A beach and party lover’s guide to Key West

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Florida is a favorite vacation destination for many beach enthusiasts. Sipping drinks while lying on the beach is the ideal vacation for many people. I finally decided to enjoy a beach vacation in southern Florida myself. I flew into Miami International Airport and from there drove to Key West, which is part of the Florida Keys archipelago and the southernmost point of the U.S. This beach and party lover’s guide will show you some fun things to do in Key West.

Stop at Miami Beach

If you fly into Miami, a great place for beach and party lovers is, of course, Miami Beach! I stopped to get my feet wet and to stroll down Ocean Drive, a boulevard full of life and crowds. It’s known for its art deco architecture and nightlife. Day or night, there is never a bad time to walk down the boulevard and enjoy the restaurants, bars, boutiques, and beach activities. I said hello to a friend and set off from there to the Keys.

It takes a bit over three hours to reach Key West by car from Miami. The drive itself is fun and lets you stop to check out other things on the way. You can also fly into the Keys directly from Miami or other Florida airports.

Beach and Party Lover’s guide to an Island Vacation at Key West

Get your beach on!

Once at Key West, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park has a great beach with clean waters perfect for swimming and snorkeling. You can make it a day long beach trip by bringing food to cook at one of many grills in the park.

There are lots of water activities to do on the island.

  • If you’re feeling adventurous, go on a jet ski tour! Besides being exciting and a lot of fun, you can get a fantastic panoramic view of the island.
  • If you prefer a slower pace, sail away or hop in a kayak and try to spot cool ocean animals like dolphins, sea turtles, and manatees.
  • Change your perspective! Get a bird’s-eye view of the island with a helicopter tour – or a fish-eye’s view by diving in and snorkeling above coral reefs.
jet skis by Mallory Square at Key West

Bar hop on Duval Street

The most popular street on the island (and the most fun part!) is Duval Street. You’ll find plenty of bars, restaurants, art galleries and cute boutiques to explore. It’s a perfect area to bar hop, listen to live music, and relax with your favorite cold drink.

See a sunset celebration at Mallory Square

Sunsets at Mallory Square are one of my favorite parts of Key West. Mallory Square is the most popular sunset spot on the island. You’ll find it at the northwest part of the island, not too far from Duval Street. Crowds gather every evening to watch the sun set. It’s a great experience to watch the sun go down while enjoying live entertainment from musicians and performers.

Sunset at Mallory Square at Key West featuring an island and a boat
Blue hour at Key West featuring a sail boat in the distance

Snap a selfie at the Southernmost Point

South of Mallory Square, you’ll find a concrete monument in a shape of a buoy that marks the southernmost point of the continental United States. It’s hard to miss, as there are always lines of people waiting to take a picture with it. Be sure to document your own trip to this landmark with a quick selfie!

Southernmost Point of continental U.S. at Key West

The logistics guide to Key West

Food at Key West

Key West, being an island, offers plenty of seafood options.

  • There’s fresh-caught fish available daily, including mahi-mahi, grouper, or snapper.
  • Conch is considered a delicacy on the island. It mainly comes in the form of conch fritters or conch chowder. Conch fritters are chopped and seasoned conch meat that is fried and served with a spicy dipping sauce. Conch chowder is a tomato-based soup with conch meat and vegetables.
  • Key West is also known for its pink shrimp caught in the offshore waters. Have a shrimp cocktail, shrimp tacos, shrimp sandwich, or any other shrimp dish you like.
  • You can’t go wrong with spiny lobster, another Key West delicacy, so have some sautéed lobster tails, broiled lobster, or lobster bisque.
  • Key West being in proximity to Cuba offers authentic Cuban food. If you need a break from seafood, have some ropa vieja (shredded beef with rice and beans), plantains, or a classic Cuban sandwich with ham and roasted pork.
  • If you have room for a dessert, try the key lime pie. This bittersweet dessert is made of key limes and condensed milk on a pie crust served with whipped cream.

Accommodation at Key West

Key West has a wide range of places to stay, including hotels, resorts, inns, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and campgrounds.

I opted for an inn in Casa Marina. Casa Marina is a district in between Higgs Beach and Historic district, a bit away from the most popular tourist spots yet close enough to walk and in proximity to the beach. I loved walking to the nearby attractions and passing by million-dollar mansions of the Key West Historic District. Staying inland was peaceful and quiet.

If you’re looking for fun, look for accommodation around Duval Street and Mallory Square. Bahama Village is also fun and has some of the best restaurants on the island as well as a flea market great for souvenir shopping. On the other hand, if you prefer a peaceful place away from crowds, consider the residential New Town district.

Key West accommodation

Transportation at Key West

The nice thing about Key West is that the island, at 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, is small enough to allow you to easily travel on foot. Public transportation is also available. The city has a free bus service, the Duval Loop, that allows you to get on and off at the most popular island spots. There are also bike and scooter rentals.

I happened to rent a car in Miami and drive to the Key West to focus more on the surrounding areas. However, once on the island, traveling on foot was my preferred way of transportation, although the car was handy for trips to the beach.

A final note when planning your Key West vacation

When planning your trip, keep in mind that hurricane season starts at the beginning of June and runs through the end of October with a peak in August and September. Flight tickets tend to be cheaper at that time but consider the risk before booking.

Have you enjoyed my beach and party lover’s guide to Key West? Are you still looking for more things to do in Key West? Check out this post to learn more.

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