Is Key West a Good Vacation Spot?

Key West is a prime destination for travel enthusiasts looking to enjoy exciting activities around great tropical weather, sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, palm trees, vibrant downtown streets, and a wide selection of tasty international cuisines.  

With that, you’ve landed here because your insatiable appetite for an exhilarating trip in Key West is calling for more details before you book your next flight to paradise. 

Rest assured. We have all the info you’ll need to discover why Key West is a good vacation spot. So sit back, relax, take notes, and let the first step of your magnificent adventure in Key West begin. 

Facts About Key West

Let’s start with the facts: Key West is a tiny island located at the southern tip of Florida. It’s so far south that it holds the title of the southernmost point of the Continental United States. 

As of 2022, 27,951 people populate the island’s 7.2 sq. miles. It sits roughly 90 miles from Cuba and 165 miles from Miami, equating to a 3.5-hour drive or 1-hour flight. 

Key West was once renowned as the wealthiest city in the nation per capita due to the salvaging of wrecked ships along its reefs. Today, Key West is best known as a popular tourist destination, attracting millions of domestic and international visitors annually. 

What’s the Weather Like in Key West?

Like any other trip, the weather always plays a huge factor in determining what time of year is best to visit a travel destination. So let’s look at the annual weather in Key West. 

Winter – December to February

During winter, Key West is the coldest it ever gets throughout the year, especially in January. But don’t think snow, icicles, and the frigid cold—this is Florida, after all. Instead, you’ll find temperatures hovering around a ‘bone-chilling’ mid-60s to 70s range.

With precipitation at its lowest throughout the year, it’s the perfect opportunity to throw on a sweater and enjoy outdoor activities in Key West. With that, expect tourism to spike as “snowbird” visitors experiencing freezing temperatures in the upper east coast seek refuge in Florida’s warmer winter weather

Spring – March to May

By spring, Key West experiences a gradual increase in temperatures—averages in the 70s and 80s by March—and beach waters are warm enough to dip in. Though spring is fresh from cooler winter temperatures, college spring breakers prefer Floridian hotspots like Miami, Orlando, and Tampa.

As a result, you won’t see an influx of regular tourists until summer. With that, spring is a great time to find good hotel deals in Key West due to low crowds.

Summer – June to August

Key West doesn’t just look stunning in the summer. It also has warm-to-hot and humid weather (80 °F – 90 °F) that encourages visitors to find a place to unwind in the shade or get outside, get active, and have some fun under the sun.

Moreover, summer in Key West brings the most rain during the year due to the hurricanes brewing in the Atlantic. You’d think the barrage of rain showers would dissuade tourists from venturing into the region. But cheap hotel rates and annual summer holidays/events draw swarms of beachgoers.        

Fall – September to November

While hurricane season steadily dissipates in fall, September tends to have the highest rainfall out of any month of the year. You’ll see cooler temperatures emerge over time in preparation for winter.

Still, “cold” in Florida means only about 60 to 70 degrees. What’s more, as the nippier air rolls in and the storms move out, don’t be surprised to catch the most spectacular tropical sunsets fall over Key West. 

When’s the Best Time to Visit Key West?

The best time to visit Key West is spring, from March to May. Temperatures are cool-to-warm, and the beach water is enjoyable. Humidity isn’t as high as it gets in the summer, and the season enjoys little rainfall. Plus, since there are fewer crowds, you’ll find great deals on hotels and shopping.     

The Best Things to Do in Key West

Now that you have a better idea of the best time to visit Key West, we’ll look at exciting attractions and experiences.

Trolley Tour

Take a hop-on, hop-off tour aboard the Conch Tour Train, which swings by the island’s most iconic landmarks and sights. Including Hemingway’s Home, Harry S. Truman’s Little White House, Key West Lighthouse, the Southernmost Point, and more. Trolley tours are also available via Old Town Trolley.  

Duval Street

Duval Street is one of the most popular places to visit in Key West. The lively road teems with shops, restaurants, galleries, bars, and attractions, making it a heavily populated tourist hotspot. Consider it the equivalent of New Orleans’ Bourbon Street, with palm trees, bright blue skies, and close to stunning coastal waterfronts.  

Key West Aquarium

Key West Aquarium hosts many captivating marine life exhibits and interactive attractions for people of all ages. Get up close with sharks, learn about sea turtles, meet moon jellyfish, and touch creatures found in the underwater ecosystem surrounding the Florida Keys. 

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Take a tour of the historic house that once accommodated famed American writer Ernest Hemingway. The museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm for walk-ins. 

Harry S. Truman’s Little White House 

Harry S. Truman’s Little White House was built in 1890. Originally used as quarters for US naval officers and visited by former US presidents like Thomas Jefferson and John F. Kennedy, the Little White House is more prominently known as the vacation house for Present Harry S. Truman.

He spent a whopping 175 days, hence the title “Little White House.” Today, the house serves as a museum and is open daily for tours.  

Key West Shipwreck Museum

Step back in time and look at artifacts from wrecked ships around Key West. Then, watch as enthusiastic employees-turned-historical-actors share tells of life in 1856 Key West and how their vessel, Isaac Allerton, sank in the reef around the keys. Plus, climb a 65-foot tall lookout tower to get a fantastic view of Key West from above.  

Southernmost Point

Welcome to the Southernmost Point of the Continental United States, i.e., the furthest point south in mainland America. You’ll find a landmark dedicated to the unique location and plenty of people in line to grab a selfie with it. 

Mallory Square

Mallory Square is a festive waterfront plaza packed with eateries, vendors, shops, and occasional street performers. It’s one of Key West’s best places to buy souvenirs and enjoy the sunset. In fact, tourists flock to Mallory Square each night for the “Sunset Celebration,” which involves viewing the sun setting over the western horizon.   

Guided Water Activity Tours 

One of the best reasons to visit Key West is to explore the beautiful waters surrounding the island. Numerous tours provide options for boating and water activities such as snorkeling, jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, and dinner cruises. 

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Hundreds of free-flying butterflies—over 50 varieties—and exotic birds at Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. If you’re traveling with the kiddos, consider this one of the best activities. 

Beaches

Key West is well known for its pristine beaches. Each is overflowing with palm trees, striking sand, lush grass areas, and the most dazzling blue water you’ll probably ever come across. Some host fun water activities, too, like banana boats, snorkeling, jet skis, and paddle boarding.

Smathers Beach is easily the most popular beach in Key West, but you’ll also want to visit Higgs Beach, South Beach, Rest Beach, and Dog Beach if you’ve brought along your furry friend. 

Is Key West Expensive?

Truthfully, yes, Key West is expensive. Research advises that a single person vacationing for a week in Key West will spend anywhere between $1,500 and $4,000, depending on your budget. Thankfully, since the island is small, you won’t need to dig deep into your pockets for transportation.

Plus, we’ll exclude attractions since there are plenty of free things to do in Key West, like beaches, botanical gardens, and discovery centers. Here’s a breakdown of the main reasons why Key West is expensive:

1) Accommodation: It’s rare to find daily rates for hotels under $100, especially during peak season and around holidays.

2) Food: If you plan on enjoying delicious meals in restaurants, expect to spend $100 + a day on food alone. Nevertheless, you’ll find cheaper options typically at mom-and-pop diners and bars during their ½ priced happy hour appetizers.

3) Key West is just a remarkable place. Great weather, beaches, water activities, mouthwatering food, bustling nightlife, and incredible sunsets—it’s rare to find low prices in a setting like that!  

How to Get Around Key West

With so many exciting attractions and things to experience, it’s essential to consider how you’re going to get around from place to place around the island. So let’s examine transportation in Key West.  

Buses: The City of Key West Department of Transportation has a fleet of 20 handicap-accessible buses that run along five routes in the city and keys. Prices are $2 (city) and $4 (keys) for one way and $4 (city) and $8 (keys) for a one-day pass. 

Duval Loop Bus: Duval Loop is a free bus route that takes visitors to popular attractions, historical landmarks, shops, restaurants, and bars, in Key West. The Duval Loop bus runs every 20 minutes from 8 am to 10 pm.  

Bike/Moped: Bikes and mopeds are very common transportation methods in Key West. The island has bike/moped lanes on its roads, and various routes and trails are provided across the region. Plus, bike and moped rental shops are easily accessible. Bikes cost about $10 a day, while mopeds cost around $35. 

Walk: Exploring Key West’s attractions by foot is also a popular way to get around the island. Only roughly eight sq. miles, you’ll find plenty of fun things to do well within a short walk. Feel free to join a guided walking tour or pick up w convenient walking map that takes you to diverse locations around the island.    

Car: You can rent a car during your stay in Key West, but it’s best not to unless you’re traveling with kids. Parking is limited across the island, and its narrow streets are often flooded with pedestrians, making way for an unnecessary headache on your vacation.    

Taxi/Uber/Lyft: Taxis are available in Key West. You’ll only need to travel a short distance, so consider cheaper alternatives like Uber and Lyft. 

Where to Stay in Key West?

Let’s be clear—anywhere in Key West is an excellent place to stay. Nevertheless, there are recommendations for a few critical areas if you want the best experience during your stay. 

Old Town

Old Town is a great area to stay if you fancy historic architecture and landmarks while surrounding yourself with fun entertainment. Located on the island’s westside, you’ll find many of Key West’s attractions in the district and conveniently situated within a short distance of each other.

However, note that Old Town is one of the most popular places to stay in Key West, so book your accommodation in advance because spots fill up fast.

Duval Street – Duval Street, of Old Town, is one of the most happening places to go in Key West. It’s got a flurry of shops, restaurants, attractions, and quirky places to explore.

At night, the street becomes a popular location for those looking to experience Key West’s best nightlife venues, which include bars, saloons, jazz clubs, rooftop lounges, and more. You’ll want to stay here if you’d love to be in a lively central location with easy access to entertainment.    

Casa Marina

Key West’s Casa Marina neighborhood puts you smack dab at the Southernmost point of the Continental United States. You will have plenty of wonderful beaches to enjoy. The quiet, primarily residential area is equipped with beautiful gardens, courtyards, and oceanfront properties.

You’re a stone’s throw away from water-related activities like kayaking, dolphin encounters, sail charters, and snorkeling. The Casa Marina Resort, built in 1920, has become an iconic landmark in Key West. You don’t have to stay there to enjoy the neighborhood, but know it is a popular choice.  

New Town

New Town is an excellent place for families looking for a quiet atmosphere and cheaper hotel options in Key West. Unlike Old Town, you won’t find many of the island’s popular attractions outside your doorstep. It’s not as close to the action, so visitors can expect better deals on accommodations. 

Where to Eat in Key West

Florida is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, so it’s no secret that it’s one of the best places in the US to find a wide variety of delectable cuisines. Plus, most of the state is surrounded by water, and you’ve got the recipe for some of America’s finest seafood. 

With that, expect to find everything from Caribbean, Cuban, Korean, Italian, and French dishes to American fast food, cafes, delis, donut shops, and A-1 seafood restaurants. You’ve got upscale and seaside, rooftop and grab-and-go. 

Here are just a few great highly, rated restaurants to try in Key West:

Latitudes – Restaurant on a private island that serves seafood, Caribbean food, and fusion. 

Eaton Street Seafood Market – Serves seafood

Blue Heaven – Serves American and Caribbean food

Hot Tin Roof – Serves Floridian and Caribbean food. 

Garbo’s Grill – Food truck serving Korean fusion food

First Flight Island Restaurant and Brewery – Serves seafood, Caribbean, American 

Glazed Donuts – Specialty donut shop.

How Many Days Do You Need in Key West?

You need about 4-5 days in Key West to cover many attractions and experiences. The first day of your trip will require settling in and getting familiar with the layout of Key West. 

Over the next two days:

  • Take tours
  • Head to the beach
  • Visit the aquarium
  • Grab drinks on Duval Street
  • Eat seafood and Cuban dishes 
  • Explore historical landmarks
  • Watch incredible sunsets 

Get some final shopping done on the last day and prepare to depart.   

What is so special about Key West?

To put it briefly, it’s the “vibe.” With warm weather, beautiful beaches, and abundant outdoor activities, what’s not to love about Key West? The city is rich in culture. The food is outstanding and easy to get around. And the sunsets. Don’t forget about the sunsets.

Is visiting Key West worth it?

Key West is absolutely worth visiting. Whether you drive on The Overseas Highway or fly into Key West International Airport, Key West is worth the trip.

What’s Next?

Now you have the key ingredients that make Key West a great vacation spot. So, when do you think you’ll visit? Though there are so many options to consider, one thing’s for sure: You’re going to have a blast in Florida’s Key West! 

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About the author
Steve
Steve is the owner of Paddle About, a blog that's all about helping people get out and enjoy nature. He loves to kayak, camp, hike and spend time outdoors with his wife and two kids. When he's not out exploring the great outdoors, Steve enjoys writing about his adventures and sharing tips for getting the most out of your outdoor experiences. He has a lot of interesting stories to share, and he's always happy to help others get more out of life.