Planning where to go on vacation is a lot like planning a wedding: it’s excited but can also feel overwhelming. With so many awesome places to see around the world, landing on that one spot can pose challenging. May we suggest keeping thing close to home and visiting a magical place right in your own backyard – the Florida Keys!
Not only are the Keys special because they are simply beautiful, but the Keys also offer a lot of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. But of all the activities, the most memorable has to be swimming with dolphins near the Florida Keys. So if you’re headed to Florida this vacation, you’ll definitely want to book your excursion. Keep reading to find out more!
If your idea of the perfect vacation is being somewhere relaxing, surrounded by water and people who like to take it easy (when they’re not partying), then you’ll love spending time in the Florida Keys. Whether it’s sipping something cool waterside, shopping at charming boutique shops, or getting an adrenaline rush reeling the big one in far out at sea, there is something for everyone in the keys.
This chain of islands south of Miami are as quirky and unique as they are lovely. Brimming with bougainvillea, shimmering waters, and mangroves, the Keys are a go-to destination for visitors from all over the world, but there are certain places they get the most visitor traffic.
Island Hop Easily in One Day!
Marathon is a 10-mile-long family-oriented island community conveniently situated in the middle of the Keys island chain. This is where fishing fanatics come to catch the big one or dine on some of the best seafood in the area.
Big Pine Key
Those in search of a low-key destination to chill and unwind, Big Pine Key is the destination for you. This area is also known for its delectable seafood. And it has some beautiful white sand beaches at Bahia Honda State Park. Oh, and the National Key Deer Refuge is a great place to take the kids to see some very tiny and very cute deer.
Located on Key Largo, Tavernier is a small quite community that offers a great place to stay. Rent a private charter boat for fishing or diving, go paddle boarding or kayaking, there are plenty of outdoor options.
But before you head to these locations, we encourage you to head to Islamorada to swim with the dolphins!
Dolphin Swim in the Florida Keys!
Have you ever thought about making a bucket list? You know, that list of things you absolutely want to experience before you, well, kick the proverbial bucket. I know for a fact (because I’ve spoken to many, many people) that on many bucket lists you’ll find:
Well, if you’re one of those people that have dreamed of swimming with dolphins since you were a little kid; you’ll have the opportunity on your trip to the Florida Keys. Located on Islamorada, Dolphin World is a fantastic facility that invites guests to get up close and personal to some of the most amazing creatures on the planet!
Here are some of the dolphin programs offered at Dolphin World.
The Dolphin Swim Program
The Dolphin Swim Program is great for people who are strong swimmers. This would include kids 8 and up.
The program begins with an educational component where you’ll get to learn all about dolphin physiology and behavior. You’ll also get an inside glimpse into how they hunt and communicate with one another. Should you have any questions, you’ll be able to ask those at the end of the instruction.
Once the Q&A is over, it’s time to slip into the perfectly-warmed water and wait for your new friends to arrive. The water is deep enough for the dolphins to swim in, which is why it’s important any young or senior people in your party be strong swimmers and comfortable in deeper water.
When your new pals arrive, you’ll spend some time getting acquainted and giggling a lot. It’s hard not feeling like a little kid around these creatures. They make the world a magical place and boy are they funny! After hugging and kissing your new pals, they will do some pretty amazing acrobatics for you.
And then, just when you thought the fun was over, it really begins. Because it’s time for you to experience what FLYING feels like when you go for a dorsal fin ride!! This is when you hang onto the dolphin’s dorsal fin and they pull you around in the water. Talk about memorable.
Without question, the dolphin swim program is one of the coolest adventures you’ll ever have in your life.
Now you may be asking, “What if someone in my group is too young or not a strong swimmer?” Not to worry, there is a program for you.
The Dolphin Encounter Program is perfect for families with very little ones, seniors, or anyone who isn’t a confident swimmer because it takes place in shallow water. But don’t be fooled, you’ll have JUST as much fun with your new dolphin pals.
As with the dolphin swim program, your time will also start with a short educational component where you’ll have the opportunity to learn all about dolphin behavior in the wild. Your trainer may also share some insider secrets of how they get the dolphins to perform tricks and stunts.
Eventually you’ll get into the shallow pool to greet your new sea-lovin’ friends. When the dolphins arrive, you’ll have some time to hug and kiss on them, and also just splash around having fun together.
After your program ends, you may want to grab some lunch and let the little ones rest, but stick around the facility because there are more animals and programs to discover!
Your Dolphin Swim in Islamorada – What An Experience
We wanted to mention that not only will your trip to the Florida Keys Dolphin Swim will be memorable because of the wonderful animals, but also because of the wonderful people who make this facility what it is. The village of Islamorada is picturesque and a great place to spend the day. You’ll enjoy the sparkling water and seabirds circling overhead as you pull into the facility.
Beyond being located in a lovely location, this place is run by people who truly care about these creatures. The owners and staff also care about the thousands of visitors that come through the doors each year and are committed to teaching visitors about bottlenose dolphins and the dangers they currently face out in the wild. Your time at Dolphin World will be educational, fun and very, very memorable!
And just to be sure you remember your time at here, the staff will provide you with an opportunity to purchase professionally taken photo of your visit with your dolphin pals.
Getting to Here to the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys Swim with Dolphin program is located in Islamorada, so if you are staying anywhere in the keys, you will most likely be no more than 2 hours away. The very top of the keys all the way down to Key West is roughly a 2-hour drive along romantic US1.
When it comes to getting to the facility from your hotel, you have a few different options.
If you’re flying into Key West International airport, you’ll have your choice of car rental places like Hertz, Budget and Enterprise to choose from. You can check online or give them a call about rental prices.
Renting a car while on vacation definitely has its good points and bad points. To start (with the good), when you have your own wheels, you can come and go as you please and not have to plan your trip around bus schedules. That can be a real pain.
Also, when you’re traveling in a large group, renting your own car or cars can make day-tripping much easier.
And finally, the Keys can get pretty hot and sticky in the summertime and riding on public transportation that has a broken air conditioner can be an awful experience. There’s nothing quite as fun as trying to pacify two small, sweaty, tired children who start to throw a tantrum on a hot bus.
Now for the not-so-good things about renting a vehicle while on holiday. To start, there’s the added expense. When you throw in possible extra insurance and gas, the overall rental can get pretty pricey.
And let’s not forget to discuss the expense and… irritation of parking. Although you will find parking quite easy throughout most of the Keys, it can get a bit expensive and tricky in Old Town Key West.
And finally, some people are okay driving around a city or area they have never been to before, while others find it a bit nerve-wracking. If you get easily lost or disoriented in a new location, renting a car may not be the best idea.
If you don’t love the idea of renting a car and don’t think you’ll be taking too many day trips, then there’s always the bus.
The Greyhound Service makes regular stops from Miami all the way down to Key West. Phone 1-(800)231-2222 or (305)296-9072.
You can also hire your own driver through an app like Lyft or Uber. Doing a quick check, I see that hiring a car through Lyft from Miami to Key West would cost roughly $180 easy way. So it would be cheaper if you just wanted to island hop.
Having said that, if you’ve ever taken and Uber or Lyft car, you know it can be a bit of a crap shoot as far as the kind of driver you get and how clean the vehicle will be. I have been in plenty that were filthy and smelled as if the driver just put out a cigarette before I got in the car. Do you really want your kids around that?
Private Van Shuttle
Dolphin Word offers round trip shuttle service to and from your hotel in one of their private shuttle vans. Many people have told us this is the easiest and most cost-effective option for getting from their hotel to the facility and back.
Your very own private shuttle will pick you up at your hotel in the morning and drive you to the Dolphin World facility in Islamorada. When your day has ended, your driver will be waiting outside for you to take you and your family back to your hotel.
This shuttle service is a great option because you don’t have to worry about driving around an unfamiliar city or trying to find parking. Plus, not only are our air conditioners always working and our vans spotless, we also provide drinks and snacks for the ride.
Contact Dolphin World for more information and pricing.
Accommodations in the Florida Keys
When it comes to places to stay in the Florida Keys, you have numerous options at all price points. Here are some of our recommendations.
Pelican Cove Resort and Marina
84457 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Pelican Cove Resort and Marina offers the famous relaxed lifestyle the Florida Keys offers. Beautifully appointed rooms, a saltwater lagoon and a cabana bar and café are just some of the amenities you’ll enjoy.
Love fishing? The staff can schedule a fishing charter just for you and your party. Enjoy watching the breathtaking sunsets from your suite’s private balconies. Plus, you’re just walking distance from world-famous attractions. Actually, you could probably walk to Dolphin World from this hotel (hint hint)!
Let’s face it, when you’re on vacation, all you want is to be whisked away to someplace tropical and peaceful. This hotel brings that dream to life. Be right at the edge of turquoise water. Sip something cool and refreshing while looking up at the swaying palm trees.
Also right in Islamorada, so close to Dolphin World, this hotel is a tranquil and romantic getaway that offers guests casual elegance. Beyond private fishing charters, the staff can arrange other activities such as snorkeling, sea kayaking, bicycling, and scuba diving. Of course, all of these activities require a fair amount of calories, and you can get those at one of the three first-class dining options at the hotel.
If you want to stay at one of the absolute best and most famous hotels in the Keys, then make a reservation at the Ocean Reef Club on the northern tip of Key Largo. This place can be summed up in a few words: exclusive, remote, tranquil. Your carefully tended surroundings will astound you day and night. These private island vacation rentals are luxurious, leaving no amenity unthought of.
If you don’t want to be quite so self-sufficient, then you may be interested in booking a room at the “The Inn” where the experienced staff is ready to meet and exceed your every need. Elegantly appointed rooms and suites with water views and all the services and amenities you could hope for are yours for the booking.
Things to do in the Florida Keys
While we absolutely think swimming with dolphins should be at the top of your list, there are some other cool activities to do in the Florida Keys.
A lot of people will tell you to head underwater with a snorkeling excursion, and while we endorse those activities, you don’t want to miss out on skimming the water and seeing some amazing sights.
Spend an afternoon gliding through mangrove creeks and see some of the most amazing plants and animals in the entire country. As you skim along, you will be able to catch a glimpse of tropical fish, crabs, sea stars, jellyfish, sea cucumbers, sponges and various aquatic birds.
Is it just me, or is there something really cool about sightseeing on a trolley, hopping on and off as you wish? Spend an afternoon exploring the greatest sights in the Keys at your own pace. You’ll get a chance to visit popular sites like Mallory Square, the Hog’s Breath Saloon, and of course, Ernest Hemingway’s House and more.
Small-Group Key West Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour
If you really want to get to know an area, you’ve got to eat your way through it. That’s why I definitely recommend this 3-hour food walking tour. Hey, you’ll stuff your face with plenty of delicious treats like local seafood and Cuban dishes and of course, Key Lime pie, but then you’ll just keep walking off the calories. This is a small group tour, usually with only 12-14 people, so it’s a nice, personal experience.
We do have a local office for the Dolphin Swim and Encounter programs. This way can help the local guest that may not have planned their trip early. We provide the same great service at our Ft Lauderdale and Florida Keys booking office. So if you want to swim with the dolphins, give us a call today at either location.
General Information about the Florida Keys
Warm and Beautiful
Local Florida Keys Information
I don’t think I have to tell you that summers in South Florida can be hot and sticky. The absolute best time to visit, weather-wise, is in the winter, when temps are just perfectly balmy. The only problem is, everyone else has decided to come in winter so it’s crowded and you’ll pay premium prices.
Fall and spring are also good options as the weather is still a bit gentler and the crowds and prices are less.
The Keys always has something awesome year-round. You can find out what may be happening during your vacation by visiting this website.
Without question, the Florida Keys are one of America’s treasures and everyone should visit at least once. If you’re headed to the Keys on your next vacation, just be sure to book your trip to swim with the dolphins.