Your Ultimate Guide to Honeymooning in All Five of the Florida Keys
From Key Largo to Key West, here's what you need to know about planning the ultimate postnuptial getaway at the tip of the Sunshine State.
Like a shell necklace, the Florida Keys stretch 125 miles across the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and Florida Bay. The archipelago is connected to Miami by the Overseas Highway, a scenic route surrounded by an infinite expanse of azure water. The sky is as blue as the sea, the sun shines brightly more than 250 days a year; the temperature hovers around a balmy 78 degrees. Welcome to a honeymoon paradise without a passport: Drive from Miami to Key Largo in under two hours or hop a short flight to Key West and you're surrounded by white beaches and warm, clear water, plus verdant state and national parks filled with wildlife—and don't forget about the Key lime pie.
So, pack your beach essentials and a face mask—they're required outdoors and in, unless you're eating or drinking—and slip down to the Keys for a dose of postnuptial vitamin sea.
Intimate Kona Kai has a friends'-beach-house vibe thanks to its 13 rooms and suites (some have kitchens, so you can stay in and cook a romantic, safe dinner for two!) with white wood furniture and shell lamps; a private beach with paddle boards, kayaks, ping pong, and shuffleboard; and hammocks that beg for a tropical cocktail in hand. Head out for some face-time with the incredible array of aquatic life at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on glass-bottom boat tours, snorkeling, or diving. Gape at vibrant coral, tiny seahorses and pipefish, parrotfish, crabs, and occasionally even manatees and sea turtles. For creatures avian rather than underwater, visit Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, a sanctuary for injured wild birds, among them pelicans, owls, and hawks. To eat, go back to the sea at The Fish House; honeymooners have been coming here for 34 years for filets of mahi mahi, wahoo, and black grouper straight from the dock to your plate and a slice (or two) of Key lime pie—its meringue top beautifully browned.
About 200 years ago, the USS Alligator was patrolling the dangerous Caribbean when it ran aground. It wasn't the only one to be felled by the reef, so Alligator Reef Lighthouse went up in 1873. Ship traffic is long gone, but the shipwrecks remain 20 feet underwater, alongside pretty coral, schools of colorful parrotfish and barracuda, and spiny lobsters—ideal for adventurous newlyweds game for snorkeling and diving. Key Dives and Islander Girl Snorkel & Tours run trips from Islamorada. Not into going underwater? Walk along eight-foot-high walls in a now-defunct quarry to see cross sections of ancient coral at Windley Key Fossil Reef State Geological State Park. For a chic dinner out, trade your swimwear for something casually elegant and head to Pierre's, an upscale surf-and-turf restaurant in a French Colonial-style building whose oceanfront veranda seats diners for sunset drinks and dinner. Is there a better way to start married life?
Wake up at Isla Bella Resort, where the toughest decision you'll make is how to spend your day. Breakfast in bed in your ocean-facing room? Splashing in one of five pools? Morning couple's yoga on the beach followed by a bike ride? A round of bocce or corn hole? Tear yourself away to coo over turtles like Maisy, Sea Low Green, and Hiccup at the Turtle Hospital, which rescues and rehabs sick and injured sea turtles before returning them to their natural habitat. Tour the hospital, see the turtle rehab area, and feed the permanent residents, those few turtles who can't survive in the wild. Afterwards, go for a laid-back lunch overlooking Florida Bay at Keys Fisheries, where cold pints of local craft brew Islamorada Ale and baskets of lobster rubens, grilled fish sandwiches, and extra-crunchy double-fried fries fill the tables.
Big Pine Key and The Lower Keys
Kick off with an invigorating turn in a kayak or paddleboard before tucking into a delicious plant-based breakfast at charming four-room Deer Run on the Atlantic; true to its name, you'll see doe-eyed Key deer here, an endangered subspecies found only in the Keys. Drive to Bahia Honda State Park, where a narrow, palm-fringed crescent of sand leads to shallow, glassy water. Take an hour-and-a-half boat and snorkel trip out to Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, or snorkel directly from shore (equipment is available for rent). For a romantic, oceanside lunch, picnic on sandwiches from health-food store-meets-deli Good Food Conspiracy (think veggie burgers on sprouted wheat buns) or Cuban or Italian sandwiches from old-school Island Deli.
Nineteenth-century pieces like handsome dark wood carved beds and desks (Old-World honeymoon, anyone?) fill the 20 rooms and cottages at Gardens Hotel, right in the center of Old Town. It's perfectly positioned for exploring Key West on foot—and a quick walk to Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum; Key West Lighthouse & Keeper's Quarters Museum (climb those 88 steps for a sweeping view 15 miles out to sea!); the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory (where 50-plus butterfly and 20-plus exotic bird species fly around you); and even the crystalline waters at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Between sites, you and your spouse can fortify yourselves with a peach dossant at local favorite Glazed and thin-crust, Neapolitan pizza in Onlywood's leafy back garden.
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