Bahia Honda State Park is a fantastic place to visit and spend the day (or a few days!) if you are traveling to the Florida Keys. Whether you are looking for adventure and an active day or just spending a few hours on the beach soaking in the sun, this is a great place to have on your Florida Keys itinerary. It also can be used as a home base for your visit to the Keys, as it is in a great spot if you want to reach other parts of the Keys as a day trip.
Bahia Honda is a popular beach area, known for the variety of activities that are offered, beautiful white sand beaches and amazingly clear water that is great for snorkeling. There is also an old railroad bridge that is easy to see from several spots in the park, a short hike and incredible camping.
The park is very popular, which means that you may have to plan on arriving early in the day if you want to be sure you can get a parking spot, and you’ll need to plan months in advance if you want to be sure to get a campsite. But don’t worry-it’s more than worth it!
We hope our guide can give you a good introduction as to what you can expect in Bahia Honda State Park, what to do and what pre-planning you may want to consider ahead of your trip.
BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK HISTORY
Bahia Honda has a natural deep-water bay and has been known to Spanish sailors for hundreds of years. In fact, “Bahia Honda” means “Deep Bay” in Spanish. But the real “discovery” of the key by vacationers was enabled when the railroad arrived.
For those that know about Key West, Henry Flagler is a pretty well-known name. He had a mission to bring the railroad to Key West. This giant undertaking happened in the early 1900’s, and the railroad officially arrived in Bahia Honda in 1912. Though the railroad was destroyed in 1935 due to a massive hurricane, the right-of-way served a second life as a highway, which really opened up access the Florida Keys and led to the current state of development.
The park came to be what it is today between the 1950s (when land was first set aside for a county park) and 1984, when the last of the entire key was sold to the state of Florida. The entire park is just over 520 acres, though less than half is easily accessible, making much of the park pristine and untouched.
ACTIVITIES IN BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK
Bahia Honda State Park map, courtesy of Florida State Parks
It is impossible to not find something that is for you in Bahia Honda State Park, whether you love to swim, snorkel, explore, check out historical sites or just hang out on the beach and relax. Some of the activities can be done at your own pace and schedule, while others require pre-planning and some require reservations well in advance.
When visiting Bahia Honda State Park, our recommendations for activities include:
- Relaxing on the Beach and Swimming. Loggerhead Beach opens up to the Atlantic Ocean to on the southwest side of the island. Calusa Beach is on the north side of the southwest side of the island (opposite from Loggerhead Beach) and it opens up to the Gulf of Mexico. Both spots are great, but the water is a bit shallower at Loggerhead Beach. Loggerhead Beach also offers broad views out to the Atlantic Ocean, which some people enjoy more than the views at Calusa Beach. Sandspur Beach is the third area, but as of this writing is closed for restoration from Hurricane Irma (which occurred in 2017). There are no lifeguards on either beach, so be sure to watch your children! Also, be sure not to swim in marinas (for safety from boats) or in the channels due to strong currents. Also, do not be worried about picking the right beach, as Loggerhead Beach is within a short walking distance of Calusa Beach, so you can change locations easily throughout the day.
- Sand and Sea Nature Center. On the southwest side of the parking area and close to Calusa Beach is the Sand and Sea Nature Center. This is a great place to learn about the local sea life. This is a great spot for kids too, and a good place to escape the heat of the sun for a bit. There is also a small aquarium with a variety of animals to check out. The Sand and Sea Nature Center is only open on Thursdays through Mondays during the day. Finally, this is a good place to ask for the latest information on the park.
- Kayaking. Bahia Honda State Park is great spot for kayaking. Not only is the water generally calm and beautiful, but you can also access other parts of the island which are not accessible by foot. Taking a kayak out to a remote part of the island and having a picnic lunch is really an ideal way to spend a few hours! You can bring your own kayak or rent kayaks right in the park. Rentals are available by the hour or by the half-day, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Snorkeling. Snorkeling is a popular activity in the Florida Keys, as the water is crystal clear and wildlife is plentiful. Even the underwater plants are great to observe, but if you just want to snorkel while you swim, you will see fish without any doubt! The colors are quite amazing underwater. Even if all you have to bring with you is a pair of swim goggles, be sure you do so! If you’d like to see the local reefs, then booking a tour on the Looe Key Snorkeling Tour is a great option. Tours are offered at least once daily, and reservations are highly recommended. The boat heads to Looe Key, which is about 12 miles off the coast of Bahia Honda State Park. Call 305-872-3210 to book a spot. You can also rent snorkeling gear in the day-use area.
- Food Service. There is a small concession stand that offers sandwiches, snacks, drinks and ice.
- Picnicking. We highly recommend planning to picnic at Bahia Honda State Park. Near Calusa Beach there are two covered pavilions with grills. These are great use to get out of the sun. You can of course sit on the beach and eat what you brought with you as well!
Hiking. Beach locations are typically not known for great hiking, but you actually can hike in Bahia Honda State Park! Of course, the trail is short and relatively easy, but it’s definitely worth going on. Here are the hiking details:
- The Bahia Honda Bridge Trail (also known as the Bahia Honda Butterfly Trail) travels along the old railroad bed. Starting at the entrance to the Loggerhead Beach, the easy 0.4-mile (round-trip) trail climbs only 25 feet as it heads to beginning of the old railroad bridge. Since the island is flat, this spot offers amazing views of the entire island and the surrounding area. If the water is calm, be on the lookout for sea turtles or rays.
HOW TO GET TO BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK AND OTHER TRAVEL INFORMATION
It’s relatively easy to navigate in the Florida Keys, as everything revolves around Highway 1, which extends from Key Largo, FL to Key West, FL. Along the highway you’ll find mile markers, which count down to Key West (which is “mile 0”). Bahia Honda State Park is between Mile Marker 36 and 37, and the entrance to the park is on the south side of the island.
- Here are the directions from Key West to Bahia Honda. The drive will take a bit less than an hour, even though it’s only 37 miles.
- If you are traveling from the north, here are directions from Key Largo to Bahia Honda. This is just over 62 miles, and you should plan on it taking close to 2 hours (a bit less if you are going when the traffic is light).
Take care as you are traveling through the Keys, though, as if you miss a turn on this part of the highway, it’s commonly a mile or more until you can find a good place to turnaround! Also, you should plan on there being plenty of traffic when you travel on Highway 1-expect delays!
Another tip-ahead of your visit, we recommend downloading the GyPSy Guide on the Florida Keys. We’ve been using these guides for years-they are really informative and make the miles fly by. Our kids also like listening to them!
WHERE TO STAY IN BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK
Bahia Honda State Park Lodging: There are no hotels or inns inside of Bahia Honda State Park. The best option for lodging (other than camping) is about 7 miles toward Key Largo in Marathon, FL. There are quite a few hotels and plenty of food options as well. During peak times of year (typically in the late fall to early winter) the reservations fill up fast, so book well in advance.
BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK CAMPING
Camping in Bahia Honda State Park is very popular, and there are several great options to consider. Camping options inside of Bahia State Park include the following:
Bahia Honda State Park Cabins:
- Location: The Bahia State Park Cabins are located on the north side of the bay.
- Accessible via: To get here you have to have a vehicle that is under 6 feet 8 inches to be sure you pass underneath the bridge.
- Reservations: Offered year-round. Bahia Honda State Park cabin reservations.
- Capacity: 6 cabins (1 is accessible with a wheelchair lift).
- Amenities: Heating and central air, sleeps 6 people (two bedrooms and a sofa bed), a kitchen and a full bath. All units have views with a wood deck. Note: unit 2 only sleeps 4 people.
- Toilets / Showers: Full bath.
- Additional details: As you can imagine, these cabins are in high-demand. Reservations are allowed 11 months in advance, and they fill up very quickly.
- Location: The Buttonwood Campground is the main campground in Bahia Honda State Park. If you have an RV or a camper, this is where you’ll want to be.
- Accessible via:
- Reservations: Offered year-round. Bahia Honda State Park camping reservations.
- Capacity: 48 sites.
- Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: Yes / Yes / Yes.
- Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets and showers.
- Additional details: If you are looking for a waterfront site, choose sites 12-25 (15 and higher are preferred, though).
- Location: The Bayside Campground is a smaller, more intimate campground on the north side of the island.
- Accessible via: Car, buy you have to be sure that you have clearance of 6 feet 8 inches as you have to pass underneath the railroad bridge.
- Reservations: Offered year-round. Bahia Honda State Park camping reservations.
- Capacity: 8 sites.
- Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: No / No / No.
- Toilets / Showers: Flush toilets, but the showers are a half-mile away at the Buttonwood Campground.
BEST TIME TO VISIT BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK
Bahia Honda State Park is open every day of the year. Temperatures are generally warm, with highs in the 60’s in the winter months and highs in the summer months being in the upper 80’s to upper 90’s. Just be ready for it to be pretty warm if you are here in the summertime!
The park is known to be quite crowded, but it’s typically the worst during spring break and vacation weeks in the late winter / early spring. In fact, on days when it’s very busy, the park will close its doors to those trying to get in until space frees up.
ARE PETS ALLOWED IN BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK?
Pets are allowed in Bahia Honda State Park, but only in limited areas. They are not allowed in cabins, in the pavilions, on the beach or in the water. Where they are allowed, they must be kept on leashes and can never be left unattended.
RELATED INFORMATION ON BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK AND THE SURROUNDING AREA FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- When visiting the Florida Keys, you should also consider a visit to nearby Dry Tortugas National Park. It requires a day trip out of Key West, but it’s an incredible destination that you won’t forget!
- If you really like your visit to Bahia Honda State Park, pickup one of our Bahia Honda State Park posters. We create them in the style of the WPA National Park posters.
- Once you return from your trip, contact us and we’ll work with you to create a custom, vintage travel poster from a photo that you send to us. We promise you’ll love it and can’t wait to work with you!