If you are looking for something less expensive, don’t rule out the house rentals. A number of homes are available at very reasonable weekly rates. Another economical option is the many private motels on the bay side of US 1. As an example, The Bay Cove Motel has a cottage on the bay that sleeps 6 with two bathrooms. The décor is primitive but there is a white sand beach and a nice view of Florida Bay. If you are bringing a boat, I strongly recommend the Marina del Mar (near MM 100). The room rates are reasonable and the Atlantic Ocean is 5 minutes away. They also have lockers for your gear right at the boat slip. Running water is included in the dockage fee. If you’re really looking to save money you can camp in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102). Bring lots of bug spray. The mosquitoes come out exactly at dusk and you will need to be completely covered or in your tent.  luxury private boat charters miami florida

3. Food – My dive buddies and I don’t do fine dining in the Keys. I’m sure the Marriott offers a pricey opportunity to dress up and practice using the right silverware. But if you want Conch Republic food try Hobo’s (MM 101), Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (MM 99) and the Islamorada Fish House (MM 81). The ambience is 100% Florida Keys. My son thinks Mrs. Mac’s key lime pie is the best he’s ever eaten and we have eaten a lot of key lime pie. But I’m partial to her peanut butter pie.

4. Snorkeling – There are many charter boats available that cater to snorkelers. Make sure you get to Christ of the Abyss. The Christ statue is in 30 feet of water and has a good bit of coral growth. Lately people have taken to leaving cremated remains on the base. Other great snorkeling spots are Grecian rocks, Mosquito banks and a dozen more shallow reefs. You will see fan coral, colorful small coral formations and thousands of brightly colored fish.

5. Diving – The main attraction in Key Largo is SCUBA diving. They are many dive sites and the pricing among the charter boats is very consistent. You can shop around but you won’t find much difference in pricing. My favorite charter company is Ocean Divers, which is located near MM 100. They have two boats and you will find each will have a different itinerary, giving you more options. The USS Spiegel Grove, USCG Duane and French Reef are my “Must Do” dives. Here is some additional information on all three.

Located within the Marine Sanctuary, the Spiegel Grove is a 510′ landing ship, which was intentionally sunk in 2002. She sits upright in 134 feet of water with on-deck diving as shallow as 50 feet. This is not a one-dive site. I have been down on the Grove nearly 50 times and she continues to amaze me. The charter will typically take you on a short tour to give you a view of the well bay (where the landing craft were stored) and around the superstructure to the bridge. You will also see the two huge swivel cranes that loaded and off loaded the landing craft. Coral is growing abundantly and there are quite a few very large grouper who have taken up residence. Make sure and discuss with the charter what sections of the ship you will be seeing. Different trips see different sections.

Also in the Marine Sanctuary, French Reef is a great alternative to Molasses Reef, which is often overcrowded. It is a smaller site, but in my opinion is a better dive than Molasses. Since Looe Reef (near Key West) has deteriorated so badly, I believe French is one of the most spectacular reef areas in the Keys. Ledges, tunnels, and caves; most large enough to swim through are in abundance. Here are some of my favorite spots on the reef. For the opportunity to uncover hidden sea life try The Hourglass Cave (50 feet inshore from buoy F1) or Christmas Tree Cave (50 feet inshore of buoy F3). Buoy F5 marks a sandbank with coral ridges around and F6 has a swim-through coral head. Inshore of F7 is a ledge near an old anchor. White Sand Bottom Cave, the largest cave in the area, is located near the center of the reef. Depth ranges from 15 to 100 feet. If you have your own boat this is a great reef to bring your snorkelers and divers. There is truly something for everyone.