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Big Cypress – Where to go, how to get there, things to do and costs – full guide

Big Cypress – Where to go, how to get there, things to do and costs – full guide 

Big Cypress is one of the first national wildlife refuges in Florida, and along with Big Thicket National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, it was incorporated into the U.S. National Park System on October 11, 1974. Its main feature is the diversity of the natural landscape, flora, and fauna of south Florida.

Big Thicket and Everglades National Park form a single ecosystem.

Everglades National Park – how to get there and what to see there – full guide

In one visit you can see cypress trees (like in California) and mangroves (like in the Florida Keys), giant alligators, and rare fish and birds in a unique ecosystem.

Interesting fact: The freshwater marsh ecosystem of Big Cypress is an ideal habitat for the Florida cougar. In South Florida, they can be found quite often. They even install “Wild Animal” warning signs on highways with a picture of a cougar’s muzzle.

And there are two Native American tribes living on the reservation, the Miccosukee and the Seminole, who consider Big Cypress and the Everglades their home. They build their homes here from handicrafts, harvest crops, and raise animals as their ancestors did. They have been able to preserve their traditional way of life and cultural heritage through the creation of Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge.

For more information on visiting Big Cypress Nature Preserve, visit the official website:

Where is Big Cypress

Big Cypress Nature Preserve is located about 70 km west of Miami and covers about 3,000 km2 of swampy terrain. It borders the southern portion of the Everglades National Park, and is one of the most popular outdoor recreation spots in the southern United States.

How to get to Big Cypress

Big Cypress Preserve can only be reached by car. There is no public transportation to it. The park is located between Interstate I-75 and Route 41. This park is quite convenient to visit on your way from Miami beaches to western Florida beaches (or in the opposite direction).

Rent a car in Miami – our experience and tips on how to rent a car at Miami airport

Good to know: The main Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center is located on Tamiami Trail.

We drove to Big Cypress in a new Toyota Camry rented in Miami, which we pre-booked online by finding the best option at

Here are instructions on how to get to the Big Cypress Park Welcom Center (taken from the official Big Cypress Preserve website), depending on which side of Florida you’re going to depart from:

  • From the west coast of Florida.
  • From the city of Maples, from Marco Island, from Everglades City.

  • From the East Coast of Florida (Fort Lauderdale and north).

  • From Southeast Florida (Miami, Homestead, Florida Keys).

Cost of visit

A visit to Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge is absolutely free. You only have to pay for the activities (kayaking, camping, off-road driving, etc.). There are some similarities to Redwood National Park in California, which includes three state parks.

Sanctuary and Visitor Center hours of operation

Big Cypress Nature Preserve is open to the public around the clock all year long. The most visited months, May through September, are also the hottest.

Big Cypress National Preserve is home to two visitor centers:

  • Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.
  • Oasis Visitor Center.

They are open every day (except Christmas on December 25) from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Where to sleep

There are no hotels on or very close to Big Cypress Preserve. There are comfortable places to stay and rest in Miami, the Everglades, and Marco Island.

We spent the night in the South Miami town of Homestead, which we’ve been to more than once in our Florida road trips. This time, to avoid stopping in Miami on the way from the Florida Keys, we again chose the inexpensive but reasonably comfortable Garden Inn with a pool and good breakfast. We left early in the morning for Big Cypress and were there pretty soon.

And on the Big Cypress Preserve itself, you can stay overnight at campgrounds. Here’s a list of them:

What to do at Big Cypress

Besides the idle interest of visiting the preserve and visiting its visitor centers and seeing the flora and fauna encountered along the way, Big Cypress has quite a few other things to do for visitors:

  1. hiking.
  2. birdwatching.
  3. Biking
  4. Kayaking
  5. Scenic Drives
  6. Off-Road Drives
  7. Stargazing.
  8. Experiencing Native American culture.
  9. Fishing
  10. Hunting

Loop Road Scenic Drive

The first thing we did at Big Cypress Preserve was take the Loop Road scenic drive. Since we drove from Miami, east, we took it in the opposite direction (from Fortymile Bend to Monroe Station). With the hikes, the drive should take about an hour and a half.

Made a few stops along the way to see some interesting scenery and do some hiking along the trail.

Here’s what the last part of the Loop Road Scenic Drive at Big Cypress Preserve looks like. Although most of the road is a quality, dusty dirt road. It’s worth keeping this in mind, especially if driving during the rainy season

There are Indians living here who are not very happy about the attention of tourists


Depending on the time of year, the hiking trails on the Big Cypress Reservation may be flooded (waist-deep water) but navigable. They can be hiked during the dry season and kayaked during the rainy season.

Unlike Yosemite Park, where we hiked many hikes, at Big Cypress we hiked only one simple Tree Snail Hammock Trail hike during the Loop Road trip.

Tree Snail Hammock Trail is the easiest hike at Big Cypress Preserve. The start of the trail is across the street from the Educational Center

Watch the ranger’s story about hiking at Big Cypress Preserve to get an impression of what it’s usually like.

Oasis Visitor Center

This Visitor Center is very convenient. Here you can stroll around the bridges looking for local residents. We, without disturbing anyone, saw alligators napping in the sun. Being practically a few feet away from these fearsome Florida creatures, we admired them to our hearts’ content. And it wasn’t even scary!

There is an observation trail in front of the Visitor Center, which takes you to the Big Cypress wetlands

Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center

Another visitor center is located right on the western border of the preserve. It will be the first one if you are driving from the Naples side of town. In our case, we ended our Big Cypress trip here. There were clouds in the sky and it was clear that it was going to rain.

At first we thought it was closed. But it turned out that it runs on solar power, and saves a resource during daylight hours.

After walking around the area a bit and seeing that the marshes here are just as scenic, but inaccessible in October, we headed to a very different Florida – beachy and sunny. We accomplished the main goal of seeing alligators up close. We also saw a lot of birds and fish and visited the swamp forest. Now all we had to do was go kayaking in the swampy canals.

Our story about our trip to Big Cypress Nature Preserve has come to an end. If you’re also going to visit it and take a break from the city in nature, we advise you to plan your trip wisely and determine in advance how much time you’ll spend in the park and where you’ll spend the night. Have a great Big Cypress experience, dear readers!

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