Adventure Activities in Key West -- Try if You Dare
1. Swim with the sharks
It is said that the mass media (think "Jaws") has given sharks a bad reputation as aggressive predators of the deep. Many people disagree with this notion in theory, but if you ask them to prove it by going near them, their fear of sharks returns like the high tide. Precious few are willing to set their instinctive fears aside to go diving with sharks.
In Key West, outdoor adventure activities don't come any more thrilling than shark weekends with tour company Incredible Adventures. Weekend diving tours take the plunge into the Tortugas Ecological Reserve, where bull sharks, tiger sharks, lemon sharks and nurse sharks congregate after a long week spent hunting prey. By the end of the tour, people emerge from the depths with their fears allayed (usually) and a new appreciation for the most misunderstood creature of deep, the shark.
At $2,600 per person for the weekend (all-inclusive, from Thursday afternoon until Sunday night or Monday morning) it's definitely pricey, but if you're looking for the ultimate adventure activity in Key West and you have some cash to splash, it's worth it.
Incredible Adventures (headquarters), 6604 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota, FL 34242, 800-644-7382.
2. Munch on conch
While not ideal for picky eaters, trying something out of the ordinary is an adventure for timid taste buds in Key West. Daring someone to eat conch sounds worse than daring them to eat a worm, but if you're adventurous with your food, you might even find yourself asking for seconds.
Anthony Bourdain tried conch fritters here once and didn't get squeamish; in fact, he had a hard time stopping. For anyone who has played it safe eating hush-puppies and dinner rolls at seafood restaurants, it's time to leave the safety zone of predictable food and try something new.
Conch fritters may sound bizarre, but conch isn't the only creature that crawled or walked its way into the category of edible foods. People have been eating lobster and crab for centuries, proving that new tastes often wind up becoming a tried-and-true tradition.
Conch Town Cafe, 801 Thomas Street, Key West, FL 33040, 305-295-0713. Hours vary seasonally, so call in advance to check.
3. Pet a stingray
It's nearly impossible to think of stingrays without picturing the arrow-sharp barb that hides just beneath their tail in case they're attacked by a larger predator. Most swimmers and divers want nothing to do with encountering rays in the open ocean for fear of 'bringing on the sting.' However, swimming with stingrays is not likely to result in a trip to the emergency room unless the creatures are genuinely threatened, and this adventure activity in Key West is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
Stingray swims are scheduled through Theater of the Sea as part of a program to educate people on the habits and behavior of stingrays. While it can be a bit unnerving to feel the firmness of a stingray's fin as it brushes past your arm or a leg, people quickly learn that a calm approach pays off. The reward is the chance to spend time with these graceful, gentle creatures, as well as the chance to get some great photos of your travel adventures in Key West. If you're a softy, you can choose to swim with dolphins or sea lions instead.
It costs $55 per person for the privilege of 30 minutes swimming with stingrays and you can usually book a session at 9.15AM, 11.45AM or 2.45PM, but do call to check times and reserve your spot. Swimming with dolphins is much more expensive at $175 for a 20 to 30-minute session, and the sea lion experience costs only slightly less at $135. So you can be daring and save money at the same time by picking the stingrays.
Theater of the Sea, 84721 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, 305-664-2431.
4. Hang with the locals
Hanging out with the locals might not seem like a daring adventure activity in Key West, but it is certainly an integral part of your travel experience. Try reserving judgment and criticism of the menagerie of folks living and visiting in Old Town Key West. Duval Street features the true essence of the eccentric open-mindedness that perhaps inspired one of America's greatest authors, Ernest Hemingway, to live and write in the heart of Key West.
Adventure travel challenges the spirit with experiences that develop character and give rise to tolerance and understanding of the world we live in. People from all walks of life find the streets of Old Town Key West to be welcoming and accepting of everyone. So join in.
Best of all, since we all know adventure travel can be expensive; this outdoor activity of people-watching and chatting with locals in Key West is absolutely free.
- Overview:Key West Travel Guide