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Want to escape to turquoise waters, where it feels like you are in the Caribbean?

These days passport renewals are delayed (plan MONTHS in advance) and travel guidelines are lengthy. Where can you escape dropping temperatures without crossing a border and find exceptional snorkeling, world class fishing, and nature's playground?

With turquoise waters surrounding you, it feels like you are in the Caribbean.

The five Florida Keys offer something for everyone, without the need to dust off your passport or pass through immigration. This archipelago of tropical islands are all connected by causeway bridges on the southernmost tip of the Continental US, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. With turquoise waters surrounding you, it feels like you are in the Caribbean.

Key Largo: Dive Capital of the World

Key Largo is the first island you hit in the archipelago, as you head south from Miami about an hours' drive. They are the self-proclaimed "dive capital of the world" since Key Largo sits adjacent to the United States' only living barrier reef. In addition to viewing spectacular marine reef life by diving and snorkeling, there are options above water too. As the gateway to Everglades National Park, you can explore the coastal mangroves in this wetlands preserve by kayak. There are short kayak "trails", or the really adventurous can explore all 99 miles of the Wilderness Waterway in about 7-10 days.

Where to Stay in Key Largo

Bungalows Key Largo is a brand new opening that locals deem "spectacular". This upscale, adults only resort (21+), has 135 luxurious bungalows set on a dozen acres overlooking the sea. Bungalows Key Largo is the only all-inclusive property in the Keys and includes all meals, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, glass bottom kayaks, paddle boards, and bicycles. Most guests come here to completely unwind.

Baker's Cay Resort is surrounded by lush landscaping and a number of nature trails. This 4-star waterfront property has a small beach, multiple pool, tennis courts, and its own marina, to head off seamlessly on those dive excursions.

Islamorada: Vibrant Arts Scene & Fantastic Sport Fishing

Pronounced "Eye-La-Morada", Islamorada is your next stop when heading southwest along the keys. An additional self-proclamation, Islamorada is the "sport fishing capital of the world", known for exceptional deep sea fishing, flats fishing, and bone fishing. Ninety minutes from Miami, the village of Islamorado comprises six islands of the Florida Keys. This sliver of land is only 150' wide at its narrowest. A super fun (and super touristy) activity is a visit to Robbie's Marina. Here you can purchase a bucket of bait and feed the tarpon directly from the marina dock.

In 2011, The Morada Way Arts & Cultural District was established to highlight local artisans. Made up of a 6-block corridor, you can explore local galleries, restaurants, and studio spaces.

Where to Stay in Islamorada

The Moorings Village may be best known most recently for its role in Netflix' Bloodline series, but this property is a gem, with 18 barefoot luxury-chic beach cottages. Each cottage has a kitchen, wraparound veranda, and displays artwork from the owner's personal travels. Once a former coconut plantation, The Moorings Village claims over 1,000 coconut trees and a private white-sand beach. And on full moon evenings, Moorings Village celebrates with an evening beach party.

Casitas at Cheeca Lodge are 10 private villas that were acquired by Cheeca Lodge & Spa and opened in mid-2020. The casitas range from one to two bedroom spacious accommodations, up to 2,100 square feet, and include full kitchens, large sitting porches, and washers and dryers, making them perfect for families.

Marathon: Family Friendly

While all of the Florida Keys are family friendly, Marathon likes to highlight their community. A popular family attraction in Marathon is the Dolphin Research Center where visitors from the age of one can interact with dolphins through a number of different programs. Traveler tip: these programs sell out FAR in advance, so reserve early.

There are more ways to interact with marine life at The Turtle Hospital and Aquarium Encounters. During visits to The Turtle Hospital you can learn firsthand about sea turtles and how the hospital rehabilitates some of its turtle patients. At Aquarium Encounters, you can jump in the tank and swim with the fish in their coral reef, feed an adult nurse shark, or assist a Marine Biologist training baby stingrays.

Other fun excursions are a visit to Pigeon Key, where workers lived while building Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway in the early 1900s. Or hop aboard a catamaran charter out to Sombrero Reef and snorkel some of the Florida Keys' magnificent underwater ecosystems.

Where to Stay in Marathon

Hawk's Cay is regularly awarded one of the best family resorts, and for good reason. This upscale kid-friendly resort has about 175 rooms and was recently renovated in 2018. Kids love the pirate ship pool (there are 5 pools in total) and their Camp Hawk kids club for ages 5 to 12. Parents love the stunning waterfront location and the villas at Hawks Cay, up to four bedrooms and with kitchens.

Isla Bella Beach Resort is set on 24 ocean front acres and has 200 rooms. Every room here has an ocean view, thanks to their mile long beach. Decorated in a palette of white and blue, guests enjoy this 4-star resort.

Big Pine & Lower Keys: Nature's Playground

Most people do not concentrate a lot of time on Big Pine since for many years there were not really any hotels here. Then Little Palm Island reopened!

This low-key "Key" is where you come to relax in nature. You can visit the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge and kayak through mangroves viewing sea turtles, manatees, and numerous wading birds and pelicans. Bahia Honda State Park is perfect for leisurely biking on their paved roads or hiking their trails to look out over the entire island.

Where to Stay in Big Pine

Little Palm Island is that uber high end, special occasion, exclusively intimate kind of property. This private island was closed for several years and fully renovated to the highest standards, and commands rates hovering around $2,000 per night. Allowing guests age 16+, this all-suite property is comprised of spacious thatched roof bungalows. This is a place where you turn off your cell phone and enjoy your own personal Gilligan's Island.

Key West: The Southernmost City in the United States

And from the quiet, tranquil Big Pine you arrive to the end of the world in Key West! This 2 mile by 4 mile island is loaded with character and charm, known to be LGBT friendly, and welcoming to all. After spending time in Havana, Cuba, Ernest Hemingway made his way to Key West and took residence in the 1930s. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum is open to visitors and you can see the 40+ descendants of Hemingway's 6-toed tomcat.

Other sites to experience in Key West are Sloppy Joe's (made famous by Hemingway), take a 90-minute sightseeing tour aboard the Conch Train, enjoy nightly schooner sunset sails, and dine al fresco at Blue Heaven.

Where to Stay in Key West

There are a range of condos, bed & breakfasts, and resorts in Key West. Sunset Key Cottages is a private island resort located in the harbor. They offer a complimentary, 7-minute ferry into town 24 hours a day and the resort is made up of two, three, and four bedroom cottages on 27 acres.

Oceans Edge Resort & Marina Key West was built in 2017 and is a 20-minute ride from the center of Key West. Overlooking a marina on Stock Island, this was once a sleepy fishing enclave that is slowly transitioning. For those who like to party on Duval Street, this may feel a bit quiet. However families love the six swimming pools and the removed location from which to explore the area's boating and watersports.

Elli Travel Rates are Always the Same as Published Rates.

Your Elli Travel Advisor would love to assist with any Florida Keys travel plans. We have a number of partners in the Florida Keys and some hotels offer our clients extra perks and amenities. Please email your advisor, or and request your preferred advisor.

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