The travel industry is slowly starting to show signs of life and is reopening, piece by piece all over the world, including America’s beloved National Parks, which is this summer’s hottest road trip destinations (browse the latest about the very best 10 U.S. National Parks and America’s Best National Park Road Trip here).
However when I saw that the Florida Keys were reopening, it certainly got my attention for two reasons. First, that is an excellent and varied destination that fits the bill of what people seem to want at this time - the vast majority of its attractions and much of the dining are outdoors, in beautiful weather and a beautiful setting.
But secondly, and more personally, the Florida Keys and Key West were the last place Personally, i traveled prior to the coronavirus outbreak officially turn into a pandemic. It’s a memory I have already been treasuring during the stay at home period, and in retrospect, it had been a great destination to have taken my last trip.
The island chain has been seriously closed to tourists since March 22 to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19, with checkpoints on two roads leading from the South Florida mainland to the Keys, as well as at Key West International and Florida Keys Marathon Airfields, all to keep tourists out. These will all be suspended on Monday, June 1, the just announced target date for reopening the Keys to visitors.
Beneath the new plans, lodging will be limited by 50 percent of standard occupancy at all hotels and resorts through the early stages of reopening. Local leaders will examine the problem later in June to make determinations regarding additional relaxing of occupancy restrictions. New disinfecting and social distancing guidelines, as well as mandatory wearing of face coverings for both visitors and tourism industry workers, should be initiated with input from the Florida Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
"We appreciate and also have supported local government and health officials' decisions to reduce coronavirus infection rates in the Keys," said Rita Irwin, chair of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council, the destination management office for the Florida Keys & Key West. "Having said that, we are most gratified that people can ease into hosting visitors again. Tourism is the financial lifeblood of the Keys and almost half of our workforce is employed in visitor-related jobs.”
I did so a multi-sports Keys trip with America’s oldest and best-known active travel specialist, Backroads. I’ve traveled with the business before, plus they are excellent over the board. It was awesome, great guides, great itinerary, great hotels and great support. We biked and kayaked extensively, did a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) tour of the mangrove forests, went sailing, took an expertly guided historic walking tour of Key West, etc. I’d heartily recommend it, and you may read more the specifics here, nevertheless, you may also easily do the Keys on your own.
Here are the fundamentals: The three main destinations are fundamental Largo, Islamorada and Key West, to be able from East to West and proximity to Miami, with Key West the finish of the road and southernmost point in the U.S.
Click here for the official website of the Florida Keys & Key West Tourism bureau.
Key Largo is home to both Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and famous John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, home of the world’s major artificial reef, and the island is a must for divers and snorkelers. In fact, Key Largo bills itself as the SCUBA Capital of the World, and while that is debatable, the quality of the underseas adventures here's not. There is also lots to do on top of the water, including kayaking, canoeing, fishing, etc.
In a similar vein, Islamorada is called the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," and has the most significant fishing fleet per square mile in the world. Angling of each sort may be the big draw, but again, there are all types of water sports, plenty of excellent fresh seafood eateries, and it is home to Cheeca Lodge, a nationally renowned fishing-centric upscale beach resort, but personally I came across it overrated and somewhat disappointing.
The very best two luxury resorts in the Keys are both by themselves islands. Little Palm Island is considered this country’s best private island resort, and it had just reopened after being rebuilt from hurricane damage when the pandemic arrived, so that it is essentially completely new and has only freestanding cottages (read more here). Sunset Key Cottages is a deluxe community on a tiny island just off Key West, with water taxi shuttles back and forth to Key West’s central Mallory Square.
Key West is fantastic, justifiably well-known for its quirky character, and was Hemingway’s home and has long attracted artists, iconoclasts and a person with a bit of pirate attitude. Additionally it is a popular LGBTQ destination. It is filled with great restaurants, bars and live music, and again, there are various water sports here, especially charter fishing. While there is plenty to do, it is small enough to explore on foot and bike, & most hotels have loaner bikes. The premier full-service resort on the island, using its own beach and great outdoor dining and drinking facilities, is the Waldorf Astoria Casa Marina.