From the land to the sea, the Florida Keys are home to some special animals, including some you won’t find anywhere else. If you’re planning a trip to the Keys and you’re interested in spotting this unique wildlife, keep reading to discover some of the top tips and best places to go.
Image via Flickr by mattk1979
The Keys offer some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the country. Head to Key Largo to find the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was the first underwater park in the country and one of the only living coral barrier reefs in the continental United States. Choose to take a snorkel boat tour or glass-bottom boat tour, and you’ll have a chance to see various soft corals and tropical fish, such as blue tang, yellowtail snapper, and parrotfish.
The Key deer are an endangered subspecies of the white-tailed deer that are the smallest deer in North America and only live in the Florida Keys. While you’ll see plenty of road signs in Big Pine Key warning you to slow down for Key deer, you might have a hard time spotting them because there are less than 1,000 deer alive today. For your best chance of seeing some, take a hike or bike ride through the National Key Deer Refuge early in the morning or late in the day when the deer are most active.
The playful bottlenose dolphin is pretty easy to spot in the wild in the waters of the Florida Keys. In fact, if you use Hotel Planner to find Key Largo hotels on the water, you might be able to see some from your room. However, if you’re looking for a truly unique experience, head to the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. The center is home to dolphins of various ages that can no longer survive in the wild for a variety of reasons. Here you can enjoy several experiences where you can learn about dolphins through educational presentations and interactive programs.
There are a variety of sea turtle species that live around the Florida Keys, including loggerhead, hawksbill, and green sea turtles. You might be able to spot one in the wild if you take a ferry out to Dry Tortugas National Park. However, if you want a guaranteed encounter, head to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. During your visit, you can take a tour of the hospital facilities and rehabilitation area before getting the opportunity to feed one of the permanent residents.
Find almost any flower in the Florida Keys, and you’re sure to see a colorful butterfly stop by for a moment. You can also stop by the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to see around 60 butterfly species from around the world, cascading waterfalls, and tropical birds in an enclosed, climate-controlled habitat.
No matter what type of wildlife you’re hoping to see, you’ll find an interesting variety when you head to the Florida Keys for your tropical getaway.