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Bahia honda means “deep bay” in Spanish. This island in the Lower Keys of Florida is home to Bahia Honda State Park, which occupies most of the island.
Here you’ll find wildlife efforts to restore the population of the rare Miami blue butterfly and the remnants of the iconic old Bahia Honda bridge.
Visitors enjoy snorkeling, biking, sunbathing, boating, paddling, stargazing, and more. Let’s dive in and learn more about Bahia Honda State Park.
Where Is Bahia Honda State Park?
Located in Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is one of the most popular parks in the Sunshine State. In fact, it often closes when it reaches maximum capacity in its day-use areas. Visitors have to return later or on another day during these temporary closures.
The park is known for its sea breezes, sandy shores, and stunning sunsets. Nature lovers enjoy birdwatching, kayaking, and snorkeling. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see sea turtles hatching along the coastline.
The 500-acre state park lies in the Lower Keys, closer to Key West than Key Largo in the Upper Keys. It sits along Mile Marker 37 of US Highway 1.
About the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys lie off the southern coast of Florida and form the southernmost part of the continental United States. This coral cay archipelago begins about 15 miles south of Miami and extends in an arc into the Gulf of Mexico.
Key West is the farthest inhabited city where tourists can stand at Mile Marker 0 for a popular family photo.
The Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key to Little Duck Key. When it was built, it was one of the longest bridges in the world. US Highway 1 is the only road that leads in and out of the Keys.
What Makes the Florida Keys So Popular for Tourists?
The Florida Keys are a popular winter destination for many snowbirds. You’ll have comfortable weather and endless activities.
Tourists enjoy basking in the sunshine of January rather than burrowing in their homes in the frigid Northeast. You can experience the dining, shopping, and island life of the Florida Keys.
But the Keys are also a geologic wonder. Just offshore is the Florida Reef, which extends 170 miles. It’s the third-largest barrier reef system in the world. This beautiful system is one reason why boating and snorkeling are so popular.
Things to Do at Bahia Honda State Park
If you’re lucky enough to visit Bahia Honda State Park, you’ve probably arrived early and on a weekday. Now it’s time to enjoy all that this beautiful park offers.
Whether you want to relax on the beach, learn more about marine life, or stargaze from your campsite, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
Spend a Day on the Beach
Although the Keys are islands, there actually aren’t very many sandy beaches. However, the Bahia Honda State Park shoreline offers excellent opportunities for guests who want to spend the day basking in the sun.
The beautiful and natural sandy beaches with palm trees and blue waters make visiting Bahia Honda State Park a magical experience.
Sandspur, the largest beach, has many amenities. Loggerhead has shallow waters with a large sandbar offshore. Calusa Beach faces Florida Bay and opens only for swimming and snorkeling.
Learn About Sea Turtles
Every year conservation agencies and volunteers survey the beaches of the Florida Keys looking for nesting sea turtles. The Florida Park Service protects 108 miles of natural beaches where sea turtle nesting regularly occurs.
Every day from March 1 to Oct. 31, they’ll conduct morning nesting surveys. Fondly called the Turtle Patrol, this group of staff, volunteers, and interns are trained to read the crawls and determine what kind of turtle laid the nest.
If you visit Bahia Honda State Park during those months, the Turtle Patrol will happily share their knowledge of sea turtles and explain what they look for and how their efforts protect these marine animals. Look on the state park’s website for educational programs and events.
Snorkel at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary
If you want to see 50 different species of coral and over 150 species of fish, consider booking a snorkeling tour at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.
Adult tickets cost $29.95, and kid tickets cost $24.95. They offer tours throughout the day, so you can pick a convenient time for you.
If you want to snorkel on your own, you’re welcome to bring your own gear and dive into the waters at the beaches. Just ensure you use a diver-down flag.
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Visit the Sand and Sea Nature Center
Especially if you have kids, you can’t visit Bahia Honda State Park without heading over to the Sand and Sea Nature Center. It’s not a huge facility, but it showcases the unique environment of the Florida Keys.
You and your kids can have a blast, from nature and history videos to environmental activities to coral displays. Learn more about crabs, sea urchins, sponges, and sea turtles.
Enjoy an Overnight Stay at a Campground
The campgrounds at Bahia Honda State Park book up almost immediately. The reservation window opens 11 months in advance, and the sites fill up within minutes.
If you do get a campsite, the nightly rate costs $36, plus a nonrefundable $6.70 reservation fee and a $7 nightly utility fee for RVs.
If you’d rather stay in a cabin, the nightly rate costs $120 from May 1 to Oct. 31, plus a nonrefundable $6.70 reservation fee and a $7 nightly utility fee. From Nov. 1 to April 30, the nightly rate goes up to $160, plus the additional fees.
Staying inside the state park offers easy access to all of the amenities and activities. In addition, you’ll have breathtaking stargazing opportunities.
Bahia Honda State Park is the darkest location in the Florida Keys. Wander up the Old Bahia Honda bridge, walk along the shoreline, or sit back in a lounge chair at your campsite to take in the marvelous and magical sight of the nighttime sky.
Keep in Mind: While you’re in Florida, soak and relax in some of The Best Hot Springs in Florida!
Things to Know Before You Visit Bahia Honda State Park
The state park opens at 8 a.m. every day of the year. The entrance fee costs $8 per vehicle. Because parking fills up quickly, you’ll want to arrive as early as possible. If you can visit on a weekday, that’s even better.
Additionally, the park only has a few places where you can bring dogs. The limited access for pets can create challenges, so do your research before loading Fido into the truck.
Also, the beaches have very little shade. You’ll want to bring umbrellas or sunshades, or you can rent them from the concessionaire. You can also rent or purchase chairs, snorkeling equipment, kayaks, snacks, and lunches.
Enjoy the Beauty of the Florida Keys at Bahia Honda State Park
You won’t find a much more tropical location in the United States than the Florida Keys. Within the Keys, one of the most popular places to visit is Bahia Honda State Park.
It offers visitors captivating scenery, endless outdoor recreational activities, and educational experiences to help you understand this unique ecosystem.
So if you want to camp at Bahia Honda State Park, count those months and be ready to book your reservation 11 months out.
If you want to take a day trip into the park, arrive early, so you can experience all this special park offers.
Have you ever visited Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys?