FLORIDA KEYS — In today's hyper-connected, stress-filled, hurry-up world, the best vacation — like the best life — is all about simplicity.
It's about savoring the taste of fresh, perfectly grilled local fish. Catching your breath in delight at a blazing red and purple sunset. Feeling the cool kiss of saltwater as you slip into the blue Atlantic. Sharing moments you'll remember forever with people you love.
In fact, it's all about the simple pleasures and uncontrived experiences you'll find in the Florida Keys.
For example, you can glide though the Lower Keys' shade-dappled shallows in a kayak, exploring primeval-looking mangrove forests in a stillness so profound that civilization seems light-years away. Wander the nature trails of Marathon's 63-acre Crane Point through thatch palm and tropical hardwood hammock, eagerly seeking sightings of resident and migrating birds from warblers to tidal waders. Marvel at an artist's skill as you watch a painted vision take shape at a studio gallery in Key West or Islamorada. Or learn the true meaning of the word "awesome" when you first glimpse the indescribable color and life of Key Largo's underwater realm.
What do these Keys experiences have in common? They're real. Honest. Memory-making. And whether you share them with family, friends or a significant other, they offer a chance to recharge your batteries, reset your priorities and reawaken your sense of wonder.
In the Florida Keys, from the northernmost island of Key Largo to the southernmost shores of Key West, you'll find a refusal to take life too seriously and a near-reverence for relaxation — as well as scores of opportunities for hands-on adventures and in-the-moment enjoyment.
You can add meaning to your getaway by volunteering to help with coral restoration on the world's third-largest coral barrier reef, which parallels the island chain, with marine scientists from Key Largo's acclaimed Coral Restoration Foundation or the Lower Keys' International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration.
Discover the thrill of deep-sea fishing on a shared excursion out of Robbie's Marina in Islamorada — and celebrate your newfound angling skill by feasting on your fresher-than-fresh catch prepared by a local chef.
Bond with sea turtles at Marathon's Turtle Hospital, a grass-roots facility whose passionate staff has nurtured and rehabilitated more than 1,500 ailing sea turtles. Take a guided behind-the-scenes tour of this one-of-a-kind hospital and meet the resident "patients." If you're lucky, you might be able to witness a turtle being released back into the wild — an unforgettable and surprisingly emotional occurrence.
No trip to the Keys is complete without a stop at the Lower Keys' Bahia Honda State Park. Its beach area, repeatedly named one of the top in the U.S., is a perfect spot to achieve soul-deep serenity. Laze in pristine blue-green water, feeling a whisper of breeze across your sun-warmed face, and gaze at the Old Bahia Honda Bridge rising stoically against a cloudless sky.
In Key West, you'll find much to engage your senses and feed your spirit. Stroll down famed Duval Street and into the waterfront Historic Seaport, past enticing galleries and boutiques, listening to the rhythms of reggae and island rock spilling out of the open doorways of bars and restaurants.
Visit the Civil War-era West Martello Tower, home of the Key West Garden Club, to discover beautiful indigenous plants, rare palms and a peace garden backed by the weathered fort and wide sweep of the Atlantic.
Or immerse yourself in childlike fun by sharing a sand-sculpture workshop on the beach at the Casa Marina Resort. Guided by a pro from Sand-Isle Professional Sand Sculpting, plunge your hands into wet sand, unleash your imagination and rediscover the joys of pure, unfettered creativity.
No matter where you travel in the Florida Keys or what experiences you embrace, let your surroundings remind you to relax, slow your pace and savor the things that matter most with the people who matter most. Because all you need for the "vacation of your life" is simple ... #SimplyTheKeys.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
Glide through the Lower Keys' shade-dappled shallows in a kayak, exploring primeval-looking mangrove forests.
Volunteer to help with coral restoration on the world's third-largest coral barrier reef, which parallels the island chain, with marine scientists.
Laze in pristine blue-green water, feeling a whisper of breeze across your sun-warmed face, and gaze at the Old Bahia Honda Bridge rising stoically against a cloudless sky.
Stroll down famed Duval Street and into the waterfront Historic Seaport in Key West.
Immerse yourself in childlike fun by sharing a sand-sculpture workshop on the beach at the Casa Marina Resort.