Key West paddleboarding is an experience like no other. It’s the subtle sport of balance laced with the calming wade of the crystal clear Key West waters teeming with incredible wildlife and lush greenery. With Key West paddleboarding, you are sure to make lifelong memories you can’t find anywhere else. With tens of locations to choose from, you could spend weeks paddleboarding in Key West and never see the same thing twice, but feel that unique sensation of walking on water every time. So, why should you embark on the unforgettable journey of Key West paddleboarding? Because, if you don’t, you’ll surely regret it.
The Top Five Key West Paddleboarding Spots
#1 Bahia Honda State Park
Thanks to Henry Flagler’s lofty efforts to build a railroad to Key West in the early 1900s, Bahia Honda Key became the breathtaking destination, and eventually the state park, it is today. With beaches straight off of postcards and waters so blue and inviting, Bahia Honda State Park is the perfect place to embark on a paddleboarding adventure. With so much wildlife just offshore, such as stoic sea turtles and majestic birds, you’d think Bahia Honda State Park is where Noah’s arc ran aground. Bring your own paddleboard (rentals are available further south in Key West), and take a self-guided tour you’ll cherish in your memory’s eye forever.
#2 Stock Island
The home of the last working waterfronts and shipyards for shrimpers, lobstermen and commercial fishing, Stock Island is a glimpse into the wonders of old Key West before tourism boomed. A destination all its own, Stock Island is separated from Key West by the narrow Cow Key Channel. Here, visitors can enjoy a paddleboarding trip along paths outlined by dense mangroves while vibrantly colored birds and prehistoric-looking iguanas are perched on their branches. Peer down into the bottom of the bay while on this Key West paddleboarding excursion to spot schools of glimmering fish making their way beneath your board. Paddleboarding through Stock Island is a great way to see the “used to be” and the “always” of Key West.
Paddle through the best place to see North America’s only living coral reef in Islamorada. Nestled between Everglades National Park and the Florida Straits, Islamorada boasts a bustling array of marine life to enjoy while paddleboarding through the sport fishing capital of the world. Float just above sailfish, bonefish, tarpon, redfish and more in this hub of gills just waiting to be explored. Traverse over 20 miles of Islamorada canals and keep your fingers crossed, as you might encounter the elusive and adorable Florida manatees and give one of those loving sea cows a pat on the head. With so much to see, paddleboarding through the very popular waters of Islamorada is a decision you’ll be elated you made.
#4 Fort Zachary Taylor
When it comes to Key West paddleboarding, Fort Zachary Taylor is one of the most exciting destinations available. Located at the southernmost tip of Key West, Fort Taylor is an exceptional place to test your paddleboarding skills, keeping balance over the oceanic swells on its rocky shores. Keep a snorkel mask with you on this Key West paddleboarding trip, as you might be tempted to take a dive and explore beneath the surface of the Key West Channel and into the Atlantic Ocean. Be sure to look to the skies as well, as the views of birds above are comparable to those of an aviary (and those winged beauties can tell you just where the fish are). With plenty of places to rent equipment in Fort Taylor, all you have to bring is your basic paddleboarding skills and your thirst for adventure.
#5 Sugarloaf Key
With gentle waters perfect for beginner paddleboarders, Sugarloaf Key is just as sweet as its name suggests. A scenic destination for Key West paddleboarding, Sugarloaf Key is a secluded oasis perfect for getting away from the crowds of southern Key West. While in Sugarloaf Key, visit the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, a popular place for Key West paddleboarding unique to the island. Find your sweet spot at Sugarloaf Key!
What to Know Before You Go
Coming to Key West to escape the dead of winter is a wonderful idea, but you should know that the weather in sunny South Florida can be testy as well at times. Thunderstorms and coastal winds can throw a wrench in your Key West paddleboarding adventure. Even in the ideal conditions for paddleboarding, the high temperatures and sun exposure can be depleting, so be sure to drink plenty of water and use sunscreen while out on the ocean.
Paddleboarding, like any other activity, has a bit of a learning curve for beginners. If you’ve never been paddleboarding, consider a spot with calmer tides to start. Think of it this way: had you never been skiing before, you wouldn’t start with a black diamond slope. Low tide is a good time to avoid heavy swells and challenging waves, as well as make the wildlife easier to spot below the surface.
Pick a launch spot with shallow water before the full send off of your paddleboarding adventure, especially if you are new to the activity. Bahia Honda State Park, Slack Island, Islamorada, Fort Zachary Taylor and Sugarloaf Key offer the five best launch spots in all of Key West and an array of difficulty levels for every paddleboarder in Key West.
Best Time of Day/Week to Paddleboard
Starting your paddleboarding trip is best to do in the morning before the sun has reached its peak in order to avoid being depleted too early on in your excursion. This also maximizes your time out on the water before it gets too dark. Some launch spots are very popular and might be closed to visitors once they reach maximum capacity. If you can find time to get away during the week to beat the weekend crowds, you may be able to enjoy the ocean as though it were your own personal pool.
Bring Your Camera
We highly recommend bringing your camera on your Key West paddleboarding adventure. You’ll see some exhilarating wildlife and amazing views that you’re going to want to see again and again. Snap photos of the iconic spots along one of the many guided paddleboarding tours offered throughout Key West, or travel off the paddled path to capture an oasis all your own.
Other Key West Adventures
Fury Island Adventure Eco Tour
If you just can’t get enough of the remarkable Key West wildlife, Fury’s Island Adventure Eco Tour is for you. Get done paddleboarding and traverse a remote sandbar, home to one of the most extraordinary ecosystems in all of Key West. Throw on some of Fury’s top-of-the-line snorkel gear and lather on your reef-safe sunscreen to explore beneath the surface. Fury’s Island Adventure Eco Tour lets guests explore the unique nature in Key West in a number of ways, and there’s no better way to get this close.
Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean Sunset Sail
After paddleboarding under the intense sun all day, tell it “thank you and goodnight” on Fury’s Commotion on the Ocean Sunset Sail. Party the night away in spectacular fashion as the sky is painted with the most magnificent color palette you’ve ever seen. What better way to wrap up your day of adventure than with live music and the view of a lifetime?
Fury’s Key West Bike Rentals
In Key West, bikes are sort of the paddleboards of the land; don’t you agree? With Fury’s Key West bike rentals, see the island your way, and everything it has to offer, while keeping dry. With so many amazing landmarks and museums, such as the Truman Little White House, the Key West Aquarium, the Key West Shipwreck Museum and more, your day of excitement awaits with Fury’s Key West bike rentals.
Fury’s Glass Bottom Boat Tours
Experience the magnificence of the reef while keeping dry on Fury’s Glass Bottom Boat Tours. A great excursion for families with young children, or for those who don’t consider themselves strong swimmers, Fury’s Glass Bottom Boat Tours are like aquariums that put you in the middle of where it all really happens. See sea turtles swim right beneath your feet with this incomparable experience. Completely unique and remarkably exciting, Fury’s Glass Bottom Boat Tours await!
What time is best for paddleboarding?
The best time of day to begin your paddleboarding excursion is early morning to avoid the intensity of the sun and to maximize your time — also to beat the crowds, which is why we recommend taking a paddleboarding trip in the middle of the week if you can manage to get away. Some places will close once they’ve reached maximum capacity.
Where can I paddleboard in Key West?
Key West has plenty of popular launch spots for paddleboard trips. Bahia Honda State Park, Stock Island, Islamorada, Fort Zachary Taylor and Sugarloaf Key are a few examples. However, tons more do exist and are waiting to be discovered.
Do I need a license to paddleboard on the sea?
You do not need to obtain a license to paddleboard on the sea.
Should I wear a life jacket while paddleboarding?
While only children under the age of six are required to wear a life jacket while paddleboarding, it is highly recommended that you do so. Other safety measures, such as white lights for nighttime paddleboarding and sound-producing devices (whistles, horns, etc.) that can be heard for one and a half nautical miles are recommended.