ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Kayaking & Snorkeling In the Florida Keys For The Absolute Beginner

Updated on December 24, 2015

Let me begin by saying I'm a beach girl. Raised in the Carolinas, I practically grew up on the beach. However, going to the beach for a vacation in South Carolina and going to the beach for a vacation in the Florida Keys are two very different things. In South Carolina, when you go to the beach, you pack up your tunes, your swimsuit and towel, a three inch thick book and your sunglasses and prepare for a relaxing vacation napping, reading, eating a lot of ridiculously overpriced food, getting a sunburn despite your best intentions, and generally chillin' out.

My vacation in the Florida Keys was not even close to this...I never read a book, didn't sunbathe, no one ever saw the lovely bikini I had bought for the trip, and relaxation never was even an afterthought. And yet, it was still one of the best "vacations" I've ever had.

Suiting Up for Snorkeling

Since I'm a women, initially it was all about the clothes. My travel mate, who had been to the Keys dozens of times told me I would need a wetsuit and snorkeling gear. I had in my mind I was going to end up looking sort of like Ursula Andress in a front zip wetsuit, accentuating every curve and fellow male snorkelers would be falling at my feet, professing their undying love to me and my neoprene. I took to the Internet to look for a wetsuit. There I made a startling discovery. Good wetsuits are expensive! Was I prepared to sink this much money into a wetsuit, no matter how Bond Girl-like it made me appear, and then hate snorkeling and never wear it again?

E-Bay for All Your Snorkeling Needs

The practical side in me kicked in and I headed over to E-bay. My illusions of front zip suits making me look amazing went out the window...most of them were back zip which I found out later is actually easier to take off when wet and much more comfortable. I ended up getting a great deal on one with a back zip, (good-bye, Ursula!) in a beautiful two tone of cobalt blue and black. And honestly, those wetsuits are great and very much like a Spanx, they hold EVERYTHING in! I decided after trying it on, I was really going to like this whole snorkeling gig ALOT.


Next Stop: Snorkeling Gear

I have to admit, the thought of snorkeling in Florida scared me a little...first, because I had never snorkeled in my life and second because I have a very healthy fear of drowning. I figured if I was going to do this thing, I needed some good equipment. Again, I took to the Internet, first researching all there was to read about the best snorkeling gear. Because I'm a terminal klutz and I was afraid I'd forget to keep clearing my snorkel, I decided to stick to something called a dry snorkel. A dry snorkel has a kind of shut-off valve that closes when you're under the water to keep water from coming into your snorkel, then opens again once you are above the surface. The mask I bought was also a great one, because it has a purge valve which allows you to blow out through your nose and clear any water that may have gotten into your mask. I also bought a mesh bag with a drawstring type strap to hold all my gear which is really handy when you're dealing with flippers, snorkel, and mask. And you know, since I'm a girl and it's all about style, everything was in blue and black to match my wetsuit!

And We're Off To The Keys!

We left on a Sunday night and drove all night to get to Marathon, Florida. A word to the wise, if you're driving to Florida, take many, many quarters (there are toll booths EVERYWHERE!)and have someone who loves to drive and will let you sleep most of the way! I woke up just as we were pulling into the Curry Hampton State Park. We ate a few munchies, changed into our gear, and found a place to launch our kayaks and we were OFF! I got a quickie lesson in kayaking, paddling around through the mangroves, and it wasn't long before I had the hang of it.

NOTE: Beginning kayakers look very awkward.  It takes a while to get your rhythm and movements going, so you don't look like some kind of wounded bird flailing around in the ocean.  And it's VERY hard work!  Before you go paddling, spend some time in the gym working on your arms and your upper body, because you'll need it.  That being said, kayaking is a fabulous work-out.


Sun Is INTENSE In The Keys!

 Another word of advice...wear very good waterproof sunscreen, because paddling in the ocean, you will get wet.  Even while you're snorkeling, the backs of your legs and your arms, if you have a short wetsuit, are not immune to the sun's powerful rays in the Keys and you WILL get burned.  (Not to mention having a really ridiculous looking sunburn!)  Another concern is for contact lens wearers.  I actually wore my contacts under the water while snorkeling. I know it sounds crazy, but my dry mask was that good. You may not want to risk it, so if you don't, there are actually places online where you can send your prescription and they will make you a prescription mask, and that way, you won't miss all that beautiful marine life you came to see!

Snorkel Like You Mean It!

We kayaked 2 1/2 miles to a small island near the state park and dragged our kayaks ups, so they wouldn't float away. Two things made snorkeling much more pleasurable for me once we had kayaked to the island. The first thing was I had practiced snorkeling before we got there. No, not in my bathtub, it wasn't quite big enough for that! To keep from looking like a complete fool, I had convinced a guy at work who was an avid diver to give me a snorkeling lesson in the indoor pool across the street from where I work. This was great, because it really made me feel much more sure of myself and my ability to keep my snorkel clear of water.

The second thing was really putting my face into the water. Now I know this seems really basic, but if you have a healthy fear of water like I have, you can be somewhat timid about having your face in the water. But think a minute...all the things that make you not like to have your face in the water are gone! You have a mask to keep water out of your eyes and you have your snorkel, so you can breathe. If you don't put your face far enough in the water, the feeling and sound of the water lapping against your ears gets extremely annoying. It also invites water to come trickling into your ears, causing an ear infection which I found out the hard way a few days later!


Snorkel Lover Forever!

We snorkeled for four days straight. We even ended up snorkeling one day at Bahia Honda, one of the top ten most beautiful beaches in the world, according to some. They won't get any arguments from me there. I can tell you between lifting the kayaks off the back of the truck and paddling for miles at a time, I developed some serious arm muscles! We literally fell into bed exhausted by 9:30 every night like two tired little puppies from all the physical exertion. But in between all the paddling and lifting and snorkeling and dragging, something magical happened. With my face in the water, paddling along, I saw beauty...beautiful fish in a multitude of colors, the brilliant turquoise of the water, the amazing sea critters scuttling along the ocean floor. I heard nothing but the sound of my own breathing, so all my senses seemed magnified. When my partner reached under the water for my hand to pull me toward yet another rainbow colored creature, it was one of the most sensual things I've ever experienced.

I won't forget it for a long time...



    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      20 months ago from South Carolina, USA

      I stand corrected snd will edit. But remember, I was a visitor in your state, not a native. No need to be rude!

    • profile image

      FlKeys Girl 

      20 months ago

      If you are going to write about a place, at least be bothered to get the names correct. It's Curry HAMMOCK State Park.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Yes, and I did! But totally worth it! I hope to go back again soon!

    • profile image

      Sunshine Kayak Fishing 

      3 years ago

      Great article. Yes the sun here in Florida is much different than any other part of the country. You can get fried even on a cloudy day.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Brian! I'd love to go back again soon, but life keeps getting in the way. And yes, I'm not ashamed to admit, I can only "run with the big dogs" for so long before exhaustion sets in!

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      7 years ago from England

      What a great read, I promised myself that I wouldn't keep imaging you as Ursula Andress, but have to confess I failed. I have done some snorkling and it is great fun, you obviously took to it like a duck to water :) Well done Patti, can't believe you were really that tired by 9.30 lol

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Salt, thanks and we were lucky enough to see a turtle and dolphins when we in the Keys. Hoping to get to where you are one day to see even more!

    • salt profile image


      7 years ago from australia

      Great writing and I love turtles!! I will refer back to this one many times. I swim a lot, yet haven't been kyaking for a long time. Where I am there are people who go out kyaking each morning and they say they have dolphins around them often, so I am looking forward to making the effort to get out there and kyak.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Yes, I'm ready to go back again!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I tired snorkeling once and could not get past the breathing underwater thing. Just could not do it. And I love water! But give me the kayak and put me in the Florida Keys! I'd love it!

    • DIYweddingplanner profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Thanks, Crystolite! I can always count on you!

    • crystolite profile image


      7 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice hub with cool pics,thanks for writing and am glad to be your first commenter.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)