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Plan Your Ultimate Key West Experience for an Unforgettable Trip.
Welcome to Key West, the most beautiful and vibrant corner of Florida! From its white sandy beaches to its diverse array of activities and attractions, Key West is a place where you can truly make some lasting memories. Regardless of the time of year (although Spring may be the best!), this magical island has something for everyone.
Whether you love lounging in the sun or exploring new places, hiking tropical trails or shopping waterfront markets, kayaking through crystal-clear waters or scuba diving with colorful fish – no matter your interests there’s sure to be something that will keep you coming back time and again. Of course, those picturesque beaches might be calling you, too.
To help guide your explorations, here are our favorite things to do in Key West. Start planning that vacation now!
Key West, the southernmost city in the continental United States, is a tropical paradise that boasts azure waters, white sandy beaches, and a laid-back atmosphere. Located at the tip of the Florida Keys, Key West is a popular destination for travelers seeking sun, sand, and adventure.
This unique island city is teeming with history, culture, and an array of activities that cater to everyone, from couples looking for a romantic getaway to families seeking fun-filled adventures. In this article, we will explore the top Key West things to do that will make your trip unforgettable.
Key West is a small island, but it packs a punch when it comes to attractions and activities. With a rich history dating back to the 1800s, Key West has been home to famous figures like Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S. Truman.
The island’s pristine waters and vibrant coral reefs make it a haven for water sports enthusiasts, while its lively art and cultural scene offer a glimpse into the island’s colorful past. From exploring the island’s historic landmarks to indulging in its unique culinary experiences, there is no shortage of things to do in Key West.
So, whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this guide will help you discover the best things to do in Key West. So, let’s dive in and start planning your ultimate Key West adventure!
Top Key West Attractions and Landmarks
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
- Harry S. Truman Little White House
- Southernmost Point Buoy
- Key West Lighthouse
- Mallory Square
- Scuba Diving
- The Studios of Key West
- Key West Art and Historical Society
- Theater and Live Performances
- Fantasy Fest
- Sunset Cruise
- Bike Tour
- Spa Day
- Wine Tasting
- Picnic on the Beach
- Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
- Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
- Conch Tour Train
- Key West Aquarium
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
- Conch Fritters
- Cuban Coffee
- Key Lime Pie
- Vegetarian and Vegan Options
- Food Tours
- Eco Tours
- Bike Trails
- Kayaking or Canoeing
- Snorkeling, Scuba, or Snuba
- Key West Seaplane Adventures
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- Something For Everyone
- Book in Advance
- Pack for the Weather
- Rent a Scooter
- Plan for Traffic
- Try Something New
- Bring Your Camera and Plenty of Extra Memory Cards and Batteries
- Visit During the Spring Shoulder Season
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
The former residence of the famous author, Ernest Hemingway, is now a museum that showcases his life and works. The Spanish colonial-style home is filled with Hemingway’s personal items and memorabilia, which provide a fascinating insight into his life. Don’t forget to say hello to the resident six-toed cats, descendants of Hemingway’s own feline companions.
Harry S. Truman Little White House
This historic site served as the winter White House for President Truman during his term in office. Today, visitors can tour the beautifully restored house and learn about Truman’s life and presidency through guided tours and informative exhibits.
Southernmost Point Buoy
Every trip to Key West is complete with a visit to the famous Southernmost Point Buoy. This brightly colored buoy marks the southernmost point in the continental United States and is a popular photo spot. Be prepared to wait in line, as this iconic landmark is a must-see for most visitors.
Key West Lighthouse
Built in 1847, the Key West Lighthouse is one of the island’s oldest structures. Climb the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse for panoramic views of the island and the surrounding waters. The adjacent Keeper’s Quarters Museum offers a glimpse into the lives of the lighthouse keepers and their families.
This bustling waterfront plaza is the heart of Key West’s social scene. Mallory Square is home to various shops, restaurants, and attractions, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon. Take advantage of the famous Key West Sunset Celebration, a nightly festival featuring street performers, artisans, and food vendors, all set against a breathtaking sunset.
Must-Try Key West Water Activities
Key West is surrounded by crystal-clear waters, making it a paradise for water sports enthusiasts. Whether you prefer to explore the underwater world or glide across the surface, there are plenty of water activities to choose from.
The Florida Keys are home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States, making Key West an excellent destination for snorkeling. Several tour operators offer snorkeling trips to the reef, where you can swim alongside colorful fish, sea turtles, and even the occasional shark.
For a more immersive experience, consider scuba diving in Key West. The island’s waters boast a variety of dive sites, including coral reefs, shipwrecks, and underwater caves. Popular dive sites include the Vandenberg Wreck and the coral formations at Looe Key.
Explore Key West’s mangrove forests and backcountry waters by kayak. Paddle through the calm, clear waters as you spot marine life, birds, and other wildlife. Several outfitters offer guided kayak tours, or you can rent a kayak and embark on your own adventure.
Charter a sailboat or join a group sailing tour to experience Key West from the water. Enjoy the warm ocean breeze as you glide past the island’s picturesque shoreline, and keep an eye out for playful dolphins and other marine life.
Key West is known for its world-class sportfishing, with a variety of species to target year-round. Book a fishing charter and try your luck at catching tarpon, sailfish, and other prized game fish.
Exploring Key West’s Vibrant Art and Culture Scene
Key West is known for its quirky, creative atmosphere, which is evident in the island’s thriving art and culture scene. From galleries and museums to live performances and festivals, Key West’s artistic offerings are sure to inspire and entertain.
The Studios of Key West
This multi-disciplinary arts center offers a variety of art exhibitions, workshops, and performances. Browse the galleries, take a class, or catch a live show, and immerse yourself in the vibrant arts scene that Key West is known for.
Key West Art and Historical Society
Housed in the historic Custom House, this museum celebrates the island’s rich cultural heritage. Discover local artwork, artifacts, and interactive exhibits that tell the story of Key West’s colorful past.
Theater and Live Performances
Key West is home to several theaters and performance spaces, including the Red Barn Theatre, Waterfront Playhouse, and the Key West Theater. Catch a play, concert, or comedy show, and enjoy an evening of entertainment in this charming island city.
Held each October, Fantasy Fest is a 10-day celebration of art, creativity, and self-expression. The festival features a variety of events, including costume contests, street fairs, and the famous Fantasy Fest Parade. This lively event is a must-attend for anyone interested in the arts and Key West’s unique culture.
Best Things to Do in Key West for Couples
Key West is the perfect destination for couples seeking romance, adventure, or a little bit of both. From intimate sunset cruises to leisurely bike rides, there are plenty of things to do in Key West for couples.
Board a catamaran or sailboat for a romantic sunset cruise around Key West’s harbor. Enjoy champagne and hors d’oeuvres as you watch the sun sink below the horizon, creating a breathtaking display of colors.
Rent bicycles and explore the island’s charming streets and neighborhoods at your own pace. Follow the shoreline or venture through the quaint, tree-lined streets, stopping at points of interest along the way.
Treat yourselves to a relaxing spa day at one of Key West’s many wellness centers. Indulge in massages, facials, and other pampering treatments that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Visit one of Key West’s local wineries or wine bars for a tasting experience. Sample a variety of wines while learning about the winemaking process and the unique characteristics of each bottle.
Picnic on the Beach
Pack a picnic and head to one of Key West’s beautiful beaches for a romantic afternoon. Relax on the sand, take a dip in the ocean, and enjoy each other’s company as you watch the waves roll in.
Exciting Family-Friendly Activities in Key West
Key West is a fantastic destination for families, with a variety of fun and educational activities that cater to all ages. From interactive museums to wildlife encounters, there are plenty of things to do in Key West for families.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
This enchanting attraction is home to hundreds of butterflies, as well as exotic birds and colorful flowers. Wander through the lush, tropical gardens and watch the butterflies flutter around you, or participate in one of the daily educational programs.
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
This interactive museum offers hands-on exhibits, videos, and displays that teach visitors about the diverse ecosystems of the Florida Keys. The center is a great way for families to learn about the region’s unique flora and fauna and the importance of conservation efforts.
Conch Tour Train
All aboard the Conch Tour Train for a narrated tour of Key West’s most famous landmarks and attractions. This open-air train is a fun and informative way for families to explore the island and learn about its history.
Key West Aquarium
Get up close and personal with the marine life of the Florida Keys at the Key West Aquarium. Discover a variety of sea creatures, from sharks and stingrays to sea turtles and jellyfish. The aquarium offers daily feedings, touch tanks, and interactive exhibits that are both fun and educational.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
This state park is great for families to spend a day outdoors. Explore the historic fort, swim at the beach, or hike along the nature trails. The park also hosts various events and activities throughout the year, including reenactments, concerts, and festivals.
Wildlife and Conservation Efforts at Rainbow Springs
Rainbow Springs is an important habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, making conservation efforts crucial to ensuring the park’s long-term health. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection works diligently to protect and preserve the park’s unique ecosystems, implementing measures such as controlled burns to maintain the area’s natural habitats.
Visitors can also play a role in preserving Rainbow Springs by adhering to the park’s guidelines and respecting its delicate ecosystems. By doing so, we can help ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy this natural treasure.
The video showcases the adventure that awaits in Key West, highlighting its famous landmarks such as the lighthouse, Ernest Hemingway’s home and museum, and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. It suggests engaging activities such as renting a scooter to explore the island, visiting the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, or touring the House of Representatives. After sunset, Duval Street comes alive with nightlife and restaurants. The video also highlights the breathtaking sunset at Mallory Square and the unique experience of trying out Key West’s famous rum or embarking on a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. In addition, the video suggests inflatable kayaking as a fun activity to enjoy the crystal-clear waters around Key West.
Video Credit: @ThroughMyLens
Key West’s Unique Culinary Experiences
Key West’s food scene is as eclectic as its culture, with a variety of cuisines and flavors to suit every palate. From fresh seafood to Cuban-inspired dishes, Key West’s culinary offerings are sure to satisfy.
A staple of Key West cuisine, conch fritters are a must-try for any foodie visiting the island. These savory fritters are made from conch meat, peppers, and onions, and are often served with a spicy dipping sauce.
Get a taste of Cuba with a cup of strong, sweet Cuban coffee. Served in small espresso cups, this coffee is brewed with sugar and is the perfect pick-me-up for a busy day of exploring.
Key Lime Pie
No trip to Key West is complete without a slice of the island’s famous key lime pie. Made with tangy lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and a graham cracker crust, this dessert is a refreshing treat on a hot day.
Key West is known for its fresh seafood, with various restaurants serving everything from shrimp and lobster to grouper and snapper. For a truly authentic experience, try the local specialty of hogfish, a delicious white fish only found in the waters surrounding the Florida Keys.
Vegetarian and Vegan Options
While Key West is known for incredible seafood fare, vegetarian and vegans will find plenty to enjoy in the local cuisine, too. In fact, many of the locals and repeat vacationers flock to impressive vegetarian food available. You can find a list of some of the best in this article.
Take a guided food tour of Key West and sample the island’s diverse culinary offerings. From street food to fine dining, these tours are a great way to discover new flavors and learn about the island’s food culture.
Outdoor Adventures and Nature Experiences in Key West
Key West’s natural beauty is a major draw for visitors, with a variety of outdoor adventures and nature experiences to enjoy. From exploring the island’s mangrove forests to swimming with dolphins, Key West offers plenty of opportunities to connect with nature.
- Dolphin Encounters
Swim with the dolphins at one of Key West’s many dolphin encounter programs. These programs offer a unique opportunity to interact with these intelligent creatures in a safe and controlled environment.
Explore the island’s mangrove forests and backcountry waters on a guided eco-tour. These tours offer a chance to see a variety of wildlife, including birds, fish, and marine mammals, while learning about the delicate ecosystems that make up the Florida Keys.
Try your hand at paddleboarding in Key West’s calm, clear waters. This fun and easy activity is a great way to explore the island’s shoreline and get some exercise at the same time.
Key West has several bike trails that offer scenic routes through the island’s neighborhoods and parks. Rent a bike and explore at your own pace, or join a guided bike tour for a more informative experience.
Kayaking or Canoeing
When visiting Key West, many kayak or canoe through the ocean. Others choose a boat tour. Whichever you opt for, expect to see plenty of marine life in their natural habitat. With the availability of rental kayaks, you can rent rather than bring yours. But we see many who pack up their kayaks and head for the Atlantic Ocean at Key West.
Snorkeling, Scuba, or Snuba
For those choosing to get close to marine life and view some beautiful coral reefs, Key West gift shops and rental businesses usually have the gear you can rent. Or, bring your own! Remember your waterproof camera, too.
Walking around Key West offers a chance to get that true island experience. But for a visual view from the air, check out the Key West Seaplane Adventures. They have a special seaplane service to Dry Tortugas National Park, one of the most inaccessible National Parks. That’s a day trip you won’t soon forget.
Dry Tortugas National Park
This remote national park is only accessible by boat or seaplane, but the journey is well worth it. Located 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas is home to pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a historic 19th-century fort.
Something For Everyone
Other options that surround key west include bird watching (bring your camera!), listening to live music by local musicians, and taking the sea turtles conservation tour. You might also stop by a gift shop to take home some special momentos. As we’ve mentioned, Key West offers something for everyone!
Tips for Planning Your Ultimate Key West Trip
To make the most of your Key West experience, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Book in Advance
Key West is a popular destination, so be sure to book your accommodations, tours, and activities in advance to avoid disappointment.
Pack for the Weather
Key West’s tropical climate means that it can be hot and humid year-round. Be sure to pack light, breathable clothing, and remember your sunscreen and sunglasses.
Rent a Scooter
Renting a scooter is a fun and convenient way to explore the island, especially if you plan on visiting multiple attractions in one day.
Plan for Traffic
Key West’s narrow streets and heavy traffic can make getting around challenging, especially during peak season. Plan and allow plenty of time to get to your destination. It’s important to remember that Key West locals and vacationers enjoy each moment. You don’t need to rush about it. Plan plenty of time to go from one place to the other. And be sure to absorb each place you visit and activity you try.
Try Something New
Key West is a unique destination with plenty of opportunities to try something new. Whether it’s a new water sport or a local delicacy, be open to new experiences and enjoy everything this island paradise has to offer.
Bring Your Camera and Plenty of Extra Memory Cards and Batteries
Whether you are visiting the Key West butterfly exhibit, the Key West Historic Seaport, or enjoying a day at the Dry Tortugas National Park, you’ll find plenty of pictures and videos you want to take. Get some great pictures from in the Key West Lighthouse, too. Share these with friends and family!
Visit During the Spring Shoulder Season
Key West offers year-round vacation fun. But the months from March to May often see fewer crowds. The winter visitors leave, and the summer crowds begin closer to June. You’ll find slightly lower pricing, more availability, and great weather. Plus, hurricane season begins officially on June 1.
Making the Most of Your Key West Vacation
Key West is a destination that offers something for everyone, from historic landmarks and cultural attractions to outdoor adventures and culinary experiences. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or a significant other, there are plenty of Key West things to do that will make your trip unforgettable. So, pack your bags, book your accommodations, and prepare for an island adventure you’ll always remember.
Have you visited Key West? What was your favorite experience there? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I make the most out of my Key West vacation?
First and foremost, plan ahead! Look up the top Key West things to do, such as snorkeling at Dry Tortugas National Park, visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and enjoying the sunset at Mallory Square. Don’t forget to indulge in some of the delicious local seafood!
What's the best way to get around Key West?
Key West is a small island, so it’s easy to explore on foot, by bike, or even on a scooter! However, if you’d prefer to sit back and relax, hop on the Conch Train or the Old Town Trolley and enjoy a narrated tour of the island.
Is Key West a family-friendly destination?
Absolutely! Key West offers plenty of entertainment for families with kids of all ages. Take a trip to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, go on a snorkeling adventure, or visit the family-friendly museums and exhibits.
What's the nightlife like in Key West?
Key West is known for its lively and eclectic nightlife scene. From legendary bars like Sloppy Joe’s to the sunset celebrations at Mallory Square, you’ll find something to suit your tastes. Be sure to catch a live performance at the Historic San Carlos Institute or the Tennessee Williams Theatre.
Where can I find the best local cuisine in Key West?
Key West is a foodie’s paradise! Try some of the delicious Cuban sandwiches at El Siboney, the fresh seafood at Half Shell Raw Bar, or the authentic Key Lime Pie at Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. And of course, no visit to Key West is complete without a stop at Blue Heaven for their famous banana pancakes!