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.

Spend the Fourth of July in the Florida Keys

Here in the Florida Keys, we’re getting excited to celebrate one of our favorite holidays: Independence Day, now just a month away. Enjoy a Fourth of July getaway to Cheeca and check out the many family-friendly special events in Islamorada and beyond.

Independence Day Celebration in Islamorada

Head to Founders Park at Mile Marker 87 for a lively Fourth of July gathering from 6 to 10pm. Featuring entertainment and activities for children, teens, adults, and even dogs, it’s a can’t-miss local event capped off with a dazzling fireworks show. Food and drinks will be available for purchase.

Location: Founders Park, 87000 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, FL 33036

Marathon Beach Party and Fireworks Show

A full-day affair, the Marathon Beach Party is one of the most epic holiday events in the Keys. The festivities kick off at 10:30am with a patriotic parade, starting at Marathon High School and ending at Sombrero Beach, where admission will be free. The celebration will include food, drinks, entertainment, and of course, fireworks.

Location: Sombrero Beach, Marathon, FL 33050

Fireworks Show on Blackwater Sound

The still surface of Blackwater Sound amplifies this spectacular fireworks display in Key Largo. The show starts at 10pm, and the best seating can be enjoyed at nearby restaurants like Johnson’s Big Chill and Sundowners; reservations are recommended!

Location: Near Mile Marker 104 (bayside), Key Largo, FL

Rotary Club of Key West Annual Fireworks Show

Presented by the Rotary Club of Key West, this annual show is staged from the Edward B. Knight Pier starting at 9pm. From this vantage point, revelers can take in both the fireworks and beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, with sales to benefit the Rotary Club’s scholarship funds.

Location: Edward B. Knight Pier, White St, Key West, FL 33040

Stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa and enjoy luxury Islamorada accommodations near all the Fourth of July action.

Stay Fit (and Have Fun) with These Vacation Workouts

Travel and fitness don’t always feel like the perfect pair; however, at Cheeca, the two go hand-in-hand. In addition to independent activities, our resort offers a variety of guided on-site classes, making it easy to stay fit (and have fun) while you’re away from home.

Paddle Board Yoga

For a challenging and unique yoga experience, take to the water on a stand up paddleboard (SUP). Every Friday evening and Sunday morning, we offer hour-long SUP yoga classes that welcome both beginners and seasoned yogis alike. It’s a great opportunity to practice yoga poses while enjoying the relaxing sound and motion of the ocean.

Adult Tennis Clinics

Our resort also features several adult tennis clinics throughout the week. Our half-hour beginner’s clinics are complimentary for guests on Tuesday mornings, while our more advanced clinics on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings are $25 per attendee. Feeling a competitive? Join our tennis round robin on Tuesday and Saturday mornings at 10am.

Total Body Toning

Offering a classic workout experience, our Total Body Toning classes are held every day except Friday and are a great way to break a sweat. Head to our Fitness Studio and jumpstart your day with an invigorating session from 9 to 10am, led by a certified instructor. Our facility also features the latest equipment from Life Fitness.

Resort SCUBA Course

If you’re in the mood for something more adventurous, attend one of our hour-long resort SCUBA courses, held every Friday and Saturday morning. This class is highly recommended: The Florida Keys are home to the continental United States’ only living-coral barrier reef, and it’s certainly worth exploring.

Check our calendar of events for the most up-to-date look at the activities at our Islamorada resort.

Join us at Cheeca and enjoy these and other popular on-site offerings during your stay in the Florida Keys.

The Best Things to Do During a Key West Day Trip

Found at the southernmost point of Florida, Key West is a unique island city packed with personality. From cultural landmarks to vibrant bars and restaurants, this tropical town offers more than can be experienced in a single day—but that won’t stop us from trying. Located just under two hours from Islamorada, Key West is a great choice for a fun-filled day trip from Cheeca.

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

First stop: The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on Whitehead Street. As the former residence of legendary author Ernest Hemingway, this historic property is a must-see for book worms and cat lovers. Take a tour of the house, check out the bookstore and gift shop, and don’t forget to say hello to the 40-plus feline residents.

Location: 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040

Key West Lighthouse

Located across the street from the Hemingway House, the Key West Lighthouse (the first in Key West) offers another storied piece of local history. Visitors are welcome to explore the Lighthouse Tower and Keeper’s Quarters; notably, the first Keeper was a woman, which was considered a rarity in the 19th century.

Location: 938 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040

Blue Heaven

In the afternoon, head to Blue Heaven, a beloved neighborhood spot that specializes in Caribbean cuisine, seafood, and vegetarian dishes—a little something for everyone. We recommend dining al fresco (as long as you don’t mind the occasional rooster) and you’d be remiss not to order at least one slice of the key lime pie. 

Location: 729 Thomas Street, Key West, FL 33040

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

The family-friendly Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is truly a delight for visitors of all ages. Featuring 50 to 60 butterfly species from around the world, this awe-inspiring conservatory features glass-enclosed habitats, a robust Learning Center, a gallery with original artworks, and a gift shop full of keepsakes.

Location: 1316 Duval Street, Key West, FL 33040

Duval Street

End your day in Key West with a stroll down Duval Street, which runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Shop for unique souvenirs at the locally-owned boutiques, grab a refreshing drink at your choice of eclectic bars, or simply relax at one of the beaches off this bustling commercial street.   

Location: Duval Street, Key West, FL

Plan unforgettable day trip to Key West when you stay at Cheeca in Islamorada.

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.

Our Favorite Spring Events in the Florida Keys

From renowned fishing competitions to local music festivals, there’s always something special happening in the Florida Keys, and the springtime is no exception. During your stay in Islamorada, in addition to enjoying the many on-site events and activities at Cheeca Lodge & Spa, you can also check out some of our favorite nearby Florida Keys events.

37th Annual Seven Mile Bridge Run
April 14, 2018

The Seven Mile Bridge Run has attracted avid runners from Marathon, FL and beyond for nearly four decades. Capped at 1,500 participants, this annual run is sponsored by the Marathon Runners Club and is held across the longest bridge in the Florida Keys.

Location: Seven Mile Bridge, Florida

Islamorada Spring Classic
April 27-29, 2018

This Gulf-side team event sees anglers targeting a wide variety of local fish (think: tarpon, trout, snapper, and more). Awards are handed out for a variety of different achievements, from most releases to heaviest fish.

Location: Islamorada, Florida

The Key Largo Original Music Festival
May 17-20, 2018

Organized by the Upper Keys Merchant Association, this four-day festival features live and original performances across multiple stages, with appearances by songwriters and bands from around the country. Genres run the gamut from pop and rock to blues and jazz.

Location: 104450 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, Florida 33037

Loop Golden Fly Invitational Tarpon Tournament
May 20-23, 2018

This prestigious invitational is one of the oldest tarpon tournaments in the world. It is limited to just 28 anglers, and eligible tarpon must measure at least 48 inches in length to earn release points, or weigh at least 70 pounds for weight points.

Location: Islamorada, Florida

Battle in the Bay Dragon Boat Competition
June 2, 2018

Held at Sombrero Beach, this beloved Florida Keys event hosts both local corporate and community teams, as well as competitive and club teams. After the race, participants and spectators alike enjoy a lively celebration with awards, music, and refreshments.

Location: Marathon, Florida

Florida Keys Guitar Festival’s Guitar Summit
June 15-17, 2018

Featuring guitarists David Feder, Mateo, and Rolando Rojas, the third annual Guitar Summit will be held at venues in Key Largo, Marathon, and Key West. This showcase of virtuoso musicians will cover several different styles of music, including blues, jazz, flamenco, and classical.

Various Locations

Visit Cheeca in the spring and check out these popular Upper Keys events. Or, if you prefer to stay at the resort, take advantage of our unparalleled on-site activities.