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Visiting as a tourist, Caves, Key West and Key Largo - Info and advice

Discussion in 'Florida' started by Zeke XA3, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. Zeke XA3

    Zeke XA3 Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Nassau - Bahamas
    286
    29
    Hello all,

    After several months travelling im nearly at the point where i hop on over to Florida to explore your underwater attractions.

    Currently my plan is to fly into either Miami or FLL from Cancun. Ive read on another thread that it might be worth my while going to FLL to avoid Miami?

    Since Florida isnt really set up for my type of tourism ill rent a car and first head north into cave country. Ive made contact with a few places up there to get quotes and hope to do a day or two diving there while staying in lodgings near Fort White.

    After that it gets a little hazy.. i want to head down and dive the Vandenberg and Spiegel Grove. Now at the moment i dont have specific dates and probably wont untill about 2 weeks before i am there (currently around mid to late Oct). I would like to do some nice long dives, so probably tech rather than rec. Ive made contact with rainbow reef for KL but they want me to phone a reservation and i dont know when will be there yet.

    So for the people in the know, how often are the above two wrecks visited, if i only have 4 or 5 days notice is it likely there is a boat going? How does the tech diving work if you turn up solo? Do they (the dive shop) help with plans or pair you up with a another tech diver if around? Are these dives good as just a rec dive?

    Logistically or otherwise, what is going to be better, KW or KL first? And is there anywhere slightly cheap to stay in the keys? Ive just spent 5 months in south America so suddenly going from a $6USD a night hostel to a $45USD a night hostel in KW is a bit steep! Is it feasible to stay in Miami and drive to KL for the dives? Any other hints/tips for driving/traveling Florida?

    For reference
    Working PADI instructor
    TDI AN/DP/FullCave
    IANTD SM Deco Cave
    Own custom SM rig with regs

    thanks again

    (PS i may be slow to reply, off for a 2 day trek tomorrow, currently in Peru)
     
  2. DebbyDiver

    DebbyDiver Livin' the dream ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Inland Empire, California
    7,551
    1,039
    Definitely FLL if you can get a flight into there from Cancun.
    Cheap in the Keys? Get arrested and spend the night in jail, lol...other than the hostel in Key West ($45 a night is very cheap for that hostel, I've seen it for $99/night!), the very cheapest in the Keys would be the Key West Inn in Key Largo, or the Bayside Inn in Key Largo, which are occasionally as low as about $89/night on a non-season weeknight. Staying in Miami and driving to Key Largo is a nightmare. Look instead to Homestead or Florida City, just 30 miles to Key Largo from there. Some dive shops will have diving/lodging packages. I always dive with Conch Republic and I know that they offer them.

    I'm not Tec, so I'll let other people chime in on that, but the Spiegel Grove is one of the most frequently dived sites in Key Largo. I've dived the SG several times as a rec diver and have loved every single dive. I also dove the Vandy as a rec diver twice and absolutely loved it.

    Don't cheap out by avoiding the Turnpike when traveling to the Keys. You don't actually pay the tolls as you go through. Your rental car will have a Sunpass in it and the rental car company will bill you a month later when they get the bill from the Turnpike. I worked in the A-Frame Welcome Center at MM106.3 oceanside all summer and I wish I had a dollar for every tourist who took US1 instead of the Turnpike and told me that it took them hours and hours to drive through a very crowded, non-scenic route when they could have just jumped on the Turnpike and been in the Keys in an hour for about $5.
     
    Ray and Pam likes this.
  3. sportxlh

    sportxlh Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: formerly Palm Beach Gardens, FL: now Atlanta
    2,599
    1,374
    Aside from the two hotels Debbie Diver mentioned, both of which I've used, The Hungry Pelican has a handful of really really small and not particularly nice rooms that are usually very cheap, they sell out fast. Check out Airbnb.com too. You can stay in Florida City and drive down to Key Largo, just don't leave your gear visible in your car overnight. I'd be a long drive to KW though.

    $45 for a hostel is cheap when camping sites are $35-$50 in the Keys

    In Key West, Captain's Corner does a two tank dive on the Vandy in the AM. I've been on several trips where they let tech divers do one extended deco dive, but you probably want to let the shop know your intention or make sure they haven't changed their procedures in the last year.

    I've had some issues with Silent World in the recent past, so I hesitate to recommend them, but I've been on double dip Spiegle Grove trips where they've let tech divers do one long dive as well.

    Many shops publish their calendars on line. In the upper Keys, I like Conch Republic the best and I know they will run tech charters but it seems to me that most of those trips are planned well in advance. Call the shop to see if they have any planned.

    Rainbow Reef is a good shop for Rec diving and they've recently hired tech oriented staff.... I know Pete, the ScubaBoard Pres likes RR.
     
    DebbyDiver likes this.
  4. Wookie

    Wookie Curmudgeon Apprentice ScubaBoard Business Sponsor ScubaBoard Supporter

    36,127
    63,127
    Ummm. End of October is Fantasy Fest and Goombay Festival. I'm sure any hostel has been sold out for months, hell, my spare bedroom has been claimed for months. If you can get a hotel this side of Marathon, you're looking at $400 a night minimum 3 nights stay. La Concha and Southernmost have lovely rooms at $1059 a night minimum 3 night stay, but they are sold out.
     
    DebbyDiver likes this.
  5. DebbyDiver

    DebbyDiver Livin' the dream ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Inland Empire, California
    7,551
    1,039
    They are under new ownership; I agree that I would never dive with them another time if the previous owner still had them. However last I heard they were having boat issues, and a friend of mine who worked there for a while walked off the job because he was miserable. Best to look elsewhere, and I second the recommendation of Conch Republic or Rainbow Reef.
     
  6. DebbyDiver

    DebbyDiver Livin' the dream ScubaBoard Sponsor ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 2,500 - 4,999
    Location: Inland Empire, California
    7,551
    1,039
    Oops double post
     
  7. Capt Gary

    Capt Gary Dive Shop

    # of Dives:
    Location: Tavernier, Florida Keys
    1,242
    239
    24 North Hotel has rooms for 324 a night and The Inn at Key West has them for 327. That's on GoodLife website. A savings of 41 a night at 24 North Hotel.

    Sombrero Resort in Marathon has there's listed for 125 a night a savings of 60 dollars.

    If interested drop me a not for a VIP discount card. The dates are 10/28-31
     
    DebbyDiver likes this.
  8. Zeke XA3

    Zeke XA3 Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives: 5,000 - ∞
    Location: Nassau - Bahamas
    286
    29
    Ok cheers for the info, defo looks like FLL is the go to enter and will check out the other places to stay. may also give couch surfing a go if i can find anybat the right time.
     
  9. northernone

    northernone Contributor Rest in Peace ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Currently: Cozumel, from Canada
    3,792
    3,411
    Unpopular option ahead:

    Did a month in Florida last winter, caves and coast. Slept in my rental, seats laid flat. Worth every penny of the 16$ per day and with a million parking lots never had any trouble finding a spot close to the dive sites. Kept myself looking respectable and enjoyed every minute of a dive trip (except a soggy wetsuit some mornings) I couldn't afford otherwise.

    As for solo, the couple charters I splurged on just loosely buddied me up in the same ocean buddy style and was good to go. Met some very friendly guys at the various shops I got fills at, happy to guide me to the next favorite shore dive site too. Y'all ain't a bad bunch!



    For the love of diving,
    Cameron
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
    sportxlh and aquacat8 like this.
  10. sportxlh

    sportxlh Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: formerly Palm Beach Gardens, FL: now Atlanta
    2,599
    1,374
    As an FYI, I'll be in the Keys the last weekend in October and I booked a room at the Pelican in Key Largo for $125 per night. Which is pretty cheap for this time of year. Plan to dive w/ Conch Republic
     
    DebbyDiver and aquacat8 like this.

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