Key West, Florida, is the western-most island of the Florida Keys. This string of islands off the southern tip of Florida is known for sunshine, blue waters, and world-renowned reefs. Visitors flock to this destination throughout the year — and with good reason. Experience the beauty of the ocean, adventures of the islands, and spectacular sites sure to create cherished memories when you visit Key West. With such a short distance between places on the island, consider renting bikes for the duration of your stay.

Airport Information

When flying to the Florida Keys, you are most likely to arrive at Key West International Airport (EYW) on the southeastern coast of the island of Key West. A few other airports exist on the islands, but this airport is the main international hub. Only a few airlines fly to this airport: American, Delta, Silver Airways, and United.

With only one terminal and six gates, this airport is small and easy to navigate. Upon arrival, you’ll find baggage claim, rental car services, and other ground transportation options, including hotel shuttles. If you booked your stay in a hotel before arriving, check to see whether your hotel offers a shuttle service from the airport. Security screening and ticketing are on the next level. You’ll find a mailbox for outgoing mail directly in front of the gates.

After the security check, you can choose a place to eat from among three restaurants in the airport and three shops. First Call and Last Call beach bars offer cocktails and bar foods, while the Conch Flyer restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Stop by Jet Lag accessories for items to make your flights more relaxing and Last Chance Gift Shops for souvenirs. Free wireless internet and an outgoing mailbox are also available for airport guests.

The Key West Aquarium.

Early Morning: Southernmost Point

Stop in at Glazed Donuts on Eaton Street for a morning pick-me-up in the form of a cup of Red Buoy coffee and handmade donuts from classic glazed to toppings that include maple bourbon and candied Canadian bacon. With coffee and donuts in hand, head down Whitehead Street to the Southernmost Point, less than a mile away.

One the most famous landmarks of Key West is an unassuming buoy labeled as the southernmost point in the continental United States. This buoy is not actually the southernmost point, as parts of Fort Taylor to the west of the buoy reach a little farther south. Since the buoy can be a popular site, it’s best to visit during the early morning to beat the crowds.

Midmorning: Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and Beach Fun

Once you get your picture taken with the buoy, walk two minutes to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory where you can enjoy beautiful plants, colorful birds, and butterflies, as well as a gift shop and gallery. Watch as hundreds of butterflies from more than 50 species flutter around you. Walk through their climate-controlled, enclosed habitat featuring waterfalls and lush trees. The gallery displays hundreds of preserved butterflies framed in glass.

Less than a mile away from the Conservatory is Higgs Beach which features a long pier jutting out into the ocean. Furry friends will enjoy the Higgs Beach Dog Park or a walk along the paved park trails. Relax on the sand or take a dip in the clean, clear water. Walk out to the edge of the pier to look down into the water and spot fish and coral. Time at the beach and in the warm water is a must when visiting Key West.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

Noon: Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

As you head back toward U.S. Highway 1 on your way to another Key West landmark, stop by the Banana Cafe on Duval Street for some classic and sweet French fare. Breakfast lovers can enjoy their favorites for lunch such as a Belgian waffle or bagel sandwich. Go for the full French experience with a plate of savory or sweet crepes. Seafood crepes are filled with shrimp, scallops, mushrooms, tomatoes, and a creamy lime sauce. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Key lime or strawberry cheesecake crepes.

Built in 1851, the Ernest Hemingway Home is a visitor hotspot for everyone who visits the island. The famous author lived here in the 1930s, and the furniture he and his family used still fills the rooms. Take a tour to explore the architecture, places where the author liked to write, art deco–style furnishings, library, and pool. The pool on the property was the first in-ground pool in Key West and was built for $20,000.

The house isn’t the only interesting part of the property; the flower and tree galleries in the gardens feature more than 40 different plant species. Don’t miss your chance to pet one of the polydactyl (six-toed) cats that roam the property. Hemingway was a fan of such creatures, and the home now continues his loved for these special felines. Stop by the gift shop for plenty of souvenirs to remember your visit. This museum is open daily from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Afternoon: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and Scuba Diving

Take in beautiful sites of military history at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. You can take a guided tour so that you can be sure not to miss anything during your visit. See the largest collection of pre-Civil War cannons in the United States as well as a pre-Civil War fortress. Walk along the Tropical Hammock Trail and the Fort View nature trail to explore the beautiful features of the land and historic landmarks. Rent snorkeling gear to view the coral reef off the coast of the park.

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a short walk from Fort Taylor and is the third largest barrier reef in the world. This area is protected from boats by the buoy mooring system, and boats can’t use anchors. If you have no experience or training for diving, you can snorkel in the reef. Find a Blue Star–recognized charter to be sure that you’ll be part of a group that works to preserve this natural habitat.

Stop in to the Eco-Discovery Center to learn more about the reef and underwater laboratories that conduct research to help promote understanding and preservation of the reef. Enjoy interactive exhibits and a replica of the only underwater ocean laboratory in the world, The Aquarius. The Mote Marine Laboratory Living Reef exhibit showcases living coral and tropical fish in a massive tank, and you can view the live coral reef on the Reef Cam.

Mallory square
Mallory Square in Key West.

Dinner: Burgers, Tacos, and Drinks

Less than half a mile away from the center is Garbo’s Grill featuring tacos and burgers. A husband and wife team operates the establishment. This small van parked on Caroline Street has been a local favorite since its opening in 2009. Pick up some Cayo fish tacos filled with fresh mahi-mahi, red cabbage, jalapeno, mango, cilantro, onion, and house-made Caribbean sauce. If you’re still hungry, or not in the mood for tacos, try a Kogidog with house-made kimchi and fried cheese.

Down the street from this taco van is Mallory Square. Here you’ll find a collection of street performers from acrobats and jugglers to musicians and magicians. Walk around the waterfront square to see all that’s going on. Visit on different days to see the ever-changing performances.

Evening: Sunset Boat Tour

Enjoy sunset on the water when you book a Sunset Sail evening trip out to the ocean. Choose one of four private charter sailboats such as the Free Spirit or Conch West. Book the High Tide to depart from Key West Bight Marina off of Caroline Street. You’ll sail past Wisteria Island and Sunset Key for a view of the ocean and relaxing evening with friends or a loved one. These two-hour tours will have you back to shore in time for some late-night fun.

USCGC Ingham whec 35
The USCGC Ingham (WHEC-35).

Late Night: Duval Street

After your relaxing sunset sail, make your way to the famous Key West neighborhood of Duval Street for a night to remember. This street is lined with bars featuring great drinks, live music, and distinctive Key West culture.

Start a Duval Crawl with the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery and head down the street stopping at all the Old Town hotspots as you go. Beware of the Adam and Eve bar, as it’s the only clothing-optional bar in Key West. Check out the 801 Bourbon Bar for live Cabaret performances and karaoke. Little Room Jazz Club offers both a romantic setting and world-class performances.

Duval Street isn’t just for the late night, make sure to see what this neighborhood has to offer during the day as well. Maybe even catch a glimpse of a Hemingway look a-like riding a bull is you’re visiting during the Hemingway Days festival. This area is also home to many art galleries and clothing shops ranging from small boutiques to factory stores like Gap and Coach.

Where to Stay in Key West

Every option for accommodations in Key West is bound to offer beautiful views and quick access to the beach; the island itself is only a 30-minute walk across. You’ll need to decide exactly what type of experience you’re looking for and what you would like to spend when looking for hotel options in Key West. All-inclusive resorts fill the shores along with budget-friendly, beach houses offering single-bed rooms.

Luxury Hotels and Resorts

The Hyatt Residence Club is located outside the airport on the oceanfront. You can enjoy an airport shuttle and choose a suite with a full-service kitchen and two bedrooms. Along the eastern border of the island, you’ll find many hotel options ranging from all-out luxury to basic and affordable. Near the southernmost point of the continental United States, you’ll find the Southernmost House Hotel, a Victorian bed-and-breakfast with a pool, colorful decor, and free breakfast.

For a fully pampered visit to the Keys, consider staying at a resort. These types of accommodations offer the comfortable rooms and amenities of top-notch hotels plus spa services, private beaches, and plenty of opportunities to explore the island and surrounding waters. Sunset Key Cottages Resort is housed on a private island off the western coast of Key West. Here you can enjoy a private beach, oceanfront cottage, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and kayaking in the blue waters.

On the opposite side of the island, the Casa Marina high-end Waldorf Astoria resort with a private beach features exquisite rooms, spa and fitness services, and an array of ocean activities from parasailing to deep-sea diving.

Custom house
Custom House in Key West.

Hostels and Group Options

Get to know other travelers and Key West natives when you stay in a hostel that offers guests dorm-like living. You’ll share bathrooms, kitchens, and hangout areas. This great option can help you save on expenses for other island activities. The Seashell Motel and Key West Hostel offers private rooms as well as dorm rooms with up to 10 beds in each for a great price.

At places such as Not Your Average Hotel (NYAH) on Margaret Street, you can fill a room with a large group, or use it only for two, depending on your needs. Large, old houses throughout the island have been renovated to create guesthouses for visitors, such as the Angelina Guesthouse. Here you can rent a simple room with a shared bathroom, and you’ll enjoy the complimentary breakfast including homemade cinnamon rolls.

Homes for Rent

Choose from seaside bungalows, quaint condos, and houseboats when you search the available places for rent around Key West. Villas Key West offers three different locations for rent. Cottages, villas, and suites are available depending on the size of your party. Houses include options that range from quaint little cottages to seaside mansions. Enjoy the comforts and space of home when you rent a house during your vacation in Key West.

Let GoDoTrip help you find everything you need for the perfect getaway to Key West, Florida. With information only a click away, you can be sure you’ll make the most of your time in this beautiful destination.