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.
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.
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?
HEELS OR NO HEELS?
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.
Things To Do
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.
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.
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 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.
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!