By Alex Press
Snipes Key offers nature and scenery and has been a hotspot for locals to go for decades. Alec James, “AJ,” is a guide with Off the Beaten Path and Kayak Kings Key West out of Cow Key Marina. He said it is a great place because it is one of only natural beaches in the Keys and the massive sandbar gets exposed to the size of four football fields during low tide. It’s remote and quiet.
“There is a beach and you don’t need shoes you can just chill on the sand,” said AJ. “I take groups kayaking on the ‘outer narrows’ and it is phenomenal. The view and feeling out there is like nothing else. All you hear are birds, the wind and the waves.”
AJ said there are more than 100 channels around Snipes Keys and regulars have their “own spot” they like to frequent. AJ’s spot is one he found on Google Earth. He leads customers on trips through the outer narrows to a sandy point. They meet up with the boat captain there, drop anchor and picnic in the sand. As lovely as that sounds, though, sometimes the highlight of the trip is the ride back.
“On the way back we look for dolphins which we see regularly,” said AJ. “We had a 150-year old loggerhead turtle that hung out with us for a half hour. There also is incredible snorkeling.”
He also goes out to another popular spot, Boca Grande. One half of the island is a mangrove and the other is beautiful white sand. There is a sunken shipwreck nearby that offers incredible snorkeling.
Right now AJ’s business is working on securing a larger vessel to offer overnight camping trips (camping isn’t allowed ashore due to sanctuary regulations). The boat will need to have a shallow draft.
“There are a lot of low areas, 1 and 2 feet deep. When I went back through the backcountry the first time, I looked at a chart and followed ‘threes.’ I am a sailor and am always cautious of my depth,” he said.
Besides going out to the beautiful islands off the Lower Keys, he also gives locals and vacationers a new experience in Key West proper. AJ takes kayakers through the “salt ponds,” located adjacent to the airport.
“People have been coming here for 35 years and never knew about salt ponds. There is a whole part of the island nobody is ever exposed to, but it’s what most of Key West used to look like. The trip blows people away.”
AJ said there are some three-hour trips that turn into five hour tours because clients are mesmerized by the bioluminescent organisms he finds on special occasions. He also does mangrove “maze” tours three nights before, and the night of, a full moon. The tours start before sunset and kayakers paddle back in the moonlight.
For more information, go to, offthebeatenpathkeywest.com or call at 305-896-9006.