Florida’s subtropical climate is home to many sun-seeking creatures: alligators, manatees, and various species (both human and animal) of snowbirds. But would you have ever guessed that another closer human relative has made the Sunshine State their own as well? All throughout Florida, several different populations of monkeys have settled into colonies, thriving in the mangroves and warm tropics.
You don’t have to go to Animal Kingdom or even a zoo to see free-roaming monkeys in Florida, and here are six places to spot them.
Silver Springs State Park
Address: 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs, FL
Why You Need To Go: Arguably the most well-known monkey colony in Florida, they were released into the wild by a tour boat operator trying to make more of an attraction for potential guests. Today, there are kayak tours that take you along the river where you’re sure to see many a macaque monkeying about in the trees.
Address: Dania Beach
Why You Need To Go: In Dania Beach, wild African Vervet monkeys call the thick mangroves home, mostly keeping to themselves and sometimes giving tourists and locals a photo op as they groom their babies on the beach. The monkeys are thought to have escaped from a nearby tourist attraction called Chimp Farm in the ’40s. The Dania Beach Vervet Project seeks to educate the public and conserve the colony.
Homosassa Crystal River
Address: 5297 S. Cherokee Way Homosassa, FL
Why You Need To Go: Only in Florida can you stay at a riverside hotel and restaurant just across the water from an island of wild monkeys. At the Homosassa Riverside Resort and Monkey Bar & Grill, you can watch the colony of feral spider monkeys from the restaurant deck. Sometimes referred to as Monkey Alcatraz, the monkeys were moved there from a nearby wildlife attraction in the ’60s. They now live a natural and comfortable life on their own private island.
The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
Address: 900 N. Birch Rd., Fort Lauderdale, FL
Why You Need To Go: The Bonnet House Museum & Gardens consists of 35 acres of a pristine barrier island ecosystem. Designed by Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1920, the property was finished in 1938 and was a tropical dream home. The troupe of squirrel monkeys that still survive there today are part of Evelyn Bartlett's exotic menagerie.
Address: Ocklawaha River
Why You Need To Go: This strong troupe of rhesus macaques are thought to be cousins of the original Silver Springs colony, having traveled almost an hour and a half away from the main family to do their own thing and start their own group.
Address: 14805 S.W. 216 St., Miami, FL
Why You Need To Go: While Monkey Jungle is actually a wildlife park established in 1935, it allows for such a natural, undisturbed life for the primates, that even scientists use the park as a means to study their lives. Open year-round, you can explore the 30-acre park for $29.95 and check out the squirrel monkeys, black-capped capuchins, howler monkeys, and Java macaques.
We strongly advise that before you go visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security and animal rights. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment and the animals.