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Florida Keys, Florida Travel Guide

Florida Keys Summary


  • Beautiful, calm waters (especially on the gulf side)
  • One of the largest reef systems in the world -- great for snorkeling and scuba diving
  • Warm weather all year round
  • Fresh, delicious seafood
  • Fun (if rowdy) nightlife -- particularly on Key West
  • Tons of outdoor activities -- biking, golf, kayaking, tennis
  • Great fishing
  • Phenomenal dolphin watching
  • Over 30 keys are connected by Highway 1
  • Gay-friendly, especially on Key West
  • Lots of art galleries
  • Many museums, like the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
  • Laid-back attitude
  • Charter point to the beautiful and remote Dry Tortugas National Park
  • More temperate weather than other Florida destinations


  • Only one public airport
  • Rougher water on the Atlantic side
  • Lots of traffic
  • Some built-up, kitschy areas (particularly in Key West)
  • Hurricane potential from August to November
  • Many addresses given as mile markers

What It's Like

The Florida Keys are as close to the Caribbean (and its nice weather) as you can get in the U.S. Formerly islands thriving on the loot from wrecked ships, the Keys now thrive on tourism. Visitors flock to the area during the winter and spring to soak up the year-round heat and swim in the beautiful, calm waters. Situated on the third largest barrier reef in the world, the Keys are a great destination for snorkeling and scuba diving, and there are tons of other outdoor activities, too -- tennis, golf, kayaking, fishing...the list goes on.

Due to the focus on tourism, the Keys have gotten built up and some areas feel kitschy. The bar scene is loud and packed and some streets are lined with souvenir shops. But art galleries are interspersed, and much of the wildlife remains -- the Keys are a great place for birdwatching and dolphin sightings. The laid-back attitude on the islands means slower service but less-pushy vendors, and the vibe is very relaxed and happy-go-lucky.

Where To Stay

Over 30 of the Florida Keys are inhabited, giving visitors many options for where to stay. The only public airport on the Keys is located on Key West (the southernmost Key) so, depending on which key they're headed to, visitors fly into Key West, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami. Key West is the most popular key and offers a little bit of everything -- snorkeling, fishing, and a lively nightlife. The island is more built up than others, however, with kitschy souvenir shops and crowded streets. The largest key, Key Largo is also popular and features numerous golf courses. Islamorada is the most luxurious island, with high-end shops, restaurants, and luxury hotels. Islamorada is also one of the best spots for deep sea fishing, and boats go out daily on fishing expeditions. Families often opt to stay on the gulf side of the Keys, where the waters are calmer and shallower. Surfers and strong swimmers enjoy the rough waters on the Atlantic side.