Tropical islands, pure-white sandbars and the third largest coral barrier reef in the world: the natural beauty of the Florida Keys has been enticing travelers for generations.
The Florida Keys are a seemingly never-ending coral cay archipelago that divide the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico 120 miles off the southern tip of Florida. The Keys, which are just 90 miles by sea from Cuba, have a culture all of their own. Laid-back, creative and culturally diverse, life in the keys runs only on island time. Spend your days on the islands diving in a washed-out, sun-faded landscape, splashing in sparkling shores of sandbars, adventuring in the sticky heat of the mangroves or simply kicking back and relaxing in the tropical temperatures.
Map of the Florida Keys
The archipelago is home to some stunning underwater landscapes across the 1,700 islands, and there are scuba diving opportunities aplenty with a diverse marine life thriving around the protected reefs. Take the exciting route to the Keys and drive along the famously scenic Overseas Highway and then use your car to travel around the islands at your own pace.
So what are you waiting for? Book your tickets, pack your bags – the magic of these islands is waiting for you. Here’s a look at the best places to stay in the Florida Keys:
At just 4 miles long and 1 mile wide, laid-back Key West is the epitome of island lifestyle. Artistic, quirky and fun, Key West has long been a haven for those looking to take a break from the everyday and spend time relaxing and enjoying life. The tropical island offers visitors the chance to kick back, so you can spend your time wandering the interesting neighborhoods and sipping iced coffee in charming cafes, or sunning yourself on the beaches. You can even go out on the water fishing.
It’s easy to travel around the island – grab yourself a bike and see the sights by pedaling around the quiet streets, or take the bus or tram. Home to the southernmost point in continental USA, accommodation on Key West usually always has views of the sea. For a budget night’s sleep, you could opt for camping at one of the island’s campsites; there are some reasonably priced mid-range guesthouses on the island too, along with some more expensive resorts to choose from.
If you’re looking for an island paradise and the chance to do a spot of diving, then look no further than Key Largo. Home to a depth of nature, visitors to the island can enjoy a huge range of activities from fishing and kayaking to hiking in the national park. The crystal clear water just off of the coast of Key Largo, in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, boasts the world’s largest artificial reef which is a big draw for keen divers.
The tropical island is has a large Cuban population, and as such you can take the chance to try out some traditional Cuban cuisine in restaurants with stunning sunset views. Stay in Key Largo at one of the island’s many beachside resorts which offer everything you will need so you can sit back and relax. For accommodation on a budget you can opt for a family-run inn.
Located in the Middle Keys, Marathon stretches for ten miles and is a great choice for a family-friendly getaway. The island has a welcoming local community and a wealth of amenities to make your stay comfortable. Spend your time under the shade of the trees at Sombrero Beach and swim in the safety of the roped-off area of ocean. You can also try out all sorts of watersports during your stay on Marathon, or take a visit to the turtle hospital where you can learn about wildlife conservation in the Keys.
It’s a good idea to rent yourself a car so that you can travel around the island easily and discover local restaurants serving freshly caught seafood as the sun sets. There is a huge variety of accommodation in Marathon: you could choose to stay in a floating house in the marina or at one of the family-orientated resorts with tranquil sea views.
Translating as Island Home, Islamorada is consists of six islands: Windley Key, Plantation Key, Indian Key, Upper Matecumbe Key Lignumvitae Key and Lower Matecumbe Key.. These beautiful locations have been labelled as a village of islands, and are known for their depth of marine wildlife with people drawn to the area to explore the many reefs. Islamorada is also popular with keen anglers as there is a wealth of fish to be caught just off the shore.
Hiring a car is essential if you want to see all of what Islamorada has to offer, but you can also try out hiking the tropical trails at Long Key State Park. With so much of Islamorada surrounded by water it would be hard to find a hotel without views of the ocean. There’s a wide choice of resorts to stay in, from mid-range to high-end, most of which have their own pools and restaurants.
Easygoing Big Pine Key is the place to come and kick back. Named after the pines that grow on the island, it is home to the beautiful Bahia Honda State Park. Take some time out on the island and enjoy sunbathing, snorkeling or swimming in the enticing crystal clear waters around Big Pine Key. If you fancy being more active, there’s a wide range of watersports to try – or you could hike around the Blue Hole, a former limestone quarry turned freshwater lake with attractive natural scenery. Or you can add a dollar bill to the walls of No Name Pub, a popular pub and eatery that is often the first stop for road trippers making their way to Key West. The island is also famous for its large population of Key Deer that have dwarfed in size after many generations of living in the keys.
Accommodation on Big Pine Key can be more affordable than on many of the other Keys, with camping and lodges available, but you can also choose from one of the secluded sea-view family’s resorts.
The small island of Little Torch Key is charmingly local, with a friendly atmosphere that’s ideal for couples looking for a relaxing getaway. There are a handful of shops and restaurants for visitors to choose from and the other more populated Keys are an easy car journey away. This is the island to choose if you are looking for peace and quiet away from it all. And nearby diving opportunities are aplenty at the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.
If you want to stay in the Florida Keys in a slice of romantic solitude you can catch the boat over to Little Palm Island and stay in the enchanting resort – the only problem is, once you sink into your hammock, it will be hard for you to go anywhere else.