Published: September 13th 2011September 2nd 2011
Waking up after a long week and craving a getaway, a decision was randomly made...Key West baby! Escaping Miami's crazy tourists for just plain craziness. We piled in a car with what looked like enough bags for a cross-Atlantic move, drank our coffee, and cranked the music. It was the start of a weekend getaway only three hours south of Miami, but mentally a first class flight.
As we arrive to the Key we search the address for our hotel, Casa 325. According to the site, it sits on the main strip of Duval Street, but lays "nestled" away. Nestled indeed...it took us three rounds around the block to finally notice a narrow cobblestone path leading to our little cove. Note that at 11 am we were not all with the program just yet. As we approached our room on the second floor of this cottage-like house, our first sight made us die laughing. A ladder as a staircase! Management warned us about the dangers of drinking and climbing. Best part was that the beds were all upstairs, sweet.
Once checked in and lifetime of luggage dropped off, our first stop upon arrival? Limonas at Caroline's Cafe. Ask the
bar to add a shot of Bacardi to your Corona for that extra kick. It works better than coffee. Next step, sit back and enjoy the wonders of people watching as there's never a dull minute on Duval Street and its never too early to start. We strolled down the street passing by bars, cafes, rough-riding bikers, and other walks of life. After a nice lunch at Fogarty's on Duval, we decided it was pool time at our nestled Casa. The day was gorgeous and the sun was kicking. Note to first timers: Key West is not widely known for it's beaches. It's mostly pure rock line that aligns it's coast so if your hotel doesn't have a pool, find one! There are plenty of spots that do, such as Dante's at the Conch Harbor Marina.
Next it was time to grab a little food and hit the bar scene. We ordered some Big John's pizza (the best) and started the pre-party. I sat awaiting to see who would be the first to fall down the ladder of our hotel room, luckily it wasn't me. As we walked out into the vibrant vibes of live music and people on
Duval, the streets had become jam-packed. Nighttime in Key West definitely brings out your fun side and inhibitions are usually dropped. The greatest perk of it all is the chill, laid back attitude of the locals and the freedom one senses just being around them. Body paint, topless women (and men), and shorts make up a majority of the dresscode. Bars to try out (and not in any particular order): The Bull, Hog's Breath, the Green Parrot, The Flying Monkey, Sloppy Joe's, and lastly the infamous Rick's. And yes, do them all.
The next day had me anxiously excited. We were going SNORKELING and kayaking. The tour company, Sebago, was just down the street at the marina where the group was told to gather and board the catamaran before 10am. This Power Adventure excursion was an all day tour which included everything from breakfast, lunch and dessert to all you can drink beer, wine, and champagne! The captain and crew did their best to provide a pleasant trip to the reef while babysitting and bartending all at the same time. The catamaran was set up with all of the equipment needed so all we were responsible for taking was
sunblock and a bathing suit.
So OFF we went to explore the live reefs off the coast of Key West. Once the sail boat arrived, we had a full hour to explore a sunken ship wreck and dodge some jellyfish that had decided to join. The wreck was filled with all kinds of beautiful tropical fish. As I swam around completely taken by this one gorgeous blue fish, a five foot baracuda cruised right under me! WHAT the... My body froze immediately and I found myself looking around for any signs of the group ... They were all consumed by some seagrass far away. What they were searching for, I will never know but Im pretty sure I got more out of my little snorkeling quest than most.
After the snorkeling escapade, it was time to return to the boat and relax. The captain had prepared a spread of fresh deli cuts, fried chicken (ha!), and salad for lunch. The group immediately jumped the buffet table as if a hurricane were approaching so I kicked it with some wine and awaited the shark infestation. During our lunch cruise everyone had time to relax onboard before arriving to the
next island for the kayaking portion of the trip. Then it got even more interesting...By now, us cruisers had been enjoying our drinks before and after lunch. When it came time for the first group to de-board into kayaks, a few of them had some issues doing this. One couple ventured off in the wrong direction, completely clueless to where they were supposed to head, yet equppied with beers in hand. Another kayak was found far out by a pirate ship tour boat. Needless to say, the first mate had an extra workout trying to retrieve all the missing parties. It was pure entertainment watching them from the deck. When it was our turn to venture out, we paddled out to a group of mangroves where all types of native birds and sea life inhabit the island. During the tour we were able to interact with the wildlife and got a little history on the land itself. All in all, an awesome day and tour.
Upon returning to land, we were told of a pool party taking place at Dante's. Fist pump anyone? This venue is apparently known for its poolside parties and as much as we were tempted
to plug in our Ipods and chill, the event came equipped with its own dj's. We passed through but decided to detour to Duval Street for a more lax early evening. After dinner, the streets were alive again. We could sense the energy from blocks away as the streets filled up with scooters, bikers, convertibles. Energetic crowds of people filled the cafes and bars. Good times were being made on every corner. Once again, it was time to paint the town red. Between the live music of solo artists and bands to the dj's, music saturated every venue.
The next morning we decided to enjoy brunch at a local spot known as Blue Heaven off Petronia Street. This outdoor eatery offers a combination of live entertainment, outdoor ping pong, and full restaurant all enclosed within an art gallery itself. Warning: must be an animal lover when visiting Blue Heaven. Where lush trees hover over the tables, roosters and cats also run wild through the pathways. If you dont mind a little interaction while you eat, you'll enjoy it just fine. We started brunch with a round of mimosas and bloody mary's while taking in the summer weather. We then
enjoyed a full breakfast of omeletes, breakfast sandwiches loaded with eggs and bacon, and pancakes. I must say, the ambiance did me in more than the food but I truly enjoyed the vibe at this place. Extremely ecentric and filled with character it will remain a recommended place for any visitor...day or night.
As we wrapped up our Key West visit, we were inticed to beach it for the day as the weather couldnt have been more spectacular. We had been told about a beautiful beach (once again "nestled") off the main highway where the water was a clear blue and one could picnic in the sand. At mile marker 37, just miles south of Marathon Key, lay the entrance to Bahia Honda State Park; a tropical treasure. Visitors pay a small toll per car and are able to enjoy several recreational activities such as kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, and snorkeling.
The water glistened as we approached the shoreline. We grabbed a towel and dove right in. The sand was powdery white and the water so clear you could see every grain. A school of fish had decided to bond with my feet and followed me throughout the
day so I eventually adopted them as part of our group. The more, the merrier...right? As I sat enjoying the shallow waters, I was in true appreciation at how free and light I felt. It was the perfect weekend getaway in a beachside paradise. Life couldnt be more beautiful at that very moment in time.
Gracias Key West...