Key Largo is home to the world’s largest artificial reef and is sometimes referred to as the dive capital of the world. This beautiful part of the Florida Keys has something to offer anyone looking to have some fun in the sun, above or below the turquoise water.
With state parks, beaches, tours, museums, cruises, and reefs — there is so much to see and do! Here are 15 fun things to do in Key Largo that you won’t want to miss.
JOHN PENNEKAMP CORAL REEF STATE PARK
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the most unique parks in the entire country. Known as the first underwater park in the United States, it covers 70 square nautical miles. The park is home to a colorful coral reef and vibrant tropical fish.
There are several ways to explore the park — underwater, over water, and on the land. Three hiking trails take you through the 3 habitats. Although the trails are fairly short, you will see a myriad of flora and fauna. The Wild Tamarind Trail takes you through the tropical hardwood hammock while the Grove Trail starts near the mangroves, takes you through the hardwood hammock, and ends in a fruit grove. The third trail, The Mangrove Trail, takes you through the swamps and mangroves native to the park.
Many people enjoy taking tours on the glass bottom boats, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and swimming are popular ways to get acquainted with the park’s life under the sea. Fishing is allowed in the park but only in specified areas. Camping and boating are popular in the park with bathrooms/showers and washers/dryers.
The park is home to more than 600 species of fish, 70 types of coral, manatees, crocodiles, dozens of species of birds, and lizards. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is open year-round from 8 am until sunset. The entrance fee is $8.00 per car plus 50 cents per person.
USS SPIEGEL GROVE WRECK
Six miles off the Key Largo coast is the USS Spiegel Grove Wreck. This popular diving site was intentionally sunk in 2002 as an artificial reef. It is one of the largest ships to ever be scuttled for this purpose. Almost instantly, fish and corals started making the ship their new home — creating a whole new ecosystem, making an incredible diving experience. You must have an advanced open water certification or higher to dive the reef.
There are several dive trips that you can book to take you out to the wreck, where it is requested that you take a special class on how to dive the Spiegel Grove Wreck. Because of its enormous size, nearly two football fields long, there are special instructions for divers. If you plan to see the entire ship, you’ll need to schedule about 4 dives!
SUNSET AT SUNDOWNERS
Sundowners has been a staple in Key Largo since 1985. Perfectly located on Florida Bay, Sundowners is the best place to end the day because of its epic sunsets. Sundowners is also known for having the freshest seafood in town and mouth-watering steaks.
Sundowners also offers a daily happy hour, live music, and special events. There are several seating options, including an indoor, glass-walled seating area, a covered deck, as well as a patio. While waiting for your food or the sun to go down, you can hit the back deck and feed the tarpon fish.
Details: 103900 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037 | Website
HARRY HARRIS PARK AND BEACH
Harry Harris Park is a favorite with locals and has a quiet, laid-back vibe. There is a boat ramp, bike path, picnic and BBQ facilities, ballpark and playground, and even showers. There are no food or concession stands in the park, so make sure to bring your own food if you’re planning to spend the full day at the park.
Fishing and snorkeling are both popular activities for the park, but a dive flag is required if you are snorkeling, especially around the jetty. There are tide pools to explore, as well as a small beach to relax on.
The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and has a small entrance fee of $5 on the weekends if you’re not a local. The park is free for everyone on weekdays.
Details: 50 E Beach Rd, Tavernier, FL 33070
GO DOLPHIN WATCHING ON AN ECO-TOUR
Seeing dolphins jump and play in the wild is one of those experiences you can’t miss out on, and Key Largo is a great place to take in a dolphin-watching tour. There are dozens of eco-tours to choose from, each offering a little something different.
There are big tour boats that include food and snorkel dives or other small excursions, to smaller more intimate tours — like a sunset on a sailboat. It’s common to see other sea creatures like turtles, eagle rays, and a variety of tropical fish.
Most tours offer several different time slots as well as different packaged options.
Editor’s Note: Love dolphins? Take on the Dolphin Experience with IMATA! There is a full swim experience as well as a splash encounter in only 3ft of water, great for young kids! What a great way to take on Key Largo!
HISTORY OF DIVING MUSEUM
Open daily from 10-5, the History of Diving Museum is a fun way to learn about diving, even if you are not a diver yourself. Tickets are $15 for adults, with discounts for seniors, veterans, active military, and kids.
The museum is “dedicated to collecting, preserving, displaying and interpreting artifacts, antiques, books, documents, photographs and oral history relative to the History of Diving.” In the museum, you can find over 4,000 years of diving history, including a detailed timeline of how diving became what it is today. You can learn more bout marine biology, view a collection of open-bottom and homemade helmets and different underwater cameras, and learn how everything has become better with time.
There is the legendary Treasure Room, where you can see all the interesting artifacts and other treasures salvaged from the sea. All sorts of diving gear used throughout the years are on display, including some of the very first prototypes.
Onsite, you will also find a small aquarium with a variety of vibrant, tropical fish that you can view through an actual living helmet. Of course, there is a gift shop on your way out.
Details: 82990 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036 | Website
AFRICAN QUEEN CANAL CRUISE
If you need a break from the surf and sand, take a ride on the African Queen Steamboat Cruise. The steamboat was made famous after Humphrey Bogart and Kathryn Hepburn starred in a film with the boat, even naming the movie after it. Get off the sea and into the Florida canals for a totally different way to experience Key Largo.
The cruises depart 4 times a day and last about an hour and a half. You can also book dinner cruises and private events. The boat is small, only fitting up to 6 passengers, making for a small, intimate experience.
Details: 99701 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037 | Website
Molasses Reef is one of the most visited diving and snorkeling sites in the world and is a sanctuary preservation area. The site is well known and easily accessible for most people. There are over 30 mooring balls for boats to tie up to while you have your underwater adventure.
The extraordinarily clear and warm water makes it easy to swim with tropical fish, rays and skates, sea turtles, loggerheads, reef and nurse sharks, green moral eels, lobsters, crabs, and many more marine animals.
Molasses Reef also has an abundance of corals including elkhorn, staghorn, star, brain and fire corals, sea fans, gorgonians, and several species of sponges. There are also three small wreckage sites, including a mechanical winch from the wreck of the Slobadana, a Spanish anchor, and a sunken cannon.
The reef has varying depths starting as low as 10 feet and maxes out at about 65 feet, making the reef accessible for almost anyone, including snorkelers.
WILD BIRD SANCTUARY
The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary is a permanent, safe home for over 90 birds made up of over 40 species. The birds at this sanctuary cannot be returned to their natural habitat due to reasons like illness and/or injury.
The sanctuary has been open since 1991, and is open daily from sunrise to sunset, with a $10 donation recommended. The visitors center is open Monday through Friday from 10-5. There is a pelican feeding every day at 8 am and 2:30 pm.
The sanctuary is equipped with a boardwalk that takes you through the whole property, so you can see all the exhibits and birds. You can take either a guided or self-guided tour, as there are signs with educational information along the way.
FLORIDA KEYS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY
Managed by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects nearly 3,000 nautical miles. The sanctuary is home to over 6,000 marine animals, coral reefs, seagrass beds, mangroves, islands, sandbars, and shipwrecks. This is the only coral reef system in North America and is the third-largest in the world.
There are endless activities you can participate in to explore the marine sanctuary. SCUBA diving and snorkeling are amongst the most popular. You can take tours on a glass-bottom boat, charter a fishing trip, or go sailing.
If you want to learn more about the ocean and its reefs, the sanctuary also offers educational programs, citizen science, volunteer opportunities, and high-tech research and conservation work.
DAGNY JOHNSON KEY LARGO HAMMOCK BOTANICAL STATE PARK
Key Largo doesn’t just have beautiful beaches and reefs, they have lush forests as well. The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is home to over 80 protected species of flora and fauna. This park contains one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the United States. In the park, you can see numerous varieties of birds and butterflies, the American crocodile, wild cotton, and mahogany mistletoe.
The park has over 6 miles of nature trails to explore and many of them are paved, so it’s wheelchair and stroller accessible. Biking and mountain biking trails are also available. There are informational and educational signs along the trails so you can read about what you’re seeing.
The park has a composting toilet and limited parking, but is open from sunrise to sunset. There is a honor system fee of $2 upon entry. There is nowhere to get food or water in the park, so make sure to bring your own and take your trash with you when you leave. There is a picnic area near the butterfly garden.
Details: County Rd 905 & Mile Marker 106, Key Largo, FL 33037 | Website
JULES UNDERSEA LODGE
Ready for an experience that’s truly unique? One of the most unique hotels in the world, the Jules Undersea Lodge, gives guests an unforgettable experience. It is the “first and only underwater hotel where scuba diving is the only way to get to your room.” Before entering the actual lodge, you make a stop into the wet room where you can take your gear off, take a hot shower and put regular clothes on. The inside of the lodge pays homage to the 80s and 90s for a totally nostalgic feel. The lodge is even air-conditioned and has WiFi, so you stay nice and comfortable. Each stay also comes with a pizza delivery!
The lodge has many windows for you took look out into the underwater world. Outside you can see loads of tropical fish like the angelfish, parrotfish, barracuda, and snappers.
If you’re looking to get your SCUBA certification, the Jules Undersea Lodge is the best place to go. They offer regular certification, open water, advanced open water, and peak performance buoyancy. You can also just dive for enjoyment. You can take a guided tour to make sure you see all the lagoon has to offer. The lodge also offers night dives by appointment only.
Details: 51 Shoreland dr., Key Largo, FL 33037 | Website
HEAD OUT ON A FISHING CHARTER
Key Largo is a world-class spot for fishing, so chartering a fishing trip is a must-do! There are dozens of chartering companies to choose from, with each offering something a little different than the other. Finding the right trip for you won’t be hard. There are day trips and multi-day trips available.
While sport fishing in Key Largo, you will have the opportunity to catch Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, as well as Mahi Mahi, Marlin, and Sailfish. Hogfish, Snapper, and Grouper are also typically caught while out in the sea. Out on the boat, you might also come across sea turtles, parrotfish, stingrays, sunfish, dolphins and manatees, nurse and reef sharks.
Key Largo has a great location, making it the perfect place to set out on day trips to surrounding areas. Here are a couple of our favorites.
Key West is the southernmost part of the continental U.S. and is an easy day trip, or night trip, from Key Largo. It is known for fantastic food and shopping, live music and exciting nightlife.
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
The Everglades National Park is like nowhere else on earth. Best described as a grassy, slow-moving river, this national park covers 1.5 million acres. There are endless ways to explore this park and all the animals and plants that reside there.
Kayaking, biking, hiking, bird watching, and boating are all popular things to do while visiting the park. Whatever you choose to do, be on the lookout for crocodiles, alligators, snakes, frogs, and lizards. The park is also home to rabbits, deer, foxes, otters, and dozens of species of birds.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA
- FLORIDA BEACHES: 17 Florida Beaches For Your Family To Relax and Unwind
- FLORIDA’S WEST COAST: 23+ Memorable Stops For A Perfect West Coast of Florida Trip
- DESTIN RESORTS: 6 Fantastic Destin, Florida Resorts Perfect For Fun in the Sun
- ISLAMORADA: 17 Things To Do In Islamorada For Fun In The Sun
- SMALL TOWNS: 29 Best Small Towns In Florida That Locals Want Kept Secret
WHERE TO STAY IN KEY LARGO
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