Sep 2020 update: Hurricane Irma destroyed the Atlantic side of Bahia Honda State Park, including the tropical hammocks. While during our visit in 2018 we were heartened to see that some silver palms still rise above the shredded forest, this trail is no longer accessible. We will still keep the details and links below in hopes it will be re-established in the future, since it was by far the best hike in the park.
Bahia Honda State Park is blessed with a profusion of rare and unique tropical vegetation.
Botanists have discovered hundreds of rare and unusual species of plants on this island, ranging from Geiger tree to small-flowered lilythorn.
Birders will want to spend some time along the lagoon, as roseate spoonbills are often sighted here.
Along the park’s Silver Palm Trail, you’ll meander through the largest grove of silver palms (Coccothrinax argentata) in the United States, just yards away from the strumming waves.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Bahia Honda Key
Length: 0.6 mile loop
Address: 36850 Overseas Highway
Fees: $8.50 per vehicle (includes county sales tax)
Restroom: Across from Calusa Beach
Land manager: Florida State Parks
No dogs are allowed on the beaches. Bicycles not permitted.
This is not an accessible walk as it follows the beach and has natural sandy surfaces.
Enter the park from MM 37 on US 1 on Bahia Honda Key, on the Atlantic Ocean side. At the T intersection, turn left and drive north on the park road past the Sandspur Camping Area and a beach parking area. After 1.3 miles, you reach the end of the road at another beach parking area. The trailhead is at the northern end of the parking area.
The Silver Palm Nature Trail starts at the northern end of the parking lot, at the sign.
From the trailhead, look off to your right and you’ll see one of those classic Keys views of the placid aquamarine ocean stretching off into the distance beyond the coconut palms.
Flanked by gumbo limbo and poisonwood, you start down the trail into the tropical hardwood hammock. An unusually diverse variety of tropical plants grow here.
Besides the usual sea grapes, Spanish stopper, Jamaica dogwood, thatch palm, caper tree, and pigeon plum, you’ll find such oddities as Geiger tree, manchineel, and wild allamanda.
Tall sea oxeye and bay cedar top the salt flats along the bay. Looking off to the left through the screen of mangroves, you see the inner cove.
Mangrove crabs scurry up prop roots at your approach. In the early morning hours, wading birds come to the salt flats to feed.
You’ll see white ibises and colorful pink roseate spoonbills, as well as great white herons stalking the flats.
Rounding a bend, you walk along a corridor of silver palms, the silvery undersides of their fronds shimmering in the sea breeze.
The silver palms around you represent the largest natural concentration of these rare native plants in the United States.
Tucked in this little forest is the national champion silver palm, topping out at 29 feet tall. Preferring soil with a high salt content, most silver palms grow no more than 20 feet tall.
After losing their clusters of tiny white blossoms, silver palms bear small purple fruits in the fall.
As the trail drops down into the coastal strand, you hear the increasing chatter of people of the beach.
When you reach the dune crossover point at 0.1 mile, continue straight to keep walking along the coastal strand.
The trail enters a corridor between two fences, put in to prevent people wandering off into the coastal strand and destroying this fragile habitat.
Silver palms, slender and delicate, rise from the taller dunes.
Passing through a forest of sea grapes, you continue between another set of fences, where more silver palms grow off to the left.
Curving right, the trail heads out towards the water, ending on the beach after 0.3 mile.
Turn right and walk up the beach. Notice the many drift seeds captured by tangles of sargassum.
The Gulf Stream continues to strew its gifts across the shore, leaving tropical almonds, sea beans, and sea hearts on these bright white sands.
When you reach the boardwalk, turn right and cross over the dunes.
Returning back to the beginning of the trail, you’ve walked 0.6 mile.
Learn more about Bahia Honda State Park
Stand above Bahia Honda State Park and take in a sweeping view from one of the highest points in the Florida Keys: atop the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, built in the early 1900s
See our video walkthrough of the Silver Palm Trail
See our photos of Bahia Honda State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Spanning from Key West to Key Largo, this 108-mile linear state park corridor is an island-hopping slice of tropical paradise along the former route of the Florida Overseas Railroad
Established in 1957 to prevent the extinction of the diminutive Key deer, the National Key Deer Refuge spans 84,351 acres across 25 islands in the Lower Keys
For the easiest wildlife watching opportunity inside National Key Deer Refuge, head for the trail and observation deck at Blue Hole, a cenote-like pond that is the largest body of fresh water in the Florida Keys.