Visiting Key West and Bahai Honda State Park

Our second day in the Keys we headed down to Key West.  We stayed in Key Largo, so a trip down to the very end of the Keys was going to take us a little over two hours by car.  We decided to break up the trip by spending the morning at Bahai Honda State Park.

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Bahai Honda Beach is one of the ten most beautiful beaches in North America, according to several different polls and it really didn’t disappoint.  It is located on a little peninsula that sticks out right into the ocean on one side and the bay on the other.  We stayed on the bay side because the beach was larger there and gave us more room to play.  Though, I should warn you that the beaches in the Key are not beaches like we have around here.  The sand is more coarse and they aren’t very big.  One of our snorkel guides would tell me later that this is because of the coral reefs surrounding many of the Keys, which keeps them from getting big waves and big beaches.

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The trade off for not having very large beaches is that there is much more to do in the water there than in our beaches here.  The kids snorkeled again all morning.  They climbed out on a rock jetty and then spent several hours snorkeling all around the rocks, where they saw all kinds of brightly colored fish.  They had a blast!

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(I love Bean’s feet in this next picture!  He looks like a duck!)

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Sitting over the beach is an old train trestle that used to be the track that the trains took into the Keys. Now, it is abandoned, but you can follow trails up and climb out a little ways onto it. Chris and Gracie took the short five minute hike up to the top and said the views were wonderful. He was kind of disappointed that you couldn’t walk out to the end of the first section of the bridge, but since he had Gracie with him, I was kind of happy about that!  He said the trestle is blocked off to visitors about where those palm trees end.  He still got some great pictures, though!  And this was on a cloudy day!

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We showered off at the bathhouse at the park and changed clothes before heading another half an hour down the road to Key West.  Key West was everything I remembered it being – salty, old, boozy, and awesome!  It has a great laid back rhythm to it that makes me want to lay in a hammock all afternoon.  But we didn’t because we had BIG plans.  We had lunch at the infamous Sloppy Joe’s (see this post for my restaurant reviews from our trip) and then, drinks in hand, began walking down the entire length of Duval Street.

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Duval Street is the main drag in Key West, full of bars and island-themed shops for about two miles.  The kids had spending money from beads they cashed in for money (I’ll do a post on that later this week – it worked out really well for our New York trip and this one), so they wanted to go in just about every shop.  And we let them because WHY NOT?!  We had beers in hand and when we ran out, we just ducked into any of the bars lining the street to refill and move along.

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(Side note: You guys. Gracie has become obsessed with “little cups” recently! Everywhere we go, she makes a b-line right for them! Every store we went into, she was on the hunt for “little cups!”  We are more the frozen drink/beer people, so I know she doesn’t know what they are!  But it is hysterical every time she finds a “little cup” stand in a store!)

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We were in an ice cream shop stopping for an ice cream cone when all of a sudden we found ourselves in a Pride parade all the way down Duval Street.  It was so much fun!  We hooped and hollered and got all kinds of beads and goodies!  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.  One time a few years ago, Chris, me, and the kids were on vacation near Silva, North Carolina, and we turned down a street and somehow found ourselves in the middle of the town’s Homecoming parade.  Like, not in the crowds, but actually PART OF the parade.  Bean immediately rolled down his window and started waving to everyone in the crowds, like the Mayor.  So, our track record of stumbling upon great parades is growing!  This one might have won, though, when they started throwing rainbow Stoli tank tops!  🙂

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(Side note:  Chris and Quinn went into a cigar shop while Danielle, me, and the kids were shopping for a bit and the cigar shop clerk asked them if they were there for the parade.  At that point, we didn’t know there was going to be a parade or what it would be celebrating, but Quinn and Chris were like, “SURE!  We love parades!”  We all cracked up later when we realized that the shop owner meant were they there TOGETHER for the parade!)

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By the time we made it through the parade and down to the southernmost point in the U.S., we were exhausted and hot.  We found the “Southernmost Beach Cafe” at the end of Duval street and sat for a bit with some drinks on a little pier, letting the kids play and our feet rest.  Once we were ready to go again, we decided to hail a taxi back to Duval Street to Mallory Square for dinner and sunset.

(See Gracie’s little yawn in the middle of our picture?  Parading and shopping are hard work, y’all!)

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These next two pictures were taken at a little outdoor market right next to Mallory Square.  I can’t find the name of the shops online and don’t remember it, but it was great tourist shopping for the kiddos.  If you go to Key West, I wouldn’t miss this for all your souvenir needs!  We got our Christmas ornament and coffee mug here – two staple souvenirs from travels in our house – and the kids spent a lot of their spending money on up on goodies here, too.  It is right at the end of Duval Street, around the corner from Mallory Square. 

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Our cab driver recommended a Cuban place called “Meson de Pepe” for dinner and it turned out to be one of my favorite meals of the entire trip.  Not only was the food delicious, but the location was perfect.  It was right off Mallory Square and so when we finished eating right at sunset, we just strolled less than 100 yards out to the crowds to see the sun go down and watch the street performers come out.  We happened to be there on a Sunday night and it wasn’t quite as jumping as it was the last time Chris and I were there on vacation, but it still had some pretty good entertainment and it was a great night for cruising the boardwalk, people watching.

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Mallory Square is super fun at sunset.  There are street performers and vendors and all kinds of people mulling around – like this yogi master, who was sitting in the middle of it all, yelling out to people as they passed by, “LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE, PEACE TO YOU!” Who doesn’t need to hear that?!  The kids were fascinated by this man because he was dressed in all white with bright flowers all around him.  They immediately sat right down on his blanket and started talking to him.  He told them to “Work hard, do good in school, life your best life, and take care of your parents!”  I almost asked if he babysat, but decided against it at the last minute…

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I had volunteered earlier in the day to be our designated driver, so I rounded up our crew and we piled into the van and drove the two hours back home after that.  We didn’t get home until almost midnight and my feet were so sore by that point I couldn’t even get my shoes back on (I drove without them – such a rebel!), but I didn’t care.

“The only thing that could top today,” I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep that night, “will be snorkeling tomorrow…”

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