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Old 06/24/2017, 02:42 PM   #401
DivingTheWorld
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We just got back from a vacation in the Florida Keys and I wanted to contribute our experiences. This thread was absolutely outstanding in providing us with ideas of things to do and where to go. As promised Ron, here's my write up:

On the drive down, we stopped at Robbie's on Islamarada to feed the Tarpon. It was a bit commercial feeling and a tourist trap, but the kids loved it.



We stayed at the Marriott Courtyard on Marathon Key which was a great little hotel. Not necessarily cheap, but I wouldn't call it expensive either. It's a newer hotel with plenty of parking, right on the water next to the Turtle Hospital. In the back is an infinity pool overlooking the ocean with lots of lounge chairs, a nice bar and excellent hotel food. The staff is outstanding and I would consider it a family friendly hotel.

Our first day snorkeling was at Bahia Honda, just south. It was windy that day, so the east side (ideal snorkeling per this thread) was too choppy for my first time snorkelers. We hit Calusa beach on the west side which is very sheltered. There wasn't a lot to see in the water, but we did find a bunch of fish at the north end along the jetty. It had rained A LOT just prior to our visit so the water was a little murky, but the kids had a great time!





We also checked out The Rain Barrel on Islamarada which had some really cool art. We picked up a few things. Man, the lobsters grow BIG down in the keys!



The next day we went snorkeling at the Horseshoe on Spanish Harbor Key. That is really a nice snorkeling area. There were only a couple other people there, super calm water and a lot more to see. There were even some mangroves on the shore where my Dad could lounge in the shade. We found the most interesting areas to be around the mouth which is shallow but lots of small stuff and the South side towards land where most of the fish were found. We saw upside down jellies, angels, tang, parrotfish, damsels, etc. I'd include more pictures but almost none of the underwater ones turned out because the vis was so bad.



My 5 year old decided the best way to snorkel was with one arm around my neck.



Then when she got tired, she just rode on my back.



My 7 year old was much more adventurous though, even holding some of the crabs and urchins I picked up for him.






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Old 06/24/2017, 02:49 PM   #402
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Our third full day in the Keys, we headed down to Key West and hit all the sites, the Conch Train, Hemingway's House, Southernmost Point, Key West Aquarium, etc. It was worth a visit, but I don't think I'd want to be down there for more than a day. Marathon is great and relaxing, Key West not so much.



We did find a cool reef there though.



Our favorite restaurant in the Keys was Lazy Days on Islamarada. It's right on the water and out back they have a pier where you can feed Nurse Sharks and Tarpon. We even saw a Black Tip cruising around. It's much nicer and low key than Robbie's and cheaper. A bag of "bait" is only $2 (gloves included!) and no charge to just look. Lazy Days restaurant is excellent and everything we tried was good.





So that's my write up! Thanks again to Ron for such an awesome thread!


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Old 06/24/2017, 05:11 PM   #403
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Sounds like your kids really enjoyed the vacation.


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Old 06/24/2017, 08:32 PM   #404
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ace_92101 View Post
Sounds like your kids really enjoyed the vacation.
Yep, they loved it. This was a good warm up for Hawaii which we've been waiting for them to be good swimmers for. We plan to take them there next year.


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Old 06/26/2017, 03:43 AM   #405
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I'm really glad you guys all had a good time and got to do some snorkeling. And I really appreciate the write up here and all the info. You went to a few place that Elaine and I haven't been to yet. And from your descriptions, it sounds like we should visit.

Does the new Marriott Courtyard have a boat ramp?

We've never been to Lazy Days, so that will absolutely get added to our list of places to visit.

We share your view of Key West vs Marathon. We'll be there for a day before we head out to Ft Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas for a 2 night camping/snorkeling/fort touring/night sky watching trip this Fall.

I love the photo of your son with the urchin. What a great teaching experience!

I'm wondering where you may be going in Hawaii? I was there back in the mid 90's and stayed in Kona on the west side of the big island. They had some very good snorkeling, great weather, something like 9" of rain per year yet just 60 miles to the east, Hilo gets over 300" of rain per year! And the volcano visits were spectacular! You can drive to the top of Mauna Kea at 13,800 feet. Looking to the east and you are above the cloud tops, there are several huge telescopes there and when you look down to the west you can see Kona and all the way to sea level! While I was there in February, Mauna Kea still had some snow on the north face but it was warm enough for just a light jacket. And Mauna Loa was active and pouring lava into the ocean!


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Old 06/26/2017, 08:58 AM   #406
DivingTheWorld
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Reefman View Post
Does the new Marriott Courtyard have a boat ramp?

We've never been to Lazy Days, so that will absolutely get added to our list of places to visit.

We share your view of Key West vs Marathon. We'll be there for a day before we head out to Ft Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas for a 2 night camping/snorkeling/fort touring/night sky watching trip this Fall.

I love the photo of your son with the urchin. What a great teaching experience!

I'm wondering where you may be going in Hawaii? I was there back in the mid 90's and stayed in Kona on the west side of the big island. They had some very good snorkeling, great weather, something like 9" of rain per year yet just 60 miles to the east, Hilo gets over 300" of rain per year! And the volcano visits were spectacular! You can drive to the top of Mauna Kea at 13,800 feet. Looking to the east and you are above the cloud tops, there are several huge telescopes there and when you look down to the west you can see Kona and all the way to sea level! While I was there in February, Mauna Kea still had some snow on the north face but it was warm enough for just a light jacket. And Mauna Loa was active and pouring lava into the ocean!
There is a ramp next to the Marriott, but I don't think it's for guests. You'd have to call them to know for sure.

There are two Lazy Days, one on Marathon and one on Islamarada. The one on Marathon looked nice, but the one on Islamarada was really special.

I've been to Oahu and Maui a few times. We'll probably take the kids to Maui. It's less busy than Oahu, but still has enough going on to keep the kids occupied. Maui has some of the best shore diving in the Islands and some good snorkeling too. It's also a good jumping off point for diving Molokini and Lanai.


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