KITESURFING HOLIDAYS - ISLAMORADA
Nicknamed 'Purple Island' because of its breathtaking sunsets, Islamorada is a tropical paradise within the United States! Tucked away in the south of Florida you'll find miles of shallow, clear, warm, turquoise waters surrounded by a laid-back lifestyle and feel. Be warned - once you arrive, you may not want to leave.
There are two launches in Islamorada / Upper Keys, the first and most popular being Whale Harbour Marina at mile marker 83.8. Plenty of parking, restrooms, bar, restaurants, boat and wave-runner support for kiters, activities for non-kiters, gear rentals from on-site schools, air compressor, multiple downwind rescue points and incredible riding are why this is such a phenomenal spot. Grass flats and sandbars are littered everywhere for exploring with clean winds from NNE to SW. Boat rides are offered to the famous Islamorada sandbar right offshore for riding on all directions. This is the event site for the Famous Islamorada Invitational and the slider park is usually set up. It's ten dollars per day to ride here, payable to the Harbour Master. Ten miles south is Anne's Beach, a city-owned park with restrooms, showers, picnic gazebos and a boardwalk. ENE through to SW winds work here. Kiters generally use the southern car park, but be aware that things can get busy on weekends and holidays. Also, the rigging area can be particularly tight at high tide. The riding is all flat, shallow water. This beach is perfect for beginners as there is a nice downwind reach, but make sure you stay away from the bridgeas the water is deeper and there can be a strong current. When the wind is N or W, boat assistance is the only way to get out. If you end up further down from a launch, maybe carry a $20 bill in your wetsuit just in case. Otherwise, worst case, US Coast Guard will hopefully not be chasing drug dealers and be able to come and get you! Please always be mindful of the fishermen as you're kiting.
The windy season is October through to June with spring time being the most consistent for juice. It's not unusual to have a few days back-to-back at 30+ knots, but the prevailing winds are E around 20 knots. An average sized rider will feel right at home on a 11-13m kite, but it is strongly recommended that you bring a smaller sized kite, too. Water temperature sits at 26 - 27°C / 77 - 80°F. Occasionally a cold front can turn over the bay and make things chilly enough for a full wetsuit, but for the most part just some boardies and maybe a rash guard are enough.
Islamorada is halfway between Miami International Airport (MIA) and Key West airports and will take you about 90 minutes to get to your hotel / accommodation. It's recommended to hire a car to get the most out of the area. The Keys have one long road that goes all the way through; supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and stores are all along here and abundant in number. There's a large variety of restaurants on offer, but make sure you don't miss out on the seafood buffet at Whale Harbor for some monstrous crab legs and shrimp. Expect to pay around $40 downstairs, but double upstairs as the service is much more elegant (black tie only). Outback Steak House is another winner for those who like their meat. Expect plenty of reggae bands, eclectic musical combos and a few DJs packing in small beach and dockside venues with a great variety of boat drinks and beers. Try chumming it with the local bar staff and you may well get to be first in line for some major parties. Don't miss the full moon party at Morada Bay and late nights at Hog Heaven. Accommodation wise you'll be hard pressed to find a better night's sleep here. All the resorts are fantastic, notably The Hampton Inn, The Islander Resort and La Siesta, each one set only a few steps away from everything you might need. Every spot on the peninsula is a bona fide 'sand box' for the kiddies with a huge array of sea life critters on show to admire. There's also snorkeling and a sea theatre to keep them entertained.
If a cocktail in hand by the sea becomes old news why not take a paddleboard tour through the mangrove tunnels. There's tons of sea life to see and the clarity of the water easily reaches 30 feet. Home to North America's only living reef, the scuba diving and snorkelling in this area is nothing short of breathtaking. Kayaking, world famous fishing and sandbar parties will also keep you entertained. Why not rent a boat from Whale Harbour or get yourself a bucket of bait and feed the wild tarpon right off the dock? There's something here for the whole family to enjoy.
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