When we think of the Florida Keys, our mind automatically goes to Key West. Beautiful seaside resorts, stumbling down main street buzzed on rum, and taking an Instagram-worthy shot next to the Southernmost Point monument. It's true Key West is a blast, but it's far and there are other beautiful parts of the Florida Keys to enjoy. One that I'm fondest of is Key Largo. My extended family has owned tiny vacation trailers there since I was little and when I think of the Florida Keys, I think of barbeque and arroz con frijoles being cooked on the cement patio, the grandparents crowded around a handmade domino table, and the teenagers and parents dancing through the night to a mixture of Latin music and top 40's jams.
For a laid back trip to the Florida Keys, consider visiting Key Largo where you're guaranteed to be on island time for the duration of your stay. As usual, I'd skip the hotel or resort and opt for an AirBnb. Especially in a place like Key Largo, to get that authentic Keys Disease feel, staying in a beachy bungalow is definitely the route to go. Try this adorable sunshine-colored beach house that sleeps two for only $110 a night or this sunny bayfront bungalow that sleeps four for only $124. If you are craving a luxurious hotel stay, opt for the luxe and affordable Marriott Key Largo that will only run you about $200-250 a night.
When in Key Largo trying Cuban food is a must! If you've never had it before, it's similar to Caribbean food. Rice, beans, and pork are their staples. My absolute favorite dish is yuca frita dipped in mojo sauce which is essentially the Cuban equivalent to french fries. My favorite Cuban restaurant in the area is Dennys Latin Cafe. The food is amazing and authentic and they make a killer Ropa Vieja. For a fun Tiki bar feel, check out Snooks. There are tons of amazing food joints in Key Largo, but I personally feel like you can't miss out on a barbeque while you're there. Head to the local Publix and grab burgers, hotdogs, and buns for a fun outdoor feast, or go fishing and fry up the catch of the day.
Aside from soaking in the sun, there is a ton to do in Key Largo. Famous for it's coral reef, visit John Pennekamp National Park and enjoy snorkeling. Snorkeling tours run about $45 and scuba tours run about $75 per person. Not a fan of diving in? They also offer glass bottom boat tours where you can enjoy the coral reefs from afar for $24. John Pennekamp also offers boat rentals that vary in price and also offers kayak and paddleboard rentals. Kayaking in the ocean is a great workout and paddle boarding is especially challenging in the waves.
Treat yourself to a day at the spa while you're down south. The Keys do luxury like no other. The Lagoon Spa in Key Largo offers amazing massages and skincare treatments that will fit the beachy aesthetic of your trip and leave you feeling like a million bucks.
While there are a plethora of other attractions on the other Keys, I urge you to take a relaxing few days in Key Largo!