Key Largo is a haven for families who love the outdoor life and the natural world. Located just 62 miles south of Miami on Highway 1, this narrow island paradise is the first and northernmost of the Florida Keys. Book a vacation rental in Key Largo where you’ll have access to winding creeks for kayaking, a national marine sanctuary for underwater adventures, and gorgeous beaches. Many of the rental cottages, condos, villas, and apartments occupy stunning water-front locations or are within an easy walking distance of a beach. Some homes also include a private dock or boat slip so you can take or hire your own boat for added fun.

1. Get Out on the Water

With so much water all around Key Largo, it’s a good time to learn paddle boarding or take out some kayaks on a family adventure. Paddle! The Florida Keys offers a range of rentals including single and tandem kayaks, paddle boards, and chill rafts. Paddle direct from their back door or book a delivery direct to your vacation rental.

2. Take an Eco Tour

Paddle! The Florida Keys also runs two-hour eco tours specially designed for first-time or new paddlers. Hire a set of paddle boards or kayaks, and follow the guide through the mangroves. As well as pointing out the wildlife, which can include nurse sharks, turtles, sting ray, and manatees as well as wading birds, your guide gives advice on how you and your kids can improve your paddling technique. Safety gear is included in the rental and children under six go along for free.

3. Cool off at Jacobs Aquatic Center

Jacobs Aquatic Center is a three-pool complex with a diving pool, an interactive play pool, and water park area. The eight-lane competition pool is ideal for the serious family swimmers to get some exercise, while the play area with its spray gym and pirate ship is a fun place for youngsters to cool off during the summer heat. The center runs swim lessons for all ages from six months up, offering the whole family the chance to build confidence in the water.

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4. Go Parasailing

Key Largo Parasail at the Sundowners Restaurant caters for tandem or triple parasailing experiences in the calm waters of Florida Bay. This family-oriented company has the top safety record in the country, ensuring you and your kids can safely soar above the seas for a unique view of Key Largo. Kids under 14 must fly with an adult.

5. Take a Glass-bottom Boat Tour

The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers a fabulous opportunity for kids to snorkel above a living reef. However, if your little ones haven’t yet mastered the art of snorkeling, a trip in a glass-bottom boat gets them close to the vivid underwater world. The flagship glass-bottom boat, Spirit of Pennekamp, runs a two-and-a-half-hour tour that covers shallow reefs teeming with colorful life. This 65-foot long, high-speed catamaran carries up to 130 passengers and has limited wheelchair accessibility. Make a reservation and turn up at least an hour before the scheduled tour time. Children age three and under go for free.

6. Spend the Day at the Beach

The Harry Harris Beach, located around 12-minutes from Key Largo, is ideal for families with young children. This man-made white sand beach has a coral rock barrier to form a tidal pool that is protected from waves and large fish. There are a number of picnic tables, barbecues, covered pavilions, and an adventure playground, as well as a basketball court and baseball fields. There is a charge for non-residents on weekends and holidays.

8. Take an Adventure and Snorkel Cruise

Around 20-minutes southwest of Key Largo is the Theater of the Sea. Here, you and the kids can watch a dolphin show, meet sea lions, turtles, sharks, and many other creatures. There is a small beach nearby where you can feed and swim with parrot fish. The company also runs a four-hour Adventure and Snorkel Cruise aboard a 30-foot Parker boat that takes up to six people at a time for a more personalized experience. The captain tells you about the history and ecology of the area as you cruise along, stopping to snorkel and to explore the Indian Key Historic State Park and the Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. Children must be at least three years old to participate in the cruise.

8. Swim with Dolphins

Meet dolphins in their natural environment at Dolphins Plus! Their exciting program of once-in-a-lifetime activities includes being a marine biologist for a day, being a trainer for a day, and having a guided natural dolphin swim where you become part of a dolphin pod. Age restrictions apply and vary according to the experience.

9. Visit the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary gives your family the chance to get close to some of Florida’s beautiful wild birds. Stroll down the boardwalk and see some of the owls, hawks, pelicans, and other birds that have made this place their home. Additionally, a range of birds come in for treatment before being released back into the wild. Spend time at the visitor education center where the kids can learn about bird migration, anatomy, and the importance of birds to the ecosystem. Entry is free, but donations are welcome.

10. Take a Tour of the Everglades

Captain Sterling’s Everglades Tour takes you through the mangroves in a small boat that holds up to six people. During this gentle tour, the captain explains the history and ecology of Key Largo and introduces you to some of its wildlife. There is a good chance of seeing manatees and even dolphins, but there are no alligators in this area. Take hats and plenty of sunscreens.

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