VIBE: Family Friendly
102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037
Are you looking for a beach destination filled with natural wonders? The Florida Keys are a chain of islands that stretch from Key Largo to Key West.
Does Key Largo have good beaches?
The Keys offer great fishing, diving, and snorkeling opportunities. But there are differences in each beach location. Key Largo is the home of one of the most popular beaches in the world, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park has a mile-long snorkeling trail that starts at the beach and winds around to the other side of Key Largo. The snorkeling trail features live coral and plenty of fish to see. If you plan a Florida vacation here there is an array of sea life, including crabs, starfish, and octopuses hiding among rocks or under ledges. If you don't snorkel, take a 2-hour tour on a glass-bottom boat to explore all the beauty.
Key Largo Sand
On Key Largo beaches, the sand is brought into the park for everyone's enjoyment. The Florida Keys beaches are naturally made of coral and limestone rock. They can be rocky and tough on the feet. Even with the extra sand you will need swim shoes if you plan to wade in. There may be seaweed and plant debris, similar to swimming at Sombrero Beach. Sometimes there is black silt, depending on conditions. If you are prepared for these beach conditions then you will have a good time. If you are planning to go to the state park, contact them before you go to find out if any activities are cancelled due to storm or water conditions.
Key Largo Water
The water most of the time is very clear and a turquoise blue color. However, depending on weather and ocean conditions, it can get murky with seaweed and debris from mangroves. Florida Keys beaches should always be approached with lower expectations due to their natural murky conditions. Does this mean you can't enjoy the beach? No, it is still warm and beautiful water. However, the most enjoyment can be gained from under the water snorkeling, kayaking or floating around.
Key Largo Beach Parking and Amenities
From Miami, take Florida's Turnpike south to US 1. Take US 1 to Key Largo. Look for the State Park entrance on your left at Mile Marker 102.5. Plenty of parking is available, they can even fit RV's and buses. If you love camping there are 47 full-facility sites for both tents and RV campers. There are designated picnic areas throughout the park with barbeque grills. No ground fires are permitted. Pavilions can be rented for events. Admission is $8 per car - pretty good for a day of fun in the sun.
Key Largo Beach Activities
This is where John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park really stands out! This park was the first underwater State Park in the United States. Land access was added later. Snorkeling is the primary attraction of this park and they offer daily tours. Christ of the Deep is a small but impressive 4,000 pound bronze statue installed at the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary but it can only be viewed by snorkeling (not by boat). The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length. It exists to protect and preserve the only living coral reef in the continental USA. If you don't snorkel, there are lots of beautiful mangroves to explore nearby via kayak, canoe and paddleboard. Those activities can be reserved in advance here. You can even take and launch your own boat. No matter what activities you choose, plan to get there early and spend the entire day. Even if the beaches aren't "perfect", the Florida Keys are filled with natural beauty.
Look Out! This Could Happen...
As mentioned in our Sombrero Beach blog, you must be prepared for the beach quality in the Florida Keys. If you are expecting a pristine, white sand beach like those on Anna Maria Island, you may be disappointed! The most important thing to remember is the beaches are ROCKY. You will need swim shoes. If you plan to hike one of the short trails bring your bug spray (this really applies to anywhere in Florida).
What We Really Think About Key Largo
We visited Key Largo on our way down to Sombrero Beach and Key West. Another one of our anniversary trips, it was magical. We stayed at the Hampton Inn Key Largo because it was reasonable and had good reviews. We were surprised that the hotel had its own little beach with water sports rentals available. There were some very large iguanas walking around the beach at the Hampton Inn. They can be aggressive if you have food so watch out! While we were not in love with the beaches in the Keys, the experience of driving through the Florida Keys was incredible. The unspoiled beauty should not be missed. If you have an RV, try the Key Largo Kampground that offers 2 beachfronts. It's very convenient to have a beach at your hotel or campground. The Hampton Inn does a great job and we highly recommend it.
Key Largo Hotels Within 5 Miles
Key Largo Restaurants
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.