With beaches, it’s like this: They can be beautiful and with what you think is perfect weather, the best place to be at the time. Fresh air, open sky; like God is so close and you can easily communicate with Him. But “liking” anything, including beaches, is subjective. We all have our likes and dislikes. Things and values that we’ve given things since we were born. It’s all part of growing up. Am I getting too philosophical for a beach review site? Maybe.
I want you to know that some people adore Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key at Mile Marker 37 on the way to Key West in Florida. There are 500 acres and some of the very best snorkeling in Florida. Since we live in South Florida, I can tell you that it is the perfect family getaway – for us. Having said that, and my statement before, some may find the place overrated. I don’t. This is a State Park, not a resort. This is my review and perspective, and I’ll tell you what I’ve heard others say about it in that negative light. But don’t let it ruin a perfectly good vacation. It costs $9.50 to enter the park.
The thing most people forget is that we are in nature and actually invading what has been set aside for us. So many complaints about Bahia Honda are about the bunches of sea grass the sits in the shallows just a foot or so offshore. You may have to walk through this to get to the other shallows. When the stuff washes up on shore, which it does, it is organic and we’re dealing with the Florida Keys here so the weather is humid and sometimes hot. Things start to decay a bit. That is the normal cycle of life anywhere.
Other beaches may not have this grass issue because the bottom is not conducive to it growing there and mainly wave action prevents it from ever making it up to the shore. Still, don’t toss out Bahia Honda State Park with the proverbial bath water. The water is warm because it sits in the shallows, and sometimes the further out you go, the more vegetation you meet. This again, is nature and must be seen through those eyes.
This is nature at its finest with a natural beach and snorkeling right off the beach. Put on the fins and wade out a bit and you’re there – and the place is so shallow you’ll feel comfortable even with younger and less experienced swimmers. In fact, the waves are practically non-existent. If you want the best Florida snorkeling experience in the area, take the tour from the marina at the park out to Looe Key Reef. It is an awesome experience and you’ll see enough to keep you talking for months.
OK, so the Three Best Beaches at Bahia Honda State Park? There are great things I found about all of them, but let me tell you these are not the wide sandy beaches you may be used to. High tide brings the beaches down to about 15 feet wide, but they are natural which is nice. Here’s a link to a detailed map of the island that shows where the beaches are. Let’s take a look at the smallest called Calusa Beach. The name comes from an extinct Indian tribe. Like the other beaches, the water from the shoreline is very shallow. This makes for the perfect beach for families with smaller children. However, a word of caution, the sand turns to old coral and rocks not too far out and you’ll need some water shoes to make it around. No waves; plan on a nice, long day of peacefulness and relaxation. This is the beach that is closest to the old Bahia Honda Rail Bridge that you may have seen in the soap opera Guiding Light, when Reva Shayne drove off the bridge and killed herself in 1990.
Next is Loggerhead Beach, named for the turtle. It is small and on the Atlantic side of the island, across from Calusa Beach. There is a nice sand bar just offshore a bit. Loggerhead Beach is narrow and might be a good choice for you. What we normally do when there are choices and a lot of variables, and we’re not the first people to arrive is to check out if people are in the area enjoying the place. If there are no cars and everyone is over at another beach or area, that’s a good sign that there is something not right.
Finally, a lot of people mention Sandspur Beach when they talk about Bahia Honda State Park. It is on the east end of the island. The reason people know about Sandspur Beach is because it was named in 1992 as the best beach in North America by Dr. Stephen Leatherman. Unfortunately for Dr. Leatherman, or Dr. Beach, as he’s now known, many of his choices have people doubting whether he knows much about beaches at all, or simply makes the award to boost the economy of that area. Still, we here at Three Best Beaches list his beaches each year and know he does do the research. As I said in the beginning, it is all subjective. Some of his criteria might not be what YOU consider to be the BEST in the U.S.
Sandspur Beach is long and skinny, but it is about two miles long. You can fit a family on the sand and that’s it. And if you can deal with the seaweed, which seems to be ever present, then you’re going to see a very beautiful beach. The grade into the water is gradual and nice. Families love it here, but I found this is the beach with the coolest water because of the depth here and the ocean currents. There are three shelters for picnics and fresh water showers, just like the other beaches I’ve mentioned.
There is much to do at Bahia Honda State Park, namely camping, nature trails and snorkeling, fishing and kayaking. Check their website for more information and check out our sponsors for the best rates on accommodations in the Keys.