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Bahia Honda State Park Guide — Boat Tours, Camping, and More

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

769 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 63U.S. States Visited: 9

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Bahia Honda State Park is a stunning nature reserve in Florida. It has 3 magnificent beaches, a diverse ecosystem with over 150 bird species, and many outdoor activities like hiking, camping, and snorkeling. You can also observe wildlife in their natural habitat and enjoy amenities like campgrounds and picnic areas. Over half a million visitors visit annually to explore the park’s natural beauty and attractions.

How To Get to Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park is a beautiful and serene island in the Florida Keys, specifically in Big Pine Key. This park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers as it offers abundant natural beauty. It covers an area of over 500 acres and comprises pristine beaches, clear blue waters, and lush greenery. 

Opening Hours and Seasons

The park is open every day, all year round. General admittance hours are from 8 a.m. until sundown. The facilities within the park may have different operating hours.

Nearest Airports

The nearest airport to the park is Key West International Airport (EYW), which is approximately a 45-minute drive away. This airport provides flights to numerous destinations worldwide and is served by several airlines, including American, Delta, Silver, and United.

Upon arrival at the airport, you can seek assistance to arrange transportation to the park.

Driving Directions

Bahia Honda State Park Overseas Highway
Image Credit: Linda Gillotti via Unsplash

To quickly reach the park from most places, take the Florida Turnpike south until the end. This park is located on U.S. Highway 1 at mile marker 37. The drive to the park is straightforward. 

Taking the Train

No train services directly connect to this park or the Florida Keys.

Taking the Shuttle

Key West Transit provides a daily shuttle bus route to Bahia Honda State Park, an affordable option that can reduce the stress of navigating a new city. This option is convenient, cost-effective, and better for the environment.

Getting Around Bahia Honda State Park

The most convenient way to move around the state park is by walking. You can park your vehicle near the park’s entrance and explore the various areas on foot using this map. You can also enjoy the park’s waters by swimming, snorkeling, paddling, or boating.

What To See and Do at Bahia Honda State Park

This state park has abundant activities and attractions, catering to a wide range of interests and hobbies. Whether you enjoy birdwatching, snorkeling, hiking, or swimming, this Florida park has something for everyone.

Birding

Bahia Honda State Park Birding
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Bird lovers are in for a treat at this park. This place is a fantastic spot to watch different species of wading birds and shorebirds.

Shorebirds like sanderlings, ruddy turnstones, plovers, and willets feed and rest along the shore. The park is also home to various kinds of wading birds, such as great egrets, white ibis, tricolored herons, white herons, great blue herons, and snowy egrets.

If you visit during the fall season, from mid-September to mid-November, you will spot many kinds of hawks soaring overhead during their migration. For those visiting during the summer months, you may be lucky enough to glimpse the endangered white-crowned pigeon resting and feeding on the poisonwood trees.

Hot Tip:

Don’t forget to bring your camera and a pair of binoculars to capture the beauty of these magnificent birds.

Boat Snorkel Tours

Snorkel Boat Trip Bahia Honda State Park
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Park concessionaires offer snorkel boat tours to visitors who want to explore the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, one of the most beautiful reefs in the Florida Keys. The sanctuary has abundant marine life, and the water ranges from 5 to 70 feet, making it perfect for all levels of snorkelers.

The tours last an hour and a half and are available daily at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. These boat tours provide opportunities to explore underwater and offer breathtaking views of the park from the water.

Fishing

Visitors to this state park can look forward to some excellent angling opportunities. The park’s shallow waters make it ideal for wade and kayak fishing. Anglers can expect to catch tarpon, snapper, and barracuda.

It is essential to note that a fishing license is required for fishing in the park, and fishermen are advised to carefully read the regulations concerning size, number, capture, and season.

Hiking

There is only 1 nature trail at this state park, but it is a trail you won’t want to miss. The trail is in the Calusa area, on the island’s southwest end. It leads to the top of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge and allows hikers to follow the same route that was once U.S. Route 1.

The view from the bridge is truly breathtaking. You can see the entire island from it. When looking down into the water, you may spot giant rays, fish jumping, and sea turtles swimming below the surface.

Stargazing

Bahia Honda State Park Stargazing
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

This state park is an incredible location for stargazing enthusiasts. Every night, the night sky offers a stunning, captivating display. The best spots for stargazing in the area include the Old Bahia Honda Bridge and the shoreline. Bahia Honda is known as the darkest location in the Florida Keys, making it ideal for stargazing.

Hot Tip:

Unfortunately, since the park closes at sundown, only overnight guests can participate in this activity.

Swimming

The crystal clear and shallow waters of Bahia Honda attract visitors worldwide. The water currents are mild, and the temperature ranges from the mid- to upper 80s in the summer months to the low- to mid-70s during the winter.

However, it’s important to note that swimming is prohibited near the Bahia Honda Channel due to its strong and swift currents.

Wildlife Viewing

Bahia Honda State Park is located in the Florida Keys and is known for its natural beauty and diverse wildlife. The park has a variety of animals, including sea turtles, ghost crabs, Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins, and a variety of wading birds.

Visitors can explore the park’s hiking trail, fishing spots, and beaches, which offer excellent opportunities to observe these creatures in their natural habitats. 

Best Times To Visit Bahia Honda State Park

A trip here is a great experience, regardless of when you decide to go. However, it’s worth noting that some times of the year are better than others, especially if you’re interested in specific events or activities.

Best Time To Visit Bahia Honda State Park for Ideal Weather

Visiting the park in April is an excellent choice to enjoy its natural beauty without worrying about the weather. April’s temperature ranges from the low 70s to the low 80s, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and water sports. It usually rains only 3 days this month, so you have a good chance of experiencing great weather while exploring the park.

Best Time To Visit Bahia Honda State Park To Avoid the Crowds

Planning your visit in November is best to avoid the crowds at this park. This is when the park and nearby towns see fewer visitors. Visiting in November will allow you to explore the park at your own pace.

Best Time To Visit Bahia Honda State Park for Camping

Bahia Honda Sandspur Camping
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Due to the pleasant weather conditions, March is ideal for camping at this park. The precipitation levels are low, reducing the chance of rain ruining your trip. Temperatures are comfortable and range from the upper 60s to the upper 80s, providing the perfect environment for outdoor activities. 

Cheapest Time To Visit Bahia Honda State Park

Saving money while traveling can be challenging but feasible with proper research and planning. The best time to visit this state park on a budget is in early September, right after the summer travel season. During this time, the cost of flights and accommodations in nearby towns is at its lowest, which can save you hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.

Annual Events at Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park regularly hosts a range of activities, such as boat tours and programs featuring guest speakers who share the park’s cultural and natural history. Additionally, several annual events are held that visitors and locals alike look forward to with great anticipation.

National Public Lands Day

National Public Lands Day is observed each year on the fourth Saturday of September. The Friends of Bahia Honda State Park and several local partners sponsor this event, where volunteers gather to help with land and water cleanup at the park.

These workers tirelessly remove debris from the park’s water and land every year. Volunteers are given a free admittance voucher for a national park as a token of appreciation. Not only is this a great time to visit the park, but it is also a fantastic way to contribute to protecting our environment.

World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day is an annual event held in June. In honor of this day, Friends of Bahia Honda State Park and other partners organize a park cleanup.

The event is aimed at people who care about Bahia Honda State Park’s oceans, beaches, and shorelines. Volunteers come together to protect the sea turtle nesting environment, seagrass beds, shorebird havens, and beaches. They work hard to dig, pick, sort, and properly dispose of trash that litter the area.

This event is perfect for visitors of all ages who want to positively impact the park and the planet.

Where To Stay at Bahia Honda State Park

Finding a place to stay is crucial when traveling, whether visiting a bustling city or a serene state park. Fortunately, multiple lodging options are available both within and in the vicinity.

Inside the Park

Various accommodation options are available within the park’s boundaries, including camping in the great outdoors, staying overnight in a boat, and staying in a cabin.

Cabins

Escape to the bay and stay in 1 of 3 duplex cabins with stunning bay views. The cabins have a full kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a furnished living room, a dining room, a full bathroom, and a porch. The wooden deck outside with picnic tables and a grill is perfect for outdoor dining.

These cabins can accommodate up to 6 guests and can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. A minimum stay of 2 nights is required. Experience the beauty of the bay and all the comforts of home in these duplex cabins.

Campgrounds

Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys has 3 campgrounds — Buttonwood, Sandspur, and Bayside — offering 80 campsites. The campgrounds can accommodate RVs, tents, and hammocks, and there are some primitive camping options available. Each campground has bathhouses, water, picnic tables, and grills.

Hot Tip:

Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance, and it is recommended to book early since the park is a popular destination.

Camping Boats

One exciting way to spend a night at the park is boat camping. The marina offers 19 boat slips that visitors can rent overnight. These slips provide water, electricity, and access to the park’s facilities, such as the bathhouse, showers, and trash disposal. You should make a reservation to take advantage of this unique camping experience.

Towns Near Bahia Honda State Park

If you want to stay outside the state park’s boundaries, various nearby towns offer unique experiences. Check out some of the options available for accommodations near the park.

Big Pine Key, Florida

Big Pine Key is less than a 10-minute drive from the park. This town offers a wide range of lodging options, including motels, bed and breakfasts, and waterfront resorts for visitors. The dining scene in this town is also diverse, offering a variety of flavors ranging from local pubs to seafood restaurants and everything in between. You can rest assured that you won’t go hungry in Big Pine Key.

For recreation, visitors can enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities, such as scuba diving, boating, fishing, and snorkeling. Additionally, there are parks, art galleries, and nature centers to explore. Big Pine Key is one of the closest options for visitors wanting to stay near the park. A stay here would be ideal with all the dining, lodging, and recreation options.

Marathon, Florida

Marathon is only a 20-minute drive from Bahia Honda State Park, making it an ideal location to stay when visiting the park. The city offers many options for dining, lodging, and recreation.

It is most famous for its waterfront hotels and beachfront resorts, but popular chain hotels and private rentals are also available. The city has various restaurants serving various dishes, from freshly caught seafood to delicious gourmet burgers. Visitors can also explore local parks, beaches, and the Turtle Hospital, where sick and injured sea turtles are nurtured.

Bottom Line:

With something for everyone, Marathon is an excellent option for a base camp during a trip to Bahia Honda National Park.

Where To Eat at Bahia Honda State Park

When visiting this park, you’ll have plenty of dining options within and nearby. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down meal, there’s something for everyone. Check out some of the dining options available when you visit this park.

Big Pine Rooster

Big Pine Rooster, located in Big Pine Key, is the top-rated restaurant in the area and is just a 10-minute drive from the park. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, serving dishes made with high-quality ingredients, such as organic, grain-fed, and locally sourced produce. 

Although it offers classic favorites like burgers, sandwiches, and ribs, Big Pine Rooster is most renowned for its seafood specialties. Customers rave about the coconut shrimp, mahi mahi tacos, and the famous upside-down pineapple cake with ice cream.

Snack Bar

You may want to check out the snack bar within the park’s main concession building. This snack bar has various tasty options, including sub sandwiches, hot dogs, and hand-dipped ice cream. You can rest assured that you won’t go hungry with all these delicious choices available.

Bahia Honda State Park Facts

Bahia Honda State Park Sunset
Image Credit: Florida Department of Environmental Protection

1. A New Park Established

Bahia Honda was initially a county park that operated in the 1950s. It became a Florida state park in 1961.

2. Infamous Bridge

In 1878, a man named Flagler visited Florida for the first time with a vision of transforming the area into a tourist paradise by building a railroad. He led the construction of the Florida Keys Highway, which connected Miami to Key West. This project began in 1904 and was completed in 1912. The train rides to the area became famous due to this development.

3. What’s in a Name?

The bay at Bahia Honda Key has been a harbor for passing sailors for hundreds of years. The name of the island is Spanish for “deep bay.”

4. Historic Bridge

The Bahia Bridge is a 1912 saddleback bridge preserved as a remnant of Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railway. It is unlike any other bridge in the Florida Keys.

5. Great Florida Birding Trail

This park is recognized as one of the best birdwatching spots on the Florida Keys Birding Trail.

Final Thoughts

This breathtaking park offers an abundance of exciting activities and sights to behold. Whether you prefer to traverse the park’s enchanting terrain or dive into its mesmerizing underwater world, there is no shortage of adventure to be had. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the magic of this park for yourself. Book your trip today and discover what draws in so many visitors each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Bahia Honda State Park?

The park charges $8 per vehicle or $2.50 for foot/bike entry. Additional fees apply for boating and camping.

How much time should I plan to spend at Bahia Honda State Park?

It is recommended to spend at least an entire day at this park. If time allows, it is easy to spend several days here.

Can I bring my dog to Bahia Honda State Park?

Dogs are allowed in some regions of the park, such as the campgrounds, but not on the beaches, in rented boats, or in any of the facilities. Keeping dogs on a leash and cleaning up after them at all times is mandatory to ensure a safe and clean environment.

Do I have to bring my own snorkeling gear when visiting Bahia Honda State Park?

You can rent snorkeling gear at the park, such as masks, fins, snorkels, and wetsuits.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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