FLORIDA KEYS - As well as warm sun and seas, summer in the Florida Keys & Key West offers visitors new and exhilarating adventure activities, expanding flight options, enhanced spa offerings and more. Explore the highlights here.
Beginning Sunday, Nov. 4, visitors to Key West can take advantage of Southwest Airlines' nonstop jet service between Orlando and Tampa, Fla., and the island city. Southwest Airlines will assume the flights to the island city currently operated by its subsidiary AirTran Airways.
Southwest plans to operate one daily nonstop round-trip flight between Key West and Orlando, and one daily nonstop round-trip flight between Key West and Tampa Bay on Boeing 737 aircraft.
Southwest Airlines currently serves 73 cities in 38 states. Key West will be the first of many routes the airline will take over from its AirTran.
For more information and to book a flight, visit www.southwest.com
Levitation-like flight soars to new heights in Marathon with the July debut of Florida Keys Kiteboarding's new Flyboard water-powered jet system. According to Florida Keys Kiteboarding's Aaron Osters, the shop is only the third dealer in the world to offer the Flyboard experience and the world's first kiteboarding shop to offer the experience.
The Flyboard is a floating levitation device that attaches to a personal watercraft for power. It uses a water jet for precision flying through the air or underwater.
The Flyboard consists of a 50-foot power hose, foot bindings on a board with two thrust nozzles, a stabilization thrust nozzle on each wrist and an optional electronic management kit so that the person on the Flyboard can control the throttle and the on/off switch.
After a few minutes of instruction, participants can hover on top of the water with ease and then start learning how to hover 40 feet in the air, perform precision flying, diving, flying underwater and aerobatics like back flips, spins, twists and dolphin swimming.
Flyboard sessions are offered through Florida Keys Kiteboarding for $99 for one to two participants for 40 minutes or $199 for one to four participants for 90 minutes.
Florida Keys Kiteboarding also offers Flyboard sales, service, demonstrations and crowd-pleasing stunt appearances at the shop's new location at 11201 Overseas Highway in Marathon, with more locations planned.
For more information about Flyboard, call 305-942-9635 or visit www.FloridaKeysKiteSurfing.com
Islamorada's adrenaline water-sports pros Otherside Boardsports have recently opened Keys Cable, a new water-sports cable park where adventure enthusiasts and curious newcomers can safely and cost-effectively participate in wakeboarding, wakeskating, waterskiing and kiteboarding.
The cable system is an overhead towing device used to pull riders across the water. Located at mile marker (MM) 59 on Grassy Key, Keys Cable has two two-point cable systems that are independently operated atop a seven-acre lake.
Keys Cable is billed as the nation's first cable park to offer full kiteboarding instruction.
The park's independently controlled system gives the operator the ability to create a fully customized ride, as only one rider is allowed on the cable at a time.
Cable time rates begin at $22 for 30 minutes or $32 for 60 minutes. Two-hour, half-day, full-day rates, as well as monthly, seasonal and annual passes also are available. Private rentals can be arranged for large groups and parties.
The park offers full equipment rentals as well as instructional and private coaching.
Keys cable is open daily 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.KeysCable.com
or call 305-414-8245.
PADDLE! the Florida Keys, located in Tavernier at MM 94.5, recently opened its doors to offer affordable and eco-friendly adventure to Upper Keys visitors and locals.
The new paddle shop offers stand-up paddleboards and kayak tours, rentals and instruction. In addition, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and gear are available for sale.
Kayak and SUP delivery service is available with rentals starting from $30 per day and $100 per week.
PADDLE! the Florida Keys offers two- to three-hour guided eco-tours through the mangroves of the Upper Keys. Tours begin daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. or by appointment. Participants can choose either a stand-up paddleboard or a kayak for $50 per person with a minimum of two participants per tour.
PADDLE! the Florida Keys is open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but closes at 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays for the shop's weekly paddling meet-up. During meet-ups, participants of all levels can enjoy a social paddling excursion of the Upper Keys. These excursions are free for participants who have their own paddling equipment and offered at equipment rental cost for those who do not.
For information, visit www.paddlethefloridakeys.com
or call 305-434-5930.
A new kayak launch park has opened in Marathon at Events Field, located behind Marathon City Hall between 98th and 99th streets, across U.S. Highway 1 from Florida Keys Marathon Airport.
The kayak launch park features two tiki-hut style pavilions, a boardwalk and four kayak docking stations.
Two of the docking stations are designed for single kayak use while the other two can accommodate both single and double kayaks, with pull-up bars at each kayak docking station to assist riders getting into and out of their kayaks.
Events Field borders the Atlantic Ocean and the field is dog friendly and has an open area for kite flying, exercise and other activities.
Events Field and its kayak launch park are open daily during daylight hours.
For further information, contact the Marathon Parks and Recreation office at 305-743-6598.
Fitness enthusiasts now can become certified paddle yoga teachers at Lazy Dog, located at MM 4.2 just outside Key West, as the American Council on Exercise has accredited its training program. ACE is a nonprofit organization committed to America's health and well-being.
Students completing the Lazy Dog Paddle Yoga Teacher Training Program will become ACE certified in paddle yoga and also can earn continuing education credits through ACE and through the Yoga Alliance.
Students attending the two-day program will learn the basics of stand-up paddling, basic instruction for the stand-up paddling beginner, paddle yoga class development and successful business application.
For more information, and to learn about Lazy Dog's year-round kayaking and paddleboard offerings, visit www.LazyDog.com
Sunset Key Guest Cottages, A Westin Resort, recently opened a Spa Cabana on the property's private island beach where guests can enjoy a variety of massages and its new Sunset Romance spa package.
Overlooking the water on a quiet corner of the beach, the thatched-roof tiki hut-style spa cabana features open walls with floor-to-ceiling canvas drapes that can be pulled closed for privacy. Massage tables sit above the sand on a wooden platform.
Luxury-loving guests can indulge in the spa's exclusive new Sunset Romance package, offered daily at sunset for only one couple per evening. The package includes an 80-minute couples' massage in the Spa Cabana, a bottle of chilled champagne, dinner for two including appetizers, entrees and desserts served at a private candlelit table set inside or outside the Spa Cabana, and a personal attendant to serve the meal and remain available throughout the evening.
For information and pricing, visit www.WestinSunsetKeyCottages.com
or call The Spa at Sunset Key at 305-292-5370.
Visitors to Key West's Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, located at 205 Whitehead St., now can explore an outdoor kitchen modeled after 19th-century Key West kitchens.
Built in the 1840s by Captain John H. Geiger, the house sits on a tropically planted property where John James Audubon identified and drew a number of Florida birds during an 1832 sojourn in Key West and the nearby Dry Tortugas.
Geiger was Key West's first state-licensed harbor pilot and a shipwreck salvager. Today his family's historic home is a museum that showcases both the Audubon connection and Key West's early days.
The antique-filled house contains nearly 30 first-edition Audubon works and adjoins a gallery featuring a unique collection of Audubon art and prints.
The new kitchen exhibit highlights subjects such as meal preparation, social traditions, diet, heating sources, animal rearing and hunting in 19th-century Key West. It also illustrates life on the Geiger property and spotlights the evolution of kitchens since the island's settlement.
Upcoming enhancements to the museum include the development of new exhibits showcasing the Geiger family's history through their letters and diaries, photographs, belongings and memorabilia.
For more information, visit www.audubonhouse.com
The Schooner Western Union, the last tall ship built in Key West and the island city's longtime flagship, has been named the official flagship of the state of Florida.
Launched in Key West in 1939, the 130-foot Western Union is a traditional American coasting schooner that served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years as a cable laying and maintenance ship. Maritime historians believe the vessel, home-ported in the island city, is the world's only surviving sailing cable ship.
Its designation as Florida's flagship was formalized in late April when Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that had passed unanimously in Florida's Senate and House. The bill is to take effect July 1.
Relaunched in April 2011 following a three-year, $1.25 million restoration, the Schooner Western Union is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The vessel carries passengers on sunset sails and charters.
Excursions depart from a dock at 201 William St. in Key West's Historic Seaport. For cruise and reservation details, visit www.schoonerwesternunion.org
Dining Around Key West, an interactive mobile guide application that spotlights the island city's dining and restaurant offerings, now can be purchased for $1.99 through iTunes.
Created by Mobile App Designs and sponsored by the popular Key West Food and Wine Festival, the application is designed to help users navigate their way around the unique Key West culinary scene. Users have instant access to menus, phone numbers, websites and more from more than 34 Key West restaurants.
The application features push notifications for daily specials, insider discounts and coupons, local recipes and information on culinary events happening in and around Key West.
Interactive features include the capability to make reservations through OpenTable.com using the Dining Around Key West app's reservations tab, a food camera tab that allows users to take photos of their favorite foods and post the photos to the application's photo gallery, a tip calculator and more.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/DiningAroundKeyWest
Florida Keys visitor information: www.fla-keys.com
or 1-800-FLA-KEYS (1-800-352-5397)