Whether you are planning a short destination getaway or an awe-inspiring family vacation, you can't go wrong with visiting Key Largo. Key Largo, the largest section of the Keys, is one of the most picturesque and best-liked islands off the coast of South Florida. It’s highly regarded for its many attractions and activities, just a few of which are highlighted here.Swim with Dolphins at Dolphins Plus Bayside
Key Largo was built on the fossilized remains of a coral reef and is popularly known as “the diving capital of the world.” It’s also a regional locus of activity for kayaking and sport-fishing. But one of the premier attractions of Key Largo is Dolphins Plus Bayside, a unique destination for visitors of all ages.
At Dolphins Plus Bayside, guests can participate in once-in-a-lifetime, up-close-and-personal dolphin interactions, including intimate encounters in shallow water, playing with dolphins and learning about their care and training. In fact, hands-down, Dolphins Plus is the best place to book a swim with dolphins in Florida and have a memorable, personalized adventure experience in a natural setting that isn’t a giant commercial theme park.
If you want to swim with dolphins in Key Largo, Dolphins Plus Bayside can introduce you to these incredible, affectionate marine mammals in a way that no other park can. You can follow the individual dolphins of Dolphins Plus online and stay in-the-know about their personalities and behaviors.
Planning a Trip: Where to Stay and Dine in the Keys
For a trip to Dolphins Plus, visitors are invited to stay nearby at Dolphin Point Villas, a collection of six spacious, modern, light-filled private houses in a gated compound featuring breathtaking views of the sunset and cotton-candy skies. The villas have their own private pool, and a beach is just steps away.
Along with fabulous accommodations, guests of Dolphins Plus are encouraged to sample the food from Mike's BBQ Truck, a mobile kitchen on wheels serving up tasty Texas beef brisket, Carolina pulled pork, smoked sausage sandwiches and sweet cornbread.
Bonus Key Largo Activities When You Visit Dolphins Plus
While swimming with dolphins in Key Largo is one of the most captivating marine experiences visitors to the Keys can have, it’s not the only activity on offer; these other attractions can entertain guests before or after a visit to Dolphins Plus Bayside:
As well as offering up-close-and-personal interactions with dolphins, Dolphins Plus operates a Marine Mammal Responder unit, which has a mission of marine mammal conservation. Visitors can take a “Behind-the-Scenes” tour of DPMMR’s facilities that demonstrates how this organization cares for its dolphins and other marine wildlife.
On Captain Sterling’s Everglade excursions, you can take a personalized guided boat tour into the Everglades National Park (see below). Experience Key Largo’s number-one eco-friendly tour and witness the flora and fauna that have made the Everglades a national treasure. Reservations for this informative and educational eco-tour can be made online, and boats conveniently depart from Dolphins Plus.
Everglades National Park protects the southernmost fifth of the Florida Everglades, a rich network of forests and wetlands. It’s the largest tropical land tract in the United States and the largest swath of wilderness east of the Mississippi River. The Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is listed by the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance. It’s home to 40 species of mammals, 50 species of reptiles, 300 species of fish, 350 species of birds and 36 protected and/or threatened species, including the American crocodile, the Florida panther and the West Indian manatee.
Out There Key Largo Kayak Eco Tours offers both boat-launched self-paddle kayak eco-tours and flat-boat live-bait flyrod fishing in shallow Key Largo waters, Florida Bay and the Everglades National Park (see above). Whether you want to fish, paddle or just look around at the beautiful scenery that surrounds you, Out There Key Largo Kayak Eco Tours puts you out on the water to do it. Out There’s boats depart daily from Dolphins Plus.
Harry Harris Beach is a nearby oceanside beach and park area with picnic tables, grills, playgrounds, showers, a ballpark, a bike path and a laid-back, quiet ambiance. Visitors can swim, dive, snorkel, fish and explore. Open from sunrise to sunset, the park is the perfect place to relax and recreate.
At the Florida Keys Wild Bird Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Center, visitors can watch and be photographed with nearly 40 different species of non-releasable wild birds, many of which have been injured and are recovering or are being rehabilitated. The majority of these birds have been conditioned to be tolerant of humans as they perch, feed, walk and fly. The Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Center is open from sunrise to sunset 365 days per year.
Take a trip on the iconic boat seen in the famous 1951 Humphrey Bogart/Katherine Hepburn film The African Queen! Fully restored, this colorful, antique steamboat was built in 1912 and used in Africa for more than five decades, appearing in the acclaimed movie directed by John Huston and shot on location in the Belgian Congo. The African Queen can be rented for private events and cruising the canals of the Port Largo area.
Captain Matt Bellinger is the owner and operator of Bamboo Charters, offering some of the best fishing in and around the Florida Keys. Ever since his marine biology studies at the University of Tampa, Bellinger has been entranced with the laid-back way of life in the Florida Keys. His father and grandfather taught him how to fish, and today, Bellinger knows the waters of the Keys and the Everglades National Park better than almost anyone. His charters can be booked online, and Bellinger also offers a live fishing report that airs daily on three Keys radio stations.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first park in the United States to incorporate extensive undersea areas, including spectacular coral reefs. Encompassing some 70 nautical square miles, the park includes mangrove swamps and upland areas with tropical hammocks. But the park’s real beauty can be found underwater; visitors can get a glimpse of these sights by snorkeling, scuba-diving or riding in the glass-bottom boat that plies the park’s waters. Additionally, the park allows picnicking, swimming, hiking, canoeing, kayaking and fishing, and there’s a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and a theater with nature videos in its Visitor Center.