Hey there, fellow adventurers! Today, let’s embark on a journey to the laid-back islands in the Florida Keys.
Get ready to immerse yourself in turquoise waters, sway to the rhythm of island life, and indulge in unforgettable experiences. Whether you’re a sun seeker, an outdoor enthusiast, or a foodie looking to tantalize your taste buds, the Florida Keys islands have it all!
While the popular islands of Key West, Islamorada, Marathon, Key Largo, and the Dry Tortugas attract a significant amount of attention, the Florida Keys are also home to several lesser-known islands that offer really unique experiences.
Today, I’m going over the top 10 Florida Keys islands to visit and sharing what you can get out of each island.
Why Visit The Florida Keys?
There are just too many reasons to visit the Florida Keys. You can get a sliver of paradise and a true feel for island life right in the United States! Typically, the Florida Keys are cheaper than going to islands out of the country because they’re easier to get to.
And whether you’re looking for a romantic, tranquil vacation, an island nightlife experience, or to explore nature, there’s an island for everyone.
As the “Dive Capital of the World,” the Florida Keys offer exceptional diving and snorkeling opportunities. Explore a vast array of coral reefs teeming with colorful marine life, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and vibrant coral formations.
The Florida Keys are home to a diverse range of marine life and wildlife. Encounter playful dolphins, graceful manatees, and a variety of bird species.
The Florida Keys islands are known for their laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. The island lifestyle encourages you to slow down, unwind, and embrace the easygoing pace of life. Whether you’re sipping a cocktail while watching a stunning sunset, listening to live music at a beachside bar, or enjoying a leisurely bike ride along scenic coastal roads, the Keys’ casual and friendly vibe will make you feel right at home. Honestly, this island vibe is my favorite part!
And with its subtropical climate, the Florida Keys enjoy year-round sunshine and warm temperatures. This makes it an ideal destination for those seeking a break from cold winters or looking to escape the daily grind any time of the year.
What Are The Most Popular Florida Keys Islands?
The most popular islands include:
1. Key West
3. The Lower Keys
5. Key Largo
Each island has something unique and is suited to certain types of travelers. Today, I’ll go over all these Florida Keys islands as well as some lesser-known islands.
First things first, picture this: swaying palm trees, shimmering waters, and an inviting island breeze that immediately puts you in a vacation state of mind. Welcome to Islamorada, a hidden gem nestled amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Florida Keys. Known as the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” this island paradise is all about tropical vibes, pristine beaches, and a relaxed atmosphere that instantly makes you feel at home.
Oh, the beaches of Islamorada! Sink your toes into the powdery sand and let the warm sun kiss your skin as you unwind on one of the many stunning beaches.
From the family-friendly Anne’s Beach to the secluded and picturesque Founders Park, there’s a spot for everyone to bask in the sun and soak up the island vibes. Islamorada certainly has some of the best beaches of all the islands in the Florida Keys!
In Islamorada, you can dive beneath the surface and discover a vibrant underwater wonderland teeming with colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and maybe even a friendly sea turtle or two.
Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts will find their slice of paradise in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, where each dive is like stepping into a mesmerizing painting brought to life.
Now, let’s talk about the reason why anglers from around the world flock to Islamorada. With its abundance of fish species, you’re in for an epic fishing experience. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, there are plenty of charter boats and guides ready to help you reel in the catch of a lifetime. And hey, don’t worry if you’re not into fishing – witnessing the excitement and camaraderie at the docks is an adventure in itself!
The island’s pace of life reflects its casual vibe. It’s a place where time slows down, and there’s no rush to be anywhere else. You’ll find yourself falling into the rhythm of island time, embracing a slower and more relaxed way of living.
The island is renowned for its fresh seafood, and you’ll find a plethora of waterfront restaurants in Islamorada serving up the catch of the day. From mouthwatering lobster rolls to succulent stone crab claws, your taste buds are in for a treat. And let’s not forget the quintessential beachside tiki bars, where you can sip on tropical concoctions while enjoying breathtaking sunset views. Cheers to that!
- All-around beach vacationers
- Fishing and water sport enthusiasts
- Nature lovers
Known for its picture-perfect beaches, abundant marine life, and a laid-back island vibe, Marathon is the perfect destination for those seeking both thrilling adventures and blissful relaxation.
Nestled in the heart of the Florida Keys, this charming island offers a little slice of paradise for every type of traveler. With its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and an abundance of outdoor activities, Marathon is a haven for nature lovers, water enthusiasts, and sun seekers alike.
You’ll be mesmerized by Marathon’s sun-kissed beaches, where powdery sand meets crystal-clear waters. Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline of Sombrero Beach, a local favorite known for its calm waters and picture-perfect views. Set up your beach umbrella, relax under the swaying palm trees, and soak up the tropical ambiance.
For those seeking a little more adventure, Marathon has an array of watersports to get your adrenaline pumping. Hop on a kayak or paddleboard and explore the tranquil mangrove forests that line the coast. Snorkelers and scuba diving enthusiasts will be thrilled by the vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful marine life. And if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try your hand at kiteboarding or jet skiing for an exhilarating experience you won’t soon forget!
Marathon offers more than just sun and sand. Take some time to explore the island’s unique attractions and hidden gems. Visit the Turtle Hospital and learn about the conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures. Explore the Curry Hammock State Park and discover its scenic trails and captivating wildlife. And don’t miss the chance to witness the iconic Seven Mile Bridge, a true marvel of engineering that stretches across turquoise waters.
When it’s time to unwind, Marathon has you covered. Whether you choose to book a soothing spa treatment, sway in a hammock under the shade of a palm tree, enjoy a cocktail at one of the many beachfront restaurants, or simply enjoy a lazy day on the beach, relaxation is always within reach.
- Families who enjoy sightseeing/museums
- Outdoor enthusiasts (watersports, fishing, boating, etc.)
- Beachgoers and relaxation seekers:
8. Big Pine Key:
Located just a short distance from Key West, Big Pine Key is a nature lover’s paradise. It is renowned for its stunning natural beauty and is home to the National Key Deer Refuge, where you can spot the endangered Key deer, a species found only in this region. Explore the nature trails, kayak through the mangroves, and bask in the tranquility of the secluded beaches.
Prepare to be enchanted by the untouched beauty of Big Pine Key. As you explore the island, you’ll be greeted by lush vegetation, towering pine trees, and stunning vistas at every turn.
Big Pine Key is famous for its adorable and endangered Key deer, and getting a glimpse of these gentle creatures is an experience like no other. Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the island, as you might spot these miniature deer gracefully wandering through the forest or nibbling on foliage.
Adventure awaits around every corner on Big Pine Key, catering to those seeking an active and thrilling experience in nature’s playground. Here are a few activities to get your heart pumping:
- Kayaking and paddleboarding
- Snorkeling and diving
- Fishing and boating
Big Pine Key is a close-knit community, and its friendly locals are always happy to share their love for the island with visitors. Explore the local shops, restaurants, and markets to experience the island’s warm hospitality and discover unique treasures crafted by talented artisans.
- Nature enthusiasts
- Seclusion seekers
7. Dry Tortugas:
For those seeking an unforgettable adventure, a trip to the Dry Tortugas is a must. Located approximately 70 miles west of Key West, this remote cluster of islands is home to the majestic Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century coastal fortress surrounded by crystal-clear waters. Snorkelers and divers will be rewarded with an abundance of marine life and the opportunity to explore the vibrant coral reefs.
As you step foot on Dry Tortugas, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a tropical paradise that’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The island’s pristine beaches, clear waters, and unspoiled landscapes create a breathtaking backdrop for your adventure.
At the heart of Dry Tortugas lies the iconic Fort Jefferson, a 19th-century coastal fortress shrouded in history. The views from atop the fort are simply spectacular, offering panoramic vistas of the ocean and the picturesque island.
If you’re a diver then you’re in luck. Snorkelers and scuba diving enthusiasts will be treated to an underwater paradise teeming with colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and fascinating sea creatures.
Keep in mind that Dry Tortugas is a day trip only from Key West. You can either take a boat or fly.
- History and culture enthusiasts
- Snorkelers and divers
- Adventure seekers
6. Indian Key:
Steeped in history and surrounded by clear turquoise waters, Indian Key is a small island with a fascinating past. Once a bustling community in the 19th century, it is now an uninhabited state park accessible only by boat. Explore the remains of the historic village, snorkel around the coral reefs, and soak up the island’s intriguing history.
As you step foot on Indian Key, you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time to a bygone era. This historic island was once a bustling community in the 19th century, and remnants of its past can still be explored.
Indian Key is not just a place of historical significance; it also boasts breathtaking natural beauty that will leave you in awe. As you wander through the island’s trails, you’ll encounter lush vegetation, towering palm trees, and panoramic views of the surrounding waters.
The adventure doesn’t end with history and natural beauty—Indian Key also offers thrilling opportunities for snorkeling and kayaking. If you prefer to explore from above the water’s surface, hop into a kayak and paddle your way around the island. Glide through mangrove forests, marvel at the coastal scenery, and let the gentle rhythm of the water carry you along.
- History buffs
- Snorkelers and kayakers
5. Key Largo:
Known as the “Dive Capital of the World,” Key Largo offers a unique blend of adventure, natural beauty, and laid-back vibes.
From vibrant coral reefs to picturesque sunsets, this island paradise has something for everyone. It’s one of the go-to islands in the Florida Keys because it offers so much!
Considered the gateway to the Florida Keys, Key Largo is famous for its underwater wonders. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first underwater park in the United States, is a haven for snorkelers and scuba divers. Dive into a vibrant world of colorful corals, tropical fish, and even the mesmerizing Christ of the Abyss, an underwater statue.
For nature enthusiasts, the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center provides a chance to get up close and personal with local bird species and learn about their conservation efforts. Explore the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, home to diverse ecosystems that include seagrass beds, mangrove islands, and coral reefs.
Set sail on a catamaran or hop aboard a kayak to explore the island’s calm bays and winding waterways. Try your hand at paddleboarding, jet skiing, or parasailing for an adrenaline-pumping experience. Fishing enthusiasts will find their paradise in Key Largo, with opportunities to catch everything from bonefish to marlin.
From water sports to fishing and super fresh seafood restaurants on the water, Marathon is the perfect place for adventure enthusiasts.
- Divers and snorkelers
- Outdoor enthusiasts
4. Little Torch Key:
Nestled between Big Pine Key and Ramrod Key, Little Torch Key is a small, quiet island that offers a serene getaway. This island is known for its pristine waters and picturesque views. Visit the beautiful beach at Bahia Honda State Park, indulge in some world-class fishing, or simply unwind in a hammock and soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
As you step onto the island, you’ll be greeted by stunning vistas of crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and lush tropical vegetation. The island’s natural beauty extends beyond the beaches, as it is surrounded by the magnificent Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge.
Little Torch Key offers a myriad of water activities for adventure enthusiasts and those looking to relax by the sea. Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the calm and pristine waters, gliding through the mangrove-lined canals and discovering hidden coves. Or embark on a fishing excursion and cast your line into the abundant fishing grounds that surround the island.
Little Torch Key is a perfect destination for couples seeking a romantic retreat or anyone looking for a secluded getaway. Indulge in candlelit dinners by the water, take a moonlit stroll along the beach, or embark on a sunset cruise, where the sky transforms into a canvas of breathtaking colors.
While Little Torch Key may be a small island, it still boasts a variety of dining options. Treat yourself to a waterfront dining experience, where you can relish the flavors while enjoying stunning sunset views, and don’t skip the fresh seafood!
- Romantic getaways
- Artists and creatives
3. Cudjoe Key:
Situated between Summerland Key and Sugarloaf Key, Cudjoe Key is a hidden gem that boasts a laid-back ambiance and a thriving art scene. Explore the local art galleries and studios, enjoy watersports such as kayaking or paddleboarding in the calm waters, or simply relax on the secluded beaches. Don’t miss the chance to savor fresh seafood at the local waterfront restaurants.
As you step onto the shores of Cudjoe Key, you’ll immediately feel a sense of tranquility washing over you. This small, unspoiled island is the epitome of a peaceful retreat.
Cudjoe Key’s natural wonders are a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Grab a kayak or paddleboard and venture through the calm waters, exploring the intricate mangrove forests that line the coast. Keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins or curious manatees gracefully gliding through the water.
For those seeking a deeper connection with nature, Cudjoe Key’s proximity to the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge and the backcountry waters of the Lower Keys offers ample opportunities for fishing, birdwatching, and encounters with vibrant marine life.
- Nature enthusiasts
- Art and culture aficionados
- Secluded vacation lovers
2. Long Key:
Often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, Long Key offers a tranquil escape for nature enthusiasts. This island is home to Long Key State Park, which features beautiful nature trails and an idyllic beach. Go birdwatching, snorkel along the shoreline, or simply take a leisurely stroll along the scenic trails to immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.
The park boasts nature trails that wind through lush mangroves and coastal hammocks, providing opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting.
For those seeking a touch of adventure, Long Key provides an array of outdoor activities to enjoy. Launch a kayak or paddleboard into the calm waters and glide along the shoreline, exploring hidden coves and embracing the serenity of the mangrove-fringed channels.
Nature enthusiasts can venture into the backcountry, where the island’s abundant wildlife awaits. Embark on a guided eco-tour to explore the diverse ecosystems, spot marine life, and learn about the fragile balance that sustains the natural wonders of Long Key.
Long Key is famous for its awe-inspiring sunsets, and you won’t want to miss the nightly spectacle. Find a comfortable spot on the beach, settle in with a refreshing drink, and watch as the sky transforms into a canvas of vivid colors.
Whether you’re basking in the beauty of the coastline, exploring the island’s diverse ecosystems, or simply finding solace in the tranquility of the surroundings, Long Key offers an idyllic escape from the pressures of everyday life.
- Outdoor enthusiasts
- Beach lovers
- Tranquil vacation seekers
1. Key West:
No exploration of the Florida Keys is complete without a visit to Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States.
Known for its vibrant culture and artistic spirit, Key West boasts stunning sunsets, historic architecture, and a lively nightlife scene on Duval Street.
Don’t miss the chance to visit Ernest Hemingway’s former residence and the famous Key West Lighthouse. In fact, there are tons of really cool historical sites to visit in Key West, making it one of the best Florida Keys islands for sightseeing enthusiasts. And you can do all of it while carrying a drink!
Stroll along Duval Street, the bustling heart of Key West, and explore the vibrant shops, art galleries, and historic sites that line the way. Make a stop at the iconic Southernmost Point Buoy, where you can take a memorable photo at the southernmost tip of the continental United States. Key West really is one of the most lively places in the country!
Key West is a melting pot of cultures, and its diverse heritage is reflected in its vibrant arts and music scene. As the sun sets, Mallory Square comes alive with street performers, artists, and musicians, creating a lively and festive atmosphere.
But Key West’s natural beauty is a sight to behold, too. Spend a day at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, where you can snorkel among colorful coral reefs, or explore nature trails through tropical foliage. While Key West isn’t one of the Florida Keys islands known for its beaches, there are plenty of water activities to do that don’t include laying in the sand.
Overall, I recommend Key West if you’re someone who doesn’t want to sit still on vacation. You’ll get the island vibe and plenty of energy but can also check out historical sites or get up-close-and-personal with the Florida Keys island wildlife.
- Night-life seekers
- History and culture buffs
- Anyone who wants a busier, more active vacation filled with sightseeing
- Art and music lovers
Hopefully, this post gave you plenty of ideas for your Florida Keys island trip!
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FAQs About The Florida Keys Islands:
What Time Of Year Is Best To Visit?
The Florida Keys have a subtropical climate, characterized by warm temperatures and mild winters. The peak tourist season runs from December to April when the weather is typically sunny and dry, with temperatures ranging from the 70s to 80s Fahrenheit (20s to 30s Celsius). This is a popular time for outdoor activities, snorkeling, and diving.
The months of May to November constitute the off-peak season in the Florida Keys. During this time, you may encounter more rainfall and higher humidity due to the region’s tropical climate. However, the prices tend to be lower, and the islands are less crowded. If you don’t mind occasional rain showers and want to enjoy a more laid-back atmosphere, the off-peak season can be an excellent time to visit.
However, the Florida Keys islands host various events and festivals throughout the year. Key West’s Fantasy Fest, Marathon’s Seafood Festival, and the Key Largo Original Music Festival are just a few examples. Consider checking the event calendar to plan your visit around any specific festivals or activities that interest you.
The Florida Keys are renowned for their fishing opportunities. Consider the fishing seasons when planning your trip, as different fish species are more abundant during specific times of the year. Additionally, the highly anticipated lobster mini-season in late July and regular lobster season from August to March attract many divers and snorkelers seeking delicious spiny lobsters.
the Florida Keys are a year-round destination, each season offering its own charm.
If you prefer warm and dry weather with fewer crowds, the peak season from December to April is ideal. However, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly trip and don’t mind occasional rain showers, the off-peak season from May to November can be a great choice.
What Florida Keys Islands Have The Best Beaches?
The Florida Keys are home to several islands with beautiful beaches, each offering its unique charm.
Marathon: Sombrero Beach, situated in Marathon, is a stunning public beach with pristine sands and crystal-clear waters. It offers fantastic swimming conditions, a playground for children, and picnic areas for a leisurely beachside meal. Coco Plum Beach, a lesser-known gem, is a quiet and secluded beach with soft sands and shallow waters perfect for wading.
Islamorada: Anne’s Beach in Islamorada is a local favorite, known for its tranquil and shallow waters. It features a boardwalk that winds through the mangroves, offering scenic views and opportunities for birdwatching. Founders Park Beach, also in Islamorada, provides a family-friendly atmosphere with calm waters, a sandy beach, and amenities like picnic areas and a playground.
Key Largo: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo not only offers exceptional snorkeling and diving opportunities but also features Cannon Beach. This beach provides a unique experience, with artificial cannons and a reconstructed Spanish shipwreck to explore. It’s a great spot for beachcombing and picnicking.
Bahia Honda Key: Bahia Honda State Park, located on Bahia Honda Key, boasts some of the most picturesque beaches in the Florida Keys. With its clear turquoise waters, powdery white sand, and swaying palm trees, it offers a true tropical paradise. Calusa Beach and Sandspur Beach are popular spots for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling.
Which Florida Keys Islands Have The Best Nightlife?
By far, the answer to this question is Key West. But here are more specific details about the nightlife you’ll find in the islands in Key West!
Duval Street, Key West: Duval Street is the heart of Key West’s nightlife. This iconic street is lined with bars, clubs, live music venues, and restaurants, making it a bustling hub of activity. From famous establishments like Sloppy Joe’s and Irish Kevin’s to intimate cocktail lounges and dance clubs, Duval Street offers a diverse range of options for an unforgettable night out.
Mallory Square, Key West: While Mallory Square is known for its nightly sunset celebration, the area also offers lively entertainment after dark. Street performers, artists, and musicians entertain visitors as they explore the waterfront promenade. Enjoy live music, browse local shops, and indulge in delicious food and drinks at the various establishments surrounding Mallory Square.
Key Largo: Although Key Largo is more renowned for its natural beauty and outdoor adventures, it still offers a few nightlife options. Enjoy waterfront dining and live music at some of the local bars and restaurants. While the nightlife in Key Largo may not be as bustling as Key West, it provides a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere.
Islamorada: Islamorada offers a more laid-back and intimate nightlife experience compared to Key West. Enjoy live music at waterfront tiki bars and restaurants while savoring fresh seafood. The ambiance is perfect for those seeking a more low-key evening with scenic views and live entertainment.
Marathon: Marathon offers a range of dining options and waterfront bars where you can unwind with drinks and enjoy live music. While it may not have the same level of nightlife as Key West, Marathon provides a more relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere, perfect for a casual night out.
What’s The Best Way To Get To The Florida Keys?
Driving: If at ALL possible, I recommend driving to the Florida Keys islands. The drive is just insanely beautiful! We like to rent a convertible to get the full experience (they’re surprisingly cheap and common in Florida). The Overseas Highway (U.S. Highway 1) connects the mainland with the Keys, offering breathtaking views of the ocean and the surrounding islands. The drive from Miami to Key West takes approximately three to four hours, depending on traffic and stops along the way. Keep in mind that traffic can be heavier during peak travel periods, so plan accordingly. It’s basically one road all the way down!
Flying: If you’re traveling from a distant location, flying to one of the nearby airports is a convenient option. The main airports serving the Florida Keys are Key West International Airport (EYW), located in Key West, and Miami International Airport (MIA), located in Miami. If you choose to fly into Miami, you can then rent a car and drive through the Keys.