We came to the area June 6 – 13 with our nine year old daughter. In spite of the fact that everything that could go wrong tried to go wrong, it turned out to one of the most incredible trips ever. Our major plan was to divide our time between snorkeling, and lollygagging on the beach. I am happy to report that we achieved a pretty high degree of success on both fronts.
After suffering much angst over the cashless tolls issue, it pretty well took care of itself. Alamo uses the plate reading system, and no advance action is required. They charge to your card the cost of the tolls, plus two dollars a day for each day that toll roads are used, with a six dollar maximum for the rental period. Probably could have found a way around spending the six bucks, but who cares? (If you are not up to speed on this topic, you need to be. There is a good thread to check out, titled ‘Driving to Key West,’ posted on March 22, 2012.)
The car rental was the one part of the trip that went perfectly. We did everything in advance online, and walked straight from the plane to the garage and hopped in our car. They were out of the mid size we payed for, so they let us have a full size for no extra cost. We drove an Impala for the whole week for $148.46 grand total. Check-in took all of two minutes. The car couldn’t have been any better, the service couldn’t have been any better.
We stayed at the Ebb Tide in Pompano Beach. Great place, right on the sand. Out the door and onto the beach. Really nice pool, right outside the door. Our daughter had a great time there, meeting and playing with other kids. Our one bedroom unit was very spacious. We loved the bed, and slept like logs. It is an older place, and could have used a new coat of paint in a couple of spots, but it is very well maintained, and immaculately clean. Beautiful landscaping, with flowers and palm tress all around. Their real hallmark is their service. Any time we requested anything, it was seen to immediately. Very real, very warm and engaging people.
We had no particular reason to choose Pompano Beach. It was just where the hotel we decided on happened to be. The beach was incredible. It was huge, and a shell hunter’s haven. We couldn’t get enough of the ocean. We practiced our snorkeling right off the shore, and found the water perfectly clear. We got loads of great underwater shots of the fish that like to nibble on your legs.
This area is MUCH quieter than the main Ft. Lauderdale beach, which is pretty much centered around the Las Oslas Blvd section. That part of town is the main Shopping/Dining/Tourist Trap area, and it is where you will find the largest and most exuberant crowds, both on the beach and in the streets. We never saw anything that could really be described as a crowd outside of that area.
Our room had a full kitchen, and except for a couple of fast food stops, we only ate out one time. On the advice of the hotel, we went to the Blue Moon (in Pompano). It was really great stuff. We had a table right on the canal, and we got to watch boats going by, and saw the draw bridge go up and down a couple of times. Another great picture taking experience. A little expensive, but not outrageous. Dinner for three, with one desert and one glass of wine, cost about $150.
The weather was less than cooperative the first several days. A storm came down on us while we were driving to Red Reef Park, and we got into the water shortly after the rain stopped. It was murky, of course, and the waves kept driving us into the rocks, but we still managed to have a pretty good time, and we saw a fair number of fish. Afterward, we spent some time enjoying ourselves in the ocean. The park is a truly beautiful place, even on a rainy day.
Parking is $16, or you can park across the street for $2 an hour. That was what we did, and we had no problem carrying our snorkel gear and an ice chest. When we left, we used the park shower to clean the sand off of ourselves and our gear.
We snorkeled the Twin Ledges reef with Sea Experience. They were a really fun bunch, and the boat ride was a memorable event all in itself. They give a talking tour of the multi-million dollar yachts and homes along the waterway. I was expecting this to be boring, but it was actually quite fascinating. Once on the ocean, the boat follows the coastline for a while, allowing some great picture taking of the Ft. Lauderdale beach.
The main attraction at the snorkel site was the fish. They are accustomed to being fed by people, and hundreds of beautiful fish, different types and colors, swarmed all around us. We were in a cloud of amazing fish with absolutely no fear of people, swimming literally inches away.
The reef was another matter. We had a good day with lots of sunshine, but the water was not clear enough to see the reef with any detail from the surface. To see it, we had to dive the ten feet down to it, which was hard work with the required snorkel vest on. Once you put forth that effort, it is magnificent, but of course you only get to enjoy it for as long as you can hold your breath at ten feet under. I only saw two other snorkelers making the dive—and one of those was my daughter.
The highlight of the vacation for me was the snorkeling in Key Largo with Keys Divers. It was a choppy day on the water, but no clouds. The water was clear and the experience was incredible. The rough seas got a fair number of the passengers feeling woozy, so they probably wouldn’t rate this trip the same, but it was an amazing time for us, and we are still sorting through all the pictures and videos we shot.
For my wife, the highlight of it all was the beach. We had our own chairs, with built in umbrellas, and we spent a lot of long lazy hours just enjoying the sand and that beautiful water. Can't really get a clear reading on what the little one's favorite part was. Overall, it was a fantastic vacation. None of us wanted to leave, and we are looking forward to coming back.