Key Largo waters, Harry Harris Park has a boat ramp that costs $40 to launch from.
Harry Harris boasts a pet-friendly park open from sunrise to sunset that has a beach, tidal pool, playground, pavilions, restrooms, and BBQ grills. A great place to take the family to soak in all that Key Largo, and Florida, have to offer.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The very first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park spans 70 nautical square miles. Consequently, it offers mangrove swamps, tropical hammocks, and the link upland. Also, this park is notorious for what lies underwater—the John Pennekamp Coral Reefs and marine life. You can get a view of the underwater marine life and views without getting in the water with popular guided glass-bottom boat tours. In addition, you can get up close and personal with guided scuba diving or snorkeling!
My favorite dive shop in Key Largo is the Florida Keys Dive Center and great if you’d like to go on more dives. We got to see an entire group of nurse sharks at one of the locations our captain took us!
Jules’ Undersea Lodge
An American hotel located in Key Largo, Florida, Jules’ Undersea Lodge is the only underwater hotel available in the United States. Guests get to scuba dive to their rooms 30 feet deep on the ocean floor located at the bottom of Emerald Lagoon.
Recommended for certified divers—you can also get your scuba certification through their Discover Scuba Diving course! I did my refresher course here. While the visibility isn’t great because it’s somewhat swampy in the area, it’s fun to be able to peep into the windows of the underwater hotel. The whole area is a bit kitschy, but a fun south Florida staple. However, if you want to stay the night in the underwater hotel it could set you back over $900 a night!
Join Jules’ for a guided eco-tour around Jules’ Lagoon to learn more about marine life and the history that still confounds thousands to this day.
Everglades National Park
Camp out with the family at Everglades National Park. This is a 1.5 million-acre wetlands preservation consisting of coastal mangroves, pine Flatwoods, and sawgrass marshes. Furthermore, it’s home to a wide range of animal species like the endangered leatherback turtle and West Indian manatee. Rent out a safari-style eco-tent at Flamingo Everglades campground located at the Everglades National Park.
Get an adrenaline rush on guided Airboat Tours, Back Country Boat Tours that outline the rich and unique plant and animal history of Everglades National Park. Then, relax on a narrated Shark Valley Tram Tour in the “River of Grass”.
This is also a great stop if you’re doing a West Coast Florida road trip.
Catch Local Fish on A Fishing Charter
Whether with family or friends, get a taste of the local fish Key Largo has to offer by catching a ride on a Fishing Charter. Key Largo Fishing Adventures specializes in family fishing adventures with offshore/reef and wreck fishing.
Check out Miss Chief Fishing Charters, a family-owned and operated fishing charter boat that loves to give its guests not only a fun, but an educational, experience on the waters of Key Largo, Florida. They cater to families and groups of seasoned anglers alike, providing full, ¾, and ½ day charters year-round.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
The third-largest coral barrier reef in the whole world, the Florida Reef, is the only barrier coral reef in North America.
You can find an array of mangroves and bountiful seagrass fields. Visit the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center to learn the educational aspects of marine life and the efforts made to restore and conserve them. In addition, you can visit the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: On the Water and go on an adventure to view marine life through snorkeling, fishing, boating, and diving.
Island Dolphin Care
Support a better life for dolphins at Island Dolphin Care where all proceeds go to benefiting the care and life of dolphins. Take the family or your friends to experience the process of caring for dolphins. Furthermore, you’ll learn how the program has changed the lives of thousands of children with special needs, and more. Rated the #1 Key Largo Activity, Island Dolphin Care is a must-activity for day trips and week-long visits alike.
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
After you help support the dolphins in Key Largo, check out the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. This special rescue serves as a home for native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced. The sanctuary is a natural refuge for over 90 different birds and about 40 different species. The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is open 365 days a year. The best part is, it is free! I do recommend giving a $10 donation though since it goes to a great cause.
Watch Key Largo (The Movie)
This film is a popular 1948 American crime drama starring Humphrey Bogart. His character visits Key Largo, Florida, to pay his respects to the family of his late war buddy. Humphrey Bogart’s character discovers mobsters are staying at this family’s hotel and conflict ensues when criminals try to take over the hotel. With 7.8 star ratings on IMDb, the movie Key Largo is a must-watch when visiting Key Largo, Florida.
Watch African Queen
You can also watch the beloved film African Queen, which was a movie from 1951. The film features the famous Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Hepburn’s missionary brother is killed in WWI Africa, and the captain then offers her a safe path out. She wants revenge though and persuades him to destroy a German gunboat. The two spend most of their time arguing with each other rather than the enemies. It is a fun yet twisted love story, that takes place on the river. While the movie was filmed in the Belgian Congo, Uganda, and Turkey, you can visit one of the boats in Key Largo. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
This famous vessel is docked at the Marina Del Mar marina and you can enjoy one of the daily canal cruises for yourself. The ship will bring you around the exquisite Port Largo Canal area
Enjoy A Half Day Snorkel Trip on the Reefs
Enjoy A Half Day Snorkel Trip On the Reefs available for all ages! Snorkel over and around the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Pennekamp State Park. You’ll also have the ability to soak in the views of multiple reefs like Molasses, Elbow, French Reef, and the famous Christ of the Abyss on Dry Rocks. These reefs are extra special as they are conjoined together as the third-largest living reef system in the whole world. They are also the only living coral reef in the United States.
Soak in the colorful and impactful views of marine life like spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, moray eels, dolphins, and more!
Eat at a Cute Key Largo Cafe
You have to eat while you’re in Key Largo—especially if you know you’ll be going on fun adventures. Besides the beachside dinner spots listed above like Snooks and Sundowners, I recommend the following for cafes and lunches:
- Coco Plum Place,
- Cafe Moka, and
- One Grind Coffee, a roadside cafe with a great breakfast.
Where to Stay in Key Largo
While I was there we stayed at the Drift Hotel and it was nice with detached rooms in a very Key Largo vibe. If you want to upgrade and want something fancy, I recommend checking out Baker’s Cay Resort. It was beautiful and the restaurant and bar areas were amazing with gorgeous sunset views.
See current prices for Drift Hotel here.
See current prices for Baker’s Cay Resort here.
The Florida Keys, particularly Key Largo, is an amazing town to visit, relax, and get away from it all. All why getting to participate in epic adventures on the water. Whether you’re a hiker, diver, snorkeler, fisherman/woman, or just love to lounge and have a cocktail watching the sunset, Key Largo is for you!
Plus, it’s only 1 hour and 30 mins away from Miami. Read what to do in Miami here and what to pack for Miami, here. Going on a road trip? Check out my West Florida Roadtrip guide.
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