A group of kayakers paddling in the Florida Keys

Many visitors come to the Florida Keys from places where the sun is much less intense than in the Florida Keys.

We recommend proper gear and protection from the elements, especially the sun. Is there anything worse than letting a severe sunburn ruin a vacation?

Sun Protection

Sunscreen is extremely important in the Florida Keys!

It’s equally important that visitors use the right type of sunscreen which actually works, provides actual protection, and which will not damage Florida’s coral reefs.

Many sunscreens contain chemicals which kill coral. It is important that visitors only use reef-friendly sunscreen!


Lips can become very chapped from sun exposure and wind burn. We suggest bringing good chapstick with high-levels of UV protection to avoid painful, chapped lips.

Good hats are almost essential gear for kayaking in the Florida Keys. We strongly recommend hats with UV protection, especially with those with wide-brims and protection for the back of your neck.


Hats with good ventilation are great in the Keys because they help prevent overheating, especially while paddling.

Light clothing is highly recommended while paddling in the Florida Keys. UV-protective fabrics are great and fast-drying technical kayak gear is ideal.

On hot days fast-drying fabrics can be doused in water to create an evaporative cooling effect. Bandanas and face coverings like gaiters are also great for this!

Gaiters are very popular for boaters, kayakers and fishermen/women. Gaiters help protect from the sun’s harmful rays and can be used to completely cover the neck and face.

Some gaiters are designed for cold weather, make sure you use one which is designed for hot weather. Hot-weather gaiter material is usually thin and fast drying, so they can be drenched in water to create evaporative cooling effects.

Water Bottles and Hydration

It’s easy to become dehydrated in the Florida Keys’ intense sun. Strong sea breezes can also cause dehydration.

Visitors should bring reusable water bottles and should be sure to bring a lot of water.

Many people like backpack-style Camelbak water bottles for hydration. Please remember that unless they are specifically made for paddling, camel-pack hydration systems may be incompatible with life jackets and a kayak’s seat back.


Polarized sunglasses are highly advised!

Polarized sunglasses help protect eyes from sun exposure and long-term damage. Boating and kayaking can be very hard on eyesight because the waters’ glare reflects blindingly bright sunlight.

Polarized lenses can help see through the water’s glare, making it much easier to spot fish, dolphins, turtles and other wildlife. Polarized sunglasses are especially important for kayak fishing to get a good line-of-sight.

Visitors who want to fish should ensure they have a fishing license and are familiar with Florida’s laws regarding legal species and catch sizes, fishing seasons and other relevant laws.

There may be specific laws and fishing requirements for some places, including the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Everglades National Park and Florida Bay. Outfitters can often supply specific information for the intended location.

Waterproof Cameras and Binoculars

For photographers, good, tough waterproof cameras are highly recommended!

For birdwatchers, marine binoculars are an excellent piece of gear to have while paddling in the Florida Keys!

Waterproof bags are recommended for valuable items, or leave them in a safe place ashore. Wallets, phones, car keys and other items should be well secured, ideally in a waterproof container.

All items and gear should be securely attached to avoid loss in the event of capsize. It can be extremely difficult to find unattached gear after a capsize, especially in high winds or current.