10 Fun Facts About the Florida Keys

Don’t let the palm trees and sunshine fool you: The Florida Keys are more than just a great vacation destination. This beloved archipelago offers a rich history, beautiful biodiversity, and more than a few quirky characteristics.

 

Here are 10 of our favorite fun facts about the Florida Keys:

 

  1. There’s plenty to explore: The Florida Keys include over 800 islands, many of which can be accessed via a network of 42 bridges.

 

  1. There’s even more to uncover below the surface. The expansive Florida Reef is the only living coral reef in North America and the third largest coral reef in the world.

 

  1. The Sunshine State is also home to the largest nesting sea turtle population in the country. The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL is dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles.

 

  1. The diverse marine life—along with some spectacular shipwrecks—has earned the Keys the title of Diving Capital of the World.

 

  1. And that’s not all: Our island chain is also considered by many to be the Sportfishing Capital of the World. (Learn about Cheeca’s fishing charters and tournaments here.)

 

  1. The queen conch is a protected marine species; shell collectors should steer clear of picking up these massive mollusks.

 

  1. If you’re looking to escape the cold, this is the place to be: The Florida Keys boast the highest average temperature in the country.

 

  1. Despite the beachy climate, you might be surprised to learn that much (but not all) of the sand you’ll find on our islands has been imported from the Bahamas.

 

  1. Fortunately, cats seem to love the heat. The Hemingway House is Key West is home to dozens of polydactyl cats.

 

  1. Known as the southernmost point in the country, Key West is actually closer to Cuba than Miami, FL.

Discover the Keys and enjoy luxury accommodations when you stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

The Last Straw: A New Initiative at Cheeca Lodge & Spa

Although not a new issue, the consumption of single-use plastics has been a hot topic in 2018. According to a recent article by Business Insider, estimates have tallied the total plastic consumption worldwide at roughly 300 million metric tonnes. In an effort to address this issue, Cheeca is proud to introduce our latest eco-friendly initiative: the Last Straw, a commitment to remove all plastic straws from our property.

 

Here in Islamorada, we are particularly sensitive to the impact disposable plastics can have on the environment. The waters surrounding the Florida Keys are home to vibrant and diverse marine life populations—including the only living coral barrier reef in North America—and we’ve seen first-hand the adverse effects that plastics can have on this fragile ecosystem. The Last Straw is just one way we can act as a catalyst for positive change in our island community.

 

Beyond the Last Straw initiative, Cheeca will continue to champion a number of ongoing eco-friendly programs that encourage sustainable tourism. These additional efforts include cardboard and glass recycling; wastewater treatment; on-site thrill craft restrictions; a Camp Cheeca environmental awareness program for children; support of local conservation groups; and much more.

 

When you stay at Cheeca, you can enjoy beautiful island accommodations and amenities, without leaving a large environmental footprint. Reserve your eco-friendly vacation in the Florida Keys today!

 

Plan a Corporate Retreat in the Florida Keys

Back to school season isn’t just for kids: For many adults, the beginning of fall marks a return to the daily 9-to-5 grind. However, the end of Summer Fridays doesn’t need to signal the end of fresh air and sunshine. Plan a corporate retreat in the Florida Keys and enjoy an inspiring work experience outside the office.

 

Business meets paradise at Cheeca, where we offer 4,600 square feet of versatile conference space. Our elegant venues can accommodate a wide range of events, from small business meetings to large company outings. We also invite guests to go beyond the boardroom with a range of on-site amenities and activities, from thrilling water sports to island-inspired dining and relaxing spa treatments.

 

This season, we’re making it easier than ever to plan your next business retreat with our exclusive Free Falling offer. Available on select midweek dates from September 30 to December 20, 2018, this stress-free meeting package includes a free 45-minute welcome reception, a free general session meeting room, and discounts on our daily resort fee.

 

To qualify for the Free Falling offer, you must reserve a minimum of 15 rooms for stays of two nights or longer, with a catered food and beverage minimum of $75 per room, per night. Contact Cheeca Group Sales at (305) 664-4651 for additional details and availability, and book your group today!

 

Our Favorite Florida Keys Beaches

Offering some of the best opportunities for fishing, diving, and other aquatic activities, the Florida Keys are a top destination for outdoor adventurers. But sometimes you just want to relax—and that’s when our beaches come in. Whether you’re looking for a stretch of soft sand or a place to bring your pup, there are a variety of unique spots to choose from.

Here are some of our favorite beaches in the Upper Keys:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – 27 miles

This 25-mile state park offers three designated swimming areas along the Largo Sound. These relatively small beaches feature calm waters that are perfect for children and practicing your snorkeling skills. Picnic tables and barbecue grills throughout the park make it easy to enjoy lunch during your visit.

Note: There may be limited park activities due to Hurricane Irma-related repairs. Call the park for daily updates.

Coco Plum Beach – 28 miles

Located in Marathon, this dog-friendly beach is a great option for long walks with your four-legged friends. It offers plenty of soft sand (note: many local beaches tend to be more rocky) which makes it ideal for sunbathers. Depending on when you visit, you can also observe the nesting sea turtles—just remember to give them plenty of space.

Sombrero Beach – 34 miles

This Florida Keys favorite is also located in Marathon and offers a picnic area, a children’s playground, a volleyball court, and more. Popular among locals and visitors alike, this beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Animal lovers will want to check out the nearby Turtle Hospital, a local non-profit organization.

Note: The west end of the beach is currently open; the rest of the beach is expected to open by December 1, 2018. The park area will remain closed to repair hurricane damage.

Bahia Honda State Park – 45 miles

Those willing travel a bit further will appreciate the many activities at this 500+ acre state park. In addition to kayaking, cycling, and fishing, visitors at Bahia Honda can also enjoy swimming in both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay. Meanwhile, the on-site concession stand serves sandwiches, ice cream, and more.

Note: As the park continues to recover from the hurricane, some amenities may not be available.

Right here in Islamorada, Anne’s Beach remains closed for repairs. However, there are plenty of local parks to enjoy, including Plantation Tropical Preserve, Key Tree Cactus Preserve, and Green Turtle Hammock Nature Preserve.

Stay in the luxury Islamorada accommodations at Cheeca Lodge & Spa and enjoy access to some of the best Florida Keys beaches.

The Beginner’s Guide to SCUBA Diving

For SCUBA diving beginners, there’s perhaps no better place to take the first plunge than the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America. Our 120-mile island chain offers access to some of the most renowned diving sites in the world with diverse marine life, awe-inspiring shipwrecks, and other ocean oddities.

Practice makes perfect: Before embarking on your first dive, sign up for an introductory pool course with a certified instructor. It takes time and patience to get used to breathing through a regulator and wearing the necessary gear. Cheeca offers hour-long SCUBA classes on Friday and Saturday mornings; check our Calendar of Events for more information. Once you’ve completed the course, it’s time to take to the open water!

Many popular dive sites can be found right off the coast of Islamorada. Located close to shore, Cheeca Rocks is great for novice divers and an ideal option for family outings in particular. Davis Reef is another easy-to-navigate site, complete with a photogenic underwater buddha. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can head to Alligator Reef Lighthouse and say hello to the locals (e.g., spiny lobsters, barracuda, et al.). Meanwhile, shipwrecks like the Eagle or El Capitan tend to attract more experienced divers.

If you want to ease your way into the world of underwater exploration, we recommend snorkeling. You’ll still be able to admire our beautiful reefs—but a bit closer to the water’s surface. Cheeca offers daily two-hour excursions with snorkel gear, wetsuits, and nonalcoholic beverages included.

Learn more about the watersports and aquatic activities offered at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

The Best Time to Visit the Florida Keys

Wondering when to pack your bags for the Florida Keys? That all depends: There are plenty of reasons to visit our beautiful island community throughout the year. Whether you plan on a low-key fall getaway or a fun-filled spring break, you’re sure to have a memorable stay whenever you visit.

Fall

Starting in September, island life becomes even more relaxed—yes, it’s possible—making the fall a perfect time for a relaxing couples retreat or a weekend trip with friends. The most serene season in the Keys brings with it beautiful weather, quieter crowds, and some of the best rates at Cheeca. Plus, if you’re looking for a bit of excitement, you can plan your stay during Key West’s annual Fantasy Fest.

Winter

It’s the high season for a reason. Once January rolls around, residents of colder climates are craving sun and sand, and the Florida Keys offers both in abundance. As the ideal spot for a post-holiday vacation, the Keys feature pleasant winter weather with little rain and comfortable temperatures. Stay at Cheeca and discover a picture-perfect oasis from which to soak up the scenery.

Spring

Spring break brings warmer temperatures, special island events, and an added buzz of excitement. If you’re worried about college crowds, fear not: Here in the Upper Keys, we offer a more family-friendly atmosphere. As a premier resort in Islamorada, Cheeca invites guests of all ages to partake in our many on-site offerings, including golfing, beach volleyball, watersports, and much more.

Summer

The summer months mark the start of the off-peak season in the Florida Keys. However, while the crowds start to thin out, there are still plenty of local activities and attractions to be enjoyed. If you’re a Florida resident, you can escape to the islands and delight in slightly cooler temperatures. And, if you stay at Cheeca, you can add luxury accommodations, delicious dining, and on-site entertainment to the mix.

No matter when you choose to visit, you can enjoy the best of the Florida Keys throughout the year at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

4 Tips for Planning Your Florida Keys Wedding

First and foremost: Congratulations on your engagement!

If you’ve decided on a beach wedding, we like the way you think. Offering beautiful weather and ocean backdrops, our vibrant island community is the ideal choice for a destination wedding. And at Cheeca Lodge & Spa, we are proud to be the full-service venue of choice for elegant ceremonies and receptions in Islamorada, FL.

Wondering where to begin? Below we’ve shared four tips to help you start planning your Florida Keys wedding.

1.) Timing is Everything

It’s important to keep in mind that a destination wedding requires some advanced planning for both you and your guests. For example, save-the-dates should be in the mail a bit earlier than a local wedding (think: 10 to 12 months ahead of time) to make it possible for your nearest and dearest to schedule PTO, book transportation, and make other travel arrangements.

2.) The Site Visit

We recommend visiting Cheeca before your big day—consider it a “venue vacation.” Take time to sit down with our dedicated on-site coordinators and discuss your vision, and set up meetings with our some of our preferred Florida Keys wedding vendors. We’re happy to refer the best local entertainers, hair stylists and makeup artists, photographers and videographers, and more.

3) The Wedding Planner

Enlist the help of a full-service wedding planner or day-of coordinator for added peace of mind. The expert planners and coordinators at Cheeca offer diverse, personalized services that ensure a seamless experience for you and your guests. These services may include securing outside vendors, providing event timelines, overseeing design and the placement of decor, and more.

4.) Enjoy Yourself!

Remember why you chose an island wedding in the first place, and make sure to schedule time to soak up the relaxing Florida Keys atmosphere and our on-site amenities. In addition to stunning event spaces, Cheeca offers luxurious accommodations, world-class dining, nearby adventures and activities, and a 5,700-square-foot spa.

Learn more about Florida Keys weddings at Cheeca Lodge & Spa, and submit a request for proposal today.