Where is Bahia Honda State Park?
- 36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, FL 33043
Bahia Honda State Park is located off route US-1 in Monroe Country in the Florida Keys. The park is around 30 miles from Key West and 130 miles from Miami. The Florida Keys are the closest you can get to the equator while still being in the United States and this state park the perfect place for a tropical outdoor getaway.
How Big is Bahia Honda State Park?
This state park spans an area of 524 acres and takes up most of Big Pine Key. Containing three beaches, 50+ campsites, and some beautiful coral reefs there are plenty of things to do here.
The best hike in the area is the trail to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge which crosses one of the deepest natural channels in the Keys.
Bahia Honda State Park Weather
Bahia Honda US State Park is located in a tropical climate zone and like the rest of Florida, is greatly affected by the yearly rainy season. The dry season in the park lasts from November to April and is the best time to visit the island for snorkeling, hiking, camping, and most other outdoor activities.
The dry winter months in Bahia Honda see average daily highs around 75°F and lows above 60°F. Summer temperatures can get as high as 90°F.
The Florida Keys get most of their rain from June to October. This is also the time when the risk of hurricanes is the greatest. Tropical storms can have a devastating impact on these islands because most of them are no more than 20 feet above sea level.
When did Bahia Honda Become a State Park?
Bahia Honda became a state park in 1961. Before it was a state park, the land was being developed by a railroad company that was in the process of building 43 bridges linking all the islands together. The bridge at Bahia Honda was the most difficult to build because of the deep channel and naturally strong currents.
In 1935, a hurricane destroyed the bridge and the landowners decided to sell the property to the state of Florida. Then the Bahia Honda Bridge was paved with asphalt and added to part of the Overseas Highway.
In 1961, the land was officially signed over to the Florida Park Service. Over the next few decades, various additions of land were added to the park bringing it to the 254 acres it has today.
Things to do in Bahia Honda State Park
If you love the beach, swimming, and the tropics then you’ll find plenty of things to do in Bahia Honda. The park was drastically changed after Hurricane Irma in 2017 but has been mostly rebuilt. Other great attractions near the park include the National Key Deer Refuge, the Dolphin Research Center, and the Southernmost Point of the Continental US. Our State Park Visitors Guides lists activities below:
The clear waters around Bahia Honda State Park are full of coral reefs decorated in brilliantly colored tropical fish. The ocean near the park is shallow and mostly calm making it a good spot for beginner snorkelers and divers.
Whenever you decide to snorkel, always make sure you have your “diver down” flag floating by you per Florida law. The concessions store in the park offers gear rental and even provides snorkeling tours to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.
Old Bahia Honda Bridge Trail
This state park only has one walking trail, but it is a definite must-see. The trail starts near Calusa Beach and ends at the top of Old Bahia Honda Bride which is one of the highest points in the area and offers stunning panoramic views.
After you check out the views on the bridge, make sure to take the Beach Walk route to explore the area under and around the bridge.
If you want to say in Bahia Honda after sunset, you’ll need to rent a campsite or cabin inside the park. This state park offers plenty of campsites in multiple different areas. Some of the campsites were damaged during Hurricane Irma, but both Buttonwood and Bayside have been restored and are open as of 2020.
The Buttonwood Campground contains 48 campsites near Calusa Beach. This campground is particularly great for travelers who bring RVs or campers because they each have gravel pads and electric and water hookups.
Bayside Campground has 8 cabins. The cabins are quite popular during the high season and will need to be booked well in advance.
Tent camping is available at both sites and all campsites are pet friendly. The once-popular Sandspur Campground was washed away by Hurricane Irma and has yet to be repaired.
Calusa Beach is the place to go for swimming and sunbathing. Here you’ll find white dusty sand and convenient picnic tables. Calusa Beach was also damaged during Hurricane Irma but has been largely repaired.
The waters here are crystal clear and cool. From the beach, you can get great views of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. Head here in the evening to get stunning photos of the beach and bridge at sunset!
Kayak or Canoe
Kayaking and canoeing is a great way to explore the island. You can choose to bring your boats or rent them from the concessions shop. Kayaks and canoes cannot enter the roped-off swimming areas of the park but can be launched from Calusa or Loggerhead Beach.
The Florida Bay area is the best place for kayaking as it has calmer waters. For anyone new to ocean kayaking, it’s best to avoid the Bahia Honda Channel with its strong currents and deep water.
There are lots of opportunities for great fishing in the Florida Keys and especially at Bahia Honda. Here you’ll find some of the best Tarpon fishing. You can choose to fish from the shore or take a boat out into deeper waters. Make sure you bring your Florida fishing license with you.
You can fish almost anywhere in the park, just make sure you know the state’s rules and regulations on what you can keep and what needs to be thrown back.
The state park is home to several varieties of tropical birds including shore birds and wading birds. You can see plenty of wildlife in the winter months, but the best time is in the off-season. In the summer, migratory birds such as the Bananaquit and Black-faced Grassquit head up to the keys from warmer climates.
Some other popular bird varieties to spot in the park include Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Ruddy Turnstones, hawks, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and American Redstarts.
Biking is a popular activity in the park because it’s a great way to explore the entire 3.5 miles of the reserve. Bikes aren’t allowed off the paved road, but you can follow the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail through the park and explore the beautiful natural surroundings.
Exploring the park on your bike is a great way to view some interesting wildlife like ghost crabs, birds, and the thought-to-be-extinct Miami Blue Butterflies.
Loggerhead Beach is one of the other popular beaches in the park and is a great spot for snorkeling. Although the beach was mostly washed away during Hurricane Irma, it has been largely restored and is a nice place to relax in the sun.
Sandspur Beach used to be one of the most loved and popular beaches in Bahia Honda. The beach was unfortunately badly damaged during the hurricane and as of 2020 has yet to be restored.
When to go to Bahia Honda State Park
For most outdoor activities like camping, snorkeling, hiking, swimming, and sunbathing, the best time to visit Bahia Honda is during the dry season (November to April). During this time, the seas are calm and skies clear making it a great time to relax in tropical paradise.
The park has its best beach weather during December, March, April, and May.
The rainy season or summer is a good time to visit the park for birdwatching and wildlife viewing as everything comes to life with the rain. When visiting during this time, it is important to be extra cautious and pay attention to weather reports.
Must-have Things to Bring to Bahia Honda
As a state park in a tropical location, some of the items you should bring with you may differ from those you’ll need in other areas of the United States. When visiting Bahia Honda State Park, List of Parks wants to make sure you bring enough water, insect repellent, and UV protection.
One of the most important considerations for any outdoor activity is water. Most experts recommend that you bring a half-liter of water per person per hour of moderate physical activity. You can fill up your water for free at the concession store, but it never hurts to be prepared!
Spending the day in the sun can make you feel tired and drained. Make sure to pack enough food and snacks to recoup your energy. The park also has some vending machines and a concessions area, but they have limited options.
Park Map in Physical and on Phone
Before you decide to explore any state park, always make sure to have a map on hand. Physical maps can be found at the ranger station and digital maps can be found on the Florida State Parks website.
Make sure to bring shoes that are comfortable and have a good sole if you plan on doing any walking or biking. Hiking shoes are a good option but may feel too hot in this tropical climate. Most people will feel comfortable in Bahia Honda with sneakers or hiking sandals.
The sun’s rays are strong here with an ultraviolet index of 5.6 in December. This means that unprotected skin will burn in less than 30 minutes. Make sure to bring high SPF sunblock as well as sunglasses and hats to help protect you.
Warm Weather/Beach Attire
As a tropical location, the weather here is likely to be warm or hot. Wearing clothes made from moisture-wicking materials is the best way to stay dry and cool in this type of climate.
Take advantage of the incredible wildlife viewing opportunities by bringing binoculars. Dolphins and sea turtles are best spotted in the early morning.
Snorkeling and Diving Gear
If you plan on exploring the reefs of the park, bring all the necessary gear. Some gear can be rented at the concessions shop, but you never know if they will have your perfect fit.
Bug Spray/Mosquito Net
In a tropical location, protection from mosquitos is an important part of staying safe a comfortable. Always bring bug spray. If camping, you may also want a mosquito net to protect you at night.
Where to Stay in Bahia Honda State Park
If you like camping, then the best place to stay when visiting the park is inside. Bahia Honda State Park offers cabins, tent sites, and RV parking.
There are also some nice hotels on the island outside of the park. The Barnacle B&B is a good local option that has a garden and free WIFI. Deer Run on the Atlantic is an eco-friendly bed and breakfast that is located on the beachfront and runs on solar power.
Food Nearby Bahia Honda
Bahia Honda has a concession building that offers snacks and drinks. If you are looking for full meals, you’ll likely need to head outside the park.
The No Name Pub is a great option that is also located on Big Pine Key. They offer a casual dining experience with classics like pizza, burgers, wings, and pasta. There are also a few grocery stores on the island if you need to restock supplies including a Winn-Dixies and Good Food Conspiracy.
Airports Near Bahia Honda State Park
The airport that is closest to Bahia Honda is located in Key West (EYW) which is around 32 miles away from the park. Another option is to fly into Miami which is around 100 miles from the park, or Fort Meyers which is around 130 miles away.