Key West

Travel Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Visiting Key West? This Key West Travel Guide breaks down all the details and recommendations of this gorgeous destination. 

As the southernmost point in the continental US, Key West has quickly become the most well-known island out of all of the Florida Keys. Boasting a laid-back, free-spirited, artistic and quirky scene, Key West is one of the most unique places in the United States. It is known for its live-and-let-live attitude, tropical climate, and seemingly continuous happy hour, and truly offers something for everyone.

Quick Tips


Key West is a generally safe place to travel. But as always, be smart with your belongings and always watch your drinks.

When To Visit

Because of its proximity to the Gulf Stream and the Gulf of Mexico, Key West gets hot in the summer. The best time to visit is March-June.


The time zone in Key West, Florida is Eastern Standard Time (GMT-4) or the same time zone as New York CIty. 

Getting There

There are multiple ways to get to Key West, between flying, driving, and even catching a ferry. The small island of Key West has its own airport directly on the island, named Key West International (EYW). With a total of 6 gates, all within one terminal, the airport is quite small and easy to navigate – but beware, this often means flights are expensive. Airlines that currently fly to Key West with non-stop service include United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta, and Silver Airways. Another option to get to Key West is via ferry, which is available only from Ft. Myers. This trip is a full day, with overnight options available. Finally, our favorite option, and generally the most affordable option, is driving to Key West from Fort Lauderdale or Miami! From Miami, the drive will take around 3 hours, but it is one of the most scenic roads in North America and an absolute blast. A series of bridges and islands extend nearly 90 miles off the mainland until its end at U.S. Highway 1 mile marker zero: Key West. But along the way, there’s plenty of places to stop enjoy, including breweries, turtle hospitals, dolphin research centers, restaurants & more. Head over to our “Drive to Key West Travel Guide’ to learn more!

What To Expect

Is Key West Expensive?

Unfortunately, Key West has become a rather expensive destination in recent years, and is now considered the second most expensive city in Florida. However, there are steps you can take to reduce overall costs, such as visiting during off-season, and driving to Key West from Miami. Check out our ‘Drive to Key West Travel Guide’ for all the details. 


Known for warm beaches and eccentric residents with a live-in-the-moment philosophy, Key West offers a relaxed yet unexpected seaside adventure. As such, you can get away wearing any and all beach-like attire both day and night. In fact, certain clubs (Garden of Eden) are even clothing optional! We recommend packing a variety of swimsuits, coverups, flip flops, and casual sundresses for the evenings. On this trip, leave the heels at home.


1000000%. With extremely high UV radiation levels, it is absolutely vital to wear sunscreen while in Key West. However, the type of sunscreen you choose to wear is just as important! As home to the world’s third largest barrier reef ecosystem, thousands of travelers from around the world flock to the Florida Keys to visit, snorkel, and dive. As a result, it has been reported that 4,000 to 6,000 tons of sunscreen containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate pollute reef areas each year, causing bleaching and death of the coral reef. Therefore, it is absolutely vital to wear reef-safe sunscreen to continue protecting our reef for many years to come. We recommend using Supergoop, which is our favoriate brand. You can buy travel size on Amazon.


Offering warmth and sunshine, Key West is a very popular tourist destination during the winter. However, this also brings large crowds and sky high prices. Therefore, our recommendation is to visit between March and May, when the winter crowds leave, the hotel prices drop, and the weather remains warm and pleasant.


Key West is a relatively small place, being 2 miles x 4 miles long. The majority of things to do are located in the Old Town, which is the western end of Key West and includes Mallory Square, the Historic Seaport, Duval Street, and the Southernmost point. New Town, in the eastern area of Key West, is where you will find the Key West International Airport, Smathers Beach, and a variety of all inclusive resorts. While accommodations in Old Town tend to be a bit more pricey than in New Town, it is the place to be for the full Key West experience. 

Listed in the National Register for Historic Places, Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a historic landmark with Old Town Key West elegance. Dating all the way back to 1920, this upscale hotel boasts access to Key West’s largest private beach and the Spa al Maré, which offers a wide array of services. Amenities include 2 outdoor pools, a spa and a gym, as well as a restaurant and a bar (both with terraces), a cafe and private beachfront dining. An area shuttle is also offered. Breakfast and parking are available. If you are after a relaxing vacation, slightly away from the noise of Duval street, this is the place for you.

Opal Key Resort & Marina

Steps from Mallory Square and a block from Duval Street, Opal Key feels like the headquarters of happiness (with water views to boot). The rooms and suites epitomize coastal elegance with soft colors, patterned carpets, and chic furnishings, but the real fun is experienced outside the room. There is all-day dining, a pool with major party vibes, and a Sunset Deck with views of the nightly sunset celebration on the pier.

Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa

Located right next to the historic seaport and a short walk away from Mallory Square and Duval Street, this 4-star hotel is in the perfect location.Like most of Key West, rooms tend to be on the pricier side, but the amenities and location make it worth the stay. 

Bungalows Key West

There are times in life when it’s great to be an adult, and Bungalows Key Largo is one of those reasons. Its 12 waterfront acres are a veritable surf and sand playground, but this adults-only resort means your mid-afternoon nap won’t be interrupted by mini meltdowns. Bungalows Key Largo was the hottest thing to hit the Keys in 2019, only to be devastated by a fire three months after opening. Like a phoenix, this resort rose from the ashes and is humming along. It’s an all-inclusive, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get the rowdy bunch here. This is for couples who like to play as much as they like to party, and with plentiful water sports, yoga sessions, and a spa, there’s always something to do.

The Reach Key West

The Reach offers the best of both worlds, with easy access to Duval Street and beachfront property. It is a little less rollicking than some other Key West hotels, but the mood here matches the decor: bright and upbeat. The rooms have a contemporary coastal appeal with a soothing blue-and-white palette interspersed with pops of color (we see you, hibiscus-toned chair), while the tide to table dining experience is perfect for intimate or special occasions. There aren’t too many on-site amenities for young children, but you’ll be within walking distance of more Key West hot spots than you can possibly hit in one trip.

Things To Do


Hit The Sandbars

Sandbars in Key West are hidden gems, offering tourists an entirely different way to experience the ocean. Whether you book a private charter with a group of friends, or join a sandbar tour, this is a must-not-miss Key West experience! A few of the most popular sandbars to check out include Boca Grande, Snipe Point, Woman Key, Mud Keys and Marvin Key.

Enjoy a Sunset

Key West is among the top destinations to witness the sunset over the water – and trust us, it will take your breath away. With the sun setting on the West side of the island of Key West, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a number of great ways to get the full experience. First, head to Mallory Square, home of Key West’s famous Sunset Celebration – a nightly festival where locals and tourists alike gather to watch the sun set into the horizon. Two hours prior to sunset, local artists, street performers, and food vendors come together to put on quite a show. Another great option is grabbing dinner at the Sunset Pier at the Ocean Key Resort, directly overlooking the sunset. Finally, our favorite option is partaking in a sunset cruise! Between Billy Bob’s booze cruises, Cruisin’ Tikis Key West, and endless sailboat cruises, you will be sure to find a great option originating anywhere on the island.

Scuba Dive & Snorkel

The Florida Keys are legendary for offering some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling on the planet, attracting divers from across the US and around the world with an incredible variety of marine life and North America’s only living coral reef. Across the island you will find a wide variety of snorkeling and scuba diving tours, from morning and afternoon trips to full day excursions.  

Go Boating

Few things beat getting out on the water on a beautiful, sunny, south Florida day. Between yacht charters, catamarans, booze cruises, glass bottom boat cruises & more, there’s no shortage of opportunities to splash your way around the island. In fact, boating is so popular in the Keys that a large population of Key West natives live ‘on the hook’ (meaning on a boat tied to a mooring ball or anchored in the near shore watts of Key West). 

Visit the Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas, a national park that exists primarily over open water, is home to incredible marine life and birds, and visitors can camp, dive, snorkel, and swim. This is one of the least-visited national parks in the country, meaning that everything you can see and do is pretty special. Standouts include Port Jefferson, built as a line of defense following the War of 1812, and the Windjammer wreck site, where experienced divers can get close to the wreckage of an early 20th-century iron-hulled ship.

Visit the Southernmost Point

One of the biggest photo-ops in Key West, Southernmost Point is just what it sounds like: the southernmost point of the continental United States, marked by a large red-and-black-striped buoy statue. The site is still extremely crowded with folks looking to snag just the right Instagram shot. To beat the rush, arrive early or late in the day—and if you can catch a dramatic sunset, even better.

Go Fishing

With a gorgeous tropical climate, Key West is one of the rare places that offers incredible fishing year round! There’s no shortage of charters to take you out on the ocean for half day or full day fishing trips.

Hit Smathers Beach

The largest public beach in Key West, Smathers Beach is lined with palm trees that give it an idyllic, tropical vibe. It’s got everything you need for a full day at the beach: food trucks, rentable chairs and umbrellas, and, for active types, catamarans, paddleboards, and jet skis (and public bathrooms, of course). It’s free to visit, but be sure to avoid it during Spring Break season, when it turns into a party hotspot.


More Things to Do

Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters

The Key West Lighthouse grants the public access to some of the best views in the area—that is, so long as they’re ready to sweat. You’ll have to climb 88 steps to reach the top of it; once you do, take in one of Key West’s famous sunsets with a bird’s eye view from the observation platform during one of their sunset experiences. It even comes with snacks and a bottle of wine or Prosecco for toasting the day’s end. If you’re pressed for time, shimmy up the stairs and take a few Instagram shots from the top.

Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

The Hemingway House, one of Key West’s most popular spots, is the former home of the celebrated American author, who lived here for more than a decade. A stop here will let you wander around the largely preserved rooms and tour the lush, lovely gardens. The home is filled with Hemingway memorabilia—photos, books, and furniture—that played a part in his South Florida life. Guided tours are led by Key West locals who are just as quirky as the esteemed writer himself.

Explore Old Town

One of our favorite things to do takes absolutely no planning – get out and explore Duval street! With museums, galleries, boutiques, surf shops, outdoor bars, endless restaurants & more, there is so much fun to be had wandering around. 



This off-the-beaten-path tapas-style eatery offers over 30 small plates, paired with a remarkable wine list. The space is petite and charming, located in the heart of Bahama Village & away from the tumultuous crowds.

A renowned fine dining restaurant known for its elevated cuisine and its breathtaking sunset views. Located on Sunset Key, the restaurant is only accessible by boat. If you are looking for romance, there is no better place. But be sure to book early, as it can be near impossible to get a reservation.

If you ask anyone in Key West, Blue Heaven is consistently known as the best brunch spot! Since 1992, this first-come first-serve eatery has been serving up a delicious mashup of American and Caribbean cuisine next to none.

Imagine a Key lime pie doughnut topped with torched meringue and other fresh fruit-filled delicacies like a peach blessed dossant and pineapple upside down brulée…. This place is a Key West staple and a must-not-miss. The specialty donut restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday 7am to 1pm, or whenever they sell out (whichever is first).

A Cuban eatery and one of Key West’s true culinary gems. This old-school spot specializes in Cuban food, paella, and local seafood with dishes like ropa vieja, lightly breaded grouper, and delicious conch chowder. It’s well known for its whole fried fish and garlic chicken, its homemade sangria, and its easy-on-the-wallet prices.

This chic wine bar and seafood eatery has a distinct coastal vibe with fish, mermaids, compasses, and Edison lights all over the dining room.  The Old Town spot is currently only open for dinner and has three seatings throughout the evening serving only a chef-curated, four-course menu with a variety of options.

Cafe Marquesa

Located inside the Marquesa Hotel, this 50-seat restaurant’s simple yet elegant interior is the perfect match for a menu of classic Key West seafood and southern cooking.

Decadent dessrts served in a speakeasy-like atmosphere? Sign us up! This famous, old town, Key West staple is an incredibly unique experience and a must-not-miss. Be sure to book reservations far in advance! 


Thirsty Mermaid

Thirsty Mermaid is known for its rotating menu of East and West Coast oysters, full raw bar, and local seafood. It is worth ordering a selection of shareable appetizers like the steamed littleneck clams served with leeks and smoked bacon, fried oysters with chipotle remoulade, or sautéed Bahamian conch with marinated artichoke salad.

Located just steps away from the southernmost point on the island, this spot is a must for all lobster fanatics! You can expect  mouthwatering lunch and dinner variations on fresh lobster salad, including a spicy sriracha and jalapeño version, and Key West-style with butter and key lime juice. Each of the lobster salads are then nestled into a buttered and griddled New England-style hot dog bun.

Nestled inside the Perry Hotel you’ll find Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen and Bar. The restaurant is serving up coastal comfort food using fresh catch and locally sourced ingredients. Sunday brunch is worth the hassle of getting a reservation to savor items like tropical guava cream cheese French toast, pork belly benedict with tomato and onion marmalade, and chocolate toast with peanut butter custard and bruleed bananas.

Another Key West brunch staple, serving sweet and savory options like decadent key lime French toast with wild berry compote, and mouthwatering crab cake benedict with grilled tomatoes and hollandaise. When the bell rings for dinner time, the seafood risotto is filled with mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, fish, and chorizo, then topped off with garden-fresh veggies. Located just a few blocks away from tourist-filled Duval Street, this restaurant draws in crowds of locals and tourists alike.


Drink Spots


Captain Tony’s saloon

This Old Town stomping ground is actually the original location of Sloppy Joe’s, and where Ernest Hemingway was often seen at a barstool until the late 1930s when he left Key West. For a bit of pirate lore, ask the bartender about the “hanging tree” that’s growing right through the middle of the bar. (Hint: It’s where 19 pirates were put to death.) The dingy bar is also where Jimmy Buffet got his start. If you can’t decide what to order, get the Pirate Punch, the bar’s signature drink. We may as well start with the oldest bar in Key West. If you want to sip a beer in an historic institution, get to Captain Tony’s Saloon.

Sunset Pier

If you absolutely must have a frozen drink while touring Key West go to Sunset Pier. The bar’s location between Key West Harbor and Mallory Square means it has a great view of the water, so you can enjoy classic margaritas, daiquiris and mojitos as the sunsets. If you walk into the bar hungry, the menu offers island favorites like conch fritters and smoked fish dips.

Green Parrot

Best for local vibes and one of the most iconic bars in Key West, where the drinks are strong, the entertainment is a mixed bag, and locals and tourists are known to rub elbows. The bar was originally a grocery store but when war-time brought in sailors, the grocery store started slinging drinks … and the rest is history. During the day, drinks and a juke box keep the atmosphere lively, but at night live bands and the once-a-month ukulele club bring a more upbeat island vibe. Despite being so close to Duval, Green Parrot has a more local vibe and is perfect if you want a chilled beer in a chilled atmosphere. Also, it’s over 100 years old so it must be doing something good. This is one of the Key West bars you really must go to. 

The Rum Bar

Rum lovers will want to make their way to The Rum Bar at The Speakeasy Inn. The former Prohibition-era speakeasy is known for its knowledgeable bartenders and strong drinks. Belly up to the small bar to learn something new about the history of rum or what makes a good rum-based drink, while sipping on an expertly made pain killer or mojito from a bartender in a tropical shirt. Ah, paradise. 

Sloppy Joe’s Bar

This famous Key West bar originally opened December 5, 1933 but moved to its current location at the corner of Greene and Duval in 1937. The bar was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, and now Hemingway aficionados make pilgrimages to the bar for a taste of the author’s past life. Most of the drinks are frozen concoctions, but it’s said that Hemingway usually ordered a Papa Dobles, a concoction made with rum, grapefruit juice, grenadine, sweet and sour, club soda, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Best for late night dancing. Live music with great service, at Sloppy Joe’s a dance floor is set up from 9:30 p.m. so those still standing can practice their dance moves. If you want to party late, you’ll probably find your way here.

Alonzo’s Oyster Bar

Oysters and cocktails are a match made in Key West heaven. At Alonzo’s Oyster Bar diners will find a casual atmosphere and friendly service. From 4pm to 6pm the restaurant offers a daily happy hour where tapas and well drinks are cheap. If you’re looking for a drink with an island vibe check out the key lime colada, which turns key lime rum, piña colada mix, and lime juice into a perfectly tart drink served on the rocks.

Bull & Whistle

Best for sports bar vibes. Bull & Whistle has a choice of drinking floors – stay downstairs for quick access to Duval Street or head upstairs for a sports bar feel with darts and a pool table. 

The Garden of Eden

Naked drinking: yep, you read that right. Clothing optional Key West is delivered in the form of The Garden of Eden bar. It’s a nudist bar at the very top of the Bull & Whistle. You can stay clothed but that does put you firmly in the category of voyeur. Be respectful: no pictures.

The Smallest Bar in Key West

If there’s 10 of you, you’ll pack the place out and only 3 of you will get a seat. It’s slap-bang on Duval and worth a stop though do move on after a drink to let others give it a try.


With year-round warmth, laid-back vibes, endless water adventures, an incredible food scene and a wild nightlife, Key West is one of those places that should be on the top of your list. To make it even better, you don’t even have to leave the country to visit this tropical paradise! We hope this Key West Travel guide has provided you with resources to make your Key West dream a reality. Even more so, we hope to have eliminated the idea that Key West is too expensive to visit by providing you with money-saving resources. For more information, check out our full travel guide, The Drive to Key West. Thanks for reading! 

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