Key West in Florida is considered to be the southernmost city in the continental United States and is famous for its idyllic climate and a laid-back atmosphere that has long attracted artists and rebels, including Ernest Hemmingway. Part of the city’s unique vibe is rooted in its geographical position; the island is barely connected to the United States and is actually closer to Cuba than the rest of the States. Visitors can stroll along the palm-lined streets and discover the city’s charming architecture or simply relax in the sunshine at one of the many local beaches. Once the sun sets, the city moves to an entirely different beat, the streets fill with partiers visiting the many cafes, bars, and world-class restaurants.
A visit to Duval Street is essential for all tourists, one of the most energetic strips of shops, bars and cafes in the United States. Although the city is known for its vibrant nightlife and blue skies, the island is also famous for its diverse range of outdoor activities including diving, fishing and golf. In fact, some of the island’s most popular tourist activities are set in nearby crystal-clear waters, including dolphin encounters, kayaking and snorkeling. Visitors are also encouraged to rent a boat at Key West marina so they can explore the surrounding area in their own time.
Key West hosts many spectacular events throughout the year such as the Fantasy Fest, the Power Boat World Championships and the Songwriter’s Festival, so when searching for flights to Key West you won’t be short of entertainment anytime of the year.
Key West’s weather is warm and balmy year round. Through winter and spring, you can expect highs in the mid 70s, with lows rarely dipping below the 60s. Things heat up in the summer, but rarely go above the low 90s. Watch out for clouds and rain between May and October as well as extremely high humidity, which can reach 100 percent from July to September.
The vast majority of tourists that flood onto the island come during the peak season of December to February. Those hoping to escape harsh weather are drawn to Florida’s mild climate and party atmosphere, but don’t expect to find reasonably priced accommodation. The best time to visit the island is between March and May when the winter crowds taper-off and the local accommodation rates become reasonable. During the spring to early summer season the climate is still quite mild and you are likely to escape the threat of hurricanes or other inclement weather.
If you are willing to take a gamble, the rainy summer months (June to August) see the fewest tourists and the hotel rates are at their lowest.
Springtime is the sweet spot for visiting Key West. Sure, it’s a prime destination in the winter due to the blissfully mild weather, but you’ll find it quite crowded, especially over the holidays. From March till May, the crowds thin out while the weather maintains its 70-to-80 degree perfection. You’ll get great rates between June and November, but you’re flirting with hurricane season then. Book your flight about four months ahead of your trip if you can.
The first choice you have to make when traveling to Key West is whether you want to fly to Key West International Airport or fly to either Miami or Fort Lauderdale and rent a car. The latter choice may be the less expensive one, even when you include the rental car in the total, and locals recommend opting for Fort Lauderdale for an easier trip.
If you plan to fly directly to Key West, look for flights with Delta or American Airlines. You can also reach Key West with a stopover flying JetBlue or United.
Life in Key West is casual, with even the finest restaurants happy to seat you while you’re wearing shorts (as long as you have a collared shirt!). Think “tropical” and “island” when packing for Key West, and make sure you have multiple pairs of shorts, sandals (flip flops are fine) and swimsuits. Sunscreen is mandatory under the hot sun, and you should attach a leash around your sunglasses to keep them close at hand. If you plan to spend a lot of time at the beach or pool, bring a waterproof bag to protect your phone, keys, camera and reading material.
Flights to Key West arrive at Key West International Airport (EYW) where visitors have limited options for getting to the city center. There is a reliable shuttle service that runs to Truman Avenue; simply call and wait about 12 minutes for the shuttle bus to arrive. If you would prefer to rent a car on your arrival you can find all the major companies located within the main terminal building.
Visitors should be aware that parking can be difficult to find and is quite expensive, the
locals prefer to cycle around the narrow city streets or use a scooter or golf cart to get around.
Key West is an island with fascinating history and plenty to do, though no one would blame you if you decided to spend your entire vacation relaxing on a white sand beach. Check out the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum to learn not only about the famous author but to see what life was like in the Keys 100 years ago; the Audubon House also opens this door to the past. President Truman’s Little White House is also a great destination for history buffs.
If you spend all your time on land while in Key West, you’re missing a lot of the fun this island offers. Book a charter boat to head out onto either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean to enjoy dolphin-watching, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving, or island-hopping. You can also take a chartered boat or a ferry to visit Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, or rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the waters around Key West on your own.
Shopping in Key West is delightful, and no trip is complete without a stroll down Duval Street to check out its boutiques and art galleries. At Mallory Square, right on the waterfront, you’ll find artisans at work in their booths as well as food vendors. Come around sunset to watch the sun disappear over the Gulf. When it’s time to chill at the beach, drop your towel near Lagerheads Beach Bar for fresh fish tacos, or treat yourself to a stay at the Ibis Bay Beach Resort, where a day in a hammock with brightly colored macaws flying by approaches perfection.