With pristine beaches and happy palm trees stretching nearly to Cuba, the Florida Keys are a domestic paradise. The self-proclaimed Conch Republic makes up a world unto itself without the costs and hassle of leaving the United States. See what everyone from Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Buffett has found so entrancing about the Keys. Maybe it’s the coral reef snorkeling or the laidback locals. It could be the sunshine or the way the sea and sky are so blue that you might be seeing them upside down from your hammock and never notice. Unique performance opportunities abound, and so do chances for outdoor fun and sunny relaxation.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Make sure your island-hopping itinerary includes Key Largo and its 70 nautical square miles of protected coral reefs and mangrove swamps. John Pennekamp State Park is home to over 600 species of tropical fish, sea turtles, eels, and eagle rays, just waiting for you to stop by. Explore the mangroves by kayak, tour the reef in style aboard a glass-bottomed boat, or jump in and snorkel to forge some up-close, fishy friendships.
Florida Everglades: Step back to the mainland to tour the sprawling and exotic Florida Everglades, America’s only sub-tropical wilderness. This unique ecosystem is as wild as it gets, sustaining plants and animals not found anywhere else on the planet. South Florida is the only place on earth where the American alligator and American crocodile coexist, and you could coexist with them (from a safe distance with a trained guide, Mom).