Quick Trip Near Key Biscayne - Best Dive Ops? Any "Hidden Gem" Places to Stay?

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Pittsburgh_Mom

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Hi, everyone! I did some searching in the forums here but thought it may be best to just ask instead of guessing based on old experiences and pricing. We're planning a 4 night trip (realistically 2 and maybe 3 days of diving depending on return flight.). We have dove in the Keys before, but we don't have the budget to stay in Key West or Key Largo right now for the next trip we're planning (late Dec./early Jan.). I'm looking at AirBnBs/VRBOs near a place called Homestead in FL. It looks like we can stay there very affordably; we usually use Turo when we travel, so we don't mind a little drive to get to operators.

Is there anywhere else we should look to stay that is going to be really affordable? (We don't need much, just safe and clean.)

We've actually never dove in Key Biscayne, and it LOOKS really pretty and relaxing. Thoughts? Best ops there? We've also never dove Jupiter, and it looks like an op named South Beach Divers does a shark dive in Jupiter. Any experiences, good or bad? Anywhere else we should plan to stay?

Thank you!
 

HalcyonDaze

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Just a little geography filler (from a Pittsburgh expat) - Homestead is closer to Key Largo than Key Biscayne, which is just south of downtown Miami. Your dive op choices out of Key Biscayne are limited to one (Divers Paradise at Crandon Park Marina); the only other dive boat in Miami-Dade County that I'm aware of is Tarpoon Lagoon at Miami Beach Marina. I haven't done much recreational diving in my backyard waters for a while; some decent sites but generally I go north or south of the county (one gets spoiled after a while). I'd have to look and see what's of interest; it's mostly artificial reefs.

South Beach Divers (which is a shop - they don't have their own boat) does organize shark trips up in Jupiter. Bear in mind however that a) Jupiter is a haul (I live in Miami and if there's zero traffic it's about 100 miles/90 minutes to get up there; add at least 30-45 minutes for Homestead) and b) although the Jupiter ops have made it a bit more newbie-friendly since I started you're still talking an advanced/nitrox dive (3 tanks, 75-80 ft planned depth with the bottom often at 130 on the first dive, current can range from mild to whipping). There's not going to be much if any handholding since the DM will be busy with the sharks; at that time of year the stuff you will likely see (bulls and lemons) can be spotted on non-baited charters in the same area.

Short version, if you're looking at staying in Homestead I would use that as a base of operations to dive Key Largo, which is just on the other end of the 18-mile stretch. If you've decided Key Biscayne, I'd rather check rental options closer to Miami. If Palm Beach/Jupiter diving interests you, I would stay up that way rather than spend five hours on the road (somewhere buried back in the Near Miss section of Accidents and Incidents I posted about falling asleep at the wheel coming back from Jupiter).
 
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