The Marquesas are really an atoll located west of Key West, which some say were formed by a prehistoric meteor. Most atolls are the broken down tops of ancient underwater volcanoes but not the Marquesas. However they were formed, what we know for sure is that they make for great fishing and snorkeling and they’re not too far away for boat owners to reach on their own for a great one-day trip. The Marquesas look basically like a circle of low-lying islands covered with scrubby trees and surrounded by mangroves. If you can get yourself inside the circle of islands, you’ll find a lagoon full of life and the fishing is outstanding, as is the snorkelling. Tread carefully if you don’t have a flats boat or a kayak, because there are only certain deeper little channels for your boat to gain access to the center. And they are not marked.
Our first time out to the Marquesas we just anchored the boat off the islands and waded in on foot to explore the natural beaches. Apparently the Marquesas are the landing spot for Cuban refugees because what we found were abandoned boats powered by car engines, clothing strewn about the beach, and soda bottles with Spanish labels. There was children’s clothing, children’s backpacks, and dehydration pills scattered all over the beach. What began as a fun excursion to a tropical island turned out to be an encounter with the grim reality of modern refugees. What a day!
If you go to the Marquesas, chances are you won’t arrive just weeks after a major landing of Cuban refugees (which we later found out to be the case with us), but you will find undisturbed, natural tropical islands surrounded by flats and a central lagoon that you could explore for weeks on end. And, the trip is only about forty five minutes by boat on a calm day. Just take The Lakes Passage from Key West, which goes out from the main harbor, to the West. You’ll see several mangrove islands to the West of Key West, preceded by channel markers marking the Lakes Passage. Even on a windy day, the Lakes Passage provides smooth riding because they are protected by the islands, and the waters are very shallow (stay in the channel!). The channel winds about a lot, so pay attention while driving.