Pennekamp Park kayakers Key Largo
  • Kayaking along mangrove trails at Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park -- the USA's first underwater preserve -- is a fascinating group activity for nature enthusiasts. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)


  • By: Laura Myers
  • January 25, 2017

Sometimes an intimate vacation with a significant other just isn’t in the cards. Sometimes a planned two-person Florida Keys getaway grows into a full-scale expedition with a surprisingly large group of extended family members, girlfriends and/or guy pals, or even acquaintances so envious of the upcoming trip that they manage to get invited along.

Turtle Hospital tour Marathon Key

Visitors to the Middle Keys can tour the Turtle Hospital, the world’s first state-certified veterinary hospital for sea turtles, located in Marathon. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)

And sometimes, even though you didn’t intend your intimate escape to morph into a large-group affair, your unexpected horde of travel companions seems to hold YOU responsible for creating a fun-filled itinerary.

Luckily, that’s not too tough to do in the Keys — because intriguing activities and bucket-list adventures are what the island chain is all about. In fact, your toughest task might be trying to narrow down all the possible options.

For example, a fishing charter in cobalt-blue waters off Islamorada, Marathon or Key West is a pursuit made all the more memorable by catches such as sailfish or yellowtail snapper. (And if you catch food fish, cap the angling experience by taking the fillets to a local restaurant, so the chef can prepare a fresh-as-fresh feast!)

Speaking of feasting, a group hunt for the best Key lime pie is sure to satisfy everybody’s taste buds. Nearly every Keys dining venue serves a creative version of this rich signature dessert — whether featuring meringue, whipped cream, or even raspberry drizzle or chocolate.

For active friends and family members, kayaking, swimming with dolphins and other experiential activities can be booked around the Keys. Among them are the following:

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

At Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon, no diving experience is needed to see underwater marine life. (Photo by Bob Care, Florida Keys News Bureau)

Key Largo Bike and Adventure Tours offers afternoon Bike and Beer tours for up to 12 people in the Upper Keys with a 10-mile trek from Tavernier to Islamorada. Participants can enjoy three stops for beer and a van ride back. In Islamorada, another tour visits historic venues, locations from the hit Netflix drama “Bloodline,” a Tiki bar and two craft breweries.

At Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon, groups can swim with and feed fishes while learning about marine habitats. Groups of up to 12 can explore the unique facility’s 200,000-gallon saltwater aquarium in a snorkel session, or up to eight people can be accommodated in a regulator session.

 Serenity Eco Therapy at Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys combines gentle meditation, yoga and Pilates with stand-up paddleboarding techniques. A two-hour experience helps to relieve stress in a beautiful and tranquil natural environment.

For truly “spirited” visitors, Haunted Key West offers an Infamous Hauntings Ghost Tour. The intriguing walk for up to 20 participants features locations that include the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum (with human AND feline ghosts!).

Key West ghost tour

David Sloan leads an interpid group on an Infamous Hauntings Ghost Tour. (Photo courtesy of Haunted Key West)

Crafting sand sculptures at Key West’s Casa Marina or The Reach, both Waldorf Astoria resorts, is another way to bond with family and friends — while reawakening your “inner child” by playing in the sand. Sand-Isle Professional Sand Sculpting holds beach workshops for six people or more.

Key West Food Tours stages a three-hour, 1.7-mile experience for groups of six to 12. Participants stop approximately every four blocks to taste yummy conch fritters, fish tacos, Key lime pie and other favorites.

Of course, most of the Keys’ museums, natural attractions and watersports offerings can accommodate groups as well. Whether exploring Marathon’s Turtle Hospital and meeting the “patients,” “hijacking” a tall ship or catamaran for a fun-filled sunset sail, or discovering breathtaking shipwreck treasure at Key West’s Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, adventures abound in the Florida Keys.