THE FLORIDA KEYS
Memorialized in countless Jimmy Buffett songs, the Florida Keys provide a tantalizing alternative for anyone seeking a tropical island vacation but lacks a passport. The archipelago of nearly seventeen hundred islands starts at the southern tip of Florida and extends to Key West, just a scant ninety miles away from Cuba.
The major Keys are accessible via a causeway, while boats can get you everywhere else you'd like to go. The Florida Keys themselves are the exposed tips of an ancient coral reef, with little to no sand. As a result, visitors to the Keys are far more likely to rent scuba gear for some coral reef exploration than they are to stretch out out on the beach.
The first island once you leave the mainland is Key Largo, which is also home to the John Pennekamp State Park, famous as the only underwater state park in the United States. Key Largo is home to fabulous snorkeling and diving opportunities in the form of shipwrecks and coral reefs, and dozens of dive companies are available to help novice divers find these spots.
After Marathon Key comes the Lower Keys, which include Big Pine Key. Big Pine and its surrounding islands are more laidback than the other Keys, and boating is the predominant way people spend their time down there.
On the other hand, Key West – the southernmost point in the continental U.S. - is known for its raucous parties and its quirky, funky atmosphere. For example, while New Yorkers watched the ball drop over Times Square on New Years' Eve 2005, revelers in Key West watched a drag queen in red sequined high heel drop over Duval Street.
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