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Enjoy a Cheap Florida Vacation

at Bahia Honda State Park

The Old Bahia Honda Bridge
Henry Flagler's Old Bridge at Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys

Looking for a cheap Florida vacation? I'm talking sun, sand, and clear saltwater, with maybe some off-shore reef snorkeling thrown in. Sound good?

Look no further than Bahia Honda State Park, here in the middle Florida Keys, not too far below the Seven-Mile Bridge.

The Beach at Bahia Honda State Park
The Beach at Bahia Honda State Park

The Park offers campsites at the relatively low Florida State Park rates. Cutting your lodging costs while in the Keys helps make your cheap Florida vacation possible. At the same time, enjoy Bahia Honda's beautiful beaches and settings. Your tent or RV serves as your centrally located bed-and-breakfast inn, while you go off to explore other islands in the Florida Keys--like maybe Key West.

Bahia Honda Tent Camping Site
Bahia Honda Tent Camping Site

There are 80 campsites in the park--some for tents, others for RVs. You can make reservations up to 11 months ahead of time. Washrooms with hot showers are available in the Park.

Bahia Honda RV Camping Site
Bahia Honda RV Camping Site

What To Do on Your Cheap Florida Vacation

Kick Back on Island Time. One thing that makes this Park so special is that it boasts three of the very few actual beaches in the Florida Keys. Wanna snooze on Florida Keys sand? This is one of very few places to do it.

Sign Announcing Bahia Beach Award

Like to snorkel? You can do that here in the park, too.

Bahia Honda Snorkeling Spot
Snorkel Around the Rocks

Maybe you're like me, and could happily spend at least two or three days in the park--snorkeling, beach-going, walking, snoozing, cooking out, and so on before getting antsy to do anything else.

Catch the Snorkel Boat out to Looe Key. At some point, you might want to catch the Park's snorkel boat out to Looe Key for a half-day of Florida Keys coral-reef snorkeling.

Bahia Honda Snorkel Boat
The Bahia Honda Snorkel Boat Goes To Looe Key Twice Daily

To be clear, Looe Key is not a piece of land as in, say, Key Largo or Key West, but a shallow, offshore coral reef about seven miles out, with depths ranging from two to 30 feet--just right for snorkeling. The water clarity on the reef is usually pretty good--sometimes up to 100 feet of visibility, but a south wind can dramatically reduce that. So you might want to inquire about the "viz" on the reef before deciding to make that day's trip.

The snorkel boat makes both a morning and an afternoon run each day. Bring your own snorkel gear, or rent it here at the Park.

Go Day Trippin'. Even though this is supposed to be a cheap Florida vacation, maybe you'd like to work a couple of extra-cost side trips into the mix.

Key West, the southernmost city in the contintental US, is only 37 miles away. One of Florida's oldest cities, having been incorporated in 1828, Key West has long been a haven for writers, artists, and other colorful, sometimes off-beat characters.

One of my favorite places to visit here is the Ernest Hemingway house. I always felt sorry for Hemingway. To me, it seemed as if he spent his life chasing a sort of happiness that always managed to elude him. I thought he was too focused on suicide and alcoholism, but that aside, I can identify with his quest for adventure. And it just so happens that places he traversed--the Rockies, the Florida Keys, Spain, and Africa--are all places that have some significance in my life as well. As the whole world knows, he wrote some good stuff, especially "For Whom the Bell Tolls," a novel about the Spanish Civil war. You know, it's the book you were supposed to read in high school. :-)

I like to imagine the bearded, old World War I Red Cross Ambulance Driver there at his manual typewriter, pecking out his novels. Sometimes, I'm told, he even wrote with a pencil, while standing up. Visualizing him there, I wonder what drives some people to spend inordinate amounts of time writing novels, short stories, or even (ahem) travel Web sites.

After a full day in Key West, it's a relatively short drive back to Bahia Honda and your campsite. You might even catch a ring-side seat for the sunset. In the Florida Keys, watching the sun go down is a big part of life. People often put a good bit of planning into where they're going to watch the sunset. It's like the day's super event.

Going in the other direction, Marathon, a decent-size Keys community with grocery stores and restaurants, is only about 12 miles away. Between Bahia Honda and Marathon is the world-famous seven-mile bridge. I always enjoy the ocean vistas while making the crossing.

A favorite restaurant I've eaten at quite a few times in Marathon is the Castaway, located at 1406 Oceanview Avenue, Tel 305-743-6247. As I recall, it is less expensive than other places, has its own unique ambience, and the shrimp special was very good. Turn east off US 1 at 15th Street in Marathon. It's off the beaten path. In fact, you might even wonder if you're in the right place. But it's a good find.

Also, you might like stopping in at nearby Porky's Bayside--Mile Marker 47.5 Bayside--to enjoy a choice beverage and catch the sunset, maybe even have some barbecue. It's sort of a ramshackle, laid-back, roadside pit stop--just the kind of place that fits perfectly in the Florida Keys.

All in all, a Bahia Honda stay makes for a salty, sandy but enjoyable, and relatively cheap Florida vacation. Just set your attitude to island time, pack your stuff, and come on down.

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