You know when a vacation is magical. You visit at the right time, when you or your kids are at the right ages, your adventures and excursions were all better than you could have possibly dreamed and you want to tell everyone all about it? That was our trip to the Florida Keys. I’ve visited Florida dozens of times in my life but this was my first visit to the Florida Keys.

Swimming in the heated pool at Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort

We flew from Kansas City to Fort Lauderdale, rented a car and basked in the glorious sunshine as we made our way south to the Florida Keys. My son Jonathan was researching sea turtles for a class project and I discovered the Sea Turtle Hospital in my research with a darling place to stay right next door. We drove directly to the Tranquility Bay Beach Resort. The large, heated pool was an immediate hit with our boys, at the time, ages 4 and 6. They likely would have been completely content swimming all day and night with brief breaks for putting on the small putting greens and building sandcastles along the man-made beach. My kids were enamored with all of the iguanas on the property and in the area. We went on numerous iguana spotting walks and the kids even created iguana art after being inspired by their coloring and how close they were able to get to them.

I’ve always longed to swim with dolphins and this trip celebrated my 40th birthday so this was what my heart most wanted to do. While there are several options for this in the Florida Keys, I selected the Dolphin Research Center after reading extensively about their care for the animals. From hearing my kids squeals of delight to how they marveled at the “rubbery and slick” feel of the dolphins, to their awe and appreciation for the strength and beauty of these powerful and incredible animals, this was something I will treasure for the rest of my life. We found the trainers and staff kind, knowledgeable and helpful and loved every moment of our visit.

Another amazing highlight of our trip was our stop at the Sea Turtle Research hospital. I have continued to follow their rescues through their Facebook page as I was so enamored with how they support and rescue sea turtles. My 6-year-old likely had the best presentation in his class after this incredible learning opportunity about all things sea turtle.

Our favorite beach time was at Bahia Honda State Park. It was easy to access for parking, ice cream treats and sand castle building. We wish we would have had time to visit here again because it was a favorite for the kids.

A trip to the Florida Keys would not be complete without journeying to the Southernmost point of the United States and a stop in Key West, Florida. There was a long line for the obligatory photo so we instead popped over to South Beach to enjoy some sun, sand and ice cream. This is where we scheduled our half-day dolphin watching excursion and the opportunity to snorkel along sandbars in the open ocean.

We used Honest Eco Tours after I did lots of research and we had a great experience. They were kind and patient with the kids. They even let them drive the boat. It was only our family and one other couple on the boat along with the guide who was passionate and knowledgeable and clearly had a heart for animals and the environment.

We visited in January when the water was still cool so we wore these kids wetsuits that I found on Amazon which were perfect. I wore this women’s wetsuit which worked perfectly and my husband used this men’s wetsuit and we were all happy to have them for our dolphin swim and ocean swim to feel more comfortable and warm in the water and on the boat. I do hope to plan another visit now that the kids are older and better swimmers. We didn’t have the opportunity to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park but that is definitely on my list for when we visit again.

Our last adventure took us kayaking through the mangroves which was great exercise and fascinating to learn about the various animals and creatures that call the mangroves home. We weren’t sure if our kids would be strong enough to paddle but they loved it and did amazing, even at just 4 and 6. We saw a manatee and it felt amazing to be out in nature exploring with a small group. Sadly, I don’t recall the name of the company we used so I apologize I can’t share it here.

I’ve also posted a video on my Instagram page of our adventures if you’d like to check out my Instagram page at