On the Water in Key West
To really immerse yourself in the natural tropical beauty of the Lower Keys, get out on the water. And why not? The options are numerous: Paddle a kayak through mangrove tunnels or around remote islands, stand up on a paddleboard for a workout and great views of marine life, try your hand at kiteboarding, which combines surfing and sailing, or sit astride a Jet Ski and take a tour around Key West.
Several companies around Key West accommodate adventure seekers who are eager to hit the water, get some exercise and try something new.
Kayak Remote Islands
Capt. Andrea Paulson of Reelax Charters out of nearby Sugarloaf Key offers a kayaking experience that’s unlike others – they transport kayaks, customers, beach chairs and umbrellas by powerboat to remote islands, where they head out to explore by kayak.
“Our method is very different from others. Our 24-foot boat holds the kayaks, and once we’re anchored, we kayak around remote mangrove islands and beaches. It makes for a much more secluded and quiet trip since there’s no traffic noise,” Paulson said.
The clear, shallow water and sand flats around Sugarloaf Key give kayakers a window into all kinds of marine life including starfish, sharks, snappers, rays, barracudas and, on occasion, dolphins and sea turtles. Because their trips are small (maximum six people), it allows them to beach the kayaks, have a picnic lunch, take a leisurely walk and snorkel in the pristine water.
Stand Up and Paddleboard
Paddleboarding is the fastest-growing watersport and, according to the folks at Lazy Dog, it’s easier than it looks. With the largest fleet of paddleboards on the island, ranging from beginner boards to those for more experienced paddlers, they’re successful at getting everyone, even first-timers, standing up and paddling. The paddleboard features a non-skid middle section where paddlers stand.
Each of Lazy Dog’s tours and rentals begins with an instructional clinic. Then riders take off, paddling between Key West and Stock Island, where the waterway is protected and wind is minimal. Shallow, clear water means all kinds of sea life are visible. The Salt Ponds in Key West are an ideal spot for paddling through long, winding mangrove tidal creeks. More adventurous paddlers can try paddleboard yoga or boot camp exercise classes held on paddleboards.
Tour by Jet Ski
Fury’s Ultimate Adventure is billed as the complete watersports experience. The fun begins as you leave the dock on a seven-mile trip aboard Fury’s 65-foot sailing catamaran. Snorkel on a living coral reef and explore the pristine waters by kayak, Jet Ski and parasail. The six-hour adventure includes breakfast, picnic lunch and afternoon snack.
Closer to land, Fury’s 90-minute Jet Ski tour is a 28-mile tour around the waters of Key West. The vehicles can accommodate up to three riders each. Guides take riders through by the Southernmost Point, along Mallory Square and around several remote islands. They stop at a sandbar, where riders can take a break and go for a swim.
Harness the Wind
Kiteboarding combines elements of wakeboarding, windsurfing and even sky diving, and Paul Menta at theKitehouse has cornered this market in Key West. Although prior experience with sailing and board sports is helpful, it certainly isn’t necessary. At the Kitehouse, students are normally up on the board by the second day. Beginners start with one-on-one lessons in knee- to waist-high water, progressing to two and a half hours of kite flying time. Lessons for intermediate and advanced kiteboarders are also available.
Kiteboarding is wind-powered but, unlike windsurfing, very little wind is needed. The kite can be adjusted for different conditions like the sail on a boat, and the board acts as a rudder. Kiteboarders can tack upwind just like a sailboat, catching air as they hit waves.