Trip Reports

See, Stay, and Play in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are a close, tropical getaway for anyone in the contiguous United States, and only a plane ride (or two) away for most everyone else. Key West’s major airport is served by the international airport in Miami, although some visitors choose to rent a car in Miami and drive south. The Keys themselves are actually hundreds of smaller islands, and they’re usually considered as the Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.

What to See in the Keys

There are a broad array of cultural landmarks in the Keys. Perhaps the most famous is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Visitors are welcome to tour the home, gardens, and pool area of this historic place where Hemingway lived and worked. Don’t miss the in-ground pool, a notable accomplishment for its day! The Humphrey Bogart Film Festival and Key West Film Festival are perennial favorites, along with the Marathon Seafood Festival, the Seven-Mile Bridge Run, Civil War re-enactments at Fort Taylor, the Florida Keys Guitar Festival, and the Underwater Music Festival. Don’t worry if you can’t make one of these, though. Mallory Square’s Sunset Celebration goes on nightly, with food, music, entertainment, and more. For visitors who enjoy shopping, the Duval Street area is full of shops, galleries, restaurants, lounges, and shops of all kinds.

Key West at Night

Places to Stay in the Keys

The great thing about the Florida Keys is that there are accommodations for everyone. Regardless of your budget, there’s a place for you. Some folks come down with camping gear and RVs and are happy to book a campsite at one of several state parks, like Bahia Honda, while others prefer the comfort of a luxury resort or something in the middle. Many major hotel chains have a Key West or other nearby location. There are also numerous charming bed and breakfasts; some offer amenities like a pool or free bike rentals. The top accommodations include Oceans Edge Key West Resort, the Perry Hotel Key West (includes golf), and Heron House Court bed and breakfast. Even though pretty much everywhere in the Keys is close to the water, most of the bigger hotels and resorts also offer their guests swimming pools.

Key West Hotels

What to Do in the Keys

Outdoor sports are one of the most popular ways to spend time in the Keys, like swimming, sport fishing, boating, paddle boarding, and snorkeling. Visitors can enjoy some public beaches, as well as state and national parks. Dry Tortugas is accessible only by ferry from Key West, but it’s worth the trip; it’s one of the best places to see fish, coral, and even some shipwrecks by snorkel. It’s also a great place for stargazing, paddle boarding, and swimming. Swimmers at Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key can indulge in the Atlantic Ocean or Florida Bay. Folks interested in sport fishing charters can hire them for some of the best tarpon fishing in the Keys, right here in the waters of Bahia Honda. In the city of Key West proper, Smathers Beach is very popular, along with Dog Beach (yes, your dog is welcome here), and Higg’s Beach.

Fishing in Key West

If you like to go on a booze cruise, check out this Tiki Bar Cruise!

Where to Eat in the Florida Keys

Like accommodations, there are eateries that cater to the simplest of palates featuring area ingredients to the biggest chain restaurants and small fine dining establishments to choose from; there really is something for everyone.

There are Italian, French, Cuban, seafood, steakhouse, American, and Mexican restaurants. Many of them take pride in serving dishes that celebrate local fish, fruits, and vegetables. Try Latitudes, Tavern and Town, and Cafe Marquesa for fine dining in Key West. Don’t miss the Conch Republic Seafood Company, Camille’s, or the Hogfish Bar and Grill for meals with real local pride.

Sloppy joes

The Florida Keys is a destination that feels like a world away even though it’s right in our own backyard. There’s an easy, relaxed vibe everywhere you go; unsurpassed snorkeling and fishing; state parks that are as pretty as anywhere around the world; and eclectic cuisine prepared with the freshest local ingredients and celebrating global culinary influences. There’s more to see and do than anyone could accomplish in a single trip. Good thing it’s close enough to come back to again soon.

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Peter is a digital nomad who largely writes from Asia, Europe, and South America. Always following the "vibe," he sets up shop in hostels and AirBNB's and continues to entertain us with wild stories from life abroad.

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