Key West travel guide

Key West Tourism | Key West Guide

You're Going to Love Key West

If you love tropical sunshine, gourmet seafood, water sports, fishing, shopping, and cocktail bars, Key West is definitely the destination for you.

America’s southernmost city is also one of its vacation hotspots. Part of that appeal is nature’s bounty. The warm Caribbean waters around the island teem with fish, attracting sport fishing fans and divers to explore its vibrant, colorful reefs.

What’s more, the catch from these waters is also turned into magical seafood dishes by expert chefs at local favorites like the Half Shell Raw Bar, Square One, and A&B Lobster House.

Key West is also a party destination. Spring Break sees the island come alive with parties, and Fantasy Fest in October is the island’s equivalent of Mardi Gras. The fashion stores and outlets on Duval Street will delight shoppers, while there’s even something to satisfy literature fans, in the shape of Ernest Hemingway’s house.

It’s the kind of destination that guarantees a good time, so book your flight and accommodation and relax beneath the tropical sun.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Key West

1. Partying

Key West isn’t really a beach destination, but it makes up for this with a constant schedule of festivals, parties, and a wide range of cocktail bars. Head down to the island in October for Fantasy Fest or join the crowds that gather every evening in Mallory Square to eat, drink, and listen to music as the sun sets.

2. Fishing

Key West is famous for its sports fishing community and the seas around the island are rich with marlin, grouper, and snapper. Rent a boat, rent a captain, and head out with companies like Southbound Sportfishing (1801 N Roosevelt Blvd) to learn the ropes or pursue a lifelong passion.

3. Nature

Tropical wildlife is another major attraction of Key West. Visit the Key West Wildlife Center to see the island’s birds, reptiles and a curious population of feral chickens, or dive at nearby reefs to see the corals, crustaceans, rays, and over 500 tropical fish that call Key West home.

4. History

Key West has a history that stretches back to the 1500s, and there are some fascinating historical sights. Take a boat to the Dry Tortugas to see the massive brick fortress of Fort Jefferson, tour the house that novelist Ernest Hemingway lived in as well as President Harry S. Truman’s Key West retreat (111 Front St).

5. Seafood

Key West is one of the finest places in America to dine on gourmet seafood. After all, the rich fishery of the Caribbean is right on its doorstep. Head to Square One(1075 Duval Street) for the seafood hot pot, try the yellowtail snapper at Martin’s (917 Duval Street), or gorge on oysters at Alonzo’s (700 Front Street).

What to do in Key West

1. Duval Street: Coast to Coast

The longest street in Key West and the most important thoroughfare, Duval Street runs from the Gulf of Mexico on one side, to the vast Atlantic Ocean on the other. During the day it is the place to go for shopping or to hit some of the local sights - from the Key West Aquarium to the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. At night, the area comes alive with favorite bars and clubs among locals and tourists alike. There is always something afoot on Duval Street.

2. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: Inside the Life of a Literary Great

Ernest Hemingway was a world traveler, and he left his mark on significant landmarks around the globe. This home in Key West, however, is one of the most comprehensive places in the world to learn about this complex author and to experience the inspirational environments he created for himself. Hemingway completed the majority of his life's work on this property, and between the gardens, architecture, pool and sea view, the serenity of the space has lingered. The Key West Lighthouse isn't far.

3. Mallory Square: Unforgettable Sunsets

This busy square at the farthest tip of Key West is always abuzz. It is the heart of this vacation town, surrounded by local shops and waterside restaurants. Sights like the Truman Little White House are nearby, but most importantly, Mallory Square is a gathering point for the local community. For decades, the Key West Sunset Celebration has brought together people from near and far to bask in the tropical weather, amidst artists and musicians, while the sun sinks across the ocean.

4. Southernmost Point: An Epic Photo Op

Key West is the southernmost town in the continental United States, and the Floridian paradise is proud of its title. This fact is monumentalized with a huge concrete buoy, painted in festive celebration of the geographic record. While it is a beloved tourist attraction, perfect for family pictures, there is a dispute about whether this exact point counts as the southernmost. Ok, so maybe it's not technically, but it's about as close as you can get! Plus there as a beach park right next door.

5. Dry Tortugas National Park: Further Afield

This National Park, resting in the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Florida's Key West, is one of the most unique in the United States. Marine and avian life are the most important residents of the seven islands and coral reefs that comprise the park, and the diversity of species is sure to enthrall you. Come bird watching, snorkeling, and diving, or just relax on one of many remote beaches. Fort Jefferson is also a notable historic site, one of the largest military forts of its kind.

1. Duval Street: Coast to Coast

The longest street in Key West and the most important thoroughfare, Duval Street runs from the Gulf of Mexico on one side, to the vast Atlantic Ocean on the other. During the day it is the place to go for shopping or to hit some of the local sights - from the Key West Aquarium to the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. At night, the area comes alive with favorite bars and clubs among locals and tourists alike. There is always something afoot on Duval Street.

2. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: Inside the Life of a Literary Great

Ernest Hemingway was a world traveler, and he left his mark on significant landmarks around the globe. This home in Key West, however, is one of the most comprehensive places in the world to learn about this complex author and to experience the inspirational environments he created for himself. Hemingway completed the majority of his life's work on this property, and between the gardens, architecture, pool and sea view, the serenity of the space has lingered. The Key West Lighthouse isn't far.

3. Mallory Square: Unforgettable Sunsets

This busy square at the farthest tip of Key West is always abuzz. It is the heart of this vacation town, surrounded by local shops and waterside restaurants. Sights like the Truman Little White House are nearby, but most importantly, Mallory Square is a gathering point for the local community. For decades, the Key West Sunset Celebration has brought together people from near and far to bask in the tropical weather, amidst artists and musicians, while the sun sinks across the ocean.

4. Southernmost Point: An Epic Photo Op

Key West is the southernmost town in the continental United States, and the Floridian paradise is proud of its title. This fact is monumentalized with a huge concrete buoy, painted in festive celebration of the geographic record. While it is a beloved tourist attraction, perfect for family pictures, there is a dispute about whether this exact point counts as the southernmost. Ok, so maybe it's not technically, but it's about as close as you can get! Plus there as a beach park right next door.

5. Dry Tortugas National Park: Further Afield

This National Park, resting in the Gulf of Mexico just off the coast of Florida's Key West, is one of the most unique in the United States. Marine and avian life are the most important residents of the seven islands and coral reefs that comprise the park, and the diversity of species is sure to enthrall you. Come bird watching, snorkeling, and diving, or just relax on one of many remote beaches. Fort Jefferson is also a notable historic site, one of the largest military forts of its kind.

Where to Eat in Key West

As you’d expect from a Caribbean island, seafood is king of the Key West dining scene, and there are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from. If you want to eat on the move, Conch Shack (118 Duval St) serves uncomplicated seafood fritters. For a sit-down gourmet dining experience, head to the Blackfin Bistro (918 Duval St) or book a table at Blue Heaven (729 Thomas St), home to the island’s finest key lime pie. There are also some good Cuban eateries, such as El Siboney (900 Catherine St) and places to grab a burger like Nine One Five (915 Duval St). After that, try out some of the island’s other speciality – cocktails. Grunts Bar (409 Caroline St) is a good place to sip on mojitos or Key West coolers.

When to visit Key West

Key West in August
Estimated hotel price
C$ 195
1 night at 3-star hotel
Key West in August
Estimated hotel price
C$ 195
1 night at 3-star hotel

Key West is a tropical destination, which means that there’s a rainy and a dry season (and a hurricane season too). The best time to visit is probably between January and May. As summer approaches, the weather becomes much more humid, while from January the rains fall away, leaving bright, warm, dry conditions. However, this is also peak vacation season. If you want to avoid festival crowds, try a break in September or October, when prices will be lower and the island will be more relaxed. Then again, if partying is your aim, there aren’t many more lively Spring Break destinations.

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How to Get to Key West

Plane

If you are flying into Key West International Airport, the airport is only two miles east of the city center, so getting to your hotel shouldn’t be a problem. The best way into town is to catch an airport shuttle, book a taxi, or rent a car from the terminal. Shuttle buses are linked to specific hotels, so check whether your accommodation provides a service. If not, taxis cost around $10 to reach most local hotels. Rental companies like Alamo and Enterprise have offices at nearby Truman Ave if you want to have your own transportation during your stay.

Many people also fly into Miami Airport and catch a bus or drive from there. Greyhound provides a regular bus connection from Miami to Key West and smaller bus companies like Keys Shuttle and Xcursions USA also provide shuttles to central Key West.

Train

You cannot travel all the way to Key West via the Amtrak network, but you can get as far as Fort Lauderdale, which is around three and a half hours away by bus. The station is served by Amtrak’s Silver Star route (New York City to Miami) and the Silver Meteor (also New York City to Florida). When you get to Fort Lauderdale station, simply transfer to the Keys Shuttle bus service.

Car

To get to Florida by car, take I-75 or I-95 if you are coming from eastern or northern cities. If you are coming from Texas and the West, take I-10 all the way to Jacksonville and switch to I-95. To reach Key West, change to Route 1 in Miami.

Bus

The major bus company serving Key West is Greyhound, which stops at 3535 S Roosevelt and connects the city with Orlando and Miami. This allows travelers from cities as distant as Chicago and New York to reach Key West by bus with just a couple of changes.

Other regional bus companies include Xcursions USA, Keys Shuttle, MiamitoKeyWestBus.com and the local services provided by Key West Shuttle, which links the islands in the Florida Keys.

Airports near Key West

Airlines serving Key West

United Airlines
Good (2,852 reviews)
American Airlines
Good (4,391 reviews)
KLM
Good (354 reviews)
Air France
Good (400 reviews)
Delta
Excellent (3,055 reviews)
British Airways
Good (1,434 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,219 reviews)
Iberia
Good (924 reviews)
TAP AIR PORTUGAL
Good (546 reviews)
JetBlue
Good (1,299 reviews)
Avianca
Good (813 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (255 reviews)
Copa Airlines
Good (512 reviews)
WestJet
Good (481 reviews)
Virgin Atlantic
Good (344 reviews)
Air New Zealand
Excellent (75 reviews)
Allegiant Air
Good (248 reviews)
Silver Airways
Good (42 reviews)
Show more

Where to stay in Key West

Key West Island – The main part of town is located on Key West Island, which also includes the International Airport. Here you’ll find family attractions like Key West Nature Preserve, where lizards, butterflies, birds and even snakes can be seen in their natural habitat. There’s the Hemingway House, which was once home to the famous writer, while you’ll also find beaches, bars, clubs and great restaurants like Square One, a fine place to check out the local seafood.

Popular Districts

Stock Island – Located on a small island off the east coast of Key West, Stock Island is a residential district with some excellent hotels and beaches. It’s mainly notable for its sporting attractions, being home to Key West Golf Club, but there’s more going on than just putting. The Key West Tropical Forest is a wonderful place to relax and find out about tropical wildlife, while restaurants like Hogfish Bar & Grill (6810 Front St) are as good as anything on the main island.

Duval Street – The city’s commercial heart, Duval Street is lined with pure white mansions from the colonial-era and it’s the place to head for cocktails at lively bars like Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville (500 Duval St). It’s a great place to shop, with shoe stores like Kai-Kai Sandals (910 Duval St) and clothing outlets like Banana Republic (501 Duval St).

Most popular hotel in Key West by neighborhood

Where to stay in popular areas of Key West

Most booked hotels in Key West

Sleep Inn Bryson City - Cherokee Area
Excellent (8.7, Excellent reviews)
C$ 89+
Nantahala Village
Excellent (8.7, Excellent reviews)
C$ 168+
Relax Inn - Bryson City
Excellent (8.1, Excellent reviews)
C$ 105+
Lloyd's On The River Country Inn by OYO
Good (6.5, Good reviews)
C$ 82+
Ridge Top Motel - Bryson City
Good (6.2, Good reviews)
C$ 82+
Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham Bryson City
Okay (4.2, Okay reviews)
C$ 77+

How to Get Around Key West

Public Transportation

Key West is small enough that visitors don’t really need to worry much about public transit or renting a car. If you do need to make a bus journey, single fares are reasonable, at $2 and you can purchase weekly passes for $8. There are also tram services that cover most of the tourist sights.

Taxis

For the first fifth of a mile in Key West, taxi passengers have to pay $2.95, then $0.70 for every additional fifth of a mile and $0.70 for every 50 seconds of waiting. You can also rent cabs by the hour, which costs $60.

Car

Due to the high cost of parking in Key West and the size of the city, renting a car might not be the best transportation option. Instead, many tourists prefer to rent bicycles, scooters, or even golf carts. Bike Man (1319 Duval St) is a good place to rent a bicycle for your stay, you can rent scooters at Sunshine Scooters (1910 N Roosevelt Blvd) while Electric Car Rentals of Key West (500 Truman Ave) offer a range of electric cars.

The Cost of Living in Key West

Shopping Streets

Duval Street is the island’s premier shopping street and is home to major stores like Banana Republic, Birkenstock and Kai-Kai. There are also smaller craft stores like Capricorn Jewelry (706 Duval St) and places to pick up souvenirs like the Cuban Lead Cigar Factory (310 Duval St). Searstown Mall in the northeast of the island includes popular chains like Subway, Outback Steakhouse, and Kmart and is a good place to shop for essentials.

Groceries and Other

Supermarkets in Key West include Walgreen’s and Kmart, but many locals prefer to shop at smaller stores like Fausto’s Food Palace (522 Fleming St) or Johnson’s Grocery (800 Thomas St). Fausto’s is a particularly good place to head for gourmet picnics, with a wide range of baked goods, fresh fruit, wine, and seafood.

Cheap meal
C$ 20.22
A pair of jeans
C$ 60.65
Single public transport ticket
C$ 2.03
Cappuccino
C$ 6.07