No monkeying around - there is actually an island of wild monkeys in Florida and you can kayak right up to it. Monkey Island of Homosassa, as it's called, is located only a short while north of Tampa and it is absolutely spectacular.
While there are plenty of amazing places to kayak around Florida, like Weeki Wachee, the Mangroves and even all of the local beaches - there is certainly no place that offers the same view as Homosassa River.
Monkey Island sits in the middle of the river and is often compared to being a monkey "Alcatraz." The wild primate inhabitants of the island are a family of five spider monkeys and they are there year-round. The curious critters are owned by The Homosassa Riverside Resort who care for and feed them regularly.
History has it that Monkey Island was started in the mid-1900s after a doctor had captured monkeys and brought them to America where they were used to perfect the polio vaccine. The original group of monkeys were causing chaos on the mainland and were banished to live on their own island oasis so they could no longer interfere with the locals. They remain on the island because they prefer not to swim and the river acts as a natural barrier.
Those monkeys have since passed away and were replaced with the current group.
The island has remained a popular sightseeing destination for tourists and you are allowed to kayak up to it, however, you are not allowed on the island nor can you interact with the monkeys for their safety and yours. There is video surveillance on the island 24/7.
Legend further has it that one time a kayaker decided to land on monkey island and, hilariously, one of the monkeys stole his oar and beat him with it until he retreated.
Still, you can get pretty darn close while maintaining a safe distance.
You can see the monkeys from the Homosassa Riverside Resort or you can get closer by boating over. The location of the resort is 5297 S. Cherokee Way, Homosassa, FL 34448.
More information about the island can be found here.
We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.