The Animal Lover’s Guide to the Florida Keys

From red-shouldered hawks to six-toed cats, unique residents inhabit nearly every corner of the Florida Keys. It’s no surprise that this tropical archipelago is a favorite travel destination among animals lovers.

At Cheeca, in keeping with our commitment to eco-friendly tourism, we encourage our guests to seek out humane local organizations—such as wildlife rescues and rehabilitation centers—that allow visitors to appreciate the animals without disrupting their natural habitat. (Although, in the case of the Hemingway House cats, cuddles are encouraged.)

Learn more about our top picks for unforgettable Florida Keys animal experiences below.

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon

Located in Marathon, The Turtle Hospital first opened its doors in 1986 with a mission to “rescue, rehab, and release” injured sea turtles. This veterinary center offers guided, 90-minute educational tours that include a presentation on sea turtles, a behind-the-scenes look at the rehabilitation facilities, and an introduction to the permanent residents. Reservations are highly recommended.

Location: 2396 Overseas Highway, Marathon, Florida 33050

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

Open to the public 365 days a year, the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary provides a humane, natural, and protected refuge to hindered birds. Permanent residents include Leopold the barred owl and Charlie the turkey vulture, among many others. Alongside the sanctuary, the Mission Wild Bird (MWB) center features three wings: administration, education, and an avian hospital.

Location: 92080 Overseas Highway, Tavernier, Florida 33070

National Key Deer Refuge

The 8,542-acre National Key Deer Refuge is most well-known as the home of the endangered Key Deer, unique to the lower Florida Keys and a subspecies of the White-tailed deer. However, the Key Deer share this refuge with a number of other endangered species, including the Barram’s hairstreak butterfly and the Lower Keys marsh rabbit. Stop by the Visitor Center in Big Pine Key for tips on where to observe the wildlife.

Location: 179 Key Deer Boulevard, Big Pine Key, Florida 33043

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Travel a bit further south to Key West and get acquainted with the many polydactyl (six-toed) cats that reside at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. The 40-50 cats that live on the property grounds are believed to be the descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s cat, Snow White. Following a tradition started by Hemingway, each of the beloved felines is named after a famous person.

Location: 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida 33040

Ready to explore? Book your stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa and check out these (and other) popular Florida Keys attractions.

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