I took my son Tristan to Key West to get him PADI certified in a week. It was a mini road trip adventure, just the two of us.
Key West is beautiful and tropical, we can drive there, it was summer vacation, and I needed a dive buddy to start going on dive trips with. Checklist: adventure, tropical, entertainment, and PADI scuba diving certification – done!
So we packed up my Toyota SUV with the bikes, and drove from Orlando down to Key West.
We did break the seven hour drive up a bit with a stopover in Deerfield Beach – but I’ll talk more about that in a different post. For now let’s talk about Key West.
I have stories about each day, but I’ll give you just a slice of one day here, and save some stories up for later.
My sister hooked us up with the Westin at Mallory Square through her Starwood family discount. Cha-ching! It was absolutely beautiful.
We had a room overlooking the inner courtyard pool area that was filled with palm trees and birds of paradise, a sparkling turquoise pool, and even had birds singing.
I signed Tristan up for the PADI course offered at Southpoint Divers. It was an intensive four day course that ended with a final dive, written test and pending a passing score, Padi Dive certification.
They had a small shop near the Historic Seaport of Key West Bight, where Tristan did his initial classroom time.
After hitting the dive books, we dug straight into his rigorous daily schedule of dive training in the pool at the Waldorf Astoria, and then boating away in the afternoon for practice dives on the reefs off Key West.
Except for the check off dives, this was all with me in tow, and our mode of transport was the bikes.
It was a great daily routine. Let me share some details and photos so you get an understanding of our basic day.
We’d start off with a nice breakfast at the hotel overlooking the water and Sunset Key.
This morning we had a majestic cruise ship as our backdrop while we enjoyed some pretty amazing eggs benedict along with an arugula salad tossed with vinaigrette.
I can’t begin to explain how happy I am when restaurants serve salad with breakfast. It’s nutritious and you feel satisfied, but not stuffed. It’s my kind of a meal and way too rare.
After breakfast we jumped the bikes and made our way through Key West’s eclectic neighborhoods to the Casa Marina Waldorf Astoria pool.
The architecture in the historical area is mostly grand Victorian, brightly colorful and with multiple stories and wrap-around porches.
There is very little in the way of big yards with grass, and instead, many homes are elegantly manicured with tropical palms, flowers and brick or wood patios.
Once we made it to the Waldorf Astoria, we found our way to the pool, and Tristan met up with his dive group.
They learned basic beginner underwater dive skills, like how to setup your equipment and test your air pressure.
And the water skills like clearing your mask, and learning underwater communication like “I’m Ok” or “Let’s go up” or “I’m out of air” in the warm, safe pool environment.
His dive master, who doubled as his dive buddy looked like Shaggy from Scoogy-Doo, and I think that was actually his real nickname. At least it was for us, as I tend to give nicknames to people and sometimes even forget what their real names were in the first place!
Pool time for me consisted of lounging on a recliner while Waldorf staff brought me cool towelettes for my neck, yes! And they offered the complimentary adult drink of the day, such as a refreshing vodka lemon drop on ice, on trays by the pool.
I also wandered a bit on the gorgeous property, and found some great hammocks to relax at on a great beach. I also found some beautiful stone floors in the outer area of the building, both to photograph for Pinterest, and to save as an idea for a future home.
After pool time, we hopped the bikes again and headed over to the Hyatt Marina on the other side of the island.
Southpoint Divers made everything relaxed and easy for Tristan’s Padi Dive certification. They collected and transported all the dive gear, so we just had to bring ourselves, SPF and towels, which fit perfectly in our bike baskets.
Once we got to Hyatt’s Marina, Tristan prepped his tanks while I relaxed in the ocean by the marina.
Seriously, the water was so nice and clear here that people were actually snorkeling just a few yards from boats moored up!
The dive boat headed off and I hopped my bike to explore for a few hours.
I went to my favorite beach, the one at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. It has a fort rich with history, and it has the best beach on the island.
The water is clear and flat and good for snorkeling, and you can swim out to several different coral rock clusters that you can walk around on once you get there.
I relaxed here with a drink for a while, then hopped my bike to get a snack.
I went to the Hog’s Breath Saloon, which is about halfway from the beach back to the Hyatt Marina. I ordered a Shrimp Ceviche appetizer that came with a colorful basket of tortilla chips. It was absolutely delicious and hit the spot.
I headed back to the marina, and checked out the cool turtles swimming and sunbathing in a pool near the hotel entrance outside.
I made it to the marina beach just as the Southpoint Divers boat was pulling in. Tristan had a good dive with Shaggy as his dive buddy. He was well on his way to certification, and soon I’d have my own built in dive buddy, yeah!
We hopped the bikes again and headed back to the hotel. My son was starving now, so we swung into his favorite doughnut shop in Key West, Glazed Donuts. This might possibly be the best donut shop on earth.
They make each donut painstakingly by hand. Each one is gourmet, and has crazy filling and amazing toppings.
We got the Key Lime Pie donut, which was filled with key lime pie, and topped with a torched meringue that was visually stunning with peaks. It was delicious.
I’ve tried a bunch of other flavors, like Maple and Bacon, on various trips to Key West, and promise to include pix of those in future posts.
After our donuts, we headed back to the Westin, where Tristan washed all the salt off in the pool. We relaxed a bit at the pool, swimming and lounging on the comfy recliners.
The sky was starting to show signs of sunset, so we showered and changed, and walked over to Mallory Square for the sunset spectacular.
For those who haven’t been, Key West has a huge celebration every single night at sunset on Mallory Square.
The square fills up with entertainers, crafts, foods and drinks. There are magicians, fire eaters, dancers, fortune tellers, bagpipe players, artists and more, all selling their wares against the backdrop of a stunning Key West waterfront sunset.
We watched a fire eater, looked at some crafts, and then watched the cat man. It’s always a ton of fun to watch the spectacle and the people.
It was a great way to wrap our daily PADI dive training routine each day.