FLORIDA KEYS - Beyond shopping and sharing rooms, meals and toothpaste, a girls' getaway in the Florida Keys means low-tech ways to recharge and renew, as you discover abundant "BFF" adventures with your best buds.
Crossing 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico as tropical breezes ruffle your hair makes the scenic Florida Keys Overseas Highway from north of Key Largo to Key West a memorable road trip. The Keys highway is the only All-American Road in Florida, and is among only 30 other roadways in the nation with the prestigious title. Completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 when Standard Oil millionaire Henry Flagler completed the extension of his Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West. As you traverse the Keys, pop in a Florida Keys Road Trip CD for an audio tour, a fun and entertaining way to hear about the history, attractions and local music by mile markers — little green roadside signs that count down from number 127 (just south of Florida City) to zero in Key West. thefloridakeysroadtrip.com
Rejuvenating day spas, massage therapies or alternative-healing treatments can reconnect mind, body and spirit during a pampering spa break and wellness getaway. Spas and treatment centers are located throughout the Keys, with a few highlights listed here.
The Caribbean Spa at the Pier House Resort in Key West boasts nine treatment rooms for luxurious experiences such as Caribbean Coma massages, Milk and Honey body treatments, mud wraps and facials. A hair and nail salon also is on site. pierhouse.com
In Marathon, Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort offers guests a full range of therapies including custom herbal scrubs and poultices, facial and body masks and vibrational energy balancing. tranquilitybay.com
Islamorada's The Spa at Cheeca Lodge offers four massage rooms, two facial rooms, a wet room with a Vichy shower for scrubs and wraps, poolside cabanas and an oceanside tiki hut for outdoor treatments. Indulge in a Vie Facial using Age Concept ingredients or the Phytomer Body Scrub combining seawater, seaweeds and marine plants for soft and supple skin. cheeca.com
Girlfriends can combine nature with an exotic beach escape. One of the Florida Keys' most popular camping and recreation areas, the Lower Keys' Bahia Honda offers deep near-shore waters for swimming and snorkeling as well as kayaking, camping, picnicking, watersports, a marina and rental cabins.
Repeatedly ranked as one of the leading U.S. beaches in a number of travel studies, Bahia Honda's pristine sandy expanse is part of a 524-acre state park located on Bahia Honda Key between mile markers 36 and 37. bahiahondapark.com
The Keys also are the perfect setting for an ultimate sports adventure. Like the fish they want to learn how to catch, women migrate from all over to land new angling skills and embark on first-ever fishing trips at an award-winning "Ladies, Let's Go Fishing!" weekend seminar held each November in Islamorada, the sportfishing capital of the world.
Nearly 6,000 female graduates seeking an experiential vacation filled with empowerment and newfound confidence on the water immerse themselves in the exciting "No-Yelling School of Fishing" curriculum. Whether they arrive as beginners or with more advanced knowledge, they learn hands-on skills in offshore, bottom, inshore and fly fishing. ladiesletsgofishing.com
Appreciate the oldest practice of self-discovery as it was originally intended, in glorious sunshine and on tranquil waters that showcase the natural beauty of the Florida Keys. Yoga on the Sea groups leave the dock from Marathon and, after a short cruise, their boat anchors in a serene setting for an hour of yoga designed to increase flexibility and strength through chanting, breath-work and seated and standing postures.
Or, enjoy a relaxing sunset meditation to still the mind, followed by complimentary wine and hors d'oeuvres. All classes are tailored to individual needs and are suitable for beginners through practitioners of advanced yoga. yogaonthesea.com
Near Key West, paddleboard yoga classes from Lazy Dog combine mind and body relaxation with healthful exercise and an eco-friendly adventure. Two-hour classes are divided equally between paddling time and yoga practice as participants first paddle out to the calm backcountry waters, spotting sea life and wading birds along the way, and then begin their yoga practice — using the board as a "mat" while connecting with nature in a peaceful mangrove setting. lazydog.com
Seafood is considered part of the Keys' "natural resources." Indulge with your "bestie" in culinary creativity, sampling fresh-from-the-boat seafood favorites like Key West pink shrimp, a delicacy that can be sautéed in scampi, battered or fried, nestled atop salad or pasta, or simply steamed and served with savory sauces; and the mollusk conch (pronounced konk), served in lime-kissed salad, spicy chowder or golden deep-fried fritters.
Spiny lobsters found in the Keys (season is Aug. 6 through March 31) are clawless with sweet and tender meat. Try them steamed or boiled with drawn butter, or their meat can be made into salad or served with exotic sauces.
It's almost impossible to visit the Keys without sampling Key lime pie, nestled in a graham cracker crust and smothered in whipped cream — a sinfully indulgent finale for any island meal.
Looking for sexy nightlife? Key West is characterized by the vibrant rhythms of reggae, salsa and island rock spilling from the open doorways of clubs and saloons ... the whirr of a blender as a bartender concocts a perfect frozen margarita ... the laughter and clink of glasses as new friends at a palm-shaded courtyard bar toast the evening's promise.
Happy hour and ladies' nights are popular at establishments throughout the Old Town and Historic Seaport districts, but the scene really heats up once the sun goes down. After the nightly sunset celebration at Mallory Square, party-minded gals can head for lively Duval Street and waterfront seaport bars and restaurants scattered between marinas and waterfront businesses that preserve the funky attitude, architecture and personality of Key West's past.
When planning the perfect excuse to celebrate and get away together, the fun and frolicsome Florida Keys are sure to top the travel wish list for girlfriends, mothers, daughters or sisters.
Two ladies enjoy the sun on a Florida Keys beach in Islamorada. Photo by Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau
Reconnect mind, body and spirit during a pampering spa and wellness break.
Islamorada, the sportfishing capital of the world, serves as backdrop while lady anglers gain proficiency in marine and habitat conservation and hone skills at releasing, knot tying, bait rigging, spin and net casting, boat and trailer handling, stand-up fish fighting techniques like reeling under pressure, even how to gaff a grapefruit and safely remove hooks.
A modified Warrior II pose on YOLO's Coastal Cruiser paddleboard. Image courtesy of Lazy Dog
A girls' getaway in the Florida Keys means low-tech ways to recharge and renew, as you discover abundant "BFF" adventures with your best buds.