Florida : Safety by City
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- Key Largo
- Key West
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Key Largo is the softer side of the Florida Keys, offering a more relaxing experience than its wild-child sister, Key West.
It’s also a region that offers just as much, if not more, to do below water as it does above water.
This is the diving capital of the world and home to the first undersea water park.
There’s even an underwater hotel here.
Whether you want to tour an underwater shipwreck and dream of buried treasures or sleep the day away in a hammock and dream of buried treasures, Key Largo is the place to do it.
Key Largo, the island, is broken down into three distinct areas:
- North Key Largo
- Key Largo
- Tavernier (pronounced: ta·vr·neer)
The island of Key Largo spans 33 miles and has a population of just under 14,000 full-time residents.
It’s the northernmost of all the Florida Keys.
It’s home to Key Largo Rock Castle, a historic home that is said to be haunted.
You can ride the African Queen, a steamboat made famous in the Humphry Bogart classic film “Key Largo.”
There are no hard-and-fast statistics for crime in Key Largo since it isn’t a city and there isn’t a police force.
The crime statistics we can get are for all of Monroe County, which includes a much larger area than just Key Largo.
We did some investigating to find out the best safety information for your trip to Key Largo.
Warnings & Dangers in Key Largo
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk in Key Largo. Most crimes involve those of opportunity. This is a very casual, quiet, and laid-back community. The biggest weather risk is a hurricane, but you'll get plenty of notice of that, and being so close to the mainland, it's easy to get out of town if need be.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk. Having a rental or personal car in Key Largo is ideal since it's the largest key and there are plenty of areas to explore. If you do take public transportation, they are regulated and should be able to provide a license or permit for service. There is a "Sea the Keys" transportation service that can drive you around the vast expanse of all the keys if you prefer to enjoy the view instead of driving yourself.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here. Given the tourist crowd, it's going to bring more thieves looking for a quick score. You can protect your belongings and only bring what you need when visiting attractions. Keep the rest safely stored. When you do visit an attraction, ask if there is a place to lock up your belongings for safety.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
June - November there's a medium risk due to it being hurricane season. Summer storms can quickly spin up causing lightning dangers and potential waterspouts or short-lived tornadoes. Flash flooding is also common in this area. The rest of the year there's pretty low risk because the weather is just tropically beautiful.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
We've scoured social media and community websites in Key Largo and it seems that violent crimes aren't the biggest concern here, so we're going to give this a low risk. Most of the reported crimes are theft, property crimes, graffiti, and stolen bikes.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a bigger concern here for international illegal drug activity than terrorism, so we'll call it a low risk. Given that it's close to the metropolitan area of Miami, there's a little bit more concern than average, but overall there are no hard targets in the Key Largo area.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of scams, mostly in the form of rental scams. We have some sage advice on how to handle that later in this article. You should also be wary of anyone offering a gift card or tourist attraction deal that seems too good to be true.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk given the low rates of crime and the calm vibe of this community. The Monroe County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) says on its website, "If you go out at night, stay in lighted, populated areas. Although we have very few areas which are considered to be dangerous after dark, it is best to take these precautions just in case."
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The Florida Keys Aquaduct Authority monitors the drinking water in this area. The tap water meets or exceeds the regulations of the state and federal governments, so there's a low risk. If flash flooding, sewage leaks, or any other contamination happens, officials are quick to issue warnings or boil order notices.
Safest Places to Visit in Key Largo
We can almost guarantee you won’t run into any criminals underwater at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
This is the first undersea water park in the nation and includes the “Christ of the Deep” statue, which is a must-see attraction if you go underwater.
If you don’t want to snorkel or scuba, you are welcome to just ride the boat or chill on land at one of the many hammock areas.
Another tourist attraction is the Dagney Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park.
Here you’ll find 84 species of animals and plants specific to the Florida environment along 6 miles of trails.
There are plenty of beach-themed shopping and dining experiences with some of the best fresh seafood you’ll ever eat.
For any snorkeling or scuba-diving, it’s best to take a lesson before going on the adventure.
There is no Florida law requiring certification, but some charter trips might require it.
Beginners don’t need to worry, there are lessons available at every watery turn to make you comfortable before diving in.
Places to Avoid in Key Largo
Don’t go looking for a sandy beach in Key Largo, you are going to have a hard time finding one.
Florida is known for its sandy beaches, but the Florida Keys are mostly rocky entrances to water or sea walls.
You’ll want to have water shoes on when walking on rocks as they can get very slippery.
It should go without saying, but don’t walk around dark areas at night.
This isn’t an area known for rampant crime, but vulnerable tourists will be a target anywhere.
This is very much a daytime community with most activities happening between sunrise and sunset.
If you want to be out at night, stay in one of the dining and shopping areas and don’t wander off the beaten path.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Key Largo
- Keep your phone battery charged if you are going to be driving on one of the many long spans of bridges that connect Key Largo to Key West. There aren’t any call boxes on these stretches of road, so if you break down or get a flat tire, the mobile phone is going to be your only call for help. Get as far away from the center lanes of traffic as you can, raise the hood, and turn on the hazard lights.
- Monroe County has a ban against beverage straws or drink stirrers unless someone has a disability requiring one. Even if you ask for a straw, the business won’t be able to give you one. Violating this ordinance comes with a $500 fine.
- There are two apps you’ll want to download when you get to Key Largo. The first is the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office app. This will give you emergency and crime notifications and allow you to search for safe options locally. The second is the Florida Keys & Key West Travel app. This gives you detailed information about each section of the Florida Keys and sightseeing options.
- You can’t quickly get to Key West if you are staying at Key Largo. While it might not look that far on a map, it’s going to take anywhere from 2 1/2 – 4 hours, depending on traffic. The speed limit along the Overseas Highway tops out at 55 mph. If you go through the Big Pine Key area, be on the lookout for Key Deer. These adorable creatures have a bad habit of grazing on the road and darting in and out of traffic.
- There are a lot of fishing regulations in Key Largo and the Florida Keys. You’ll need a license for saltwater and/or freshwater fishing to start, but then you also need to know the seasons for fish, shrimp, crab, etc. It’s a very detailed chart—too detailed to go into here. You can get all that information by downloading the Fish Rules App. Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) regularly monitor and patrol for violations of fishing rules. They’ll even scour social media looking for bragging about a catch that might be illegal.
- When looking for information for your trip, be sure to look up “Key Largo” and not just “Largo.” Largo, Florida, is a city in the Tampa/St. Pete metro area, far away from the island life of Key Largo.
- The highest point in Key Largo is 8 feet above sea level. That makes the area prone to flooding during big rain events, and we’re not just talking about hurricanes. The summer rainy season can bring torrential rain. Side streets can quickly get temporarily flooded. When heavy rain comes during high tide, there’s a bigger risk of flooding. Never drive through a flooded road.
- Hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30. If there’s a threat of a tropical storm or hurricane, get out of Key Largo and head for the mainland. I’m a former Floridian and was always baffled at how many locals in the keys stay through hurricanes. Tourists shouldn’t try to be brazen and hunker down. In a best-case scenario, you are stuck without clean water or power for days. In a worst-case scenario, you are risking your life.
- There are quiet hours for unincorporated areas of Monroe County, which is where Key Largo is. From 10 pm – 7 am, keep the noise down. While this community isn’t prone to wild parties, it’s good to know there is an actual ordinance that feeds the relaxed vibe of Key Largo. If you want to make noise, Key West is the place to be.
- Rental scams are all too common in the Florida Keys. If you are looking to stay in a rental home instead of a hotel, do your homework. Start with the Chamber of Commerce to get a list of legitimate rental companies. If you choose to find a deal online, ask for proof of a “transient license”. This is the license required for rental businesses to be able to rent rooms and pay the accompanying tax. If someone can’t provide this, don’t book. Never book with cash or send money via wire transfer. There have been reports of people losing up to $5,500 in rental scams.
So... How Safe Is Key Largo Really?
There is no police force in Key Largo.
The island and the census-designated areas named Key Largo are overseen by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) also has a presence in this area.
The Department of Environmental Protection monitors the waters.
MCSO has this nugget of information I thought all tourists needed to see:
“We are lucky here in Monroe County because the incidence of violent crime is low, and crime overall in the county is not a major problem.
A large number of the crimes which do occur here are tourist-related, however.
Unfortunately, any major tourist destination also attracts people who prey on tourists.”
There are 18 citizen watch groups in the Key Largo area.
There is a Facebook page named “Key Largo Crime Watch” that you should join if you want to keep up with crime as it happens during your visit.
This is where the basic tourism safety information comes into play.
Don’t flash money around, keep your wallet/purse close by with a firm grip, don’t leave belongings unattended while you are in the water.
How Does Key Largo Compare?
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- Visas - The Visa requirements will be handled at the airport or port of entry. You won't need any special ID to get into Key Largo.
- Currency - The Keys are part of the state of Florida, so the U.S. Dollar currency stands. You should use a credit card instead of a debit card for purchases since credit cards offer better identity theft protection. You might want some walking-around cash to buy trinkets and such, but don't carry large amounts of money for safety.
- Weather - Winter is the best time to visit this area as it's outside of the Hurricane Season and temperatures aren't as oppressively hot as the summer months. You are rarely going to see a temperature that is below the 60s. Summer highs can get into the 90s and add in the good old Florida humidity and it can feel suffocating sometimes. Water with electrolytes and sunscreen are a must year-round.
- Airports - The two closest airports are in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and they are each about an hour or hour and a half drive away.
- Travel Insurance - You'll want travel insurance for your trip to Key Largo. Tropical weather or severe thunderstorms can quickly halt flight patterns and delay flights, causing a ripple effect in connecting cities. An approaching hurricane is going to shut down access to the Florida Keys. Having insurance makes sure you'll be napping in a hammock eventually.
Key Largo Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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