Embark on a journey though the Florida Keys and discover the islands’ lively seafaring history, flourishing creative community, balmy subtropical climate and natural wonders that include the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef. Yet the Keys’ most important asset is intangible: a laid-back vibe that seems worlds away from everyday cares.
The southernmost point of the continental United States, and the last “key” in the string of Florida Keys, Key West is a tiny equator-kisser island at the very tip of Florida. Guest blogger Reagan Fountain offers insightful thoughts on why the island oasis is widely regarded as “nothing short of a subtropical paradise.”
Many Florida Keys “locals” have created satisfying lives close to nature and far from “real world” pressures. But you don’t have to be a resident to share some elements that make Keys life so happily addictive — as long as you’re willing to explore, experience and appreciate the places, people and moments you encounter.
Florida Keys visitors can discover a place embracing sustainability and the preservation of environmental wonders, filled with hammocks and rainforest areas, sandy beaches and on-the-water relaxation, and unique opportunities for world-class bird watching. Whether on land or water, the Keys’ natural world provides the rejuvenation that comes from time spent outdoors.
Known for creative, colorful, sometimes quirky artwork and a rich diversity of handcrafted artisan wares, the Florida Keys are internationally recognized for artistry inspired by stunning seascapes, landscapes and a light-drenched subtropical color palette. This season, the Keys feature fresh-air strolls that explore the matchless talent and fascinating work of skilled local artists.
The Florida Keys offer scores of earth- and sea-friendly options for visitors to enjoy, guided by residents who cherish their close-to-nature lifestyle and strive to preserve it. They include sustainable fishing and dive charter operators, coral restoration innovators, trailblazers in “voluntourism,” wildlife rehabilitation experts and leaders of eco-tours and cultural excursions.
Ken Nedimyer, an Upper Keys–based director of Reef Renewal Foundation International, is globally recognized as a father of reef restoration, creating strategies to rebuild coral reefs around the world. He oversees three coral nurseries in the Keys — off Tavernier, Big Pine Key and Marathon — that house 21 coral species with 1,000 genotypes.
Santa does things a little differently in the holiday-loving Florida Keys -- and he even brings some Keys warmth and cheer to people who can't spend the season in the subtropical island chain. Unless you're on the naughty list, you might just get a visit from jolly old Santa Keys this year!
This December, don’t let self-imposed “must-do” holiday tasks jingle your bells till you’re jingled out. Instead, take a Florida Keys approach. During this holiday season, adopt the Keys’ traditional laid-back attitude, refusal to take life too seriously and awareness that the very best “gift” is sharing laughter and closeness with friends and family.
The Florida Keys & Key West are known around the globe for their unmatched natural beauty, laid-back atmosphere and year-round warmth. But they also offer environmental, cultural and adventure activities that can’t be enjoyed anywhere EXCEPT in the island chain. Make lasting vacation memories by undertaking 10 extraordinary “only in the Keys” experiences.