A Green Vacation in the Florida Keys
Visitors from around the world are drawn to the Florida Keys to experience the island chain’s priceless natural resources, and the therapy they provide the mind, body and soul. The Keys have celebrated a heritage of conservation and protection of these resources for more than 100 years, demonstrating the region’s commitment to responsible tourism, environmental stewardship and the future of the island chain.
Spotlights news about an environmentally
focused attraction, event, person or place
that enriches the Florida Keys.
The mission of the Monroe County (Florida Keys) Tourist Development Council is to set an overall direction for the Florida Keys tourism marketing effort in a manner that will assure long-term sustained growth in tourism revenues while also guaranteeing the sustainability and improvement of our product, including both our man-made and natural resources, and improvements to the quality of life of our residents.
ENJOY A GREEN VACATION
The Upper Keys:
In Key Largo and Islamorada, KeysCaribbean Luxury Resorts & Marinas has two exclusive locations, Mariners Resort Villas & Marina and the Historic Tavernier Inn
Carpooling makes incredible sense with regard to fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less traffic and less pollution, and remains highly recommended for residents and commuters. Key West, in particular, is largely a pedestrian city as recreational areas of Old Town is easily reached by walking. Bicycling is woven into the Keys culture, which flourishes with several bicycle rental companies throughout all of the islands.
Yet other modes of transportation to and within the islands of the Florida Keys include these environmentally friendly driving alternatives that either use bio-diesel fuels or eliminate driving and emissions altogether:
Ferry Service, Bus, Shuttle, Inter-island transportation; Key West Park & Ride allows visitors to park their car and get free public transportation around Key West, and both Electric Cars and Pedi-cabs are available for hire in Key West and along famous Duval Street.
Five 6′s Taxi features an environmentally friendly hybrid vehicle fleet, and were one of the first taxi companies in Florida to roll out hybrids. The fuel-efficient vehicles are estimated to achieve about 38 miles per gallon in the city, reducing emissions by 80 percent. Five 6′s fleet of vehicles can accommodate groups up to 14 people as well as an ADA-compliant Para Transit Taxi to accommodate electric and manual wheelchairs.
Rental car companies available at both mainland and Florida Keys airports offer within a certain class of vehicles the US EPA Certified Smartway® distinction, meaning those cars are scored favorably in both air pollution and greenhouse gas categories. Vehicles that receive the Smartway® designation are very good environmental performers relative to other vehicles. When making reservations for rental cars, inquire about their availability of these cars or if their customers have the opportunity to participate in an optional carbon offset program, helping fund projects that work to remove harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Hybrid rental cars are available for rent at Florida’s major mainland airports for visitors that wish to fly into a mainland airport and drive down to their Keys vacation.
The Middle Keys:
In the Middle Keys, KeysCaribbean Luxury Resorts & Marinas has the Village at Hawks Cay Villas on Duck Key, Indigo Reef Resort Villas & Marina and the Coral Lagoon Resort Villas &Marinas
Almost all visitors realize the need to protect favorite destinations. Those guests are willing to participate in a hotel’s green program.
Several Florida Keys properties are part of the Florida Green Lodging Program, which established environmental guidelines for hotels and motels to conserve natural resources by implementing water-saving measures, executing energy-saving techniques, helping reduce solid waste and taking steps to prevent pollution.
Designated Clean Marinas and lodging properties have demonstrated their commitment to succeed in protecting Florida’s resources while also saving money and garnering good publicity. For example, individual lodgings with a clear environmental agenda may offer energy-efficient light bulbs, towel and sheet-changing options, soap and shampoo dispensers, guestroom recycling baskets and food-related waste reductions.
Many Keys hotels and motels also committed to a Water Conservation Hotel and Motel Program (Water CHAMP) and implemented reuse programs that encourages guests to use towels and linens more than once during their stay, and install high-efficiency faucet aerators in every guest room. The hotels and motels not only save water, foster energy efficiency and reduce operating costs, but educate Keys residents and visitors how they can protect South Florida water resources in simple ways.
The Lower Keys:
In the Lower Keys, KeysCaribbean Luxury Resorts & Marinas has the Coral Hammock Resort Villas and Kings Point Marina
In addition to a catch-and-release ethic of sportfishing, world-class diving and a rich literary and artistic community, the Florida Keys offer an appealing variety of public parks and environmentally oriented eco-attractions, whether it is swimming side by side with a dolphin, walking among thousands of butterflies, navigating through tropical forests and botanical gardens or visiting a conservation area to observe the unique protected animal species in their natural habitat.
Parks & Recreation Sites are abundant in the Florida Keys, and span all five regions.
Preservation Museums include Museum of Art & History at the Customs House, Lighthouse & Keepers Quarters Museum, Fort East Martello Museum & Gardens, Pigeon Key Foundation & Marine Science Center, The Oldest House, West Martello Town and Key West Garden Club.
There are two frost free botanic gardens in the continental United States. The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort opened in 2011 and provide daily tours for the public to the only “ethnobotanic” garden in the southeastern USA, and endeavors to enhance visitors’ understanding of the significant role plants play in our everyday lives. The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is home to many endangered and threatened flora and fauna, and is a special place where you can appreciate biodiversity and learn more about its importance. The forest has two of the last remaining fresh water ponds in the Keys and is a major migratory stopping point for neo-tropical birds from places as far as South America, as well as being home to many rare birds in the Florida Keys.
Other highlights include:
To protect a portion of the Florida Keys’ barrier reef, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was established off the Upper Keys in 1963 as America’s first underwater preserve. The park hosts more than a million visitors annually, offering them numerous opportunities to observe abundant wildlife through recreational and educational experiences.
Pennekamp is incorporated into the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, widely regarded as a national treasure, which was established in 1990 by the United States government. The sanctuary encompasses 2,900 square nautical miles of coastal and oceanic waters and submerged lands. Not only does this area surround the entire landmass of the Florida Keys, it also includes vast stretches of Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The creation of the sanctuary allows for the management of the region’s special ecological, historical, recreational and aesthetic resources. Within its boundaries lie mangrove islands, historic shipwrecks filled with rare artifacts, tropical fish and other marine life. Environmental enthusiasts can volunteer in the protection and preservation of the sanctuary.
The Marathon Wild Bird Center is one of the leading wild bird rescue centers in the Florida Keys, nestled in 64 acres of lush hardwoods as part of Crane Point Hammock. Tavernier’s Florida Keys Wild Bird Centre, the northernmost of the eco-attractions, is also a haven for bird lovers, and was a labor of love of its founder, the late Laura Quinn, whose name graces the visitor center’s Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary.
Each facility’s primary purpose is to rescue, rehabilitate and release ill, injured and orphaned wild birds. Boardwalks and nature paths wind through shaded cages that house wild hawks, ospreys, spoonbills, egrets and more. Some are there to recuperate and will later be released, while others would be unable to survive in the wild on their own and have become lifelong inhabitants.
|Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key is a research and educational facility that’s home to a family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. The center and its staff, winners of numerous awards, specialize in behavioral research and maintain liaisons with university research programs and independent scientists around the world. Visitors to the center can participate in enjoyable and educational programs that provide knowledge and insights about dolphins, their environment and their remarkable abilities. Through a number concepts research study, researchers discovered that the marine mammals could identify simple math and distinguish the difference between numbers they were presented on a board.|
Well known for dolphin-assisted therapy programs provided to children with special physical and emotional needs, the nonprofit Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo also features marine science educational programs, in addition to the experiential learning, education and swim programs offered at Dolphins Plus.
|Marathon’s Turtle Hospital, is the only facility of its kind in the world. At the hospital, opened in 1986, founder Richie Moretti and his staff treat injured sea turtles and, when possible, return them to the wild. Educational tours of the facility are offered to introduce visitors to the resident sea turtles and to the hospital’s curative programs for loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtles. The hospital’s goals include working toward environmental legislation to make beaches and oceans safer and cleaner for sea turtles.|
|The Key West National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1908 in response to a fashion trend that was decimating migratory bird populations, then-President Theodore Roosevelt created this first wildlife refuge of the Florida Keys to protect and preserve a breeding ground for migratory species.|
|The Lower Keys are home to the National Key Deer Refuge, established in 1957 to protect and preserve habitats for wildlife, most notably the diminutive Key deer. A subspecies of the Virginia white-tailed deer, Key deer range in size from 45 to 80 pounds fully grown.
The refuge encompasses more than 8,000 acres of prime Key deer territory ranging from Bahia Honda Key to the eastern shores of Sugarloaf Key, out to the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. It also is a stopping point for thousands of migratory birds each year, and a winter home for many North American bird species including the roseate tern and peregrine falcon.
|The Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1938, provides safe nesting and breeding areas for great white herons and other migratory birds and wildlife. White herons are North America’s largest wading bird and, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are found only in the Florida Keys and on the South Florida mainland. Stretching between Key West and Marathon, the refuge features more than 375 square miles of open water and islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors’ primary access is by kayak, canoe or shallow-draft boat, although the refuge manages lands on Upper Sugarloaf and Lower Sugarloaf Keys that are accessible by car.|
|Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center Located on the Key West waterfront at Truman Annex, the 6,400-square-foot center showcases the underwater and upland habitats that characterize the Keys, with an emphasis on North America’s only living contiguous barrier coral reef that parallels the island chain. The Living Reef Exhibit features a 2,400-gallon reef tank with fish and invertebrates indigenous to the Keys, and interactive and touch-screen modules, text and audio/video components showcase stellar underwater footage about the vibrant Keys ecosystem and reef. Learn about the environment and cultural resources in the Keys through Discovery Saturdays.|
|Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote offshore preserve that lies approximately 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico. The park contains the Civil War-era Fort Jefferson, believed to be the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere. Dry Tortugas is the largest no-take marine reserve in the continental United States.|
If you’re coming down to visit and stay with us at the KeysCaribbean Luxury Resorts & Marinas in our vacation rentals, share some of your favorite experiences with us …
Visit our blog next Tuesday with updated experiences in the Florida Keys…