Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Key Largo

This past weekend we had the opportunity to attend my niece's first birthday party in Miami and parlay that with a couple of days in the Florida Keys.

We usually get together with family a couple of times a year and a first birthday party is as good an excuse as any to fly out to Miami.  We were fortunate to stay at the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove a few blocks from my brother-in-laws house.  The kids enjoyed time at the pool and dining out.  They did not enjoy the fact that the hot water boiler was not operational and we had to settle for cold showers or a shuttle to the Marriott sister hotel.  The event itself was well attended and catered by a local Indian restaurant, had fresh coconut water (complete with a duo opening coconuts on site) and slip and slide activities.

It is a little over an hour to get to Key Largo along US 1 and the Playa Largo is one of the newer resorts in the area.  They had a nice pool along with the ocean front property that had stand up paddle boards, kayaks and a catamaran for rent.  The resort also had other activities like tennis, basketball and ocean fishing, but we stuck to the pool and the ocean front.  I let myself down by not doing some open water swimming.  The water was 80 degrees and perfectly still and they even had buoys set up, but I was not up for a workout.  The dining options were reasonable and centered on seafood and was only moderately kid and vegetarian friendly.  We went off resort for dinner one day and brunch the next day.

I did get some scuba diving along Molasses Reef.  We went to two shallow dive sites that were well within my comfort level.

(1) Hole in the Wall - aka Yellow Brick Road - Max depth 30 feet, water temperature was 83 degrees and I was comfortable without a wet suit or even a rash guard for the 45 minute dive.  We saw manta rays and a shark in addition to parrot fish and other tropical fish

(2) Permit Ledges - Similar depth and water temperature, but with a bit of a current so it was a fun challenge to navigate around.  I saw another shark here in additional to the usual tropical fish.

Rainbow Reef was a pretty good outfit.  I rented a BCD and fins, but brought my own mask and regulator.  The dive boat took 28 of us out.  Maximum capacity was 30.  Two groups of 6 divers went out with dive guides and the remainder were participating in training.  They were organized and the diving briefings were very good.  Captain Wade and Luke took us out and Diver Tina (Dina) was my guide.  I am considering getting a travel BCD so that I can be less dependent on rental gear.  While in good condition it is always better to be very familiar with your equipment.

The drive and flight back was uneventful with the exception of checking out the American Express lounge at the Miami airport.  For those with a long layover, it would be a good opportunity to enjoy the spa along with food and drink.  It was a bumpier than usual flight back and we were all pretty wiped out.

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