Exploring Bahia Honda State Park: A Must On Any Florida Keys Roadtrip
Boasting iconic Florida Keys scenery, white sand beaches (some of the best in the Keys), and stunning waters, Bahia Honda State Park tops almost any list of places to visit on a Keys road trip.
The fact that the Florida state parks website describes the water surrounding the park as “gin-clear” is simultaneously hysterical, very odd, and…as though they know their audience (me!).
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There are so many state parks in the Florida Keys, but Bahia Honda (located at mile marker 37) is one of the best and easiest to explore. It’s a small park, but packs a punch.
Here are some of the things you can do in Bahia Honda State Park:
- Enjoy the beautiful beaches, swim, sun
- Snorkel, either on your own or join a tour to Looe Key (supposed to be some of the best in the Keys)
- Walk the old railroad bridge (it’s short, but amazing views!)
- Kayaking is a fun way to explore Bahia Honda, you can rent your own kayak or go on a tour
- You can bring your own bike and ride the length of Bahia Honda (3.5 miles)
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How to plan your visit for Bahia Honda State Park
- The park is generally open 8am to sundown, 365 days a year. You can check details at their website.
- As it’s a state park, there is an entry fee. The website says $8 per car for a day use pass, though weirdly they only charged me $4.50 (maybe because I was alone??). But regardless, you might want to spend a bit of time there to make it worth it, maybe go for a swim, have a picnic lunch, or get some sun.
- Due to the park’s popularity and small size, the park may close when it reaches maximum capacity in its day use areas. These are temporary, and arriving visitors will be asked to return later. So I recommend arriving early on weekends and holidays to make sure you get in.
- Shade is extremely limited, and the beaches have none, so plan ahead and make sure you have sunscreen (here are my favorites for travel!), water, hat, and maybe an umbrella.
- There are good bathrooms available at the park, and concessions as well as a lovely little gift shop.
- Sunrise and sunset are generally considered best times to photograph Bahia Honda (in fact, sunset at Calusa Beach looking out at the bridge is supposed to be great).
- For renting a car, I always search in a few different places and compare both the prices and specific offerings/benefits. My go-to’s are DiscoverCars, RentalCars.com, and AutoEurope as well.
- Where to base yourself in the Keys: I spent a few nights at the amazing Grassy Flats Resort, and HIGHLY recommend it! You can see my super detailed review here. In Key West I spent one night at the Kimpton Ella’s Cottages and one night at H2O Suites…loved the latter for a bit of a splurge stay (have your own private pool!!). You can see my detailed review here.
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Bahia Honda’s beaches—Sandspur, Loggerhead, and Calusa—are one of the biggest draws to the park. I knew I wanted to visit all three beaches, but Sandspur Beach (to the left once you enter) has been closed since Hurricane Irma hit in 2017 and is under reconstruction.
So I hung a right toward the rest of the park, stopping first at the little parking area across from the gift shop. This is the closest end of Loggerhead Beach, but it runs quite a long way down. This long stretch of beach faces the Atlantic side, so gets great sunrises.
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I got here around 9am on a Monday, so the park was definitely not busy and the early-ish morning light was still gentle. I was excited for blue skies and sun, as it had been cloudy and windy recently (and in fact stormed an hour later).
The first little parking lot has some picnic tables, which were perfect for enjoying my Cuban cortadito and empanadas with the waves crashing. Right at this spot the beach is super narrow (maybe high tide??), but it widens considerably once you move further down.
From here I decided it was better to park at the other main parking area (I didn’t realize just HOW close it is, literally just a skip and a jump down the road). This lot is bigger, so don’t panic if you can’t find a spot at the first one.
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I was looking forward to walking the old Bahia Honda railroad bridge, so decided to make that my next stop. It is a short and easy (though somewhat uphill walk)…but you’re rewarded with awesome views.
The original bridge was a railway bridge built by Henry Flagler, opened in 1912. It was constructed from Miami to Key West and was truly life-changing for the Keys in terms of getting people and supplies back and forth more easily.
You can read a little of the history here. It was eventually adapted for car traffic as well, but the bridge (and indeed, much of the Keys) was destroyed in 1935 by a Category 5 hurricane. The new Overseas Highway and Seven Mile Bridge is visible from Calusa Beach.
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Even though it’s super short, I really enjoyed this walk. You can find the entry easily from the car park at Calusa Beach. Just walk until you hit the barrier in the middle of the bridge.
This is one of the highest points in the Keys and gives you incredible views from both sides.
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Here’s the view of Calusa Beach from the old Bahia Honda railroad bridge, with the new Overseas Highway shooting off to the left.
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From the bridge I went down on the other side to walk along Calusa Beach. It’s fairly small but really cool and gives you that iconic view of both the old railroad bridge and the current Seven Mile Bridge.
Calusa is on the Florida Bay side, and is known for having magical sunsets looking out from this spot. It’s supposed to be an awesome photography opp with hardly anyone around, and I was bummed I couldn’t manage to be here (the weather was weird while I was in the Keys, and I never got a spectacular sunset).
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You can walk under the old bridge to the other side, back and forth between Loggerhead and Calusa beaches. I was kind of obsessed with different angles on the old railroad bridge, particularly that break in it.
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Loggerhead Beach is one of the best traditional sand beaches in the Florida Keys, with a really nice chill vibe.
I know the sargassum can be off-putting, but it’s quite common in the Keys, and they don’t clear the beach of it for ecological reasons. There are also some nice signs explaining the other plant life you see around the beach.
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It also has a fabulous reef close to the shore, which provides a fairly unique beach snorkeling experience. Good beach snorkeling with really interesting fish isn’t common (usually you need to take a snorkeling trip) and I’ve heard here it’s pretty great.
I wish I’d had more time to spend at Bahia Honda State Park on this trip, but definitely hope to return in the future and get some of that snorkeling in!! It’s an absolute must-do in the Keys in my opinion.
Other state park explorations you’ll love:
- Why You Have To Visit Utah’s Underrated Snow Canyon State Park
- Hiking In Starved Rock State Park, A Perfect Chicago Day Trip
- Exploring Nevada’s Valley Of Fire State Park
- A Road Trip To South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore & Custer State Park
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