Houseboat in the Keys
The surest way to enjoy the clear turquoise waters around the Florida Keys is to rent the maritime equivalent of a mobile home. A houseboat provides a floating bed, shower, and kitchen that can be anchored off a deserted island. And piloting one is not as difficult as many people think. "The waters here are very clear and calm," says John Martinez, owner of KeySea Houseboats in Key Largo. "You can always see land, so you will never get lost." It's pretty empty around here, so make sure your galley is well stocked before setting out. And don't rent a stationary houseboat, which never leaves the docks — because where's the fun in that?
There are two houseboat outfitters in the Keys. A 35-footer from KeySea Houseboats — which includes snorkeling and fishing gear and a kayak — costs $1,125 for three nights. Use the boat as a base to explore the protected northern side of the Keys, and to kayak through canopied mangrove forests, with cormorants and herons above and rays and sharks below. Farther south, Florida Bay Adventures has four houseboats; a three-night rental ranges from $1,350 to $1,850. At night, anchor off a tiny island, like Cotton Key, where roosting frigate birds may be the only creatures interrupting your solitude.
From Miami, head 65 miles south to Key Largo for KeySea Houseboats; continue another 16 miles to Islamorada for Florida Bay Adventures.