The Southern summer humidity is no joke, and we found ourselves wanting to be in the water instead of on land the entire time we were in the Keys last month. Luckily, the Florida Keys has no shortage of water sports, so keeping wet with these fun activities was a no-brainer.
Diving Key West’s Outer Reef
The oldest and first full-service dive operation in the Keys, Dive Key West is one of the most welcoming dive shops I’ve ever experienced—and also one of the most well-respected (seriously, ask around and most dive folks in Florida know them). Owned by Bob and Cece, who have been in the industry a long time—Dive Key West has been around since the early 70’s, though they came to own it later on—the shop was holding a rescue diver course for the government while we were in town if that tells you anything. I wished we were around a bit longer to tag along for that class!
Instead, we spent a morning out on the outer reef doing a little recreational diving with one of the dive masters, Victoria, on staff. She took us to a pair of dive sites, The Cable and Haystack, where we saw lionfish, barracuda, tons of fans and other brightly colored coral—and even a turtle holding really still and trying to go unnoticed.
What I loved best about these dives were that they were shallower (bottoming out at 40 feet), giving us more colors in our photographs and more time under the surface. (For non-divers, your bottom time is determined by depth, meaning if you’re doing a 100-foot dive and not diving Nitrox, you’re only going to have 20 minutes or so down before it’s time for your safety stop. We had a glorious 60 minutes on both our Key West dives.)
Last time we were in Key West, we dove the Vandenberg shipwreck, which took two tanks to do, and didn’t see any of the reef, so it was a nice opportunity to dive something different on this visit. (price: $95 for a morning dive trip without equipment)
Paddleboarding with Lazy Dog Adventures
In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve become full-on obsessed with SUP in the year and change since I purchased my own board. And I’m always game for a little SUP Yoga activity—bonus if it’s out on a placid bay like that of Stock Island where I don’t have to worry about much (wake) or fight the current too hard.
In Key West, SVV and I went out with Lazy Dog Adventures, a female-owned water sports company, and were led by Kyla, a bad-ass Crossfitter (and school teacher!) who guided us through an hour of poses and flows on the board.
Afterward, she even took us on a little side paddle through the mangrove. In all, we were out on the water for a little more than two hours, and I could have spent two more soaking up that Florida sunshine! (price: $30)
Night Kayaking with Ibis Bay Paddle Sports
If you love paddleboarding or kayaking, there’s no better way to up your game than with a night paddle at Ibis Bay Resort. That’s right, I said it: paddling. At night. In the pitch black. With LED-illuminated kayaks and standup paddleboards. WHAT!
And while I didn’t even know it was a thing prior to arriving in Key West, I can now say this is one of the coolest water activities I’ve done, ever. Originally, SVV and I were signed up to SUP, but the owner of Ibis Bay Paddle Sports said we’d see more with the kayaks instead thanks to their glass bottoms. He was right! Crabs scurried beneath us in the sea grass and lobsters lumbered just feet below our kayaks. A pair of minnows even flung themselves into my vessel in an apparent attempt at suicide. It was wild! We were out there for about two hours in a group of 20 as our guide stopped in spots to point out marine life and teach us a thing or two about the landscape there. (price: $55)
photo courtesy of Ibis Bay Paddle Co.
Booze Cruising with Danger Charters
This isn’t your average booze cruise—the hilarious team at Danger Charters offers a Wind & Wine Sunset Cruise serves a bevy of different wines from around the world and craft beer with pairings to boot, backed by the most gorgeous setting ever. Talk about your elevated sunset cruise experience! I’ve been on quite a few catamarans throughout my travels, and this one definitely tops them all. (price: $85)
Not a fan of strenuous activity during your vacation? You can still stay cool by keeping submerged at your hotel pool. We stayed at Marquesa Hotel on this visit and definitely made use of its pair of pools. Bonus: A bartender makes his rounds in the afternoons, often offering 50 percent off happy hour prices. (price: varies based on your hotel)
And that’s just a start. There are dozens of other ways you can spend your days out on the water—from jet skiing to deep sea fishing—if you have the time to spare.
What’s your favorite way to enjoy the ocean while in the Keys?
For more vacation tips to the Florida Keys, check out the following posts:
- Planning the Ultimate Keys Vacation
- The USS Vandenberg: The World’s Coolest Shipwreck
- A Road Trip Through the Florida Keys
- Conservation in the Florida Keys
- Big Pine Key Adventures: Kayaking in the Florida Keys
- Don’t Miss Bahia Honda Key in the Florida Keys
- Florida Fun: Feeding the Fish on Islamorada
- Key West: A Multicolored Dream Island
- Florida Keys Dining: A Lavish Dinner Out at Sunset Key
- Key West’s Gardens Hotel: Hemingway Would Have Stayed Here
Looks like a great trip! Kayaking through the mangroves in Key West is one of my favorite experiences.
We went day kayaking in Big Pine Key a few years ago, and it was one of the coolest kayak trips we’ve ever done! Who did you go out with?
I don’t remember who we booked through–someone off the docks on the north side of the island. We did a self-guided tour–they just gave us a map and off we went!
We definitely need to head back and explore some of the other keys!
It’s exciting to know that you can do water sports day and night in Florida. It’s difficult to pick a favorite because they all look fun. If I have the chance to go, I will surely do all of these (except for the yoga poses on the paddle board though) haha!
Such a good point! Water by day, water by night. Our hotel pool was even open pretty late so we could have taken a late night dip after we got back from night paddling
Whoa! The LED-illuminated kayaks look super cool!! My uncle has a condo in Key West, but I haven’t had the chance to visit yet. I think I’ll be adding the night kayaking to my to-do list though for once I finally make it out there! I had no idea this even existed! So pretty! <3
LED-illuminated kayaks – never even heard of them before. Sounds like a pretty cool way of being able to check out the marine life at night.
This all looks so cool and fun! I wish I lived near here! Pics are awesome too, especially the underwater ones 🙂