Key West is one of the most unique getaways in the U.S., with turquoise waters that meet azure skies, and some of the best regional cuisines anywhere. Outdoor activities and landmark attractions pack this tiny island so there’s always something to do. And because it’s so close to home, just a quick plane ride or a few hours’ drive puts all of Key West at your feet.
Why Key West?
The Florida Keys trail southwest from the shores of Miami, and they’re divided into three groups, the Upper Keys, the Middle Keys, and the Lower Keys. And while some of the keys have ebbed and flowed in popularity over the years, the city and island of Key West remains a perennial favorite, especially for those who live in cold climates seeking relief from bitter winter lows. Key West has accommodations that range from high-end hotels and resorts to charming cottages and B&Bs, to familiar hotel chains with rooms exactly how you like them, and even campsites for those who prefer to rough it.
Cultural, shopping, and historical landmarks are all pretty close together so it’s easy to pack your itinerary full of things to see and do or take it easy and relax on the beach or bar-side all afternoon if you just want to watch the world go by. Whether you’re into the arts, history, fishing, culinary delights, or natural wonders, Key West has something for you.
When to Book Your Trip
While the keys are popular year-round, the biggest influx of visitors comes in December, with the high tourist season lasting until April. Hurricane season runs from June through November, although the Keys are typically spared. You can expect high temperatures in the low 80s F, and average lows sinking only into the 70s, making it warm and pleasant all year long. Many of the hotels and motels have courtyard swimming pools, and some offer bike rentals that let you explore the city at your own pace.
Top Attractions in Key West
The snorkeling in Key West is legendary, and there’s no better place to do it than Dry Tortugas National Park. Novices and experienced snorkelers alike can explore coral reefs and aged shipwrecks, while those who like to stay on this side of the water can go kayaking, birdwatching, and swimming or tour the historic fort on-site. Tours of Ernest Hemingway’s home, Truman’s Little White House, Fort Zachary Taylor, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham are popular with visitors who’d like to know more about American history.
Charter fishing is also a popular Key West attraction. There’s no experience required when you book a fishing trip for grouper, tuna, snapper, and more. A knowledgeable captain and friendly crew provide all the fishing gear and pointers you need. When you’re successful, consider booking a table at Dante’s for dinner — they’ll cook your catch so you can truly treat everyone to dinner.
For something different, check out the Sheriff’s Animal Farm, where you can get close to a variety of rescued animals like alligators, lemurs, emus, tortoises, snakes, birds, turtles, sheep, and horses. The Key West Botanical Garden is the only place in the continental U.S. to see some of the tree specimens they have growing naturally here. Footpaths allow you to explore the garden at your leisure, and there’s a picnic area for lunch, too.
Best Places to Eat in Key West
Enjoy casual tapas-style dining at Santiago’s Bodega, with a warm and inviting ambiance enriched by reclaimed wood and stained glass windows. The menu features shrimp and chorizo, yellowfin tuna ceviche, croquettas, and beef carpaccio, as well as a variety of salads, like the top-rated pear and avocado salad. Stop by Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant for the best lobster roll in Old Town Key West. Shady outdoor tables are the best place to enjoy a fried fish basket or crab cake sandwich. If you’re staying someplace with a kitchen, this is the place to pick up freshly caught seafood to prepare your own meals.
For a special occasion, consider the Seaside Cafe and Bar at the Southernmost House Mansion. You can sit practically on the beach while dining on seafood and pizza specialties with local flair. Guests rave about the honey butter lobster biscuits, lobster bianca pizza, and the caprese sandwich served on homemade bread. Other popular restaurants include Little Pearl, known for its friendly neighborhood vibe; Blue Heaven, for their towering key lime pie; and Duetto’s Pizza and Gelato, a stand-out choice for dinner and dessert crafted with the freshest ingredients.
Whether you’ve got just a weekend or a week, Key West is the ideal destination for adventurers and foodies alike. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll want to come back again and again, and that’s okay — Key West is happy to have you.