Looking to spend a day at some of the beautiful Key West beaches? We’re giving you the good and bad of each beach to help you plan the perfect day in the sun!
Welcome to the sun-kissed shores of Key West, where turquoise waters and golden sands beckon adventurers from all corners of the world. Nestled amidst the sparkling blue expanse of the Gulf of Mexico, this tropical paradise boasts a collection of beaches that captivate the soul and awaken the wanderlust within.
Key West is island life at its finest! And while this island isn’t known for its beaches, you can still have an awesome day in the sand if you know where to go.
From iconic oceanfronts that epitomize the island’s spirit to secluded havens that offer tranquil retreats, we’ve left no beach unexplored in our quest to curate an unforgettable coastal experience!
Without further ado: the best beaches in Key West to visit on your next vacation!
10. Smathers Beach: Key West’s Iconic Stretch of Sand
Get ready to dive into the beating heart of Key West’s beach scene at Smathers Beach! This is where the action’s at, with a buzz of excitement that’ll keep you grinning from ear to ear.
But that’s not all; the beauty of Smathers Beach isn’t just about the action; it’s the stunning two-mile stretch of soft, powdery sands that’ll have you feeling like you’re walking on clouds. Oh, and trust us, you won’t want to miss the awe-inspiring sunrises and the romance of those golden sunsets that paint the sky with hues of magic.
While Smathers is considered one of the best beaches in Key West, it can get pretty crowded, but it’s worth the crowds to get some of the best sand at any Key West beach.
- It’s the place to be if you want a lively and happening beach vibe
- Two miles of velvety white sands that stretch along the Atlantic (best sand in Key West)
- Prepare to be dazzled by breathtaking sunrises and dreamy sunsets
- Easy swimming without too much current
9. Higgs Beach: A Family-Friendly Oasis in Key West
Higgs Beach is where “chill” becomes a way of life! If you’re after that mellow and welcoming beach atmosphere, you’ve hit the jackpot. This sandy haven is all about relaxation and spending quality time with your loved ones. Kick back and let the gentle waves serenade you while you bask in the sun’s warm embrace – it’s like a never-ending hug.
The icing on the cake? The scenery! You’ll be surrounded by lush greenery and palm trees swaying like they’re dancing to island tunes. Don’t forget to take a leisurely stroll down the historic Higgs Beach Pier, where you can cast a line for some fishing fun or simply soak in the jaw-dropping views.
Higgs Beach caters to your needs with picnic areas, restrooms, and a nearby dog park for your four-legged pals to join in the beach frolics. So come on over and embrace the beach bliss that makes Key West the ultimate coastal escape.
Downside: The beach may have seaweed washed ashore quite often, although efforts are made to keep the area clean, and the sand is pretty soft.
- If you’re looking for a laid-back and family-friendly vibe, this is your spot.
- Sink your toes into the silky sands, shaded by lush greenery and swaying palms.
- Don’t miss out on the historic Higgs Beach Pier, perfect for fishing and sunset strolls.
- And hey, there are picnic areas, restrooms, and even a dog park nearby!
8. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach: Where History Meets Nature
Welcome to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach, where history and nature intertwine to create an extraordinary beach experience. This hidden gem is not just about the sun and sand; it’s also a living testament to Key West’s rich past. Explore the well-preserved Civil War-era fortress, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
But don’t worry, there’s plenty of sunshine and pristine sands to enjoy too! Snorkeling junkies will be thrilled with the underwater treasures that await around the rocky coves. Dive into a world of colorful marine life and coral formations – it’s a surreal adventure!
For those seeking a more laid-back time, the lush greenery of the state park offers a peaceful escape from the world, where you can lounge under the shade of swaying trees and let the soothing sounds of nature transport you to a state of bliss.
The water at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach in Key West can sometimes be rough, particularly during certain weather conditions or when there are strong currents, so this isn’t the best beach to swim unless you’re an experienced swimmer.
- Historical beach surrounded by nature (not right downtown)
- Snorkeling enthusiasts will adore the underwater wonders around the rocky coves
- Find your own slice of paradise amidst the lush greenery of the state park
- Rougher water; sometimes the swimming area will be closed
- Great facilities
7. South Beach: Key West’s Lively and LGBTQ+ Friendly Beach
Meet South Beach, where diversity and inclusivity are celebrated with open arms. This beach is a colorful melting pot of cultures and identities, making it an absolute delight for all who visit.
The LGBTQ+ community has found its home here, and it’s easy to see why. The warm and accepting atmosphere makes it the perfect space to be your authentic self.
What’s more, the beach parties and events are legendary – beachgoers know how to have a good time! Dance to the rhythm of the island beats, let your worries drift away with the waves, and immerse yourself in the vibrant spirit of South Beach.
As you stroll along the oceanfront, you’ll encounter an eclectic mix of street performers, adding an extra dash of flair to your beach day. It’s all about embracing love, happiness, and good vibes here, making South Beach an unforgettable experience that celebrates the beauty of diversity.
- Renowned for its vibrant and diverse atmosphere
- Warm and welcoming LGBTQ+ friendly space
- Enjoy beach parties, events, and festivities that keep the good times rolling
- Witness street performers along the oceanfront
6. Dog Beach: A Pooch’s Paradise on the Island
Calling all dog lovers – Dog Beach is where you and your four-legged companions can make the most of your beach getaway together!
This tail-wagging paradise is all about letting your furry pals have the time of their lives, and seeing their happiness is enough to warm your heart. Watch as they joyfully bound through the sands, chasing balls, and splashing in the waves with sheer delight.
It’s more than just a beach; it’s a canine community where you can bond with fellow dog owners, share stories, and revel in the beauty of friendship. Let your worries drift away as you become one with the beachscape, experiencing the purest form of joy – your dog’s happiness.
So bring your beach towels and fetch those frisbees; Dog Beach is waiting for you to create cherished memories with your furry best friends!
However, there are limited facilities available for humans, such as restrooms and shade structures. Visitors without dogs might prefer a beach with fewer canine companions if they seek a pet-free environment – the dogs can get pretty rowdy!
If you don’t have a pooch, then this is still a fun beach to stroll through, though it’s not the best for a full beach day.
- Made for dog lovers to share their beach day with their four-legged pals
- Engage in games and bond with other dog owners in this friendly canine community – everyone is super friendly!
- Nice sand and easy swimming (albeit a small beach)
5. Bahia Honda State Park: A Scenic Day Trip from Key West
If you don’t mind taking a day trip, then you’ll definitely want to go to Bahia Honda State Park, one of the most gorgeous beaches in Key West (and in all of the Keys islands!).
Get ready for a breathtaking day trip to Bahia Honda State Park, an untouched slice of paradise that will leave you in awe. As you venture to this tropical oasis, you’ll be greeted by postcard-worthy views at every turn, making it a photographer’s dream.
Don’t miss the chance to walk along the historic Bahia Honda Bridge, where you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the aquamarine waters that stretch as far as the eye can see.
When it comes to aquatic adventures, snorkeling in these crystal-clear waters is a must. Dive beneath the surface, and you’ll be mesmerized by the vibrant marine life and the kaleidoscope of colors beneath the waves.
Of course, there’s ample space on the soft sandy beaches to simply relax and soak in the natural beauty around you. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or someone who loves tranquil moments by the sea, Bahia Honda State Park has something for everyone.
This is one of the best state parks in the Florida Keys to visit because there’s plenty to do and the beaches are incredibly stunning. If you have a free day, I highly recommend planning a visit!
- Scenic day trip to an unspoiled tropical oasis
- Breathtaking views from the historic Bahia Honda Bridge
- Snorkel in crystal-clear waters and encounter a mesmerizing array of marine life
- Relax on pristine beaches and soak in the natural beauty of the surroundings
4. Dry Tortugas National Park: Remote Beauty on the Outskirts of Key West
Brace yourself for an unforgettable adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote gem that feels like a secret escape from the world.
Accessible only by seaplane or boat, this isolated island paradise promises an experience like no other.
Your first sight of the awe-inspiring Fort Jefferson, a magnificent 19th-century fortress, will take your breath away, and exploring its historical significance is an absolute must.
However, the magic doesn’t stop there – underwater wonders await you as well. Don your snorkel gear and dive into the vibrant coral reefs, where an abundance of marine life awaits your discovery. Swim alongside graceful sea turtles and colorful tropical fish in their natural habitat, creating memories that will stay with you forever.
Dry Tortugas National Park is a sanctuary of pristine nature and solitude, offering a rare opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with the untouched beauty of the natural world.
The trip to Dry Tortugas is for one day only, but plan to spend the whole day here. The beaches are absolutely stunning, with some of the clearest water and softest sand around!
- An epic journey to an isolated island paradise.
- Witness Fort Jefferson, a magnificent 19th-century fortress
- Snorkel above vibrant coral reefs teeming with an abundance of marine life
- Incredibly soft sand and gorgeous waters for swimming
3. The Beaches of Sunset Key: An Exclusive Island Retreat
Say hello to Sunset Key, an exclusive island retreat that feels like a world of its own, just a short boat ride away from Key West. This secluded oasis is all about escaping the ordinary and indulging in the extraordinary.
Picture yourself strolling along the peaceful and private beaches, where luxury meets serenity, and the cares of the world melt away with each step.
For the epicureans among us, Sunset Key’s high-end resorts offer a world-class dining experience with unparalleled ocean views. Savor mouthwatering cuisine, sip on handcrafted cocktails, and let the sea breeze carry away your worries.
As the name suggests, Sunset Key knows how to put on a show, and the sunsets here are nothing short of magical. Watch as the sky transforms into a vibrant canvas, adorned with hues of pink, orange, and purple – it’s a moment that’ll stay etched in your heart forever.
However, the Key West beaches on the island are typically reserved for guests staying at the resort.
- Escape to an exclusive island retreat just a short boat ride from Key West
- Gorgeous secluded beaches
- Mesmerizing sunsets that paint the sky with a kaleidoscope of colors
- Exclusive for resort guests only
2. Boca Chica Beach: Secluded Serenity Near Key West
Boca Chica Beach beckons you to a world of tranquility and unspoiled beauty, just a short drive away from the vibrant energy of Key West.
This hidden gem is a sanctuary of peace, where the gentle waves serenade you as you sink your toes into the pristine sands. The turquoise waters invite you to wade in and bask in the warm embrace of the Florida sun.
As you explore the shores, keep an eye out for the diverse birdlife and marine creatures that call this natural haven their home. It’s a quiet retreat where you can truly disconnect from the world and reconnect with the wonders of nature.
Whether you’re seeking a solitary moment of reflection or a romantic escapade with your loved ones, Boca Chica Beach offers the perfect backdrop for cherished memories and peaceful moments by the sea.
- Discover a hidden gem of tranquility, just a short drive from Key West
- Enjoy the unspoiled beauty of this secluded beach
- Pristine sands and turquoise waters.
- Encounter diverse birdlife and marine creatures in this natural haven
1. Simonton Street Beach: A Relaxing Spot Amidst the Bustle of Key West
Simonton Street Beach is the local favorite that will instantly charm you with its laid-back and welcoming vibes.
Tucked away in the heart of Key West, this serene stretch of sand is your escape from the bustling streets and tourist hotspots. Embrace the simplicity of beach life as you lounge on the sands, soaking in the sun’s rays and feeling the cool ocean breeze on your skin. When the Florida heat starts to rise, take a refreshing dip in the inviting waters to cool off and recharge your energy.
The best part? Convenience is at your fingertips, with nearby shops, eateries, and attractions just steps away. It’s the perfect spot to unwind, recharge, and immerse yourself in the authentic Key West experience.
Simonton Beach is tiny but is so cute to get the real Key West vibe. There’s a beach bar right on the beach, making it a perfect place to stop for a quick dip and a drink rather than a full beach day.
- Local favorite in the heart of Key West
- Perfect for a quick dip and a drink (not a full beach day)
- Nearby shops, eateries, and attractions are just steps away
FAQs About Key West’s Beaches:
Looking for more information about visiting Key West? Here are some of the top FAQs about visiting Key West beaches that you need to know.
Is Key West known for its beaches?
While Key West is a popular tourist destination with many attractions, it is not primarily known for its wide, sandy beaches like some other tropical destinations. Unlike some of the larger Florida Keys or other Caribbean islands, Key West is a relatively small island with limited expanses of beachfront.
The beaches in Key West are generally smaller and narrower, and some of them may have rocky or seaweed-covered shores. The island’s coastline is more about shallow waters, coral reefs, and mangroves, which offer excellent opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and other water activities.
Despite not being known for expansive beaches, Key West has a unique charm and plenty to offer visitors. It’s renowned for its historic architecture, vibrant nightlife, beautiful sunsets at Mallory Square, and a lively arts and culture scene. The island’s more laid-back atmosphere and eclectic character make it an attractive destination for travelers looking for a mix of history, culture, and relaxation.
If you’re looking for stunning, picture-perfect beaches, other Florida destinations like Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, or the Florida Keys in general, offer a wider selection of traditional sandy beaches. However, if you’re interested in exploring a fascinating island with a distinctive personality, beautiful sunsets, and diverse marine life, Key West is still an excellent choice.
What are the best beaches to visit in Key West?
Key West boasts several incredible beaches catering to different preferences. Some of the best ones include Smathers Beach for a lively atmosphere and full-on beach day, Higgs Beach for a more remote experience, Simonton Beach for a quick dip and drink downtown, and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach for history and nature lovers.
Which beach is best for water sports and activities?
For water sports enthusiasts, Smathers Beach is the top choice. Here, you can enjoy jet skiing, parasailing, windsurfing, and other thrilling activities that promise an adrenaline rush and endless fun.
Is there a dog-friendly beach in Key West?
Absolutely! Dog Beach offers a paw-some experience for canine companions. Let your furry friends frolic in the sand and surf, and enjoy a friendly canine community on this beach specially designed for dog lovers.
What are the best family-friendly beaches?
Higgs Beach is a top family-friendly choice, featuring calm waters and ample amenities, making it perfect for children of all ages. Additionally, the beaches of Sunset Key offer a private and safe setting for families to enjoy quality time together. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach has great facilities but the water is typically too rough for kids.
How do I get to Dry Tortugas National Park?
Dry Tortugas National Park is accessible only by seaplane or boat. You can take a ferry from Key West to reach this remote island paradise, where you’ll encounter pristine nature and historic Fort Jefferson.
What makes the beaches of Sunset Key special?
Sunset Key is an exclusive island retreat accessible by boat. It offers a luxurious and serene beach experience, complemented by world-class dining and breathtaking sunsets that paint the sky with stunning colors.
Which beach is ideal for snorkeling and seeing marine life?
Both Bahia Honda State Park Beach and Dry Tortugas National Park are excellent for snorkeling, offering vibrant coral reefs and a diverse array of marine life, including sea turtles and colorful tropical fish.
Can I find secluded beaches in Key West?
Absolutely! Boca Chica Beach and Simonton Street Beach are excellent choices for those seeking a more secluded and tranquil beach experience away from the crowds. Higgs Beach is also a good option because it’s more popular with locals than tourists. You probably won’t find any true seclusion in Key West (it’s a busy place!) so you may wnt to make the day trip to Bahia Honda.
What are the best times to visit Key West’s beaches?
Key West’s beaches are enjoyable year-round due to the warm climate. However, the peak tourist season runs from December to April when the weather is more moderate and less humid.
Are there any hidden gems or lesser-known beaches worth exploring?
Yes, Key West has several hidden gems worth exploring, such as the lesser-known beaches of Sunset Key and the secluded serenity of Boca Chica Beach. These beaches offer a more intimate and off-the-beaten-path experience for travelers seeking tranquility and natural beauty.
Do I need to pay to visit any beaches in Key West?
Many of the beaches in Key West are public and free to access. Key West is known for its beautiful beaches, and several of them are open to the public without any admission or entrance fees. Some popular public beaches in Key West include South Beach, Higgs Beach, Smathers Beach, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach, and more.
However, it’s important to note that some beaches, like those on private islands or associated with resorts, may have restricted access and could require fees for entry or use. For example, as mentioned earlier, Sunset Key is a private island with a luxury resort, and its beaches are generally reserved for guests staying at the resort.
What are some of the best resorts on a beach in Key West?
Key West offers a variety of resorts that provide beautiful beachfront locations and top-notch amenities. Here are some of the best resorts on a beach in Key West:
Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort: Located on the largest private beach in Key West, Casa Marina offers luxurious accommodations, a beautiful sandy beach, two oceanfront pools, water sports activities, and a serene atmosphere.
The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton: Situated next to Casa Marina, The Reach features a private beach, an oceanfront pool, watersports rentals, and upscale dining options.
Southernmost Beach Resort: This resort boasts three private beaches, two oceanfront pools, a poolside bar, and comfortable rooms with modern amenities.
Ocean Key Resort & Spa: Offering stunning ocean views, this resort features a private sunset pier, an infinity-edge pool, a full-service spa, and a lively restaurant and bar scene.
Pier House Resort & Spa: Located near Mallory Square, Pier House has its own private white sand beach, a beachfront pool, a spa, and several dining options.
Hyatt Centric Key West Resort & Spa: This resort has a private beach, a Gulf-front pool, water sports activities, and is within walking distance to Mallory Square and Duval Street.
Sunset Key Cottages: Located on Sunset Key, a private island just off Key West, this luxury resort offers private cottages with beach access, a stunning beachfront pool, and a high-end dining experience.
What are some of the best beachfront restaurants in Key West?
Key West is known for its vibrant culinary scene, and there are several excellent beachfront restaurants where you can enjoy delicious food with a stunning view. Here are some of the best beachfront restaurants in Key West:
Louie’s Backyard: Located right on the ocean, Louie’s Backyard offers a picturesque setting with breathtaking views. The restaurant serves a mix of Caribbean and American cuisine, and their seafood dishes are particularly popular.
Latitudes: Situated on Sunset Key, a private island near Key West, Latitudes is accessible by ferry and offers a unique dining experience. The restaurant features a beautiful beachfront setting and serves gourmet dishes with a focus on fresh seafood.
Salute! On the Beach: This restaurant is located at Higgs Beach and offers a casual beachfront dining experience. They serve Italian and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, including wood-fired pizzas and delicious seafood.
Southernmost Beach Cafe: As part of the Southernmost Beach Resort, this restaurant provides oceanfront dining with a great view of the beach. They serve a variety of seafood, salads, and tropical cocktails.
The Reach, Key West: This beachfront resort features Spencer’s by the Sea, a restaurant with a beautiful oceanfront terrace. Enjoy Caribbean-influenced dishes and cocktails with the sound of the waves in the background.
Bistro 245: Situated at the Margaritaville Resort, Bistro 245 offers a beachfront dining experience overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The restaurant serves fresh seafood, steaks, and other American favorites.
The Sandbar Sports Grill: Located on Simonton Street with a beachfront view, The Sandbar Sports Grill is a great spot for casual dining with a beachy atmosphere. They serve a variety of pub-style food and have a lively bar scene.
Boathouse Bar and Grill: Nestled along the Historic Seaport, Boathouse Bar and Grill offers waterfront views and a menu featuring seafood, steaks, and tropical cocktails.
Where can I see the best sunset on the beach in Key West?
Key West is famous for its stunning sunsets, and there are several spots where you can witness some of the best sunset views on the beach. Here are some popular locations to catch the sunset in Key West:
Mallory Square: Mallory Square is one of the most iconic spots for sunset watching in Key West. The nightly Sunset Celebration takes place here, where local performers and artisans gather to celebrate the setting sun. The square offers an unobstructed view of the Gulf of Mexico and is a favorite spot for both locals and visitors.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach: This state park has a beautiful sandy beach where you can watch the sunset while relaxing on the shore or from the historic fort. The combination of natural beauty and the historical setting makes it a unique spot to catch the evening spectacle.
Southernmost Point Beach: The Southernmost Point buoy is a well-known landmark in Key West, and its location near the beach makes it a great place to watch the sunset. Find a spot along the shore and enjoy the view as the sun dips below the horizon.
Sunset Pier at Ocean Key Resort: Located at the Ocean Key Resort & Spa, the Sunset Pier offers fantastic sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico. Grab a drink or a meal at the restaurant while enjoying the vibrant colors of the sunset.
Smathers Beach: Smathers Beach is a long stretch of sandy shore that faces the Atlantic Ocean. Although it doesn’t have the same unobstructed view as Mallory Square, it still offers a beautiful sunset setting.
Higgs Beach: This local favorite is a relaxing spot to watch the sunset. You can catch the view from the beach or from the pier, which extends out into the ocean.
With this ultimate traveler’s guide to Key West’s beaches, you’re all set to embark on a coastal adventure like no other. From the lively shores of Smathers Beach to the secluded beauty of Boca Chica Beach, each sandy paradise offers a unique tapestry of experiences that cater to every beachgoer’s desires. So pack your sunscreen, your sense of wonder, and your thirst for adventure – the tropical delights of Key West’s beaches are waiting to be uncovered by you!