Here’s a disclaimer: Some of the best things to do in Key Largo, Florida, don’t involve lounging in a beach chair. In fact, a few of them are even indoors. So if you’re headed down to Key Largo, keep your mind open to all the great things this charming little city has to offer.
Ugh, the Beach?
Before our trip to Florida, John claimed to hate the beach.
“Too much sand,” he would whine. “It’s too hot. I’m a huge baby, whaaaa!”
The only thing he wanted to do whenever we went someplace tropical was fish. Which is fine. I love to fish, too. But that all changed when we arrived in the Keys. As a certified man of leisure, he quickly fell into the laid-back Keys lifestyle.
Before I knew it, he requested to spend a day relaxing on the beach. Who was this guy, and where was my husband? This was a strange development, but I wasn’t going to complain.
Now that John loved island life, we decided to spend a few nights in Key Largo before going to the Everglades. My uncle Don lives there and we thought it would be a great opportunity to visit with him and live the island life just a little while longer. (Although I’m pretty sure John’s head is still stuck in Key West.)
We spent two days in Key Largo and managed to squeeze in a few fun activities. Below is our list of things to do in Key Largo, Florida.
Things To Do in Key Largo, Florida:
Book a snorkeling trip
(Note: This is a photo from the Dry Tortugas National Park. I’ll explain why in just a minute…)
Key Largo has the best snorkeling in Florida and some of the best snorkeling the United States has to offer. This area is home to the Florida Reef which is the only living coral barrier reef in the US. Key Largo itself also protects the reef from other waters which really helps with water clarity.
If you book the appropriate tour, you will also get to snorkel around the iconic statue of Christ of the Abyss, which is within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I would recommend booking a snorkeling trip outside of the park, though. John and I booked our tour through Blue Water Divers (enjoy the 1990s-era website!) because they max out their tour groups at 10. From my prior experiences, having a small group is the best!
That being said, we didn’t actually get to snorkel while we were in Key Largo. A big storm came through the night we got there so the seas were really high the afternoon we were scheduled to go. Naturally, our trip got canceled. Since we only had two days scheduled in Key Largo, we didn’t have time to wait for the weather to clear and reschedule. This was a HUGE bummer, but now we have a reason to go back for another visit!
Kayak or paddle board through the mangroves of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
There are several miles of trails you can take through the mangroves. Some are really wide and others are so narrow that you have to pull yourself through because there isn’t enough room to paddle. Keep an eye out for birds of all types, and even some small crabs crawling on the mangroves! John thought they were spiders and freaked out a little.
Make sure to stop at the Cathedral as you make your way through the waterways. It will be marked on the trail map. Here, all of the mangroves make a beautiful natural canopy that opens up like a giant sanctuary. Also, if you plan on getting off of one of the trails, make sure you bring a GPS. It would be really easy to get lost out there!
This time, John didn’t even sink his kayak. I might actually be able to convince him to go kayaking again one day.
While you’re at John Pennekamp, be sure to stop by the visitor center and check out the saltwater aquarium that has a variety of fish from the reef. For the size of the building and park, it’s mighty impressive.
Visit the Caribbean Club
This dive bar is loved by the locals. Opened in 1938, it’s the oldest bar in the upper keys. Exterior shots of Humphrey Bogart’s “Key Largo” were shot there as well as scenes from the more recent Netflix series, “Bloodline.” It’s nothing to look at, but it is a cool piece of contemporary Keys history.
Feed the tarpon at Snappers Oceanfront Restaurant
Since John has been fly fishing (quite a while now), he’s wanted to catch a tarpon. Sadly, this is the closest he’s ever gotten. Feeding tarpon off the dock is a pretty touristy thing to do, but it’s also something that everyone says you have to do. Robbie’s on Islamorada is known for hand-feeding tarpon off of the dock, but if you can’t make it there, you can do the same thing at Snappers. It’s worth doing at least once! The tarpon can get super huge, and it’s really neat to see them up close.
Key Largo, Florida has a variety of great things to do, places to see, and things to eat. Make sure to enjoy yourself if you make your way down to the Keys. As John will attest, island life is contagious.