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!
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.
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).
Local Expert tip: Call ahead - it's off the path in Stock Island.
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.
Local Expert tip: Check online for dates and availability.
This reputable dive operator has been in the business for 40 years and is Key West's largest professional diving center. They offer scuba school with certifications in four or five days, as well as refresher courses if it has been a while. Beginners can dive numerous outer reefs or Joe's Tugboat, while advance divers can check out the Cayman Salvage Master and the impressive Vandenberg wreck – the 520 ft. long steel hulled and missile tracking ship. Day and night dives are available. The outfitter is also taking part in the Wreck Trek Diver Challenge, a competition which runs through 2014.
Local Expert tip: Guests of the Southernmost Hotel Collection and the Hilton Double Tree receive additional savings on their dive package.
City View Trolleys may be a newcomer to Key West, but tourists are already raving about its hop-on, hop-off policy that makes exploring a breeze. The company started by offering classic tours in Boston, but has recently branched out in paradise. Informative guides will lead you to popular shopping hotspots, including Kermit's for a slice of Key Lime pie. Or, check out the many attractions along the route such as the Audubon House, Mallory Square, and Harry Truman's Little White House. Amenities include air-conditioning, cushioned seats, and open-air windows. Check out the new Tales and Tombstones tour, which shuttles visitors to Key West's spookiest areas.
Local Expert tip: Book online and save $2 on your adult pass, plus kids 12 and under can ride for free.
Renting bicycles is a no-brainer in Key West, but when you're tired of pedaling, let someone else do the work for you. Pedicabs are human-powered taxis that carry passengers in open-air carts, and provide an entirely different experience than a cab. Try one during the day, and to talk with your driver. They are very knowledgeable about the area and can give inside advice or show you places that aren't in any guidebook. Orion Burnham, of Perfect Pedicab, has a knack for tracking down funny, hidden signs in Key West that tourists pass right by. The city sets the rates at $1.50 per minute, so Pedicabs are more expensive than a taxi, however, with the right driver they can make your Key West vacation.
Local Expert tip: Be sure to ask a price quote before hopping in, and tip your driver accordingly.
Not all "tourist traps" are meant to be skipped because the have been given that label. Just three weeks after arriving in Key West, Ernest Hemingway finished "A Farewell to Arms" and he and his wife fell in love with the island. They built their home in 1851 and it is now a National Historic Landmark. Beautiful gardens blooming with hibiscus and water lilies surround the property, along with a 60-foot swimming pool in the thick of it that is an architectural wonder in itself. To top it off, numerous cats roam the property - some of which still have the unusual six-toes like Hemingway's original feline friend.
Local Expert tip: Take the guided tour which is included in the ticket price. You'll get more out of your experience. Cash only.
Those that find "Key Weird" to be intriguing during the day will discover that the oddities continue ten-fold at night. The city is consistently touted as "one of the most haunted places in America," and several ghost tours offer the opportunity to have a close-encounter with the supernatural. The folks at Ghosts and Gravestones take visitors on a 90-minute trolley tour that includes a stop at the East Martello Fort, home of the "possessed" children's toy, "Robert the Doll" - a legend of Key West. Along the way, performers will tell the tales of a haunted saloon and a cemetery of lost souls.
Local Expert tip: This one is for the older kids. Tots and pre-schoolers may find some parts of the tour to be too scary.
Not quite ready for bungee jumping, skydiving, or paragliding? Kiteboarding offers a safe alternative that is gaining popularity around the globe. The sport combines surfing and wind power to create an exhilarating and relatively easy-to-learn activity. Instructor Jake Schutter, of Sunrise Kiteboarding in Key West has been offering lessons in the Keys and Michigan since 2009. On the first lesson, most people can get the board under their feet and get up in the air. Kiteboarders can expect to spend 15 minutes at a time on the water, followed by a five to 10-minute break on board the pontoon boat, which anchors in shin-deep water in a sand bar.
Local Expert tip: On days when it's not breezy enough to head out, Jake also offers unique backwater tours in the Gulf of Mexico on the pontoon boat.
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.
Local Expert tip: Ask AJ about his kayaking trip to Loggerhead Key, and you'll get an idea how much he loves the sport.