Cayo Costa State Park is a state park located on the island of Key West, in the U.S. state of Florida. The park lies south of downtown and about two miles west of Truman Annex at Naval Station Key West. It has such amenities as beaches, bicycling, birding, boat tours, cabins, fishing, hiking, picnicking areas, swimming, wildlife viewing and full camping facilities. There are more than 200,000 visitors that come to the park each year.
The park also hosts the annual “Diving for Life” competition, where local high schools and community college teams designate a team leader, who then directs his/her team through a series of diving trials. The event began as a law enforcement exercise, but now includes participants from all over the world. The park is also home to the Florida Civilian Conservation Corps Museum, housed in the old headquarters building.Visitors can also tour historic buildings, stay in a cabin or tent campground, and use the equestrian entrance. Amenities include bike paths, picnic area, bathhouses, volleyball courts, campsites for horses, and a stable. The park has three entrances; one is at Gulf Stream Parkway, one is at Theodore Roosevelt Boulevard, and the other is via horseback riding stables across the street from the park office. The park is open seven days per week from 8:00 am until sunset. Florida state parks are open between 6 a.m. and sundown every day of the year (including holidays).
An admission fee is $3.00 per vehicle, however there is no charge to enter the park on foot. To help fund a backlog of deferred maintenance and park improvements, the state implemented an entrance fee for this park. The fees, charged per vehicle, start at $10.00 per day for a single-day or $8.00 for residents with an active permit. Fees are waived for honorably discharged veterans and Florida residents age 62 & older and their spouses. Passes good for 3 days or a week are also available; annual passes good at all 22 state parks charging fees are offered at a cost of $75 for out-of-state vehicles or $60 for Florida residents.
The park was named after the first Spanish mission in North America, San Antn de Carlos (St. Anthony of Pines), which was established by Franciscan missionaries in 1566 near present-day Fort Zachary Taylor. In time, the settlement grew into a town known as San Antn de Carlos or St. Anthony of Pines, but due to its isolation, disease and conflict with Spain’s new colonial rulers, the Portuguese Empire, over control of trade routes, the town soon died out. However, the nearby key pine tree (Pinus elliottii var. densa) still thrives, having been planted by the original settlers. The pines were designated an Important Bird Area in 1997, because they support one of the last significant nesting sites for the endangered piping plover.
On December 7, 1982, the park saw a tragic loss when 13 children and their teacher drowned in the sinking of the Sea Rose II during a field trip to the Keys. This incident led to increased safety measures being taken at the park, including fences around some of the swimming areas and signs warning of dangerous currents. Despite these precautions, five children died within six months from drowning and another 12 children and their teacher died in 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2002, and 2003. A memorial marker was placed at the site of the former schoolhouse by the county, city, and state governments in observance of the 16th annual National Day of Remembrance for the victims of the tragedy.
- scuba diving
- bird watching