Key West is a paradise in our own backyard, complete with sparkling waters for snorkeling and plenty of sun to soak up. But it’s also home to a burgeoning foodie and mixology scene, award-winning art galleries and much, much more.
To taste Key West, it’s all about Key lime pie, Cuban cuisine and aaaaall the fresh seafood.
For top-notch Cuban food, El Siboney is the place to go. It’s located in a residential area just off Duval Street and specializes in the old-fashioned classics: black beans, yellow rice, roast pork and flan. Try other dishes like albondigas (Cuban meatballs), dorado a la plancha (grilled Mahi) and the mango guava cheesecake.
Looking for oysters? Don’t miss Half Shell Raw Bar, one of the oldest joints in town with a waterfront view. Shuckers pop open fresh oysters ‘round the clock right in front of diners who can dive in as they please.
Key West Key Lime Pie Company often has a line out the door for their little slices of heaven but for good reason. Their Key lime pie is made fresh daily using only natural ingredients (think real Key lime juice and homemade graham crackers crushed into crust) and has won national awards.
Rum runners for everyone! If you came to Key West to let loose, you can’t skip Sloppy Joe’s or Captain Tony’s, two notorious bars that are always a rowdy good time. Once you’ve had your fill of the must-see party bars, rest assured Key West has some mixologist-approved bars as well.
At First Legal Rum Distillery, the rum is crafted from Florida sugarcane and aged inside crusty, seawater-cured barrels. This creates a low-proof rum with pear and butterscotch flavors thanks to the cane and vanilla from the charred oak.
During prohibition, Key West was a hot spot for speakeasies. Carrying on that tradition but with a 2018 spin, Other Side is a speakeasy inside a historic mansion on Caroline Street. It’s decorated with marble and tufted leather furniture just like a speakeasy of old, and the cocktails are creative takes on the classics. Aside from rum-based drinks, they serve a variety of gins and whiskeys.
The Gates (3824 N Roosevelt Blvd., gateshotelkeywest.com) is the perfect crash pad for travelers on a budget who still want a hotel with personality. This refurbished Florida motel’s location in modern New Town puts visitors right at the entrance to Key West. The hotel is known for its poolside food truck, rum bar and cigar lounge. Current rates begin at $143.
If you’ve ever been to Key West, you’ve noticed La Concha Hotel & Spa (430 Duval St., laconchakeywest.com)—at six stories high, it’s the tallest building in town and is a staple of the skyline. La Concha is situated in the center of Duval Street, right in the middle of all the action. But when you need to catch your breath, amenities here include a wine bar, pool and rooftop spa. Current rates begin at $229.
One of Key West’s most iconic, beloved buildings is the Southernmost House (1400 Duval St., southernmosthouse.com), which sits just one block away from the Southernmost Point buoy. What was once a Victorian mansion is now an 18-bed bed and breakfast with a cutting-edge, zero-entry swimming pool with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Current rates begin at $249.
You can’t stay out of the water when visiting Key West. Whether swimming, snorkeling, fishing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, you name it, on the water is where it’s at. Businesses like Sunset Water Sports (sunsetwatersportskeywest.com) and Fury Water Adventures (furycat.com) offer all the parasailing, sunset-cruising, dolphin socializing adventures you and the family could hope to have, led by professionals who have been teaching tourists how to enjoy water sports for many years.
Want to visit an icon? The Key West lighthouse is a must-see landmark, and the surrounding area of Old Town is just as interesting. Its streets are lined with 19th century wooden houses, and visitors say when night falls the ghosts of their former residents awaken. Take one of Key West’s ghost tours and learn about local legends, including the infamous possessed doll, Robert.
Key West is also a hub for museums and art galleries. Gallery on Greene is Key West’s premier gallery, home to works by Pulitzer Prize winners Jeff MacNelly and Annie Dillard among many others. Alan Maltz’s Gallery of fine art photography portrays the natural beauty of the Florida Keys—did you know he’s the official photographer of the state of Florida? Pick up a glass print or light catcher of his work for a souvenir.
The Dry Tortugas are often called the eighth wonder of the world, so grab a ride on the ferry from Key West. Once you arrive, you can tour a Civil War-era fort, snorkel and enjoy tropical scenery unlike anywhere else in the United States.