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Key West Travel Guide

The complete guide to Key West.
Last Updated
:
February 17, 2024
by
Editorial Staff
Key West famous Duval street panoramic view
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Slogging through another dreary day at the office, fruitlessly willing the clock to move faster? Does life feel duller than a packing peanut stuck to a gray cubicle wall? Then it might just be time to ditch the daily grind and transport yourself to paradise—Key West style. Sitting at the bottom of the Sunshine State lies an island rated best in class for revelry, relaxation, and getting your Vitamin Sea.

We’re talking Key West, baby! Mile Marker 0 on the Overseas Highway marks the start of the party as you cruise past crystalline waters looking for the buoy that boldly states “90 Miles to Cuba.” Yeah, you’re not in Kansas anymore. But before you slap on those fluorescent orange swim trunks and lather yourself in SPF 50, you’ve got some planning to do.

Sure, you could meander aimlessly down Duval Street, waste an hour googling “what to do in Key West,” and eventually find yourself face-down during the nightly sunset celebration at Mallory Square. Or you could let an expert guide give you the inside scoop on making the most of your island escape. We’re talking hidden restaurants, secret snorkeling spots, and the kind of gritty history you won’t find plastered on souvenir shot glasses.

From classics like Hemingway’s old stomping grounds to off-the-beaten-path treats only the locals know, this travel guide has your ticket to one unforgettable tropical vacay. We’ll show you where to stay, what to eat, where to play, and most importantly…how to avoid tan lines and/or public intoxication charges. Stop waiting for adventure to wash up on your cubicle’s doorstep and book your next big getaway ASAP. Key West awaits, amigos! Just make sure to have fun when you’re there.

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About Key West

Key West Aerial view. Florida. USA
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Key West is the Southernmost city in the United States, which puts it closer to Cuba than Miami. Its climate at the highest is a balmy 91.4°F, making it the warmest city in the country. It also boasts three Civil War forts. Key West also is home to three famous writers. Ernest Hemingway, Mel Fisher, and Boog Powell all lived here. Ernest Hemingway’s home was the first home in Key West with running water and a swimming pool.

The city is also famous for its welcoming attitude towards the LGBTQ community. There’s a large LGBTQ population in Key West, and the island has an openly gay mayor. Drag is a big part of Key West’s culture. There are several festivals celebrating human sexuality, but you may want to avoid these if you’re traveling with children.

The southernmost point of the continental United States is marked by the Southernmost Point Buoy, a painted buoy statute. The buoy was originally just a small sign, but in 1983 it was replaced by a concrete buoy. This landmark has survived several hurricanes and only has a few scratches on it. It’s an iconic symbol of Key West, and the line is often absurdly long at any time of day.

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Why Go to Key West

Aerial view of famous bridges and islands in the way to Key West, Florida Keys, United States
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If you’re looking for a mix of cultural diversity and a laid-back beach vibe, Key West may be the place for you. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Key West sits off the coast of Florida, only four miles long and one mile wide. Its quaint charms include historic buildings, a vibrant nightlife, and a literary history. The city is also known for its legendary sunsets and eclectic offbeat vibe.

If you’re a beach lover, Key West has several great little beaches as well as a larger one. Which beach you choose depends on your personal preference, but Higgs Beach is one of the best little beaches in Key West. It’s located near the rest and south beaches, and is a great place for families.

Visiting during the low season is a great time to get the best value on hotel rates, but you should take precautions and always use common sense, especially when you’re in the water. During this time, tropical storms from the Gulf of Mexico often blow through the island, though most never make landfall. Despite this, hurricane Irma wrecked much of the island, causing widespread destruction.

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Best Time to Go

Kirche in der Downtown von Key West, Florida Keys
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The best time to visit Key West is between March and May. During this time, you will find the weather is warm and sunny, and the crowds have thinned out. Also, the humidity level is lower than during the summer months, so you can enjoy outdoor activities without the worry of getting too wet. Another benefit of visiting during spring is the low risk of hurricanes.

Although late March is the busiest time to go to Key West, this is not the only time to visit. Many travelers come to Key West for the spring breaker. April and May are ideal months for travelers, with temperatures ranging from 72-81°F. During these months, you can also avoid the high humidity and see fewer crowds.

During the summer, the temperatures are usually high (around 89°F), with temperatures dropping below the tropics during the early evenings. However, you should keep in mind that July is the hottest month in Key West. It is also the stormiest part of the year, so you may want to consider visiting during September or early October.

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How to Get Around

Key West, Florida, USA
Canva Photos

Once you’ve landed in Key West, you’ll need to figure out how to get around the island. There are several ways to get around town, but a car is a convenient option. Not only will a car allow you to explore the island more efficiently, but you can also save money on taxi fares. Of course, parking in Old Town can be challenging.

Old Town is about 1.5 miles long, so it’s a good idea to plan a walk if you want to take in everything. Otherwise, you can also take the free bus that runs throughout the historic district. The service runs every 30 minutes from 6am to 10am, and every 15 minutes from 10am to midnight, making stops at 16 locations.

Key West is an island located in the Florida Keys. While this might seem like a difficult place to navigate, it’s actually very simple to get around and explore the island. The island is separated into three zones: the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.

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Best Restaurants

Restaurant view of Latitudes Cafe
Latitudes

If you’re looking for a place to eat while in Key West, there are a few options worth considering. Seven Fish, which moved to larger premises in 2017, is a great place to try a classic Key West meal. The interiors are adorned with floating light fixtures, and the menu highlights tropical flavors. Dishes include Florida-style crab cakes, sauteed grouper sushi rolls, and snapper with vegetable Thai curry cream sauce.

Bo’s Restaurant is a unique dining option that’s located inside a shack made of driftwood. With funky decor and casual dining, Bo’s is an ideal choice for a relaxed evening. The restaurant serves both land and sea cuisine, and it’s also a popular spot for foodies. Grouper is the specialty here, and if you’re into live music, you can catch a Friday night jam session.

Latitudes Cafe is another excellent option for fine dining in Key West. Located on an island, Latitudes has a great view of the water. The service is excellent, and the food is fresh and tasty. The restaurant is open daily from seven in the morning to ten in the evening. Reservations are strongly recommended.

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Things to Do

Key West, Florida, USA
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Key West is a historic city with a wealth of things to do. You can visit historical landmarks and stroll through the beautiful gardens. You can also visit the Key West Living Museum, which is a 15-acre living museum. The city is also home to several boardwalks and nature trails.

You can take a bike tour through the city. These tours are fairly easy and take you past the Key West Wildlife Center and botanical garden. You’ll also be able to see old Florida celebrity homes and private gardens. You can also take a tour of the Vandenberg wreck, which is a former Navy ship that sank during a hurricane.

Another popular attraction in Key West is the Old Town Trolley. This is a great way to see everything in one day. It’s a great way to see the sights and sounds of the city.

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Neighborhoods to Know

Key West neighborhood street view with palm trees
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There are several neighborhoods to choose from in Key West. The southern end of the island is home to the popular Casa Marina neighborhood. This historic district was built by Henry Flagler, who also built the overseas railroad that linked the island to mainland Florida. This quiet neighborhood is also home to several great restaurants. It is just a few blocks from the Southernmost Point and the end of Duval Street.

In the late 1800s, Key West was a thriving cigar factory town. The Eduardo H Gato building still stands today, and most of the historic wooden cottages were originally built for cigar makers. Today, many of these cottages are available as vacation rentals. Another neighborhood to consider is Uptown, which consists of Upper Duval Street and features numerous boutiques, restaurants, and furniture galleries. This area is also home to the Southernmost Point of the United States and Key West South Beach.

The island’s quiet neighborhoods include Sunset Key, which sits 500 yards off the coast of ‘Main Island’. It features a beautiful beach and is minutes from Old Town. Sunset Key is also home to the Key West Golf Club, a gated community with tropical townhomes and two swimming pools. The area is also a good choice for those looking to rent a vacation home in Key West.

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Weather

Port of Key West, Florida, USA
Adobe Stock

Weather in Key West can be unpredictable. Due to the island’s location on a large body of water, the average temperature fluctuates a great deal throughout the year. This report takes into account the weather patterns, and other weather-related factors to give you the most accurate forecast for Key West. It should help you plan your trip and make sure you are prepared for the weather. October is one of the wettest months in Key West.

It can be hot and humid at night, with temperatures of around 69°F/21°C. Many visitors will opt to bring air conditioning to stay cool. Rainy days are also common, so you should be prepared for these as well. Key West has a moderately windy climate. The windiest months are March, April, and November. Average wind speeds during these months are 9.4 knots, which equates to 10.9 MPH or 17.5 KPH. This is considered a gentle breeze, but it’s still uncomfortable for some people.

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