It was not meant to happen. Florida Keys. In fact, why would I go there in the first place? It’s a few hours from Miami, a city that I’m not too fond of with beaches that I find more or less to be mediocre at best unless you fancy partying with friends. But Air Tran got me with their $119 round trip ticket to Fort Lauderdale. You know you are a travel addict when the flight ticket price is good enough to lure you without any idea of where to even go. So, I took a chance on FL keys, not knowing about the hidden gem called Bahia Honda State Park until more research online led me to believe that it’s a must see beach destination close to home.
Bahia Honda State Park is nestled along the ever so popular state highway 1 that takes you all the way to the southernmost end of the U.S. It is a FL state park with campgrounds and facilities. There are 2 beaches at Bahia Honda – Sandspur and Calusa. Sandspur is the better one. Forget Calusa as it has a view of the highway and therefore is noisy. The campsites, which are located in Sandspur, are known to be buggy no matter what time of the year you visit and also hot especially during the summer season. The campsites’ location is right on the beach. They are in fact a great place to stay while in FL keys since outside your tent is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in the continental USA.
Here are the reasons why Sandspur beach gets my vote:
1. There are no condos, hotels, high-rises, etc nearby
2. Your only shade comes from the bushes so find yourself a great spot.
3. The lizards come by or peek their heads out to say ‘hi.’
4. The water temperature is said to be warm all year.
5. The water is clear and as spectacular as its neighboring Caribbean waters.
6. It gives the feeling of being off the beaten path. In fact, as I floated on the water almost falling into a deep slumber, I suddenly woke up, looked around and thought I was in Zanzibar! Then, reality kicked me and reminded me that I’m merely a few hours from D.C. I wasn’t bummed about that realization though; instead, I was happily surprised.
For this trip, I actually made a last minute change and decided against camping as I was reminded about the hurricane season. Being solo, I decided to stay at Tropical Cottages which offered rustic cabins at a budget price. The cottages were located in Marathon but only 7 miles away from Bahia Honda, so very convenient. To get to Key West, it’s almost an hour of a drive.
The first few days were spent enjoying the lovely beach of Sandspur. Lucky me, I got there early enough to find my shady spot. It was very easy to kill time doing nothing but staring out at the sea, catching up with friends online, reading, taking photos, observing the lizards say “hi” and nose around my pack and chatting with the locals. When hunger called, there were a few small cafes to eat at – one where I had some nice breakfast and coffee and as a treat, chickens said “hi” to me at the grocery parking lot. I might be the only one having a ticklish moment at the lot, but hey, chickens are funny as hell…better than some comedians I know. All they have to do is be themselves.
On my last full day, I planned to visit Key West but before roaming the town, I signed up for a beach yoga class. Near the town center is a beach park and there every week a yoga teacher does her class. I couldn’t imagine a much better way of starting the day… in a peaceful, meditative state of mind before I jump into the chaos of Key West streets. Speaking of Key West, it reminded me of NYC but with the island flavor. The streets are busy although when you wander far out into the more residential areas, you then start to feel the low-key vibe. The main street, needless to say, was full of restaurants, bars, tourist shops, etc. as expected.
Overall, Key West is a quaint busy town worth visiting. When you do go to Key West, make sure to take a shot by the very famous post noting that you are at the southernmost part of continental U.S. In my mind, I see it more as, “dammit, I want to go to Cuba so bad, can someone give me a boat ride?” The End.
PS. As a cheapie/budget traveler, my flight to and from Ft. Lauderdale turned out to be the cheapest flight I’ve ever taken in the U.S. – $19. How? The plane flying back to DC had some mechanical issues that delayed us for a few hours. This led to a panic attack for some of the passengers and in my mind for the first time I thought, “Well, crap if this so called “Life,” is about to end, then please make it dramatic at the very least.. Ok, may be not as dramatic as exiting by becoming a body marker on Mt. Everest, but at least make it involve a far away place, not a flight from Ft. Lauderdale! Then we took off. The next thing I knew I was back home and online I received a $100 voucher from Air Tran. That was less dramatic indeed but the thing is it bought me more time to enjoy life, which, my friends, is priceless.
My money saving tips:
1. Instead of catching a flight to Miami, try Fort Lauderdale as generally flights to FLL from WAS are cheaper. Air Tran is one of the cheap carriers worth checking out.
2. Of course, camping at Bahia Honda is a cheap way of staying although if you’re going solo, the price is comparable to the cost of staying in a cabin/cottage just like Topical Cottages. If you have a group, then definitely camping will reduce the cost significantly. There are a few other campgrounds in the area as well if Bahia is full. Note also that the closer you get to Kew West or Key Largo, the higher the costs for accommodation. Marathon has a few budget places and is near Bahia Honda. It is, however, almost an hour drive to Key West.
3. There are lots of grocery stores to go to for food shopping and of course fast foods are always an option for cheap meals.