Goin' Out West

Instead of tumble weeds and horses, we experienced sharks and bicycles. 

Key West that is.

only 90 miles to Cuba!
We started planning our adult vacation back in February of this year.  We always like to have a family vacation where we take the kiddos, but we also like to try and throw in a little grown up (some may question the grown up aspect (I'm the grown up one)) adult vacation as well.  While we would have loved for a secluded luxury resort, our budget just wouldn’t allow for it.  Instead, we picked semi local, no passport required and we get got to drive on the right side of the road vaca spot.

I had been to the Keys once before but JD and the other couple we went with had never experienced so called Margaretaville. 

We headed out on a Thursday morning.  Flew to Miami and then rented a car to drive to the Keys.  While the drive was gorgeous, next time I think I (we, there's two of us babe) will opt for the more direct approach.  Four hours of stop and go traffic with speed traps on every other (actually EVERY) key makes for a long first day of vacation. 

When I travel with more people, I try to rent a home or condo, most of the time it just makes sense $$ wise.  This trip was no exception.  We rented a cute little condo right on the ocean and next to the world famous Smather’s Beach (I still haven’t found out why it’s so famous….). 

Due to the island’s size and congestion, we opted to rent bikes for a couple of the days we were there.  Not to be confused with the hundreds thousands of Harley’s that were there for Bike Week. Yep, apparently we chose to go on our relaxing, quiet, beach vacation at the same time as every biker in the lower forty-eight (I NEED a flat black Harley Sportster). 

a local {amazing} home

search for the 'perfect' cigar (Found quite a few).

character everywhere

even better in person!

Anytime I travel, or really just anytime at all, I love to eat good food.  But I especially love to try new places and places that don’t exist in the town where I live.    We had sooo much good food on this trip that I am still working on the vaca weight gain.  Below are a few of the places we visit to get our eats on:

Island Dogs
Tijuana Flats – This was actually in Miami & JD’s fave, also this was quite possibly the reason our four hour drive turned into a six hour drive….. Def worth the extra time.
Pepe’s Café – breakfast – so good we had to go more than once
Two Friends Patio – another great breakfast joint
Hogfish Bar & Grill – another SO GOOD we had to go more than once
Sarabeth’s – eh….not too much to say about this place
Better than Sex – OMG – can you say desert (I never would have imagined that you would misspell dessert!!) heaven???!!!

favorite breakfast spot....er...shack

Better Than Sex {dessert} And, no, it wasn't.
OK, so we did do more than just eat while on our vacation.  We also took a tour of Hemingway’s House and got to pet a few of his polydactyl cats.  Hemingway’s casa was not our only tour.  We also went on a ghost tour of Old Key West.  JD and I try to go on a ghost tour in every city we visit.  Not that we necessarily believe all the stories, but we find it entertaining and also a fun way to learn a little history of the place.

The Hemingway Home.  I now want a polydactyl cat.
tons of gorgeous flowers all over Hemingway's home
While Key West is not specifically known for its beautiful beaches, we did manage to find a favorite among the locals.  Bahia Honda was about an hour drive from Key West, but it did offer the best beach and views we could find.  It also has this old bridge that has been partially destroyed but also partially kept around to provide a sanctuary for birds.  While on the part of the bridge that was accessible, we looked down and see a rather large manta ray and a smaller one swimming along the coast line.  And since we saw those we thought we might see more if we kept looking…..no more manta rays…..instead we see a rather ginormous fish (SHARK!) swimming close to where we had a been a few minutes earlier.  I would like to say this was our one and only shark encounter, but then I would be lying. 

Bahia Honda & Bridge 

One activity we all wanted to do while in Key West was some kayaking and some snorkeling.  Luckily we were able to do both on one tour.  Since we opted for bikes as our main mode of transportation on the island, we almost missed our sailboat cruise.  Unfortunately, the sailboat was a little less of a 'sail' boat due to the lack of winds in the air…..but that also made for a super smooth sailing....er boating....  On the way to the protected reefs where we would go snorkeling, they provided us with fresh fruit and drinks.  I’m not sure why, but that was quite possibly the best pineapple I’ve ever had.  So Good.

best pineapple EVER!
Ready or not!
Once we arrived at the sanctuary, the crew provided us with mask, fins, and snorkels.  They were amazing at helping us to locate fish and eels that were trying to hide on the ocean floor.  After snorkeling, they gave us kayaks and we kayaked around the mangrove islands.  During the tour, the guide would stop every now and then and show us some local flora and fauna.  On our way back to the boat, we spotted a couple of bonnethead sharks swimming in the area.  While they were not particularly large, they were still scary.   Although scary, that was probably my favorite memory of the trip.  And I even have it on video! (Check out Facebook posts from September)

mangrove island
{before the shark sighting}

We were told that the beach at Fort Zachary was also one of the best beaches in Key West and especially for snorkeling.  Since we considered ourselves pros after our one time snorkeling trip the day prior we thought we would show the other tourist how it was done.  With our newly bought snorkeling gear in tow we flip flopped our way to the beach only to discover it was about to rain and the ‘sandy’ beach was really pretty much just gravel.  Not what we had in mind at all.  We did try our hand at some snorkeling and got a few pics (those are still on the waterproof camera…in my dresser....not printed out.....) but our luck just couldn’t seem to get started.  So, we dried off and decided to tour the fort instead. 

Even though most of the fort was off limits due to deterioration of the buildings, it was still an impressive sight.

All in all our Key West vacation was a blast.  And we might go again, but I love an adventure and would love to check out another beach.

What’s your favorite vacation spot??

**This post was written right after our little trip, so say about 2 months ago!!** (Yes, I can be a slacker sometimes....)


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