Angler’s Hotel Miami – Hotel Review (Florida Keys Trip 2014)

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Florida Keys Trip Report

Nearly two years ago, I stayed at a Kimpton property in Seattle, the Hotel Monaco Seattle, and man was I blown away. Before booking the reservation, I had requested a status match to the “Inner Circle” elite status of Kimpton Karma Rewards based on my Hilton Gold Status (which, apparently is now a defunct option – You need to have Hilton Diamond now for the match). Based on the Inner Circle status, I speculated that I was upgraded to a much nicer room at the Hotel Monaco in Seattle, and I was hoping that would also be the case for the Anglers Hotel (a Kimpton property) in Miami. And why yes, we were upgraded to a MOST SPECTACULAR ROOM. You can read more about how we selected our hotel room in the introduction post for the Trip Report.

Manor Villa – Two Story (Angler’s Hotel Miami Room Review)

We had originally booked a Tower Duplex Terrace King, which was going to include a hot tub on the balcony. When we checked in, we were upgraded to a Manor Villa, Two Story. It was the room I was hoping to be upgraded to, and after our dismal room at the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria property in Key West, it was amazing to have a truly fantastic room at the Angler’s.

The room had it’s own private patio and entrance. The entrance to the patio was just a simple locked gate. Up a few stairs was the entrance to the room, and on the right of the patio was a private hot tub for 8 people.

Patio and hot tub at Manor Villa at Angler’s Hotel Miami Patio and hot tub at Manor Villa at Angler’s Hotel Miami

There were also two very comfortable lounge chairs on the private patio.

Lounge chairs and hot tub in Manor Villa suite

Next to the door to the suite were some comfortable patio chairs and a small table.

Patio chairs and table in Manor Villa suite

The suite itself was two floors. Right after entering the door, you were in the living room, which had a couch, two chairs, and a flat screen TV (about 40 inches).

Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton Living room area in Manor Villa Suite | Angler’s Hotel Miami | Kimpton

There was also a full bathroom accessible from the living room.

First floor bathroom in Manor Villa First floor bathroom in Manor Villa

An endtable on the first floor housed a Keurig coffee maker:

Coffee maker in suite

In the corner of the living room was a well-stocked bar and a spiral staircase to the second floor of the suite.

Bar and Spiral Staircase in suite Bar in room

I will say that the spiral staircase was a bit of an inconvenience for doing things like carrying luggage upstairs. But, I understand that no other type of staircase would work in that room given the space constraints. (Not that it’s a small room, but just that regular stairs take up so much space.)

Top of spiral staircase in Manor Villa

The top floor had a king size bed, ample closet space, another full bathroom, a desk with an iPhone/iPod Dock speakers, and a sitting chair. There was also another flat screen TV, probably about 32 inches.

Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Bedroom area of Manor Villa Suite Desk with speaker dock Closet with safe in suite

The full bathroom was great and had a decent amount of countertop space. There was a shower, but no tub (like the bathroom on the first floor). Who needs a deep soaking tub when you have that enormous hot tub on the patio anyway?

Bathroom in Manor Villa Suite at Angler’s Hotel Miami Bathroom in Manor Villa Suite at Angler’s Hotel Miami Bathroom in Manor Villa Suite at Angler’s Hotel Miami

The bathroom towels and robes were thick and luxurious.

From the second floor, we had a good view of our private patio.

Private patio at Anglers Hotel

We had just one minor complaint about our room. The top floor of the suite (the bedroom) was SO warm. We cranked up the air conditioning as high as it would go, and it was just so hot. Too hot to sleep. I was ready to go to the first floor, where it was cooler, and sleep on the sofa.

We called the front desk, and there were no maintenance folks available to take a look. So some other employee came, took a look at our thermostat that was reading 80 degrees, and did the next best thing: Offered a rotating fan. He came back quickly with a fan, plugged it in, and that made the room comfortable enough to sleep. It was November, so it wasn’t even peak summer heat or anything in Miami, so hopefully this isn’t as big of an issue other times of the year.

Angler’s Hotel Lobby and Common Areas

Like other Kimpton properties, the lobby and other common areas were hip and stylish. I (well, the both of us really) tend to feel a little out-of-place at such hip and stylish places (since I’m a dork), but the friendliness of Kimpton staff made me so much more at ease!

Check in Desk at Angler’s Hotel Lobby area at Angler’s Hotel Lobby area at Angler’s Hotel Lobby area at Angler’s Hotel

There was also a bar and a small dining seating area.

Bar and Dining Seating at Angler’s Hotel - Kimpton Bar and Dining Seating at Angler’s Hotel - Kimpton

Outdoor areas and Pool at Angler’s Hotel

In the evening, the hotel had some fantastic lighting that made the dining and lounging areas very inviting.

Nighttime view of patio at Angler’s Pool at Angler’s Hotel at night

In the daytime, the common outdoor areas looked just as fantastic.

Lounging space at Angler’s Hotel Pool at Angler’s Hotel

Hotel Exterior

The hotel is very unassuming from the street. I was worried that the hotel would be noisy because it sits right on a main street in South Beach (Miami). And, our private patio faced the street, and I thought there might not be that much privacy like when taking a dip in the hot tub on the private patio. However, the trees and landscaping were done in such a way that the hotel still felt very private.

Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami Exterior of Angler’s Hotel in Miami

I also just want to point out that the hotel name is pretty small on the exterior, so we drove right past it when we were first arriving!

Bottom Line

I definitely recommend this hotel, and especially the two story Manor Villa! We paid for our stay using my Barclays Arrival Plus card, so I was able to redeem Barclays points for the entire cost of our stay! (For those not familiar, you essentially get a rebate on your statement). So our entire stay was free!

Vdara Las Vegas (Hotel Review) – Deluxe Suite

This entry is part of 3 in the series Las Vegas 2015


The weekend after my birthday this year, Ken and I took a long weekend trip to Las Vegas. Las Vegas is definitely a love-it or hate-it destination. We are firmly in the love-it category. There’s just so much to do, even if you don’t like gambling or drinking.

We usually stay at a different hotel each time we go. That way we can explore different parts of the Strip on foot.

This time, we opted to stay at the Vdara. Rates at Vegas hotels for that weekend were actually kind of expensive. Probably because it was Valentine’s Day weekend. But, now that many Vegas hotels have partnerships with either Hyatt or Starwood, it was easy to redeem points for our hotel stay.

The Vdara is part of Vegas’ M Life Hotels, which partner with Hyatt. A Deluxe Suite at the Vdara was 20,000 Hyatt Gold Passport points per night. We were staying for three nights, I I transferred 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to my Hyatt account, and then booked the Vdara directly through Hyatt’s website.

Our flight arrived around 11AM in Vegas, and I knew we probably wouldn’t be able to check in until the allotted time at 4PM. So first, we went to a supermarket for some snacks and drinks for the hotel room. Nothing much, just some Slim Jims, Pringles, a bag of cookies, etc. Most importantly though we like to have bottles of water and some soda. Neither one of us are coffee drinkers. Our preferred breakfast beverage of choice is Dr Pepper!

Afterwards, we stopped by In-n-Out Burger. Always on my must-do list for any trip to the West Coast!

In-N-Out Burger in Las Vegas


By the time we arrived at the Vdara, there still wasn’t a room available. So, we put our bags in storage and headed out to the Strip and walked around some of the hotels and casinos for a bit.

Deluxe Suite at the Vdara (Review)

Once we finally got checked in, I snapped some pictures of our room!

When you first walk into the room, there is a small dining table on the left, and a kitchenette on the right. The bedroom / living area is just beyond that

Kitchenette in Deluxe Suite Vdara Small dining table in Deluxe Suite Vdara Kitchenette

There was a side-by-side small fridge. One was packed already with mini-bar items for purchase, the other one had two complimentary bottles of water, but was primarily empty for guests’ items.

Mini fridge at Vdara

The living / bedroom area was relatively large, and we always appreciate having things like a sofa instead of just a bed to sit on.

Bed and sofa in Deluxe Suite at Vedara King size bed at Vdara Bed and chair at Vdara

Across from the bed was a small desk, a flat screen TV, and a dresser

Desk, TV, and dresser in Deluxe suite

The bathroom was really fantastic. It was large, had a separate tub and shower, and plenty of countertop space!

Vdara Deluxe Suite Bathroom Deep soaker tub at Vdara Tub and shower Standalone shower at Vdara Deluxe Suite Countertop Space Toilet and Shower in hotel room

The view was decent, but not amazing. We actually tried the Twenty Dollar Trick to get a room with a better view, and in the weeks leading up to the trip, I was pretty confident it would work. Then, a few days before the trip, I happened to check for availability for better rooms. The hotel was COMPLETELY SOLD OUT. And sure enough, we tried the Twenty Dollar Trick, and the receptionist looked sympathetic and just said there was nothing she could do, that the hotel was sold out for Valentine’s Day weekend.

Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of the view at night, but here are some pictures during the day. It had a great view of the Luxor especially!

View from 31st floor in Deluxe Suite Vdara View from 31st floor in Deluxe Suite Vdara

Vdara Lobby and Common Area

It’s worth noting that the Vdara does not have a casino. I was worried that this might detract from the classic “Las Vegas Experience” of walking through a crowded casino and listening to the chimes of slot machines as you make your way to the hotel elevators to get to your room.

So, for that, I kind of wouldn’t recommend Vdara to first-time visitors to Las Vegas. There’s just something about that experience of walking through the Casino that is so classic. But, I will say, I LOVED being able to basically walk into the hotel and get right on the elevator. You didn’t have to walk for ten minutes just to even get to the elevator for the guest rooms. And that was so nice after a long day on our feet! It would probably also be great for older folks or individuals with mobility issues.

When you walk in the main entrance, the reception / check-in desk is on the left, and there’s a large seating/loung area on the right.

Lobby and Check in Desk Reception desk at Vdara Lobby and Check in Desk Lounge Area at Vdara Lounge Area at Vdara

Just beyond the reception desk was another seating area.

Seating area at Vdara Seating area at Vdara Seating area at Vdara Lobby

After the seating area was a bar, a small cafe, and a Starbucks.

Lobby area at Vdara Lobby area at Vdara Lobby area at Vdara

There was also a pathway that connected the Vdara to the Bellagio and trams that connected to other hotels.

Path to Bellagio from Vdara Lobby

Valet and Outdoor Space at Vdara

If you’re not familiar with Las Vegas, you might not know that hotels offer free valet parking (just whatever you decide to tip the valet). The valet was always quick and efficient, although unlike other Vegas hotels we’ve stayed at previously, you couldn’t call down ahead of time to have them bring up your car. You had to actually drop off your ticket outside.

Valet at Vdara Valet at Vdara

Right next to where the Valet drop off was, the Vdara had a very trendy outdoor seating space. This actually got quite crowded at night. It even had space heaters and firepits!

Outdoor Lounge Space at Vdara Outdoor Lounge Space at Vdara Outdoor Lounge Space at Vdara Outdoor Lounge Space at Vdara

The Pool at the Vdara

I actually wasn’t expecting the Vdara pool to be open. It was February, and during our last trip to Las Vegas (which took place in the month of November), all the pools were closed. But, perhaps it was because Las Vegas was having record-breaking heat, they opened them?

Not sure. We didn’t go swimming, but we did walk around for a while.

Pool at Vdara Pool at Vdara Pool at Vdara Pool at Vdara

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the Vdara. With the one (very minor) caveat of it not being a great hotel for a first-time Vegas visitor, primarily because of the lack of “casino” experience, we’d certainly recommend it!

Air Berlin Business Class A330 Review TXL-MIA (And Lounge at TXL Airport)

This entry is part of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

Air France / Air Berlin / British Airways Lounge at Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL)

After spending our overnight connection at a nearby Holiday Inn, we arrived at Berlin’s Tegel airport bright and early for 9:20AM flight from Berlin to Miami. After two weeks abroad spanning many hotels and cities, we were anxious to get home!

Air Berlin Business Class passengers share a lounge with Air France and British Airways business and first class customers. When we arrived at the lounge, it was quite empty. I think it was just Ken and I plus one or two other guests. However, by the time our flight was ready to board, it had really filled up.

There was a decent amount of seating, but if the lounge got much more crowded, I’m not sure if there would be enough for all the guests!

Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge Air Berlin Lounge at TXL - Berlin Tegel Airport | Shared with Air France Lounge

There were light snacks available, plus self-serve beverages, including beer and wine.

Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL Drinks and Snacks at Air Berlin Lounge at TXL

When we checked into the lounge, the receptionist said she would announce boarding for our flight. When 9:00AM came and went, we decided to ask if they had started boarding, or perhaps there was a delay. She said, “Yes, they’re boarding now.”

Umm, thanks for the heads up!

We rushed to the gate, where we transited security (security was done at each gate, not at a central location), and got on board.

Air Berlin Business Class A330 Review TXL-MIA

When we boarded, the business class cabin was already quite full.

Air Berlin A330 Business class cabin

We took our seats in 1E and 1F. And while it was infinitely better than what coach would’ve been, I couldn’t help but think that our seats looked pretty squishy.

Air Berlin Business class seats

We were promptly offered drinks, and we both opted for orange juice.

Pre departure drink service on Air Berlin

We had plenty of legroom, and enjoyed streching out our legs.

Legroom on Air Berlin Business Class A330 Legroom on Air Berlin Business Class A330

But, I will say one thing. The seats were WAY too close together. I love my husband and all, but if we both had our arms on the armrests, our elbows always touched. And during the course of a 10 hour flight, that is really REALLY annoying.

It also didn’t help that the plane was swelteringly hot, so sharing body heat just worsened matters. I definitely would not recommend the E and F seats on rows 1, 3, and 5 on Air Berlin’s business class product, especially if you are traveling by yourself. It was bad enough touching elbows with my husband. You wouldn’t want that around a stranger. The seats A, D, G, and K have more privacy. (Check the seat map here).

Headphones were provided, and they worked well for the inflight entertainment. Seat controls were on my left hand side.

Air Berlin Business Class headphones Air Berlin Business class seat controls

There was this dire-sounding warning next to our seats:

Seat warning on Air Berlin

And there was a task light if needed.

Lighting on Air Berlin business class seat

The opening to get into your seat was really tiny. I know that Ken and I can stand to lose a few pounds, but it was a really tight squeeze.

Opening to get to Seats XX

We were served lunch, which I actually thought was quite tasty. (My apologies, I did not get a photo of the menu, and I’m not sure what these dishes were).

Meal service on Air Berlin Business Class - appetizer Meal service on Air Berlin Business Class - appetizer Meal service on Air Berlin Business Class - main course

And even though the dessert looked slightly off-putting, it was great!

Air Berlin dessert

And with that, we were full!

Air Berlin Business Class meal service

After lunch, we settled in for the long haul. However, thanks to the morning flight time, a good night’s sleep the night before, and traveling 10 hours all during daylight, we weren’t that tired. So sleeping to pass the time wasn’t really an option.

I watched three full movies: Behind the Candelabra, The Butler, and No Country for Old Men. (I had actually seen No Country for Old Men in the theaters, but I thought it was worth re-watching!)

At some point, Ken’s screen started acting up, and the flight attendant restarted it over and over until it started working again.

Inflight entertainment system on Air Berlin

And finally, after what seemed like a painfully long flight, we started our descent into Miami.

Air show on Air Berlin

The Service

I thought the service onboard our flight was impeccable. We had three male flight attendants, and each one was polite and attentive. They always made sure my wine glass was full, and always remembered which wine selection I had made. Even when Ken was having trouble with his TV screen, the flight attendants kept working on it until it was fixed.

Bottom Line

Although I definitely enjoyed having the extra space compared to coach, Air Berlin Business Class seats were quite small and way too close to neighboring seats. But, given how easy it was to redeem AAdvantage miles on Air Berlin with low fees, I’d definitely take Air Berlin again if that was the best option.

Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Review and Air Berlin from St. Petersburg to Berlin Tegel (LED-TXL)

This entry is part 22 of 23 in the series Russia 2014 Trip Report

Ken and I like getting to the airport early, especially in cities we’re not familiar with. We never know what traffic might be like, how long security and immigration lines are, and what the check-in process might be like. So, we left for the airport about 4 hours prior to departure, even though it was only supposed to be about a 30 minute drive to the airport.

We did actually get stuck in traffic for a while. I could tell that the taxi driver was getting nervous. He started saying something in Russian, but I couldn’t hear him. Then, in my (VERY LIMITED!) Russian, I finally heard him ask what time our flight was leaving. I was saying, “5:45” in Russian, but he looked really confused. Then I realized that I should have been saying 17:45, since they use the 24 hour clock in Russia. Whoops. So, I just quickly set an “alarm” on my phone for the time, and then showed him. He looked relieved that we weren’t running late, even with the traffic.

In English, I said with a smile, “No problem!” And, he responded, using his arm to span the traffic jam, “BEEG Proplem!” And we all laughed.

I love how even when somebody can’t speak a different language, there are certain phrases that just everybody knows. Like people who can’t speak any English still know what “No problem” and “Big Problem” mean!

Well, when we arrived at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport, we quickly learned that you’re barely allowed IN the airport more than 90 minutes prior to departure. Our taxi driver dropped us off, and we immediately had to put all our luggage through an x-ray scanner before entering the airport (something we had seen at Sochi and Moscow’s airports as well).

Then there is a pretty small “lobby” area for the airport. In the lobby, there were officials checking ID’s at podiums prior to passing through a separate set of doors, which would take you to the ticketing and check-in area. Well, we were basically “stuck” in the lobby. You could not pass through those doors until the ID-checkers said so, and it was completely unclear how long that would take.

The entire lobby area was a completely crowded zoo of people. There was a small restaurant / coffee shop place, and Ken and I managed to find a table. And we just sat there, drinking beverages until it got closer to departure time.

Once we were finally allowed into the ticketing area, we checked our luggage and received our boarding passes for our Air Berlin flight from St. Petersburg to Berlin’s Tegel Airport. Then we transited immigration, and we were finally on our way to find the Business Class lounge. (Security was not conducted until immediately prior to boarding, in the gate area).

I had low expectations for the Business Class lounge. I had read that it was pretty much a joke. Well, it was still better than a lot of U.S. domestic airline lounges (I’m looking at you US Airways lounge at DCA!)

Business Class Lounge at St. Petersburg Pulkovo Airport (International Departures)

Business Class Lounge Pulkovo Airport

The lounge was one big room, with chairs that very closely resembled (and might have actually been) Ikea Poang chairs.

Business and First class Lounge at St. Petersburg, Russia Pulkovo Airport Review of Pulkovo Business Lounge | Air Berlin

There was a food and beverage area that was self-serve, complete with coffee, bottles of beer and wine, chips and other snacks, and bottles of water. #StillBetterThanMostUSAirwaysLounges

Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Lounge | St. Petersburg, Russia | Prior to departing Air Berlin LED-TXL Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge Snacks and Beverage area at Pulkovo Business Class Lounge

There was even an aquarium and a flat panel TV. Okay, I know that is not saying much, but considering how much of a zoo the airport was, and how limited seating was in the actual gate areas, Ken and I appreciated having a quiet place to sit before our flight started boarding. And of course, as a nervous flyer, I appreciated the free booze at my disposal.

Aquarium at Pulkovo Lounge TV at Pulkovo Lounge

Air Berlin Flight from St. Petersburg to Berlin (LED-TXL)

Ken and I booked business class tickets for the entire journey (St. Petersburg > Berlin > Miami > Washington, DC), but I knew that this leg would be economy class because it was a single-class aircraft. It wasn’t the end of the world, considering the flight was only 2 hours and 15 minutes.

At some point before our trip, I could’ve swore that I read online that Air Berlin just keeps an empty seat next to passengers who are booked on Business Class but riding on a single-class aircraft. Of course, as the trip approached, I could not find where I had read that, so I wasn’t sure if it would actually be the case.

When Ken and I checked in, we were booked for seats 1D and 1F, meaning that there would be an empty seat in between us. But, I really can’t be sure if we were given those seats because we were Business Class passengers. Why? That flight was literally the emptiest commercial flight I had been on in a LONG time. I’d estimate there were maybe 25–35 people on that A319 aircraft. So the fact that we had an empty seat between us wasn’t really saying much!

Legroom of bulkhead seat on Air Berlin flight Ken and I in row 1 on Air Berlin flight LED-TXL

We were provided with a sandwich and chocolate. The sandwich was actually quite good!

Air Berlin sandwich Air Berlin chocolate

The flight was uneventful, and we landed at Berlin Tegel, transited immigration and customs, and made our way to the Holiday Inn Express Tegel Airport. We ate a late dinner at the hotel and went to bed (no review of the Holiday Inn, it was a basic hotel, but a convenient location for overnight connections), and woke up early for our flight the next morning to Miami. We were ready to get home!

Key Largo and Everglades (Florida Keys Trip 2014)

This entry is part 3 of 8 in the series Florida Keys Trip Report


Our drive from Fort Lauderdale to Key Largo was fantastic. In fact, here’s a timelapse Ken captured using a GoPro setup. (We use a handheld GPS to sync the photo datestamp with the GPS coordinates, and then Ken wrote a script to overlay the Google Map on the video below. My husband wins at life.)


Oh, don’t mind that long-ish stop at some random office building. We were trying to find my cell phone charger and my GPS charger (which, funny enough, we didn’t need because the car had GPS!) Oh, and the bathroom break at the random, non-official visitor center!

Me driving in the convertible from Fort Lauderdale to Key Largo

We arrived in Key Largo, got checked into the hotel, and were starving. How do we always let that happen? Kind of randomly, on check-in, the receptionist asked us if we needed any restaurant recommendations, and we were like, “Sure, why not.” I’m typically a Yelp/UrbanSpoon reviewing-type girl, but I was open to other suggestions. One of her recommendations was Bayside Grille, and she provided us with a coupon (I think it was 15% off maybe?) for it.

We got to the restaurant just as the sun was setting, and there was a beautiful view!

Sunset view from Bayside Grille in Key Largo Sunset view from Bayside Grille in Key Largo

Everglades National Park

We set out the next day by heading back north of the Keys to Everglades National Park. The forecast was calling for rain most of the day, but we figured we’d take our chances.

Driving along the Overseas highway Sign to Everglades National Park

We rode the entire drive with the convertible roof down, nervously watching as the dark clouds rolled in, and then rolled back out. We arrived at the park’s visitor’s center just in time to put up the roof and watch is start to pour down rain.  Here’s the timelapse of our drive from Key Largo to Everglades:

Pelting rain at Everglades National Park

We walked around the Visitor’s Center until the rain subsided. We also purchased two cheap ponchos from the gift shop!

Visitor Center exhibits at Everglades National Park Visitor Center exhibits at Everglades National Park Visitor Center exhibits at Everglades National Park

We drove from the visitor’s center to the trailhead for one of the more popular trails at Everglades.

As we drove, we saw this sign. Panther warning? Cougar?

Panther warning at Everglades National Park

Oh, and then this sign at the parking lot for the Anhinga Trail Head. I’m such a sucker for funny signs! I was envisioning a vulture pecking holes in the roof of our convertible rental. Oy.

Sign at Everglades National Park - Vultures May Cause Damage to Vehicles

Right as we arrived, it started to pour again. Luckily there was a covered picnic spot at the trailhead (and we had purchased those ponchos!)

Waiting at covered picnic table spot at Anhinga trailhead

Like the always say in Florida, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Within a few minutes, the pouring rain had stopped, and we started our walk along the Anhinga Trail.

Sign for Anhinga Trail and Gumbo Limbo Trail at Everglades National Park Sign explaining Hurricane Andrew’s impact

Okay, so if I can be sappy for just a moment. 1) Sometimes I forget just how beautiful nature can be. When I’m not traveling, I tend to be a complete homebody. (Please, don’t even ask me the last time I interacted with nature on any sort of outing in my own town). So, I forget that there are such completely amazing and stunning sites in nature. 2) It boggles my mind how diverse America’s landscapes are. From our 2012 Southwest USA road trip, to our 2009 trip to Niagara Falls (even just taking into account the American side!), it is amazing the different things you can see without even needing a passport!

Along the Anhinga Trail Birds along the Anhinga Trail at Everglades Along the Anhinga Trail Along the Anhinga Trail Along the Anhinga Trail Along the Anhinga Trail Along the Anhinga Trail Along the Anhinga Trail Along the Anhinga Trail

And we spotted a gator!

Gator hiding along the Anhinga Trail

The walk at Anhinga was lovely. Next, we decided to drive about 30 miles to the southern tip of Everglades National Park called Flamingo. There were trails in between Anhinga and Flamingo, but we had read that boat tours leave from Flamingo, and we wanted to see what our options were.

Sign for Flamingo Visitor Center at Everglades National Park Outside of Flamingo Visitor Center

We walked around inside the Visitor Center, which, to be honest, was not much to look at. That’s fine though, the main Visitor Center at the park entrance was quite good! Although I did chuckle at the Mosquito Meter sign! We were there on a “hysterical” mosquito activity day. I do regret wearing shorts and short sleeves to Everglades. I was COVERED with mosquito bites within moments of getting to the park. And the irritation lasted the entire rest of our trip!

Mosquito Meter: Hysterical, at Everglades National Park

The rangers at the Visitor Center were helpful in directing us to where we could book a boat tour, which was just a short walk away. We bought the tour tickets, purchased some snacks at a convenience store-type place, and waited about 20 minutes for our tour to begin.

Boat tour of the Everglades

The boat tour was great, and lasted about two hours. The guides were fantastic about pointing out gators, birds, and other wildlife.

Gators as seen from our boat tour of the Everglades Gators as seen from our boat tour of the Everglades Bird sitting on a no wake sign at Everglades

The Everglades is filled with these types of trees, called Mangroves. They protect coastal areas especially during hurricanes.

Mangrove Trees in Everglades National Park | Seen from boat tour Mangrove Trees in Everglades National Park

Apparently some portions of the water was covered in canopies of mangrove trees, but the canopies were destroyed in a large hurricane (I can’t remember which one, but it wasn’t Andrew. I believe it was a hurricane in the 1950s)

I’ll just post a few other photos from the boat tour:

Sites along the water at Everglades National Park Sites along the water at Everglades National Park Sites along the water at Everglades National Park Sites along the water at Everglades National Park Sites along the water at Everglades National Park Sites along the water at Everglades National Park

By the end of our boat tour, it was raining hard again, and we were all huddled in the middle of the boat. I was shivering the last 20 minutes or so. (Tip – bring a sweatshirt!) We got off the boat, drove the 35-ish miles to the exit for Everglades, and drove back to Key Largo for the night!

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The next morning, we had a big breakfast, and set out for John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was just a very quick drive from our hotel. The park is reported to have one of the best, and largest beaches in Key Largo. Beaches aren’t huge in the Keys, so this was enormous compared to, for instance, the beach at our hotel!

Sign at entrance to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

It was a beautiful day, especially compared to the previous day’s overcast weather and intermittent downpours

Beaches at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Beaches at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Beaches at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

There were a few trails at the park, and we decided to give them a whirl.

Trail at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Trail at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

But, after covering just a small distance, we discovered that the trail was sopping wet and muddy thanks to the previous day’s rains. Plus, I was wearing flip flops, which definitely wasn’t conducive to a muddy walk! So we gave up on our trail walk idea fairly quickly.

After the park, we stopped by a few Key Largo shops (Ken wanted a Panama hat), and then we went back to the hotel. After lounging around for a bit and exploring the small beach area at the Hampton Inn, it was time for our drive to Key West, which was fantastically beautiful!