Key Largo is the Florida Keys default gateway, and thankfully it has its own beauty and charm. Enough to draw out many Floridians out of Miami. Key West is the fruitful culmination of your Florida Keys holiday, jam-packed and convenient.
Fabled and famous, Key West is the best culmination to your Florida Keys adventure, hands down. Packed with a genius blend of modern entertainment, nature, history, and local culture, you can have just about everything in Key West.
You can expect to have a wide variety of experiences in Key West’s many must-dos and must-visits. Expect to be taken away with a colorful colonial town, great nightlife, and open local attitudes, on top of gorgeous views and amazing seas.
What Makes Key West Unique?
One of the Florida Keys’ greatest advantages and its biggest draw is its proximity to water and all its wonderful features. Key West’s awesome aquatics has played a big role in its ever-enduring fame. From family-friendly museums to the adventurer’s snorkeling scenes, the island has it all. You’ll quickly understand why Key West is always the US’ best waterworld option.
The famed Mel Fisher Maritime Museum on Greene Street surely entertains and instructs visitors of all ages. Florida as a whole is a super family-friendly place.
It’s a fun way for young kids to get up and personal with one-of-a-kind sixteenth- and seventeenth-century galleons and their odd cargoes. These ships once even contained a gorgeous emerald cross and massive cannons. Both artifacts were salvaged from two seventeenth-century wrecks.
History buffs and curious young minds will revel in the pieces of history displayed here. The museum is open to the public, of course, and regularly offers tours to tourists. The collection is historically significant, as it provides a glimpse into the country’s formative years.
The Florida Keys as a whole is an ocean lover’s dream, with a plethora of spectacular water-based activities and experiences. Oceanic activities should be high on your to-do list when visiting Key West, whether you’re a seasoned diver or a first-time snorkeler.
You can choose from several long-standing operators. They’re offering anything from wreck dives, reef dives, and mangrove kayaking. You can even book a unique glass-bottom boat tour at the historic seaport.
You may schedule a double-stop tour to make the most of Key West’s watery delights. This trip offers plenty of excitement and thrills, with stops at two prime snorkeling spots. Plus, you’ll be sailing on a high-speed, state-of-the-art catamaran.
On top of snorkeling and diving activities on offer, you can even try your hand at sportfishing. You can easily do so just off the key and to the Dry Tortugas via local charters. The Andy Griffiths Charters, among the many, can arrange excursions for you.
Situated at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, a gifted stretch just south of the state, you can expect Key West has glorious coasts all over. Though you can find a lot of rocky, and jagged beaches fit for docking boats. There are stretches of white sandy beaches across the island that are nothing short of exciting and divine.
Smathers Beach is the busiest beach on the island, especially on weekends. Local windsurfers and parasailers tend to flock there, especially on Saturdays. This one-mile stretch of powdery sand is also a popular Spring Break hangout. You can see food vendors, umbrella rentals, and kayak and jet-ski rentals available here.
The beach is free to enter, and there are volleyball nets and other watersports companies that rent out equipment. At the concession truck, you may rent seats and rafts, as well as purchase a variety of refreshments.
Smathers is a popular hangout for locals, as well as many Spring Break visitors to Key West looking for some fun in the sun. The beach is located on South Roosevelt Boulevard on the island’s south side.
Higg’s Beach is a lesser-known beach that is frequently overlooked by visitors who go to Smathers Beach. It rests on a sprawling 17-acre (6.8 hectares) expanse, with sand imported from the Caribbean, just like the rest of the island. This hideaway is ideal for relaxing and lounging in the shade while enjoying the exquisite vistas.
You can bring your own or rent a beach chair and relax in the sand as the waves crash against the shore. A full-service restaurant, a playground, volleyball nets, tennis courts, and a dog park are all available. There is also a long wooden pier for gazing out at the ocean and sunbathing. The beach sits at the end of Reynolds Street and is open to the public.
Historical Homes and Colonial Streets
The past of Key West has fashioned it into the unique location it is today, as seen by its many historical homes and local tales. Knowing the history of Key West adds to the fun of walking its colorful streets.
Pirates used to occasionally visit Key West; the island did not have permanent Spanish settlers until the early 1800s. Spain eventually handed up control of the island to the United States in 1821.
But the Spanish and Cuban overtones are quite apparent on the island today. This is especially evident in Key West’s colonial homes and structures.
Old Town Architecture
One such tangible testament to the island’s rich history is the well-preserved and celebrated splendor of the Old Town. The best way to marvel at Key West’s distinctive pastel-colored homes is to stroll or cycle through the Old Town.
Their porches are usually equipped with rocking chairs fixed behind white picket gates. Imagine a romantic blend of Spanish colonial America and modern luxuries. The area is both scenic and rich in history.
For almost a decade, America’s famed author of Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and dozens more called Key West home, leaving a mark on the island.
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is where this giant of American literature created some of his most celebrated works. The iconic house is a must-see for literary fans or just about anyone visiting Key West.
It was one of Key West’s grandest homes when it was built for a wealthy merchant in 1851. But by the time Hemingway and his then-wife bought it in 1931, it was seriously run-down. The couple renovated it in luxurious style. The house currently features a 60-foot (18.3 m) turquoise swimming pool carved from solid coral.
Now you can visit the very house itself, and learn more about it right in the museum inside. Plus, you can even see 50 six-toed cats around the house, believed to be descendants of Hemingway’s cats.
Ask around for Duval Street, and almost everybody will gladly point you where. With its many bars and busy nightlife, this iconic area in Key West is sometimes referred to as the Bourbon Street of the Keys.
From the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, Duval Street is a little over a mile long. Duval Street is home to a slew of clubs and bars frequented by almost everyone. You can see elderly rockers to college students here. It is considered the epicenter of Key West’s best nightlife.
For live music, go to the Green Parrot, where residents dance and drink till the wee hours of the morning. Sloppy Joe’s is another renowned hangout. However contrary to popular belief, the original location was in a pub frequented by Ernest Hemingway. Regardless, every year, Sloppy Joe’s Bar sponsors an Ernest Hemingway impersonation contest.
One Human Family
J.T., a local artist, came up with the “One Human Family” idea. Thompson was inspired by the island’s atmosphere of inclusion and positivity. The city embraces people of all races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and other diversity.
Key West was known for its broad, accepting social dynamic, and it continues to be a symbol of tolerance and love today.
Visiting the island, you’ll be washed with how tolerant, and loving the local people are. It is because of this that Key West is one of the most LGBT-friendly tourist destinations in the US. The city has remained a beacon of hope and unity.
The gateway to the Florida Keys, and a dive capital, Key Largo perfectly adds to the allure of Southern Florida. While being a part of a gifted chain of islands, Key Largo’s long roster of draws is enough to make it a phenomenon in itself.
From national parks, and dive sites, to endless thrilling activities, Key Largo is just the beginning of a long list of adventures. Thanks to its gifted geography and historical development, this once simple stretch is now one of the US’ must-visit.
What Makes Key Largo Unique?
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Visiting, specifically snorkeling near the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, is almost a rite of passage for tourists in Key Largo. This beautiful park spans 25 miles (40 km) along the Florida Keys and three miles out (4.8 km) into the Atlantic Ocean.
You’ll be astounded by the wonders that lie beneath the seas at John Pennekamp State Park. Ancient statues, cannons, and remains of shipwrecks lie on the seabed just offshore, waiting to be uncovered.
As you go deeper, you’ll be swimming with a colorful variety of fish to find the fabled Christ of the Abyss statue in the depths. The statue stands on a vast concrete base, depicting Jesus extending both arms in exaltation towards the surface. The statue is located under 25 feet (7.6 m) of water and is plainly visible to snorkelers and divers.
Apart from the statue, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses a wide range of habitats. This includes marine life, tropical vegetation, and a diverse array of flora and wildlife.
You can find a plethora of exciting things to do here, perhaps the most famous is snorkeling. The wonderful Half Day Snorkel Trip on Reefs in the Florida Keys is a great opportunity for beginners. They can easily experience an in-water adventure here.
This exciting adventure includes a catamaran ride to a calm reef where you can snorkel. It also includes a visit to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. All equipment, as well as eco-friendly sunscreen and drinking water, is given.
Apart from snorkeling, you can also do plenty more other activities on the beach. You may participate in a variety of activities along the beach, including kayaking, and canoeing, as well as boat trips and picnics.
It’s also fun to come early in the summer to watch the sunrise.
Thanks to its proximity to the sea, you can find various water activities available all across the entire stretch of Key Largo. From the most popular snorkeling tours, kayaking, to stand-up paddling, you can surely experience a lot of fun and thrill here.
Apart from the snorkeling in Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you can easily snorkel with the many snorkeling tours across the Key. Thanks to its inviting scenes, many people who visit Key Largo are newbies to the water sport.
Joining a group is an excellent choice for beginners or those who don’t want to snorkel alone. With a calm and gentle current and fantastic sights, Key Largo is the ideal spot to start. Plus, it has a plethora of alternatives for booking and planning a snorkeling excursion.
The Key Largo Snorkeling Tour, which includes all equipment, from masks to fins, is a wonderful option for beginners. All you have to do now is turn up. This excursion will take you to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where you will be able to snorkel in calm, clear, shallow water. On a trip to Key Largo, the whole family may enjoy this two-and-a-half-hour short excursion.
Due to the calm waters of the city’s healthy, lush mangrove locations, paddleboarding is a terrific way to spend time in Key Largo.
Many resorts even offer paddleboarding as an additional complimentary activity. However, the varied shorelines can present varying levels of difficulty for boarders of all levels.
Fishing at Key Largo is easy thanks to the turquoise waters, pleasant salty breezes, an abundance of fish, and calm seas. Choosing which fish to pursue and where to fish will likely be the most difficult aspect of your day.
The sheer amount of options makes the decision even more difficult. The Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and nature parks all present themselves as appealing options.
Key Largo has some of the best sportfishing in Florida, thanks to its abundance of marine life. Mahi-mahi, groupers, snappers, marlins, kingfish, and other species are commonly caught by beginners.
There are numerous fishing charter companies from which to pick. You have the option of going on a lively party boat, a private reef expedition, or even an after-dark fishing tour. Some businesses will also clean and cook your fish right in front of you, resulting in a memorable lunch at sea.
Key Largo is a popular diving destination, surrounded on all sides by sea and reefs. In Key Largo, you’ll be diving through large reefs, challenging wrecks, and ancient underwater monuments. There are even wall dives around. On the Atlantic side of the island, there are 13 primary dive sites ranging in depth from shallow to deep.
You can find two interesting diving sites in Key Largo that will definitely tickle your itch for a novel kind of adventure. One of the most popular dive sites is Molasses Reef. Here, you’ll find a massive reef system with depths of up to 90 feet (27.4 m), but the main attraction is the coral heads that jut up from the bottom.
Another popular entry is the USS Spiegel Grove Wreck. The ship, which is 500 feet long (152 meters), was used by the US Navy for dock landings between 1955 and 1989. It sank in 2002 and remains submerged beneath the waves of Key Largo, waiting to be discovered. Because the wreck is so large, there are several opportunities to discover hidden corners and secret spots.
You’ll have to dive about 70 feet (21 meters) into the sea below to reach the USS Spiegel Grove Wreck. Because of the strong currents, only experienced divers should attempt to reach this location.
History of Diving Museum
Although the History of Diving Museum is technically located in Islamorada, it is widely regarded as one of the best things to do in Key Largo. Thanks to its proximity and intriguing idea.
The History of Diving Museum will take you on a journey through time. It walks you from the very first attempts of exploring the oceans to the present day.
Here you’ll learn more about the development of diving as well. You’ll discover how underwater breathing equipment has evolved over time, among many other things. The museum also showcases how scuba diving became one of the world’s most popular water sports.
You can also see all kinds of valuables unearthed in shipwrecks on exhibit at this museum just outside of Key Largo, Florida. There’s also an interactive exhibit where you can see how long you can hold your breath underwater.
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
If you’re up for a more easygoing time in Key Largo, you can opt for biking, walking, and a chill road trip. Especially around Key Largo’s scenic vistas in its expansive stretch. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail provides the perfect sceneries and road quality for your scenic woes.
It’s a multiuse track that spans 76 miles (122.3 km) of trails throughout a 106-mile Key West-to-Key Largo corridor (170.6 km). The trail is excellent for recreation and fun, with space for skating, walking, bicycling, and more. But perhaps, the best and most popular thing to do on the famous trail is to get on a bicycle and traverse the impressive stretch.
The bike trail across the expanse is flat and it has good quality. However, there are sections that are only as narrow, with speeding cars at 50 mph (80.5 kph), which can be risky for cyclists. You can also expect that the Heritage Trail is brimming with sceneries that can make you stop in awe. So you have to always be cautious.
The Overseas Heritage Trail, dubbed “one of the cool locations,” is ideal for discovering new places to visit. The trail runs across several states and even national parks.
The Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park are two of them. However, you don’t have to leave Key Largo to enjoy the path. There are lots of places to visit within the city, including lush gardens, historic buildings, and separate nature trails.
Wildlife and Nature Conservation Parks
Key Largo and even all of the Florida Keys are speckled with conservation parks. This marks the entire expanse not only for entertainment but it is purpose-driven and brings awareness as well. You can expect to find a lot of state parks, and conservation spaces across Key Largo, making it an even more exciting place.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
For cyclists and hikers alike, the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is ideal. It offers six miles (9.7 km) of paths across beautiful settings.
It was saved from development in 1982, thanks to its namesake. Dagny Johnson, local green and environmental enthusiast, gave the park its name. It currently houses 84 protected species of animals and plants. You can find an abundance of charms here that is as handful as its name.
The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park also houses a unique entry. It is home to one of the country’s largest West Indian hardwood hammocks. Thanks to its unique tropical environment.
The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is a great place to visit if you’re looking for something to do because it’s open all year.
A variety of activities make exploration convenient. You can even go on self-guided tours. There are well-placed trail signs that will lead you through each section.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
From premier diving sites to a wide variety of marine life, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is home to many of Key Largo’s best diving spots. The protected area, which covers 2,900 square nautical miles, was established in 1990 to protect aquatic wildlife and coral reefs.
Some of the most popular dive sites and attractions in the National Marine Sanctuary are directly off the coast of Key Largo. There are several shipwrecks around the coast that are suitable for exploration. Explore French Reef, Grecian Rocks, and Molasses Reef.
Everglades National Park
Whenever you’re in Key Largo, the Everglades National Park is easily accessible. It would make sense to include it in your itinerary, especially for nature lovers. It is one of the most common day trips for Key Largo visitors.
It is a World Heritage Site with various swamps, mangrove forests, grasslands, marshes, rivers, and other biomes. It’s one of the most environmentally varied sections of the country, with a distinct scenery that will be a delight to explore during your stay.
A wide range of birds, fish, animals, and reptiles can be found in the Everglades. The park is home to approximately 35 endangered animal species. You can find the likes of the Florida panther, West Indian manatee, and American crocodile. Even though these animals are difficult to find, the Everglades is still a great place to go for nature viewing.
You can also spend the day hiking or cycling through the Everglades on authorized pathways. Kayaking and canoeing are two other excellent methods to see the Everglades. Boating, swimming, and jet skiing are, however, prohibited in the park.
Key Largo or Key West – Which Is Better?
If you want to enjoy everything that tropical Florida has to offer, Key West can definitely satisfy your every woe. From crowded to quiet beaches, natural parks, history, and aesthetic pleasures, you can surely be overwhelmed. Mostly thanks to the sheer availability of every holiday necessity here.
Key Largo is a close contender, of course, with its simpler yet equally grand features. It sits near the mainland and lies close to most of Florida’s natural parks. However jam-packed it is, it doesn’t offer as many draws and thrills as Key West. On the other hand, it can also be the perfect spot for certain holidaymakers.
Is Key West or Key Largo Prettier?
If you’re looking for more scenic views, incredible city scenes, and the fabled vacation aesthetics of it all, Key West is by far the best choice. Thanks to its sweeping views of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, and a town full of history and playfully colored houses. Key West is the perfect culmination of a long journey across the Florida Keys.
Because of its undisputed beauty and excitement, you can find many songs dedicated to this little slice of holiday heaven. It’s no surprise you’ll eventually spot famous faces and iconic places around the city.
Which Is Cheaper – Key West or Key Largo?
The price of a hotel room in Key West is comparable to that of a hotel room in Key Largo. The cost of food also plays around the same prices, though Key West houses a greater number of high-end restaurants than Key Largo. The cost of a hotel room and the cost of activity are also comparable.
Is Key Largo or Key West Better for Families?
Both destinations are perfect choices for families of different kinds. However, if you’re looking for a locale with more activities and attractions, you can be sure to find a lot in Key West. It is often the best choice for families because of its wide array of available activities for every member of the family.
Key Largo is also a family-friendly destination, from resorts to activities and attractions. But certainly can’t measure up to the sheer number of Key West’s features for families.
Does Key Largo or Key West Have Better Beaches?
Ironically, the Florida Keys aren’t famous for their beaches despite being islands jutting out into the Caribbean themselves. But there are many beach bums who prefer the Florida Keys’ beaches because of smaller crowds and more privacy.
Both Key Largo and Key West have excellent stretches of white sand beaches with complementing views of the Caribbean. Most of these are near hotels, resorts, and national or state parks. You will find that Florida Key’s beaches are underrated, and well-deserving of the hype.
Which Has Better Snorkeling – Key West or Key Largo?
When it comes to snorkeling and diving, Key West offers some excellent options. However, the snorkeling and diving chances near Key Largo far outnumber those in the southernmost Key. Both islands’ reefs are noticeably healthy, attractive, and incredibly easy to reach.
Is Diving Better in Key West or Key Largo?
Key Largo is arguably the best diving destination in all of the Florida Keys, and perhaps even the entire world. The entire aquatic stretch of Key Largo is known as the diving capital of the world. It features sunken ships, monuments, and coral reefs that you have to see to believe.
Key Largo vs. Key West for Boats
When it comes to buying boats, avid boat masters always say that Key Largo boats used to be of the highest quality, only coming in next to Key West. However, many have reported recently that the Key West still is the best. Key Largo’s production lately has been a huge league away from Key West’s quality.
Is It Better to Stay at Key Largo or Key West?
When looking for a hotel or place to stay for your vacation, you’ll quickly notice that the two possibilities are vastly different. While Key West has large resorts and romantic hotels that cater to your every whim, Key Largo provides a more personal and caring experience.
Guests to Key Largo can rent a private sanctuary for a night for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. This experience provides tourists with a private beach, swimming pool, and plenty of space to forget about their problems.
Key West is the clear winner, with LGBTQ-friendly accommodations among the many other alternatives. Key West has something for everyone who comes to visit, from Airbnb to large resorts. You can rent a private beach home or live in a condominium with your neighbors.
Are Key West and Key Largo the Same?
While they’re both located along the Florida Keys and may share many similarities, they are vastly different in several aspects. From the atmosphere, and roster of draws to the scenic views they are both distinct.
This difference, however, is a good thing. You can start in Key Largo, the gateway to the Florida Keys, you can definitely enjoy the diversity of the keys’ dynamic scenes.
Is Key Largo in Key West?
Key Largo sits far east of Key West. You literally have to go through a long highway, and through all of the Florida Keys to get to Key West from Key Largo. Key West is the very tip of the famed region and the outermost point of the continental US, while Key Largo is the mere entrance to the Florida Keys.
Is Key West Near Key Largo?
113 miles or 181 km apart, Key West is nowhere near Key Largo. You have to go through a long highway, and a series of bridges to get between them.
Where Is Key Largo Compared to Key West?
Key Largo is located in southern Florida, an hour south of Miami. The city is considered the entrance to the Florida Keys because how it is the first and most accessible key you can get to. Key West sits at the tip of the Florida Keys, far west of Key West.
How Far Is Key Largo From Key West?
Key West is approximately 113 miles or 181 km west of Key Largo, directly. You have to drive through the highway that traverses most of the Florida Keys.
How Many Keys Are There From Key Largo to Key West?
You have to get through seven main keys to get to Key West from Key Largo. However, that’s just the main bit, you actually have 44 islands, and a series of 42 bridges all in all.
This makes for an interesting road trip should you decide to brave the long highway through the Florida Keys. You will be rewarded with some of the most outstanding views in the continental US. Plus, it offers a slew of natural, and manmade marvels all across the Florida Keys.
How to Get From Key Largo to Key West
You only have two ways of getting to Key West directly from Key Largo; by car or by bus. It means you have to brave the extensive route. Getting between the key using your car can be the cheapest option. However, if you prefer taking the bus, you need to take a bus transfer in Big Key Pine before getting to Key West.
Is There Transportation From Key Largo to Key West?
You can find a few shuttle and bus companies that can take you from Key Largo to Key West. However, there are bus transfers in Big Pine Key before getting to Key West. A one-way fare can cost around 14 to 20 USD, and another 1 to 4 USD from Big Pine Key to Key West.
Can You Fly From Key Largo to Key West?
You can’t fly from Key Largo to Key West as there are no airports in the city. However, the closest airport to Key Largo is Miami International Airport just around an hour away. From Miami, you can book flights going to Key West International Airport.
How Long Does It Take to Drive From Key Largo to Key West?
Depending on the kind of transport you’re taking, a drive between Key Largo and Key West typically takes around four hours.
How Long Is the Bridge From Key Largo to Key West?
There isn’t a single bridge that directly connects Key Largo to Key West. A total of 42 bridges connect the different keys that lead to Key West, which totals around 181 miles or 322 kilometers.
One of these bridges is the iconic Seven Mile Bridge that connects Knight’s Key and Little Duck Key. The famed bridge is perhaps the most famous bridge in the Florida Keys, which actually stretches for around 6.7 miles (10.8 km). Thanks to its manmade marvels and scenery, it is one of the most famous sites in the Florida Keys, making it an attraction in itself.
What to Do Between Key Largo and Key West
Covering a span of 113 miles you can easily find a plethora of stops across the Overseas Highway. You can make stops at beaches, restaurants, bars, museums, and many others.
Here are some of the must-try stops:
A drive as scenic as the Overseas Highway, you can expect that it will be riddled with restaurants and food shacks. Most of which serve up some of the best in the region. There are plenty of places that a lot would consider a must-try some are also the icons of the famed highway.
One of the places you should never miss out on is The Fish House, serving the best seafood and the best atmosphere in Key Largo. Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen is also another Key Largo icon. It is a small restaurant that serves good food all day. It features quirky walls covered with license plates from all over the world, and a ceiling stuffed with dollar bills.
Sights and Activities
From Key Largo, you can easily head to the other keys via the Overseas Highway. First, you’ll get to Tavernier and head to the bird sanctuary or sample the Florida Keys’ legendary Key Lime Pie. Then, you can head to Islamorada, and charter a fishing boat, or you can head to Morado Bay and savor the views.
After Islamorada, you can dine al fresco and have a beer right by a charming beach in Marker 88, in Plantation Key. Drive to the Marathon Key, where you can pay a visit to the Turtle Hospital. Turtles are rescued, rehabilitated, and eventually released, for the sake of their conservation.
The Seven Mile Bridge
After Marathon, you’ll definitely head to the Knight’s Key and then the legendary Seven Mile Bridge. It is the longest bridge in the Florida Keys connecting the Knight’s Key to the Little Duck Key. This is such an interesting take on the Florida Keys as you don’t have to get out of your car to enjoy what it offers.
The water in the Florida Keys has a stunning shade of blue to them unlike the rest of the Caribbean. Just a mere drive along the bridge appreciating the skies and the seas is enough to amaze you. It can also make you wonder how man has made such an engineering marvel.
Can You Walk From Key West to Key Largo?
You can actually walk from Key Largo to Key West along the Overseas Highway, however, it can take roughly around three to four days. The roads are in good condition, but stretches don’t have shade against the Florida state, which can be harmful to willing walkers.