During the seasonal changes of October, the Keys Weekly will explore less-traveled outdoor escapes often overlooked by locals and tourists here in the Florida Keys. From Card Sound Road to the Southernmost Point, the Keys offer a spectacular collection of miraculous nature trails, parks and outdoor wonders that rarely make the mainstream to-do lists on TripAdvisor and Google. For those looking for an escape within the escape, this series offers an insider’s guide to some of the less-traveled and unique destinations near your front door. So evoke your inner Robert Frost and take a turn “off the path.”
Little Hamaca Park – Key West
Little Hamaca Park is a short drive off of Government Road. For locals, the entrance is off Flagler, using the Key West Urgent Care office as your familiar landmark. From there, Government Road winds through the salt ponds along the northern edge of the runways at Key West International Airport.
Along the winding entrance road, guests can easily spot a defunct Russian-made Cubana Air jet, which was once used by Cuban defectors in an attempt to reach the U.S. Today, the jet allegedly remains in litigation over ownership rights between the Cuban government and Miami-based Cubans, who base their claim to the plane on hardship and reparations. Either way, it’s certainly an unexpected attraction fewer than 50 yards from the roadway.
Aside from the rich history of Government Road, which includes military tales from the Cuban Missile Crisis, the worn asphalt serves as a convenient pathway to a hidden gem. About a half-mile into your drive, the road takes a 90-degree turn to the left and the entrance to Little Hamaca City Park is marked by a blue sign. A small parking lot accommodates cars, bikes, golf carts and scooters.
Little Hamaca features a network of boardwalks that wind through wooded patches of indigenous greenery and mangroves. Small fish, various birds and the occasional crocodile can be spotted along the 10-minute, round-trip stroll. In certain stretches, the boardwalk ends and the path becomes a narrow stretch of rocks and shell, and a canopy of trees creates a tunnel that opens up to a bridge overlooking a large salt pond on each side.
The trail ends on a maintained dock spanning the south end of Riviera Canal, where October and November breezes can provide a relaxing breath of fresh air.
And perhaps that is the beauty woven within the short hike at Little Hamaca Park. For a few brief moments, visitors can become comfortably lost within a lush enclosure that offers privacy from the sunburned frenzy of Duval Street and local beaches. The park is the perfect escape for families, dog lovers (just keep a cautious eye out for docile, protected crocs) and solo travelers who seek the inspiration and solitude of nature.