In just a few short months, Derek and I will be joined by our little baby girl! Before she made her arrival, we made sure to take one last trip as just the two of us and made our way down to Florida for a Babymoon in the Florida Keys! We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, rented a car and drove straight down to Key West the same day. After a few days, we made our way back up the coast and stayed in Key Largo for a few more days before heading home.
Since the Keys are typically associated with active water sports (scuba diving, deep sea fishing etc) and party towns (Key West has so many bars) I’ve included a few details about our trip as recommendations for others who are headed that way, especially those on a babymoon.
Where we stayed:
The Inn at Key West – I had read that Key West was lacking in beach access so I wanted to make sure to stay at a place with a nice pool in case we couldn’t find a decent beach. The Inn at Key West was a good choice for this reason! After beaching it one afternoon, we spent the next at the Inn enjoying the warm pool and lounge chairs. For those of you who are looking to be in walking distance of all the downtown areas of Key West: you might want to look into a different part of the town. We had a car and didn’t mind driving down to the downtown area when we wanted to eat and walk around so that wasn’t our concern. While D did enjoy his fair share of beers at waterfront restaurants in Key West, we didn’t need the “let’s enjoy cheap drinks and stumble home” option like we might’ve in the past. Pros: beautiful pool, clean rooms, comfortable beds, fair pricing. Cons: Have to drive to downtown, not the softest towels, and a fridge in the room that was “on for 6 hours, off for 2” so you really couldn’t keep things cold in there all day or night. D made his own cooler to keep the beers cold but thought this would be a helpful heads up to others booking. :)
Hampton Inn Key Largo Manatee Bay – I’m a fan of Hampton Inn as a chain of hotels, especially when they offer the free hot breakfast. We were able to check in early after driving up from Key West and were pleasantly surprised at what looked like our recent remodeled room, which was clean and spacious. The pool was small and not really fit to “hang at the pool all day” but there was a small, quiet beach area in back where you could get some sun, which is a bonus since Key Largo doesn’t really hold many beach locations for this purpose. The breakfast was filling with make your own waffles, cereal, breads, fruits and the typical hot continental breakfast and we were happy about this choice of hotel. Pros: clean room, beach area, hot breakfast. Cons: small pool, no restaurants in walking distance.
How we got around:
Fox Rental Car – When we went to California years back, I was iffy when D booked a rental car at this little rental car chain I hadn’t really heard of. Turns out, it’s because it’s mostly based in California and some sporadic other states. We ended up having a perfect rental car experience for half the price that we would have for other places. When he went to book the car for this trip, he once again found that Fox Rental Car is located at the Fort Lauderdale airport as well and we once again booked their services for half the cost of the other rental centers. I suggest checking this company out before booking some others for a higher price!
Where we played:
Higgs Beach Old Town on Key West – As mentioned above, there aren’t many beaches to chose from on Key West. We decided to try this one out after reading some reviews on Tripadvisor. While there were small waves, restrooms, free parking and an open beach access, I personally found it hard to find a comfortable way to sit while 5 months preggo so it wasn’t my favorite beach experience of all time. (Of course that was a personally issue.) There were some questionable characters hanging around but these seemed harmless on their own end of the beach. Other than my lack of an ability to get comfortable, I would recommend checking this beach out for a late morning/early afternoon place to grab some Vitamin D.
Parades at Key West – We happen to be in Key West for the 31st annual Conch Republic Celebration which meant lots of parades! When a customer at the table next to us asked the waitress at one restaurant “can you tell us more about the parade tonight” she said “it’s Key West. There are about 200 parades a year so I couldn’t even tell ya.” We saw one parade down Duval street one night with an interesting array of characters and a naval air and sea parade with bombs (toilet paper dropping from the planes) and cannons (water cannons from the boats) the next night. All of these events were of course surrounded by a slew of drunk people vacationing in Key West. When you visit, see if there are any parades to enjoy!
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – After a filling hot breakfast at our hotel in Key Largo, we decided to head out and go on a snorkel tour at the Pennecamp Park. We paid the $9 entrance fee ($4.50 per person, $9 for 2 and $0.50 for any person after that) and planned to spend some time at the park. We were disappointed to see at the snorkel tours were canceled for that day due to the windy weather, but we knew there were other things to do inside the park. After a quick drive to get familiar with the grounds, we decided on trying out kayaking.
For only $17 an hour for a double kayak, which was charged in 15 minutes increments after the 1 hour minimum, we decided it was a good deal for a little adventure. We were so happy we did! We did a few little trails which the guide said would take over 2 hours (I assume at a more casual pace) in a little over an hour. We even did the tour he said was “intermediate and claustrophic”– and it was, but in doing so, a MANATEE swam right underneath us! It was so cute and completely worth the day at the park! After that adventure, we spent some time on the “beach” which is basically small rocks before we got hungry and decided to head out. Note: There were was a concession stand there for food options, we just decided to grab something outside the park and enjoy the rest of the afternoon at our quiet hotel beach with more comfortable seating options. I’m sure others would be entertained to stay a little bit longer, especially when more prepared with food.
Where we ate:
Amigos on Key West – This place claims to be home of the square taco, and square everything else. I had a square chicken quesadilla while D enjoyed a square taco and some cheap beers. Amigos is not only a yummy meal but it’s also the ultimate place for people watching as you get to sit on at a long bar facing out on Duval Street and watch people as they stumble by. Be sure to fill out the comment card that comes with the check. It’s a little drawing with only 2 dots which you’re expected to draw a photo of your review. I’m sad to say we didn’t fill this out and only afterwards noticed all the drawings hung up throughout the restaurant and even in the bathrooms!
Conch Republic Seafood – After walking around the town a while, we walked along the docks and wandering into this restaurant. Loved the open air setting and waterfront views! We split an order of chicken fingers and peel and eat shrimp. D got a beer on tap while I had my first ever virgin Pina Colada and Strawberry Daiquiri. It was vacation and it was needed! Tip: Check out those free coupon books given out around the island and even in the gift store at this restaurant for a buy one get one free drink coupon. We missed this coupon opportunity and it taunted us the rest of the vacation, seeing the offer everywhere!
The Conch Shack – We are not foodies by any means. But sometimes we get in moods to actually try something new. After reading reviews for the conch fritters here, D decided to give it a try. He ordered a 3 piece dipping them in the key lime aioli sauce and washing them down with a cheap, cold Miller Lite. It was his first experience with the seafood delight so he didn’t realize how much he did prefer them until having them again later in the trip. He says these were definitely better and would recommend to travelers to Key West.
Key Largo Backyard Fisheries – If you’re looking for a low key place to grab some fresh seafood, check out this take away cafe in Key Largo. You wait in line, order your food at the counter then sit and wait until your name is called, enjoying the lunch at covered picnic tables. We split a sampler order of dolphin fingers, conch fritters and coconut shrimp and a Mahi Mahi grilled sandwich. It was filling and yummy as we sat out and enjoyed the fresh air and beautiful sunshine that afternoon!
Lorelei Cabana Bar and Restaurant – Looking for a cute place to watch the sunset, get cheap drinks and listen to some live music? Head to Loreleis in Islamorada. We had visited here 10 years earlier and remember it being a scenic place to hang for the sunset so we made sure to make a repeat stop on our trip. Last time I wasn’t yet 21 and this time I was preggos so maybe sometime I’ll head back and actually enjoy one of their drinks instead of just the virgin variety I had this time. Regardless of the drinking situation, it’s a nice place to relax and watch their “sunset celebration” at night.
I’ll leave you with this guy saying goodbye. He and his family or friends lived in the waters next to our hotel and came out one afternoon for some sun. They’re huge!