Florida Keys: Overseas & Underwater

Last year, after the world ended, I celebrated my birthday and saw Jesus… underwater.

My 2011 birthday trip was definitely one of the most memorable so far. Not only because it was an adventure-filled trip but also because my birthday was the day after the supposed  ‘End of the World’. Of course the world just had to end before my birthday, right?! Here’s a link about last year’s ‘Judgment Day’ hoopla to refresh your memory.

But even before that, I have already planned a great birthday adventure. Together with a couple of my friends, we flew to Miami and drove to the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys. ( cross off Bucket list #13 please!) I admit, I am a sucker for road trips. Driving down the infamous Overseas Highway was absolutely one heck of a ride!

However, how would you feel when for the whole three-hour drive you see big billboard signs that say this?!

Overseas Highway (Highway 1)

This spectacular highway elicits sensory overload. The 127 mile drive to the tip of the Sunshine State was a modern marvel indeed. From long stretches of concrete spanning land and sea,  to 42 bridges connecting one island to another.

I have never seen such clear blue sky.  I could almost not tell where the sky ends and the sea begins. Being surrounded by teal waters on both sides was surreal; the Atlantic on my left and the Gulf to my right. And I am not ashamed to admit that as we drove down the highway, we were belting out the Beach Boys’ Kokomo. I had always wanted to do that! (check off bucket list…no, that one was in my subconscious bucket list) I wish I could have taken an aerial shot at this point.

Key Largo

First stop is Key Largo, the dive capital of the US. What better way to celebrate my birthday than to get up at dawn after a night of partying in Key West to prove that the world did not end after all. We had to forcefully leave our rented condo in Key West to drive 3 hours back to Key Largo for a snorkeling tour. I admit, we did not plan that accordingly! (Note to self, check distances of activities in future trips)

Hangover or not, nothing could stop me from exploring the underwater world of technicolor fish and  coral reefs.  We booked our snorkeling tour with Key Divers & Snorkel Center and were taken to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It was undoubtedly a perfect day for snorkeling.

At my happy place.

Unfortunately, underwater photography was something I still have not mastered! It was quite a struggle attempting to take photos underwater and besides, I was too amazed by the spectacular world I was submerged in.

The tour was a total of  4 hours including a mini-cruise and a 3-location drop and the best part of the snorkeling was the Statue of Christ of the Abyss.

Divers flock to the statue of Christ

It was an absolute experience to be snorkeling in Key Largo on my birthday and to see Jesus underwater!

To know more about the amazing Statue of Christ of the Abyss visit www.keysdiver.com.

Islamorada

Another notable island in the Keys is Islamorada. By the time we reached this charming “Village of Islands”, the sun was already starting to set. To say that Florida Keys has one of the most exquisite sunsets, is an understatement. We pulled over (safely) by the side of the highway to catch a glimpse of the orange illuminating sky.

Key West

Key West was a very colorful place. There were a lot of funky gift shops where I enjoyed scouring through some interesting stuff.

 

There was just something about Key West. The island vibe was strong, the beaches were calming. I guess it was all the blueness that surrounded me. Water always brings me peace of mind. I could stare at the ocean for the entire day and not utter a word. This trip was great for me. I had both adventure and relaxation combined in one trip.

Key West by day

    

After the sunset, Key West is still as colorful at night as it was during the day. This was definitely the place to party! From restaurants to famous bars like Sloppy Joe’s and of course, drag shows. Everybody who’s been to Key West knows that Duval Street is where the party is. It’s like the Bourbon Street of New Orleans, only not as dirty and obscene.

Goodbye sunshine, hello strobe lights.

I have to say, my Key West experience would not be complete if i did not go to a drag show! It was entertaining and vulgar. I loved it!

In a nutshell, I’m glad the world did not end before my birthday. But if it did, I wouldn’t mind spending the end of the world in the Florida Keys!

PS. Key West is famous for its fabulous key lime pie so needless to say, I had one.

Jen is a Chicago-based traveler and a full-time Director of Development for an arts & culture organization. Originally from Connecticut, she created Angel of Wanderlust as a place to share her travel stories and photos with friends and family. Now, it is a place for adventurers, explorers and dreamers. Its purpose is to inspire and encourage people to see the world and achieve a better work-life balance.