My wife and I are kayakers who were on a somewhat impromptu journey to the Keys looking for kayaking adventure. We were headed towards Key West with no real plan and no reservations. It didn't look good for accommodations, because it was the Saturday before the Key West "Fantasy Fest", which is said to be their busiest time of the year. Looking on the Internet as we approached, we couldn't find anything for less than $200/night, which was really more than we wanted to pay. However, we wanted to at least get to Key West and then work our way backwards from there.
Against my normal instincts, we decided to stop at the Key West Visitors Center located in Big Pine Key, right along the main highway. It has been our experience in the past that these types of stations are usually not very helpful and more interested in booking you with the places where they have connections (and thus receive a commission) and not necessarily the best option for your traveling situation.
We entered the building and were immediately greeted by Tara. We explained our situation and our kayaking interest. Her first inquiry was to ask how much we wanted to spend on a room. I told her we'd like to be in the lower $100 range, expecting her to laugh in my face. But she said that she could probably work with that and started digging into her computer. She found us an awesome B&B called "Garden House" (see separate Trip Adviser rating) that was in our pain threshold.
She also knew of two different kayak/snorkeling charters services and had info/pictures available for both. She said she had been on each of the trips and was able to differentiate them so that we could make a good decision (we haven't done the trip yet as of this writing.)
But the bottom line is that Tara really dug in to understand what we wanted and very enthusiastically helped us out. We walked out of there very impressed and pleased with how she helped us out.
If you are driving to Key West, this Visitors Center is a very wise stop. Tara can hook you up and do it with a smile!
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