From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
Key West is an island city located in the Straits of Florida. It’s Florida's southernmost point and is also home to the southernmost point in the continental United States. Key West is accessible from the mainland via the Overseas Highway and is a popular stop for many cruise ships.
When you think of Key West, there’s no doubt its pastel-hued conch-style houses, coral reefs, and palm tree-lined beaches come to mind, but trust us, there’s a lot more to this island city than meets the eye.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Key West has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Key West, Florida? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Key West is all about enjoying the beautiful outdoors! It's full of parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Located near the center of Key West is Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which celebrates the natural beauty of the region and its profound history. It’s home to Fort Taylor, which predates the Civil War and is a National Historic Monument housing the largest collection of Civil War armament in the world. The park is the southernmost state park in the continental United States and allows recreational activities such as picnicking, hiking, swimming, snorkeling, paddling, and fishing.
Less than a 50-minute drive away is Bahia Honda State Park, which offers the stunning beach scenery that the region is so well-known for. Here, you’ll find an iconic Florida backdrop, including palm-lined beaches, crystal-clear waters, and blazing sunsets. Recreational activities on offer at the park include snorkeling, bicycling, boating, fishing, paddling, camping, scuba diving, hiking, and so much more.
Just over an hour north-east of Key West is the equally-as-beautiful Curry Hammock State Park, which carries the slogan: “uninhabited, untouched, and unrivalled”. It covers over 1,000 acres and sits halfway between Key Largo and Key West. It’s an ideal destination to kayak and paddleboard with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop, but is also popular among those wanting to hike, snorkel, camp, star gaze, fish, and swim.
In the past, the nearby Long Key State Park was known as a natural playground for only the rich and famous, but these days, it offers unparalleled luxury to all. Sadly, however, the park sustained significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and efforts still continue to restore the 60 ocean-front campsites. Don’t let that you stop you, however, as Long Key State Park is still a breathtaking place to enjoy bird-watching, geo-seeking, picnicking, swimming, hiking, snorkeling, fishing, and so much more.
While you may not go "hiking" in the traditional climb-up-a-mountain-sense, there are loads of great areas in Key West to hike, walk, bike, and just plain enjoy. Here are just a few.
Located within Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is one of the most popular hiking trails within the region: Truman Beach Point Trail. Although it spans just 1.4 kilometers, this iconic loop trail offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. It’s available year-round too, and provides jaw-dropping views for its entirety.
Another popular hike among locals and visitors alike is the Key West City Walk, which is a 12.2 kilometer lightly trafficked out and back trail. It’s rated easy, so is great for all skill levels, and even your four-legged friends can come along – providing they’re on a leash at all times. If you’re looking for a sizeable walk that gets you from one edge of the island to the other, this is it.
You’ll find the Fort Jefferson Loop located in the nearby Dry Tortugas National Park, for those planning on visiting the remote destination. It’s less than a kilometer in length, yet features some of the most spectacular views you’ll find within the region. Trust us, it’s totally worth the ferry trip out here, and you may just consider camping here overnight.
Is there anything better than enjoying a delicious meal after a full day in the sun? If there's one thing that is guaranteed to deliver in Key West, it's an abundance of dining options that satisfy any craving.
Blue Heaven is al fresco dining, Key West style: think canopies of tropical foliage, improvised art, and a sail strung between trees providing shade. Run by free spirits, you’ll find cats and chickens roaming the grounds, but don’t worry – they’re friendly! Take one bite of their blueberry pancakes, carrot and curry soup, miso-marinated eggplant salad, or scallops provençale, and you’ll be coming back time and time again.
There is no place quite like Santiago’s Bodega, from its quirky mix of decor and mismatched chairs, to the custom art and reclaimed wood; yet everything seems like it was just meant to be. The restaurant is known for its tapas, dessert, fine wines, and sangria, so you know you’re in for a good time. Enjoy menu items such as Yellowfin Tuna Ceviche, Shrimp and Chorizo, and Miniature Quesadillas.
With two Key West locations, El Siboney Restaurant has become a bit of a mainstay within the city. It’s a family owned and operated restaurant that has been serving Florida's lower Keys community since 1984. During this time, it has earned a reputation for being Key West’s top restaurant for authentic Cuban food, Paella, and local seafood. Don’t miss it!
Better Than Sex Desserts has been voted the Best Dessert in Key West in 2020 (and five years in a row previously), so it certainly needs to be your destination for all things sweet. The chain has several locations, with one of their most popular stores being located right here in Key West. Just some of their must-try desserts include the Cookie Nookie Pie, Italian Stallion, and Kinky-er Key West Cream Pie.
When it comes to seafood, it just doesn’t get any fresher than Conch Republic Seafood Company. From their boats to your table, their freshly-caught seafood turns into menu items such as coconut shrimp, blackened jumbo scallops, conch chowder, oysters, and more. They also host live entertainment and daily Happy Hour from 4 – 7 P.M.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Key West’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
Walk among hundreds of living butterflies and colorful birds at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. It’s home to up to 60 different species of butterflies from around the world, as well as varieties of colorful birds, all under a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat. Plus, there’s an impressive collection of flowering plants, cascading waterfalls, and towering trees. Kids and adults will love it here!
Located in Key West’s famous Mallory Square, the Key West Aquarium is one of the island’s most popular attractions for people of all ages. It’s home to hundreds of marine life species, not to mention fun things to do such as revolving exhibits, a touch tank, sea turtles conservation tour, stingray bay, live animal feedings, and more.
What should you do in Key West once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
You just haven’t spent time in Key West without witnessing a famous Mallory Square Sunset Celebration in the evening. This event took off in the late 1960s and even to this day, is still a popular thing to do within the region. The nightly festival hosts visitors from all over the world who come to take part in the magicians, jugglers, clowns, psychics, local musicians, artists, and food vendors that combine for an incredible cultural experience.
Speaking of gorgeous sunsets, the Key West Lighthouse also hosts its very own Sunset Experience for anyone to enjoy. Here, you can celebrate Key West's world-famous sunset in style from the observation platform of the island city's iconic and historic Lighthouse. It features 360-degree views of the historic district, Hemingway Home, the Southernmost Point, and Key West's sparkling ocean.
What can you do in or around Key West that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
History buffs and literature lovers rejoice! The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is located within Key West and provides hours of entertainment and education. Here, you can tour the writer’s home and garden, as well as visit the onsite bookstore and gift shop. Tour rates range from $6 - $16 and include a 30-minute guided tour.
The Truman Little White House was the winter White House for President Harry S Truman for 175 days during 11 visits. It’s Florida’s only presidential museum and is open daily from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. with tours running every 20 minutes. It’s a little slice of history, right here in Key West, and costs just $10 - $22 per person for admission.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Key West? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Key West that won’t cost you a cent.
As you may have already guessed, the Southernmost Point Buoy marks the southernmost point in the continental United States and the lowest latitude land of contiguous North American states. It is one of the most visited and photographed attractions in the United States and is certainly worth visiting when living in or visiting the region.
The Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center features over 6,000 square feet of interactive and dynamic exhibits including a mock-up of Aquarius, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory. It encourages you to journey into the world of the native plants and animals of the Keys, both on land and underwater, before leaving with an increased awareness and appreciation of the need to protect and conserve the ecosystem of South Florida.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Key West has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Fancy a complimentary martini while you get pampered? At the Nailtini Nail Bar and Day Spa, this dream is a reality, whether you’re enjoying a manicure, waxing, facial, eyelash extension, or massage therapy. Don’t miss their Therapeutic Massage, which incorporates stretching of the body and neuromuscular trigger point therapy.
With its lengthy spa menu, Ocean Wellness Spa and Salon has something for every desire or need. They offer an array of nurturing, regenerative massage therapies, including everything from Swedish, reflexology, prenatal, aromatherapy, body melt, sports, deep tissue, Thai, and so much more. You’ll have to see it to believe it!
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Key West is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
Referring to itself as an Old Town Gym, Old Town Fitness has everything you need to get your health and fitness goals in-check. Featuring over 8,000 square feet, their gym provides many free weights, as well as classes across aerobics, dance, HIIT, and more. If you need motivation to workout, why not bring a friend?
Mata Yoga is Key West’s original hot yoga, offering classes in Bikram Express, Power Flow, Pyro Pilates and Yogalates. Serving the community since 1985, the yoga studio aims to help students build flexibility, strength and appreciation for their bodies, mind and soul. It doesn’t matter how much, or how little experience you’ve had in yoga either – all skill levels are welcome.
Looking to explore the mainland? When looking for day trips in Key West, consider these next time you fancy a new adventure.
Just a 2-hour drive from Key West is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is the first undersea park in the United States. It encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles and gains hoards of visitors each year, particularly to view its stunning coral reefs and associated marine life, both of which can be enjoyed from a glass-bottom boat tour or by scuba diving or snorkeling. Other fun activities include fishing, walking on short trails, picnicking, or swimming at the beach.
The stylish Florida city of Miami is just a 3-hour drive from Key West, and it’s a hub of excitement and activity. There are numerous attractions to enjoy here, including the Bayside Marketplace, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Bayfront Park, Miami Seaquarium, Pérez Art Museum, and so very much more. A word of warning though: you may just want to return to this city again and again to ensure you check everything off your to-do list!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Key West that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Key West? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.