Mud and dirty ocean of Key West public beaches.

by Leonid Sakharov

Our vacation of 2016 included Miami, trip to Everglade to see gators, cruise to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico. Ocean at Key West unpleasantly surprised being mad and dirty.

This January of 2016 I and my wife tried to design our vacation to be relaxing and informative at the same time. We had week for sunbathing and ocean swimming at Sunny Isles, Florida where we know by previous experience to have perfect beaches in close proximity to entertainment of South Beach of Miami and established residence store infrastructure near of the hotel. Than we wanted to explore Mexican Riviera toward possible future vacation taking 5 night cruise trip to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.

All in all vacation was nice considering colder than hope weather and pouring rain at the very last day at January 28, 2016 that practically ruined whole last beach day and impression about vacation but not succeed completely. Cold day at Jan. 19, 2016 motivated us to take tour to Everglade. We ordered tickets in our hotel for second half of day and I was very disappointed. The informative part of tour lasted about hour and half and all tour was more than six hours. We did sit in buses and wait others. Sit and wait. Wait and sit. Sit in bus in traffic and wait and staring at poster “Customary tips are 15%”. Everybody in official status did loudly and articulately begging for tips on the level of extortion. The bus driver when we finally escaped his service at half way to hotel to take regular bus sarcastically cried to our backs thanked for tips although we gave none. We don’t recommend using Half-Price Tour to anybody to visit Everglades until your priority is to save money above all other considerations.

There is my video from this excursion that should be better until airboat captain was kinder person and granted me outside seat as I asked him. He can do it but cattily pushed me in the middle of the boat in spite free places where I want to sit. I don’t like him and wish to be fired. Nevertheless video is good enough to have impression about Everglades Park. Not too much to do there:

Half price tour to Everglades from Miami
Half price tour to Everglades from Miami includes a hour boat around park and gator show.

Cruise trip on Celebrity Constellation was nice and educative. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum changed my impression about Writer. He could enjoy very comfortable life by any standard choosing periodically adventures instead. Mayan Ruins of Tulum are mind puzzling and deserve much more time to be incorporated into my picture of the Universe to make comments now. Playa del Carmen in Mexico is competitive with Miami for winter vacation destination and Key West is not (the main reason for this suggestion is mud water at beaches will be discussed later in this article).

There is my video about this cruise trip:

Winter 2016 roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico on Celebrity.
Winter 2016 round-trip cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico on Celebrity Conciliation. In Key West we visited the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and Sloppy Joe's Bar, where actions of novel "Islands in the Stream" took place, beaches and downtown. We did sprint trip from Cozumel Island to main land Mexico to Playa del Carmen on shuttle boat. Then took cooperative bus to Mayan Ruins of Tulum and spent there about hour. Return back to Playa del Carmen and had quality hour time on the downtown beach. Then on the shuttle come back to Cozumel and walk back to the cruise ship. All at all for two of us it costs about $100 USD and 8 hours time. The main lesson was – vacation in Mexico can be competitive to Miami we love very much until last years traffic there becomes too irritated.

What is it with water at the beaches of Key West? Is it ecological catastrophe or stupidity of evil spirited hospitality industry of the island?
Disclaimer: Following content is not systematic scientific research in any way. It is description of my observations and thoughts made at beaches of Key West during two separate day long visits divided by more than seven years: at May 7, 2007 and Jan. 24, 2016. I understand that there could be situation of coincidentally bad day of 2016 and especially good of 2007 but I don’t believe it is the fact and stating this only in abundance of caution not to be accused in misrepresenting facts to harm anybody’s business reputation that is not my intent in any way. I am trained scientist and have long experience making factual observations of the nature and I do care about my reputation. I am welcoming to do any comments about topic below for any concerned parties and will do appropriate corrections or additions of the text of article if find responses compelling enough. The content below is true to the best of my knowledge and ability to analyze.


I find drastic deterioration of the quality of water nearby south beaches of Key West namely Smathers Beach and area near by to White Street Fishing Pier. Water in 2007 was clear and transparent all along to the shore line. In 2016 water was muddy, with white sand like color and smelled sort of Iodine like (difficult to describe adequately, sort of decaying algae like) in some places.

There are two photos made practically from the same point (White Street Fishing Pier) at these two days of 2007 and 2016 consequentially made from almost the same direction. In 2007 I could see bottom of the ocean from any point of the pier. In 2016 the bottom was not visible at all anywhere:

We did swim at Smathers Beach in 2007. The water was clear, transparent and welcomed to make underwater video (I had not such gadget then and it was useless now). The disadvantage in 2007 was sharp and hard coral bottom. One had to be very careful not to harm legs entering deeper into ocean to start swimming. We were lucky enough then. In 2016 I was only one of us to swim. I felt no corals at the bottom of ocean there. There was only very fine sand at the ocean bottom and I felt like grass plants near to shore line. When at waist like deep I felt bottom as quick sand like – very unpleasant. I swim back to the beach and in disgust did no more attempts to go in water again. The sand on the shore of beaches looks like the same in both of these days. It is equally fine and pleasant.

My comments: I find on internet that sand on Key West is from outside sources now. For example: from A remote rural mine gives South Florida beaches their sand. In other sources there are mentioning that sand is from Bahamas. I have no idea what is the true, maybe everything. What I think is true – corals at beaches are no more by some reason.

Replacing coral bottom of the ocean near the beaches intentionally or as byproduct of importing sand destroys quality of these beaches from my prospective. What is beach for if you cannot swim there? Not for me. Especially taking into account sky high hotel prices at Key West comparable to Miami there is no reason to plan vacation in the zone of ecological catastrophe. I believe hotel have pools. There should be most possible other beaches around with clean water for scuba diving. But death of public beaches is sad reality from my judgment. It is elevated to the sort of extortion: if to have natural experience of quality time at beach one need to spend additional and significant money now as result of probably man made ecological disaster. It is sad and excludes for me Key West as prospective place of future vacation on budget.

Initially submitted at Feb. 4, 2016; 09:09

Dec. 7, 2017; 20:50 EST

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