Florida Trip - Snorkeling in Key Largo, Miami & Little Havana

Before I begin... I want to warn you, this post is loaded with pictures! Lots and lots of pictures of sunshine, ocean and so much better weather than we are having now in February in Ohio! Now go on and read... you have been warned!

We left Bradenton early in the morning (to get out of our bad Airbnb asap) and headed to Miami. The plan was to show the boys Little Havana and the South Beach area in Miami and then head to our Airbnb that was located between Miami and Key Largo.

I was a bit worried about driving our kayak trailer through Miami and especially parking. But I couldn't believe that I found almost immediately a spot big enough in Little Havana right off  main street!

The kids loved Little Havana. Jake decided that he needed a hat and asked if he could buy a cigar for the future (no). Both of them loved watching the men play Domino in the park and of course needed their own set.

We drove through Miami but we had a feeling it would be hard to find a spot, yet alone a parking spot that was secure enough to leave the kayaks. So the next few pictures are just random pictures taken from the car.

The original plan was to head to the Airbnb after checking out Miami but on our way we spotted a sign to the Biscayne National Park. Of course we decided to stop and even though it was a short visit it was worth it. Finn added another Junior Ranger Pin to his collection.

Can you spot Miami in the picture below?

After we left the National Park we stopped at at roadside fruit stand (You know we can't skip those) and got two coconuts and some fresh squeezed sugar cane juice. The kids surprised us and didn't like neither.

The next morning was the big day we have been waiting for! Snorkeling in Key Largo. We got there early (hey! I am a good German and will live by the rule of being early for everything) and had enough time to grab something to eat. Scot spotted this little Cuban cafe and it was perfect! The food was excellent! The Empanadas were the best I had all trip (remember my bucket list item from this POST) and the rest of our breakfast was just as good.

With full bellies we drove to the port and were welcomed by Captain Karsten (from Germany) on board. We decided to go with Keys Diver & Snorkeling Tours and we highly recommend them. The really gave us a fantastic snorkeling experience and were so kind and patient with the boys.

The snorkeling tour was about 4 hours long and we were taken to 3 different reefs. The boat ride to and from these snorkeling spots were perfect. The sun felt so  good on deck and if we didn't even go snorkeling the boat ride was already perfect enough.

Snorkeling was fantastic as well. We saw so many colorful fish, lost of barracudas and we did see Jesus ;)  The only thing that was difficult to me was to keep an eye on my kids. Every time I looked in a different direction they were gone, they were just way to fast for me and I had visions of them floating away in the Gulf of Mexico. I realize that's being over dramatic but I did not enjoy constantly having to try to find them versus just enjoying the snorkeling experience. Hopefully this will get better the older they get.

On board was a little girl from France and Finn and her hit it off despite the language barrier. They played peek a boo, charades, rock paper sciccors and this weird head bumping game that only the two of them understood.

This day couldn't have been better and I know we will talk about this adventure for a very long time.

Now please can someone take me back to this sunshine???

Being in the Florida Keys we made it our mission to find THE BEST key lime pie. We asked a few locals and everyone had the same answer: PUBLIX the grocery store chain has the best one. So on our way back from snorkeling we stopped at Publix, bought a key lime pie and ate it in the car on our way home. Perfect ending to this day! And yes it was soooooo good!

Btw... we had this weird experience with chickens on this trip. Not only did we see them in the parking lot in Key Largo at Publix but then a few days later we saw a bunch at a gas station in Georgia! So weird!

And because I want to end this post with my favorite picture... VOILA! Brothers actually getting a long!


Florida Trip - Kayaking with Manatees on Christmas Day

Christmas Day was probably one of the most memorable Christmases ever.

We decided to limit the kids presents and budget this year by a lot. We made sure we "warned" the kids that Christmas might look different this year and that our trip was the big present. As always they got a gift from Santa, which this year was a snorkeling mask for each boy, something we are going to be using a lot in 2018. Finn really wanted a few books (Dog Man), a map of Vietnam, a Playmobil helicopter and I threw in some T-shirts. Jake got an underwater knife, a book about the Vietnam war, a camping chair, and also some T-shirts. A big present this year was them getting a Star Wars drone to share from their Opa. Scot surprised me with a new (very comfortable) sleeping pad that I will be using a lot in 2018 as well. Scot got some new kayaking worthy sandals and a very nice flannel shirt. And like every year we got a new Family Game. This year we got Bears vs Babies and we love it!

I was worried because Christmas did look different this year. Not in our home, less presents, only a tiny Christmas tree but as soon as the kids walked in the living room Christmas morning and announced: "That's a lot more presents than we expected!" I knew this day is going to be amazing.

We spent the majority of the morning, unwrapping gifts, playing with them and making the best Christmas breakfast! Scrambled eggs, with the leftover shrimp and crab legs from the night before, plus baked beans (the British in me) and toast! It was sooooo good!

After our late breakfast we slowly got ready for our next kayaking adventure trip... The Chassahowitzka River! Chassahowitzka is again pretty close to Weeki Wachee and when we arrived we were the only ones at the boat ramp!!! Yipeee!!!

As soon as we got in the water with our kayaks, we were greeted by 8 very curious manatees. They played for a very long time with us. Pushing and bumping into our kayaks. It was literally like in a dream. We had a hard time saying goodbye but we knew there was more to see.

Not far from the boat ramp we found these underwater caves/ swimming holes. The boys had a blast snorkeling in them and it was a great opportunity to try out their new masks! A few of these caves were connected and Jake really wanted to try to dive from one end to the other but signs around the area were warning of the danger and deaths that have occurred in these caves. So, no diving for Jake!

After playing for a long time we kept kayaking to explore the rest of the river. Chassahowitzka is seriously an amazing part of Florida and probably one of my favorites! The river is full of wild life and so crystal clear. We paddled for a few miles when I spotted a crab in the water…. ok let’s stop for a second and wind back!

For the past few trips we have made we have started creating Individual Bucket lists for each trip. For this trip it looked like this:

Finn really wanted to catch a medium size fish or a crab, Jake wanted to catch and cook a crab, Daddy wanted to see Little Havana and I wanted to eat an Empanada. Thank you, Kate, for this great tip.

So, I see a crab in the water and I barley spoke the words: A CRAB! Jake jumped into the water (mid paddle in the middle of the river) grabbed his net and scooped up the crab. A few minutes later he caught two more and stored them in the hatch of his kayak to enjoy later for dinner. He was one happy boy and BOOM! his Bucket list item for this trip was filled.

Once back at the boat ramp, Scot and I loaded the kayaks on the trailer while the kids snorkeled with the manatees for a little. What an unbelievable experience that was for the boys.


We got home, took showers and changed right back into out Christmas PJ’s. The kids watched some YouTube videos on how to best cook the crabs (I wanted nothing to do with this) and their dinner was served. I finished the smoked salmon dip from the night before and everyone was happy!

I can easily say it was one of the most memorable Christmases we ever had as a family!