Laid-back Key Largo, its main thoroughfare lined with gumbo limbo trees and dive shops, is the perfect weekend trip for anyone who loves to get wet. Visibility is exceptional in the turquoise waters that surround the key, and warm temperatures make it swimmable year-round. While other destinations in the Florida Keys have boomed over the last decade—not always for the better, some would argue—Key Largo has managed to maintain its small-town vibe.
Where to Stay
The beachfront luxury resort Playa Largo (97450 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; (305) 853-1001; playalargoresort.com) opened its doors in 2016, making it the first full-service resort to launch in Key Largo since the early ‘90s. The hotel offers suites, private bungalows and a two-story, three-bedroom detached house with its own private pool. With three onsite restaurants and one of the largest spas in the Keys, guests never have to leave this beautiful enclave.
For those seeking something with fewer frills but high on charm, try a quick AirBnB search of Key Largo and its environs. The site is filled with waterfront cottages and orchid-draped bungalows, many with bonuses like free kayaks and standup paddleboards.
Where to Eat
With daily specials that feature seafood like locally caught hogfish and lane snapper, plus a wide menu of surf and turf favorites, Skipper’s Dockside (528 Caribbean Drive, Key Largo; (305) 453- 9794; skippersdockside.com) has the kind of Florida fare that people cross oceans to enjoy. The restaurant’s island-casual atmosphere in an open-air setting on the water make it an ideal spot to end the day.
Where to Dive
In a state that’s surrounded on three sides by water, it should be a crime not to be SCUBA-certified. For those who don’t relish the idea of dropping 40 feet below the surface, snorkeling provides many of the same thrills. Private dive operations exist in and around Key Largo, including local favorite Rainbow Reef Dive Center (100800 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; (305) 451-7171; rainbowreef. com). And don’t miss John Pennekamp State Park, the first undersea park in the United States, with 70 nautical square miles of shallow-water coral reefs filled with parrot fish, blue tangs, tarpon, sea turtles and nurse sharks.
Where to Shop
Key Largo offers plenty of souvenir stands filled with t-shirts and flip-flops, sharks’ teeth and painted coconuts. Don’t miss Shell World (97600 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; 305-852-8245) with its baskets of gleaming cockles, conchs and whelks or the Key Lime Products boutique (95231 Overseas Highway, Key Largo; (305) 853-0378; keylimeproducts.com) which offers everything from key lime lollipops and shower gel to windchimes and tropical metalwork.