A trip to the Florida Keys is the go-to vacation for every South Floridian. Even though we live in paradise we still like to vacation in paradise. Of course, everyone has heard of Key West, but being a South Floridian you know about Islamorada- and how to pronounce it. “Eye- La- More- Ah- Da” is known as the sport fishing capital, but you don’t need to be a fisherman to visit. It’s located just south of Key Largo, about a two hour drive from Miami.
No matter which hotel you stay at, there will be a beach. I’ve been to almost every hotel in Islamorada but my favorite is the Cheeca Lodge. This is a fancy shmancy 5 star resort. The grand amenities do come with a large price tag, but it’s definitely a one stop shop. They have everything- a restaurant, a spa, drink service on the beach, tennis courts, even a few golf holes. Inside the lobby you’ll see pictures of old presidents who have stayed there during past fishing trips.
For a cheap stay, I usually choose Harbor Lights Motel. Unfortunately, the last time I visited I was unhappy with the cleanliness. La Siesta Resort & Marina and the Post Card Inn are also a budget friendlier option. Make sure you book in advance, the island will completely sell out if it’s a certain fishing/lobstering season or a holiday.
So here’s how you do Islamorada…
Step One: Get on the water. Whether it be boating, jet skis, or standup paddle boarding, find some way to get off the island and into the crystal clear waters. Most hotels have SUP boards and kayaks for rent. If you’re looking to go bigger, Bud & Mary’s or Robbie’s is a great place to rent boats and jet skis. Your hotel may be able to give you a discount coupon too, so ask the receptionist!
Islamorada is prime locale for saltwater fishing, even if you’ve never tried it before. There are tons of charters that can take you any kind of fishing you’d like. From deep sea, backwater, fly fishing, or just fishing from your hotel’s dock there’s something for everyone.
If you’re not interested in fishing, there are many places to snorkel. There are a few lighthouses surrounding Islamorada where people go to explore the reefs below. Robbie’s Marina also has a snorkeling trip if you’re not an experienced boater.
If you do have a boat, don’t forget to stop by the sandbar near the Post Card Inn on your way back in. Just anchor near by and relax in the shallow waters with the fellow boaters.
Step Two: If you still haven’t visited Robbie’s after step one, go to Robbie’s. This may be a total tourist thing, but I have to go every time I visit. Have you ever seen those viral videos of shark sized fish jumping out of the water and engulfing a grown man’s entire arm? This is where it happens. Its called tarpon feeding. Tarpon are incredibly large fish, and the ones at Robbie’s have lost their fear of people and will take food right out of your hand. It’s rare that a fish will engulf your whole arm like in those videos so don’t worry- it’s really fun! A bucket of fish is just $3.
Step Three: Relax on the shore. It’s easy to get a tan on out on the water, but you can’t come to the keys without sipping on a tropical drink on the shoreline.
Step Four: Try the freshly caught seafood. Lorelei’s is the best for a dinner on the beach- literally with sand between your toes. They’ll cook your catch, or you can choose from their freshest selection if you didn’t have such a lucky day. The sunset here is unbeatable, so try to time it correctly. Arrive by car or boat.
Morada Bay Cafe is another great choice for dinner. While you’re there, look next door. You may find it to be very familiar. This is where the Netflix series Bloodline was filmed. The entire show was filmed in Islamorada, actually.
Step Five: Tourist shopping. I am a shameless tourist, I love tourist gifts and tee shirts. But don’t just stop there. There are so many shops in Islamorada with unique gifts. Make sure you check some out and support the local artists and shop owners.
Step Six: Enjoy the sunset… or sunrise. Either one can happen at your hotel depending which side of the island you’re on. The islands aren’t very wide so if you miss one, you’ll be able to see the next by walking across the street. Ocean sunrises are like no other.
Some final tips:
- Sunscreen this is the tropics. **Please use reef safe sunscreen to protect our reefs.
- Be careful where you swim, not only are there sharks but there are alligators… and crocodiles- yes, seriously.
- Know your check in time, many places have very late check in times.
- Don’t drive down during “rush hour”. The road to the keys is a one lane highway and gets very congested when people are checking in and checking out. Usually between 1-6pm.
- Drink water all day long.
- Relax, you’re in paradise!
Thank you to my good friend Megan Nead, aka the Islamorada Queen, for helping with the restaurant selection!
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