Seaside Celebration

With sparkling seas, lively marine life and sun-kissed hideaways, Key Largo encourages visitors to lean into Florida’s sunshine state of mind

A quick hour’s drive from the Miami International airport down the Florida Keys Scenic Highway leads to warm and sunny Key Largo, the first and northernmost of the popular set of islands. Though its southwestern counterpart, Key West, gets a lot of the hype, the unparalleled beauty of Key Largo—with its crystal-clear waters, nature preserves and seaside sanctuary Playa Largo Resort & Spa—encourages guests to embrace the laid-back charm of island living.

Located on 14.5 private beachfront acres, Playa Largo Resort & Spa reflects Southern hospitality roots with Ameri-Caribbean style. Stay in accommodations ranging from luxury rooms to private bungalows, or check out the resort’s newly opened Ocean Residences—an enclave of private luxury homes overlooking the Atlantic—which allow access to resort amenities with the added benefits of additional space and privacy. 

With a backdrop of sparkling blue seas at every turn, the resort amenities are second to none. Take a dip in the freshwater pool, or indulge in a treatment with Florida’s indigenous ingredients at the resort spa. Every evening at sundown, head to the resort’s white sand beach for the Eventide Celebration, where guests are asked to write their worries on a piece of paper that’s then placed on a floating buoy, lit on fire and set off to sea.

Key Largo is home to an array of attractions that provide special glimpses into the world of seaside living. The town is frequently referred to as the diving capital of the world, thanks to conservation efforts that began in 1960 with the creation of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. In addition to spotting the colorful coral and fish, marine-life lovers can gear up and head underwater to explore sights like the sunken Spiegel Grove Navy ship and the bronzed statue of the Christ of the Abyss, which sits so close to the water’s surface that it can be viewed by divers and snorkelers alike. 

On-site at the resort, guests can walk to Caribbean Watersports to take advantage of activities including parasailing, snorkeling and raft-led eco tours, where a nature guide navigates you through mangrove forests, old Native American canoe trails and more. Keep your eyes peeled for great white herons, bald eagles, dolphins and curious manatees, who often come right up to the raft to say a friendly hello. 

Visitors should also plan a stop at the Keys’ only brewery and distillery, Islamorada Brewery & Distillery, for a boozy afternoon sampling unique beers and spirits. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, the Florida fare is a seafood-lover’s dream. Dine at the resort’s Sand Bar or Sol by the Sea for refreshing cocktails and coastal cuisine, or head slightly south to Robbie’s of Islamorada, where you can enjoy a bayside lunch at the Hungry Tarpon before hand-feeding bait fish to the massive tarpons that swim just below the surface. 

If you spent the day deep-sea fishing, bring your catch to Skippers Dockside where they will cook it up and serve it for dinner. It doesn’t get fresher than that.