14 Essential Key West Travel Tips for Ensuring an Epic Vacation

Key West travel tips

The Florida Keys are a fascinating destination for both local and international travelers, and home to the only living coral barrier reef in the US. This amazing ecosystem supports over 6,000 marine species and is a top attraction for snorkelers.

There’s more to Key West than incredible underwater adventures though. Check out these Key West travel tips to make the most of your vacation in this top Florida destination.

1. Fly or Drive?

Although flying into Key West is a convenient way to get there, it can get crowded at times. This small airport regularly welcomes over 800,000 visitors every year. 

The good news is that Key West Airport is about to undergo an $80 million refurb, which should provide more space and creature comforts for those arriving here. 

One of the best tips for traveling to Key West is to take a road trip to your destination.

The drive along the Overseas Highway is incredibly scenic. The views glitter with sunshine dancing on the vast waters on either side of you as you traverse the 140 bridges along the way.

2. Choosing Your Accommodation

Hotels are expensive in Key West. Rather opt for cost-saving bed and breakfast accommodation for your stay.

Even better, rent a large house and split the cost with friends. You’ll pay less for your accommodation plus you can enjoy extra savings when it comes to mealtimes by cooking your own food. 

3. Key West Travel Tips for Packing

Plan to travel light when packing for your Key West Florida vacation. You won’t need any fancy outfits in this laid-back part of the world. 

Rather, use your valuable packing space for extra reef-safe sunscreen, snorkeling gear, water shoes, and quick-dry clothing. A couple of bathing suits are essential, as well as a hat, beach towels, and sunglasses. 

4. Walk and Bike Wherever You Go

Key West’s a small island and you’ll find everything you want or need close to your accommodation. So, park your car and head out on foot or by bike during your visit. 

Besides, the roads are super-busy, and you’ll have to pay for street parking in exact change if you decide to travel in your car. Walking and biking are a far better way to experience everything Key West has to offer.

5. Don’t Miss Out on the Local Cuisine

With all the money you’ll save by choosing self-catering accommodation, you can afford to spoil yourself when you do dine out. 

One of the best things to enjoy at restaurants around the island is Cuban cuisine. Thanks to its close location to this Caribbean neighbor, you’ll find many authentic Cuban dishes to tempt your tastebuds here.

You must try the conch fritters, clam chowder, and paella packed with lobster tails. 

Don’t forget, Key West lays claim to inventing and perfecting key lime pie, so don’t miss the chance to try it at its best during your visit. 

6. Find the Best Beaches

Key West travel brochures often feature glorious sandy coasts and sunny skies. There are many fantastic beaches on Key West, but many of them are rocky at the shoreline.

So, prepare to scramble over a few stones before you reach the good bits. A sturdy pair of sandals does the trick for negotiating these obstacles.

Some of the best beaches in Key West Include:

  • Smathers Beach
  • Dog Beach
  • Rest Beach
  • Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park
  • Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

These top spots offer excellent opportunities for bathing, lazing on the shores, or snorkeling amongst fascinating creatures. 

7. Get Out on the Water

Where there are beaches there’s water, so make the most of it. Apart from snorkeling, you can also take part in jet-skiing, dolphin tours, and parasailing.

Don’t miss the chance to enjoy one of the area’s legendary sunset cruises, or tailor-make your own adventure with a custom private cruise

8. Celebrate Often

There’s plenty to celebrate in Key West, and Mallory Square hosts a sunset celebration every single day. 

Every year, the Fantasy Fest is a noteworthy extravaganza, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to join in the Goombay or Seafood Festivals either.  

Key West is also the perfect destination for celebrations of your own like a bachelorette or bachelor party, wedding, or birthday. 

9. Embrace the Quirkiness

Key West has many unique attributes. Chickens rule the roost across town and have right of way on the roads. 

You’ll encounter no shortage of photo opportunities in this part of the world, from manatee-shaped mailboxes to humorous tombstone inscriptions. 

10. Take Advantage of Awesome Shopping

There are plenty of unique goods on sale around Key West too. You simply must buy an original Key West sponge and stock up on key lime supplies, including salsa and schnapps, while you’re in town.

While you’ve got your shopping basket in hand, head over to the rum distillery in Mallory Square. You can take a behind-the-scenes tour, try a few free samples, and buy some of this heady brew to take home. 

11. What to Do in Key West for Free

Key West offers lots of budget-friendly activities. These are some of the best ones you can enjoy for free:   

  • Key West Botanical Garden
  • Beaches everywhere
  • Strolling Duval Street, Mallory Square, and Old Town
  • Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
  • Key West Wildlife Center
  • The Southernmost Point
  • Monroe County Animal Farm

You should have most of these on your bucket list even if you aren’t traveling on a budget. 

12. Plan for the Weather

Like most of Florida, Key West’s prone to sudden, unannounced showers. In the summertime, the days start sunny, but you can expect a brief thunderstorm on most afternoons.

Dress accordingly and keep your umbrella handy. 


13. Bring Your Friends

If you’re intent on enjoying the best vacation in Florida, travel in a crowd. You’ll want to share the wonderful experiences you come across in Key West with your friends.

Some of the best activities in Key West, like private boat tours, snorkeling, and after-dark activities are always better with your crew. 

14. Enjoy Key West’s Rich History

Key West has a colorful, endearing, and also conflict-ridden history. Get the back story at one of the many museums dotted around the island.

One of the best ones is Hemingway House, where you can find out more about this acclaimed author and see how he lived while working on his books. Hemingway stayed in Key West for eight years, completing three novels and several short stories during this time. 

Start Planning Your Trip Today

One of the best Key West travel tips is to plan your stay well in advance. That way you can make the most of every moment by filling your itinerary with sights and activities. 

Get started by booking your exclusive party boat experience in Key West.  

2 hours
Group Size
Up to 26

Public Day Cruises

Bring your friends and family onboard on our custom booze cruise! There are a range of activities to choose from. Allow Key West Party Boat to plan a unique and enjoyable vacation, birthday party, bachelorette party, even a company event or any other occasion. We’re here to make your party fun and memorable!

We are currently BYOB. Just show up with your drinks and get ready to party!

Whether you're planning a party or just want to get a group together—our private party boat rentals are a perfect way to get people together for a great time.

If you have custom requests or ideas let us know! We are flexible and do everything we can to make your time with us the best possible!

*Please note captain's fees are paid separately on the day of*

2 hours
Group Size
Up to 26

Public Sunset Cruise

Key West sunsets are one of a kind, and there is nothing like it after a long day in the sun. Why not make the most of sunset on a party cruise made just for you and your friends.

We provide everything you need for you and your friends to have an incredible time. With stunning sunset views, great music songs, and your favorite drink, you will be dancing in the moonlight.

Please view our calendar or click book now to see our sunset cruise times. Times vary throughout the year based on sunset and daylight savings time.

2 hours
Group Size
Up to 26

Private Day Cruises

There’s nothing like hitting the water on your own private boat, stocked with your favorite tunes, your favorite booze, surrounded by your favorite people. Bring your best friends onboard your own custom booze cruise! Key West Party Boats is perfect for bachelorette parties, birthday parties, corporate events, or if you're just looking for an amazing time out on the sea!. Our boat excursion can accommodate a total of 26 guests.

Whether you're planning a party or just want to get a group together—our private party boat rentals are a perfect way to get people together for a great time.

If you have custom requests or ideas let us know! We are flexible and do everything we can to make your time with us the best possible!