Best Restaurants on the Water in Key West

10 Best Things to Do on the Water When Vacationing in Key West

One thing about vacationing in Key West is that there is just as much to do out on the water as there is on the land. The waters surrounding the island are teeming with coral, tropical fish, and ship wrecks, making it a prime destination for divers and snorkelers, and outfitters like Lost Reef Adventures offer both. Kayaking and paddleboarding are exploding in the Keys, and provide a wonderful opportunity to get some exercise. Kayak Kings of Key West has some of the most unique mangrove tours on the island, while Key West Paddleboard Yoga offers a relaxing twist on the usual yoga routine. Blu Q offers fun day cruises for gay visitors and has been a popular attraction for more than 15 years.

For a little romance, Danger Charters embarks on surreal sunset cruises, while the free spirited Schooner Wolf let's you play pirate on the ocean. Bring home a catch of the day with Gulfstream Fishing charters or try something a little more fast-paced like the thrilling White Knuckle speed boat rides. Hunt for sharks with Key West Extreme Adventures, or fly over the water with Jet Pack Adventures, a futuristic new ride that lets visitors strap on a water-powered rocket. Our experts at 10Best have rounded up a mix of water activities so you can find one that fits your interests.


JetPack Adventures
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

This futuristic new company is the first of its kind to offer commercial flights on water-powered jet packs, and are only offered in South Florida (for now). Daredevils can soar upwards of 30 feet into the air while controlling height and direction; they are actually flying. Introductory flights include a brief lesson, and 25-30 minute flight as instructors give tips and pointers. The feeling is like no other - you are in control of the steering and height (with some assistance). Depart from the Historic Seaport and be prepared to fight gravity. The tours are pricey, but offer a once-and-a-lifetime experience. Advance reservations are highly recommended. Strap on the jet pack and go!

Recommended for On the Water because: There is nothing like this new attraction, and the Key West location was the first to open its doors to tourists.

Local Expert tip: Tip the staff well (usually $100 is suggested). They worked very hard to develop this unique adventure and personally created the introductory lessons by trial and error.

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Lost Reef Adventures
Photo courtesy of Lost Reef Adventures

Unlike some of the other snorkeling trips, Lost Reef gives guests two full hours of snorkeling at two different coral reefs. One day scuba dive "sample" courses, as well as more advance reef and wreck dives are offered as well. If the seas are rough during the dive, the staff will poll the divers and give them the option of diving or not. Up to 16 divers can travel on their 40-foot custom boat and a smaller, 26-foot vessel ferries parties of four to more remote sites east and west of the island.

Recommended for On the Water because: There are plenty of dive outfitters, but Lost Reef earns points for service and extra time in the water.

Local Expert tip: If you visit during the winter, be aware that it is also the windy season and seas can be rough from time to time. Bring Dramamine.

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White Knuckle Thrill Boat Rides
Photo courtesy of White Knuckle Thrill Boat Rides

It's not just a boat ride - it's a theme-park style heart pounding adventure. The New Zealand-style boats can zip across just four inches of water at speeds up to 55 mph, and can perform thrilling maneuvers and 360-degree turns. For a calmer experience, try the Sea Spis – personal, jet ski sized glass bottom boats, or experience the Key West yacht club with all its perks and amenities. White Knuckle can provide transportation to all the water fun. The more people you pack onto these thrill rides, the more fun you'll have (the weight helps to push the water around).

Recommended for On the Water because: While there are plenty of boating opportunities, White Knuckle is one of a kind in Key West.

Local Expert tip: Call ahead - it's off the path in Stock Island.

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If you're the type that cancels all your plans during the Discovery Channel's "Shark Week," then this adventure tour is just the ticket to get your adrenaline pumping. Join the "shark whisperers" Captain Ken Harris and Captain Dave Harris on a nature-viewing excursion to the backwaters of Key West. Hop aboard the 34-foot, eco-friendly catamaran as the crew lures bull sharks, lemon sharks, and nurse sharks (among others) to the boat. Sting rays, turtles, dolphins and other marine life are also common sightings during the voyage. As the only shark tour in the continental U.S., the staff is very knowledgeable about wildlife habits and the history of Key West.

Recommended for On the Water because: This educational attraction is one-of-a-kind and the staff is very informative about the wildlife of the islands.

Local Expert tip: Snacks and polarized glasses are provided, but be sure to bring the camera!

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The Schooner Wolf
Photo courtesy of Schooner Wolf

If you have ever wanted to play pirate, the Schooner Wolf has just the ticket. As a flagship of the Conch Republic Navy, the vessel and has led numerous re-enactments of the famous water balloon battle that took place on April 23, 1982. The ship can be chartered for the day or week, and the crew will dress in traditional Conch Republic Navy attire, or they can dress as pirates - which they specialize in. Expect pirate lore, sing-along sea chanteys and sword play - it's a hoot! You can find the Schooner Wolf at Key West's Safe Harbor Marina on Stock Island.

Recommended for On the Water because: The Schooner Wolf really lets you experience the quirky side of Key West and shows guests what defines the Conch Republic.

Local Expert tip: Read up on the history of the Conch Republic Navy before your sail. It's a truly interesting story!

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Blu Q Catamaran
Photo courtesy of

The Blu Q is a must-do for gay visitors to the island; it has been a top choice among travelers for more than 16 years! The "Sunset Strip Sail" is two hours of music, dance, and male entertainers – with sangria, beer, and wine. During the summer, the "Snorkel and Sandbar" voyages heads to the secluded backwaters near the marine sanctuary for some clothing-optional swimming and tanning. Lunch is included in the kayak, snorkeling, nature, and sandbar excursions. Even if the weather is looking rough, the staff will find a way! Ideal for couples, singles, friends, and travelers looking to meet new people.

Recommended for On the Water because: Year after year, Blu Q embraces the "one human family" philosophy and shows visitors an amazing and unforgettable time out on the water.

Local Expert tip: Check online for dates and availability.

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Kayak Kings of Key West
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

Kayak Kings is a new venture by a veteran kayak guide, Alec James. On a cruise ship and have a time crunch? Not a problem. Kayak Kings is extremely accommodating. Typical excursions are offered for every skill level that include a combination of snorkeling and kayaking in some of Key West's remote areas and ship wrecks. However, AJ also customizes multi-day tours including longer, "off-the-path" trips to Cayo Agua, the Marquesa Keys, Mud Keys, and beyond. Safety is the primary concern with this company, and its enthusiastic owner works tirelessly to ensure guests have a wonderful experience. Highly recommended is the mangroves and Salt Ponds tour. You'll experience a natural, aquatic labyrinth.

Recommended for On the Water because: This business is doing everything right. The guides are friendly, informative and genuine, and the tours are unusual and can be customized for each party.

Local Expert tip: Ask AJ about his kayaking trip to Loggerhead Key, and you'll get an idea how much he loves the sport.

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With the rise of paddleboarding in the United States, particularly in South Florida, and the increasing number of users practicing yoga, combining the two seems like a natural fit. The two instructors are skilled in Sampoorna yoga and Krama Vinyasa, and travel throughout Central America demonstrating paddleboard yoga. Those new to paddleboarding or yoga should arrive 15 minutes early to learn the basics of water safety and the two sports. On Monday classes run until sunset, but a morning class any day of the week is a wonderful way to start the day. Be aware that they do not offer classes Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Recommended for On the Water because: Expert instructors really make the difference at Key West Paddleboard Yoga, and make the sport a relaxing and unusual experience in paradise.

Local Expert tip: Five-class packages are also available.

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Fishing is away of life in the Keys, and the island chain is often considered the sportfishing capital of the world. While fishing is lot of fun, it certainly isn't a cheap activity. With most charters on the island charging $600 per group for a half-day tour (excluding gratuities), Gulfstream Fishing may be the best deal in Key West. A family of four can spend $210 aboard the Gulfstream IV party boat, which comes fully equipped with an air-conditioned cabin, restrooms, and a galley (snack bar). Anglers can haul in Mahi Mahi, Grouper, Cobia, Yellow Jack, Mutton, and even Gulfstream Shark.

Recommended for On the Water because: Gulfstream is a top choice for those on a budget who want to experience the fishing lifestyle of the Keys.

Local Expert tip: For those interested in the smaller, more personalized vessels, check out the Key West Fishing Connection which also caters to families with kids.

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There's no shortage of sunset cruises in Key West, but Danger Charters' signature Wind and Wine cruise is top notch. As the sun slips below the horizon, keep an eye out for the Keys' mystical green flash. Eight different fine wines, a selection of cheese, fresh fruits, beer, and hors d'oeuvres are served aboard the Danger Prize, a 65-foot schooner. Danger Charters also offers half and full-day snorkeling and kayak trips to the mangrove mazes for beginners or experts that are equally as memorable, plus a 10 percent discount for returning customers.Private charters, weddings, and other special events are also available.

Recommended for On the Water because: Danger Charters consistently delivers an excellent sailing experience for visitors to the island.

Local Expert tip: If you opt to book both tours in one day, go for the half-day tour. Several hours on the water can be exhausting by the time sunset rolls around.

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Meet Amber Nolan

Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite...  More About Amber