15 Best Things To Do In Key Largo

If you’re looking for the top 10 things to do in Key Largo this guide can go one better – we’ve listed 15 of the best places to go in Key Largo and the top Key Largo things to see during your vacation.

There is so much Key Largo stuff to do if you love nature and wildlife, from exploring the coral reef and botanical state park trails to kayaking through the mangrove swamps. You can also enjoy a close or more distant encounter with wildlife when you go snorkeling, diving or book a glass bottom boat tour.

Other cool things to do in Key Largo include enjoying the laid-back beach life of the Keys, going fishing, taking a tour on the African Queen or to the Everglades, cycling the heritage trail or visiting the aquarium. Don’t forget to sample some Key Lime Pie too.

Whatever you’re into, this list of Key Largo best things to do is sure to inspire your vacation planning. From Key Largo things to do for free or cheap things to do in Key Largo to Key Largo points of interest not to miss, this guide was itself inspired by our recent trip to the Keys – and written so you can enjoy your vacation as much as we did. 

Here are 15 Key Largo top things to do. 

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key largo attractions map

15 OF THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN KEY LARGO

Visit John Pennekamp State Park

Snorkel Boat at Pennekamp State Park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park surely comes top of any list of natural Key Largo attractions. This Florida State Park is around 25 miles long and covers around 70 nautical square miles of land mass and the Atlantic Ocean. The entrance can be seen while passing mile marker 102.5 on US1. 

The park was in fact the very first one opened in the US that’s under the sea, and the flora and fauna beneath the surface is what attracts many of its annual visitors. Marine creatures and colorful corals can be seen by taking a glass bottom boat tour or by snorkeling and diving in the area. 

Visitors can also see what goes on above the ocean’s surface by kayaking or canoeing among the mangroves, or even catch a bite to eat when fishing in permitted areas. The park is also abundant in tropical hammocks and wildlife trails, so you don’t have to venture into or onto the water to enjoy an encounter with nature. 

Some of the best things to do in Key Largo can be accessed via the visitor center at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Wildlife videos are shown and there is also a dive store, a rental concession and even a saltwater aquarium. 

Laze on Key Largo Beaches

Things To Do In Key Largo- Cannon Beach Key Largo

One of the most popular Key Largo activities for families, friends and couples involves spending a day at the beach, relaxing on the sands, swimming in the clear water, sharing a picnic or even taking to the water with a snorkel mask to explore beneath the surface. 

Cannon Beach

Some of the top places to visit in Key Largo when you’re craving a beach day can be found at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Our favorite local spot for sand and sea is Cannon Beach, which offers good shore snorkeling, soft sands and warm, clear water. The amenities are also good, including a food truck, picnic area, showers and concessions for renting equipment and booking glass bottom boat tours. 

Cannon Beach is named for the twin cannons you can see right there on the shore. Those often prove to be a source of fascination to younger visitors, while for adults they act as a reminder of Florida Keys history. 

Far Beach

Things To Do In Key Largo- Far Beach in Key Largo

Far Beach is also located within the state park, and is one to add to your Key Largo to-do list if you’re seeking a less populated spot with plenty of shady trees, wildlife and shallow waters that are good for a swim. As with Cannon Beach, you’ll need to pay the state park entry fee to access Far Beach. 

Key Largo resorts with beaches

If enjoying beach life is one of your top things to do in Key Largo, then it may be worth booking into a resort with its own private stretch of sand for your vacation. Options include the Playa Largo Resort and Spa, Bungalows Key Largo, the Coconut Palm Inn and Sunset Cove Key Largo.  

Snorkeling Beneath the Ocean Surface

Christ of the Abyss
Photo credit: Vito Palmisano, Getty Images

Seeing what lies beneath the surface of the sea is a must for many visitors and one of the most popular Key Largo activities. You can bring your own snorkel and flippers, or hire it locally. Key Largo is a good place to try out some shore snorkeling, or you can book one of the many boat tours which will take you out to the reefs.

Key Largo reef snorkeling

Top spots to snorkel that are accessed by boat include Christ of the Abyss and Dry Rocks, Molasses Reef and Grecian Rocks. Exploring these is one of the most popular things to do near Key Largo. 

Many visitors really want to have an encounter with the famous statue that can be found within the Key Largo Existing Management area, and near Christ of the Abyss there is also a patch spur and groove reef with colorful corals, whips and sea rods. 

Coral and Fish at Grecian Rocks
Nurse Shark at Grecian Rocks

Grecian Rocks also lies within the Key Largo Existing Management area and as it’s better protected than other areas it’s a great destination when the sea is rougher than average. Various species can be spotted here, including the likes of parrotfish, barracuda and blue tang, plus conch shells. 

Molasses Reef is better visited during more clement weather. To get here you’ll need to take a boat trip with another operator, as the John Pennekamp tours don’t visit this impressive spur and groove reef. Over 600 species of marine life inhabit this reef.  

Key Largo shore snorkeling

The best places to go in Key Largo for shore snorkeling are located within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Cannon Beach and Far Beach are ideal for kids and beginners, so take a snorkel and flippers if you venture here and have brought some to the Florida Keys. You may see some small corals and a few colorful fish when snorkeling from these beaches. 

Book a Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Glass bottom boat tour sign in Key Largo

Taking a tour of the ocean aboard a glass bottom boat is also one of the most fun things to do in Key Largo – and you can probably manage not to get wet! You can book tours on the Spirit of Pennekamp at the state park visitor center, or use a private operator such as the Key Largo Princess. 

These trips typically last for two to three hours and through the glass panels at the bottom of the boat you can expect to glimpse colorful coral formations, schools of tropical fish and perhaps other forms of underwater marine life such as sea turtles, conch, crabs or starfish. 

What lies beneath the ocean surface is one of the main things to see in Key Largo, so if you can’t or don’t want to snorkel or scuba dive then you can explore parts of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary in comfort. You could also combine a glass bottom boat trip with some shore snorkeling to see a little of the sea life up close. 

Step Aboard a Fishing Charter

Fishing in Key Largo

The waters around Key Largo are the best place in the Florida Keys to go fishing, as there are around 600 native species in the area. There are plenty of local operators offering charters, and for keen anglers and interested visitors this is a must do in Key Largo. 

The Straits of Florida are fed by the waters of the Caribbean Basin as well as water from Florida Bay and the Everglades. This water is rich in nutrients, which ensures a healthy population of bait fish. In turn these smaller species attract larger fish such as yellowtail snapper, redfish, tarpon, trout, bonefish, permit and snook. 

Locally the challenge among shallow water anglers is to net bonefish, tarpon and permit in one day, while in deeper waters many people aim to catch their own yellowtail snapper. Imagine grilling that back at the resort or at one of the local parks with outdoor barbecues. For many connoisseurs this is the tastiest sort of snapper due to its pale-coloured, delicate flakes when cooked. 

Taking a fishing charter gives experienced anglers the chance to net something new to them, while rookies can enjoy either observing or having a go themselves to see what they might catch. 

Go Scuba Diving or Stay Underwater

Turtle at Molasses Reef
Photo credit: Joe Quinn, Shutterstock

Scuba divers will find something underwater in the Key Largo area that’s unique in the United States – an underwater hotel. Jules’ Undersea Lodge is 30 feet beneath the surface of the ocean, at the base of the Emerald Lagoon. It forms part of the Key Largo Undersea Park, and guests who don’t mind paying for the unique privilege can even stay the night. 

For many adventurous people, their list of stuff to do in Key Largo includes getting their Open Water, Advanced Open Water or even Dive Master certification. There are various scuba schools in the area offering the opportunity to improve your diving skills.

Those who are already experienced divers will surely want to take advantage of the chance to suce dive while staying on the Keys. Even when you venture down the water temperature is generally above 80℉ (about 27℃), so it’s pretty warm. Visibility varies according to the location and weather, but can be around 35 feet. Under exceptional conditions, divers may see as far as 100 feet away. 

As with fishing charters and snorkeling tours, there are plenty of scuba diving trips available from Key Largo, and these will often visit Molasses Reef, Dry Rocks and Grecian Rocks as described above in the reef snorkeling section. 

Nature Walk at Hammock Botanical State Park

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

Positioned in the center of the island is the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. This park is renowned among botanists for the diversity of its flora, and offers more than six miles of trails for visitors to explore. It can be found on County Road 905, north of the Overseas Highway intersection.

The majority of the nature trails are paved, and are shaded by the large trees looming overhead as you discover the tropical landscape. As it’s open between sunrise and sunset on every single day of the year – including public holidays – Hammock Botanical State Park is a great place to visit even when other Key Largo tourist attractions are closed. 

The entry fee is just a few dollars and is paid into the honesty box as you enter (so you’ll need the correct change – check the current charge here). Incredibly, this park was once doomed in favor of development, but has instead remained one of America’s biggest tropical hammock areas and one of the best places to see in Key Largo for nature fans.

Bikes and wheelchairs can be used on many of the paved walkways and there are 84 protected species of flora and fauna to look out for. You can take self-guided or ranger-led tours, and may see some rare plants and animals along the way. 

Eat Key Lime Pie

A slice of key lime pie

You cannot visit this part of the Sunshine State and not sample Key Lime Pie while you’re here. Although some say this sweet yet tart citrus dessert originated in Key West, there are plenty of places to try it in Key Largo.

Names that often crop up on lists of the best places include the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory, Mrs Mac’s Kitchen, Key Largo Chocolates and Ice Cream and many more places dotted along the Overseas Highway. The latter even offers frozen pie on a stick which is coated in chocolate. 

If you’re looking for Key Largo fun things to do, why not compare a few Key Lime Pie places to see which is your favorite? You could always work off the sweet treat by doing some swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking or cycling later on. 

Take an Everglades Tour

A boat in Everglades in an Everglades Boat Tour
Photo credit: Mohd Edzwan Kamaruzman/ Shutterstock

The Florida Everglades National Park is world famous, a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site and for many is a Key Largo must see. Established during the 1940s, the park is situated where the northern Keys join mainland Florida. 

The park comprises 1.5 million acres of protected subtropical landscape, and is home to a number of endangered or rare species of plants, birds and animals. At the Florida Bay wilderness and wetlands you can see mangrove swamps, tropical hardwood hammocks, freshwater and saltwater marshes, cypress forests and vast seagrass ecosystems.

Sport fishing is also popular at the park and works on a catch and release principle. For those who’d rather watch wildlife than wield a rod, species to look out for include sea turtles, pink roseate spoonbills, bottlenose dolphins, manatees and even alligators or crocodiles. If you’re lucky, an American eagle may ever soar overhead while you explore. 

Kayak the Mangroves

People Kayaking in the Mangroves Florida Keys

Taking to the waters by kayak is also one of the more unique things to do in Key Largo for nature lovers. You can book various guided tours in the area, and some of these will also include the chance to snorkel.

An experienced local guide can teach you all about the ecosystem as you paddle through the water, and a typical tour will include all the equipment you need such as kayaks, paddles and life vests. One or two person kayaks are often available.

If the idea of an organized trip doesn’t appeal, you can also take to the waters in your own kayak, rent one or see if your resort can supply one. Some hotels offer such equipment free of charge to guests who are staying with them.  

Harry Harris Park and Beach

Harry Harris Beach in Key Largo

If you’re seeking more Key Largo things to do as a family then it may be worth paying Harry Harris beach and park a visit. This small beach has a little lagoon, BBQ grills, shaded picnic tables, a play park and showers. It’s a good alternative spot to the John Pennekamp beaches, particularly for families with pets, though as it’s privately owned there is an entry fee.

There is also a boat ramp at Harry Harris Park, so if you want to enter the water in a kayak during your day out this gives you the opportunity. Do bring your own picnic, charcoal and drinks, as there are no stalls or concessions at this private park. With a laid-back ambience, Harry Harris is a must do in Key Largo for families with kids. 

Travel on the African Queen

The African Queen Sign

Immortalized on the silver screen in the movie of the same name, the African Queen is a Key Largo sightseeing highlight. This fully restored steamboat is moored at the Marina del Mar marina here. The iconic vessel dates from 1912, and was originally built in England for the East Africa British Railways company.   

You can take a trip on the African Queen to the Port Largo Canal area, and these cruises depart daily. The boat actually remained in service until 1968, some 17 years after starring in the movie alongside Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, and carried hunters and missionaries during her time as well as cargo. 

The African Queen is now a National Historic site and has been located in Key Largo since 1982. She was brought back into service after an agreement was signed in 2011, just before her centennial year. Taking a trip can be one of the most historic and romantic things to do in Key Largo. 

Cruises depart from Marina del Mar marina, near mile marker 100, around five times per day and last for about 90 minutes. You can often take a turn at the helm if the captain permits, as you travel along the Port Largo Canals towards the sea. 

Encounter Sea Life at the Aquarium

One of the top family things to do in Key Largo is to visit Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. Though it’s further away than some other attractions, it’s worth making the trip as it’s often voted number one among things to do around Key Largo, Key West and the other islands. Especially for those with kids.

It’s a very interactive experience, where children and adults can meet and feed sea creatures and get up close at the touch tanks. You can take a guided tour with a qualified marine biologist, and there are various touch tanks for a real-life encounter with a creature from the deep. 

These include stingrays, which you can actually get into the water with at the Stingray tank, or you can touch juvenile rays without getting your feet wet at the Nursery tank. Other options include a Coral Reef snorkel or dive, an outdoor mangrove lagoon encounter or feeding the nurse sharks.

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is located in Marathon, near mile marker 53 and the Vaca Cut Bridge. 

Bike the Florida Keys Heritage Trail

the Florida Keys Heritage Trail
Photo credit: FloridaStock/ Shutterstock

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail runs between Key Largo and Key West. As a shared route between cyclists and pedestrians, the best way to travel the 90 miles is on two wheels as you can move along more quickly while going slow enough to see all the sights. 

Bike rental charges aside, this is one of the top free things to do in Key Largo and gives riders a great sense of freedom while taking in the tropical scenery. On Key Largo itself there are 20 miles of trail to roll along, or you can venture further.

Other Keys to visit include Saddlebunch Keys, where you’re seemingly surrounded by the ocean on all sides; Grassy Key where you can see mangrove ecosystems or Key West to the south. 

Helmets must be worn by cyclists aged 16 or under in accordance with Florida law, and electric cycles are also permitted to use the trail. 

A Day Trip to Discover Another Key

aerial view of Islamorada Sandbar
Photo credit: Thinkstock/ Getty Images

Many people staying on other islands will make a day trip to Key Largo, so why not do as they do and visit another of the Florida Keys? Once you’ve ticked every must see in Key Largo off your list, why not make a new one for Key West, Islamorada or Marathon? 

Highlights of the Marathon Key area include Bahia Honda State Park, Sombrero Reef, the 7 Mile Bridge, the Turtle Hospital and the Dolphin Research Center. 

In Islamorada you might like to visit the sandbar, feed the tarpon, take a kayak to Indian Key, grab a picture with Betsy the Lobster or drop into the Florida Keys Brewing Company.

Take a trip to Key West and you’ll be spoiled for choice – things to do here include touring historic Fort Zachary State Park, snapping a selfie at Mile Marker 0, seeing Hemingway’s home and the resident cats, going to the Butterfly Conservatory or exploring Caroline and Duval Streets. 

WHICH OF THESE MAKES YOUR LIST OF THINGS TO DO IN KEY LARGO?

Which attractions and activities will make your list of the best things to do in Key Largo? Whether you’re into snorkeling and diving, wildlife watching, beach life, cycling or fishing, there are plenty of man-made and natural attractions to keep visitors of all ages busy. 

Looking for more Florida Keys info to plan your trip? Check out all of our Florida Keys Guides HERE.

About the author
Kristin Young