Insider tips: Planning a trip to Key West
Former home to Ernest Hemingway and forever home to some of the most beautiful sunsets in Florida, visiting Key West is a real treat. Getting to the southern-most point in the United States can take some time, so we've enlisted the help of travel experts The Planet D to help you make the most of your time. Read our tips below for your next trip to Key West.
What should I do on my first trip to Key West?
First-time visitors to Key West should head down to Mallory Square for sunset. It really sets the tone and vibe for a Key West vacation. Mallory Square is filled with street performers, views of the Harbour, and a lot of energy and excitement. There are many top Key West attractions near Mallory Square, so go early to see the Maritime Museum, Key West Shipwreck, and Treasure Museum and see the sculpture garden showcasing historical figures from the area.
What are some hidden gems to see in Key West?
When in Key West, take a trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles (113 km) away, Fort Jefferson was a military fort used to defend during the Spanish American War from 1846 to 1876. You can stay over and camp on Garden Key and it has beautiful white-sand beaches. Make sure to go kayaking to the Key West Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States, where you will paddle through mangrove forests in search of wildlife.
How much time should I spend in Key West?
When planning a trip to Key West, we suggest spending at least three nights. Five days in Key West is ideal giving enough time to spend a day or two on the water to see the Dry Tortugas and Wildlife Refuge. Two days are good to see the historic monuments and top attractions and then you will want to spend a day at the beach or enjoying your hotel.
What food is Key West known for?
Key West is famous for its Key Lime Pie. You cannot miss eating this refreshing dessert. Made with Florida Key Limes and condensed milk on a graham cracker crust, this treat is served all over Key West. One of the most famous places to grab a slice is at Kermits. Key West is also known for Conch. (pronounced Conk) Conch is the meat that comes from those large beautiful seashells. You can order conch fritter, conch chowder, cracked conch, and conch sandwiches. No trip to Key West would be complete without enjoying these two staples.
What neighborhood should I stay in when I visit Key West?
We’ve stayed both downtown on Duval Street at the Crown Plaza in the heart of the action and out farther out on a quiet resort. It depends on what experience you want in Key West. Duval Street keeps you close to the party and within walking distance to many of the top attractions in Key West. If you want a quieter place to stay on the outskirts of town.
What is the best way to get around Key West?
It’s easy to walk to many of the sites in Key West around Mallory Square and Duval Street. To see some of the other sites, hop on a trolley tour or take the hop on hop off bus. The Conch Train is also one of the most popular attractions and it takes you around to all of the top places to visit. Another great way to get around is to rent a bike and have the freedom to cover a lot of ground independently.
What are the best months to visit Key West?
The high season in Key West is from the end of November to the end of February. This is when you’ll find the most crowds and the highest prices. A good time to visit is from March to May for more affordable hotel rates but the weather is comfortable and not too hot. October is a fun time to visit as well when Key West is gearing up for Fantasy Fest at the end of the month.
What are the best neighborhoods for shopping?
The Key West streets are filled with shops and you’ll find some of the best shops in Old Town, Duval Street, and the Shops at Mallory Square.
What is the best family-friendly thing to do in Key West?
Everyone will love riding the Conch Train around the island showcasing the top sites in Key West. With an engineer telling tales about the history and culture of the island, it’s a fun and informative tour. The Key West Butterfly Conservatory is a good choice for families to walk among hundreds of butterflies and birds in a tropical rainforest environment.
What is the best thing to do for solo travelers in Key West?
The best thing for solo travelers in Key West is to join a Duval Street pub crawl. This is a great way to meet people and go out on the town in a safe environment. Another great way to meet people is to join a party cruise or waterspouts adventure tour where you can spend the day on the water going kayaking, jet skiing, and parasailing. Or try one of the popular tours like the Rum and Reggae snorkeling tour. You’ll have the opportunity to get in the water on a tour, make new friends and enjoy a cocktail or two.
What is the best thing to do in Key West for couples?
The best thing for couples to do in Key West is to join a sunset cruise on a schooner or catamaran. What could be more romantic? Well, a romantic candlelit dinner at Sunset Key could be more romantic. Make a reservation and take the shuttle boat from Key West to Sunset Key for the best view in town.
What are the best annual events in Key West?
Fantasy Fest is by far the most original annual event that happens in Key West. Taking place at the end of October each year, it is a 10 day festival for adults with parades, partying, and elaborate costumes. Hemingway Days is an annual event in July that celebrates the life of Ernest Hemingway who called Key West home for eight years.
What are the best areas for outdoor activities?
The best places to enjoy outdoor activities in Key West is the Key West Wildlife Refuge for snorkeling, dolphin spotting, and birdwatching. John Pennekamp State Park is the only living reef in the United States and is popular for snorkeling and scuba diving. And Dry Tortugas National Park is good for camping, swimming, and snorkeling.
What are the best beaches in Key West?
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is one of the best beaches in Key West. Located in the State Park there is an entrance fee, but it is a great combination of beach life and a walk-through history at Fort Zachary Taylor. Smather’s Beach is the longest beach in Key West with 2 miles of white sandy beaches where you can rent beach chairs. Dry Tortugas has a picture-perfect white sandy beach that is completely deserted. And Higgs Beach is another great beach in Old Town that has a long wooden pier.