When most Americans think of jetting off to a tropical paradise, they probably think of places like Jamaica, Cancun, or The Bahamas. But did you know there is a stunning tropical destination close to home that you don’t need to pack your passport for?
For Americans itching to get a taste of the tropics without leaving the country, they don’t have to look far, as the perfect destination lies within easy reach — The Florida Keys 🌴.
Combining several incredible destinations in one, The Florida Keys deserves a top spot on your travel bucket list.
From the snorkellable Key Largo to the quirky Key West, there are endless opportunities to make your tropical dreams come true in The Florida Keys.
The Perfect Florida Keys Itinerary
There are so many incredible places to stay when visiting the Keys it can be difficult to pick one. The easy solution to this is, of course, to pick them all! There is something in The Keys for everyone, and every Key is worth checking out.
It’s also incredibly easy to see everything The Florida Keys has to offer without breaking the bank.
For the ultimate Keys trip, we highly suggest flying into Miami, renting a car, and road-tripping through The Keys. Best of all, there’s no need to make the trek back to Miami when the vacation sadly comes to an end. Simply drop your rental car off at Key West International Airport and fly home from there!
Key Largo & Islamorada
The first stop on your adventure will be Key Largo, one of the best places to call home for a few nights on a journey through the Keys.
For a perfect spot to call home base, you can’t go wrong by checking into the Reefhouse Resort & Marina.
@traveloffpath Reefhouse Resort & Marina – The perfect home base to explore Key Largo🤍 #floridakeys #onlyinthekeys #keylargo #florida #travellife #traveloffpath #summervibes #traveling ♬ Me gustas tú – Tbp🙏🙏🙏
The resort is central to Key Largo’s top attractions, like John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and it has plenty to do on the property, with an amazing pool, a private beach, and delicious food. Plus, you’re only a few minutes away from Islamorada, meaning you can experience 2 Keys in one during a stay at the Reefhouse Resort.
One of the top things to do in Key Largo (and the rest of the Keys for that matter) is to go diving or snorkeling. Don’t worry if you forgot your mask; the Reefhouse Resort & Marina has a dive shop right on site!
Speaking of diving, don’t let yourself pass on the opportunity to get underwater while in Key Largo. This area is home to some of the best scuba diving and snorkeling spots in the U.S. and is not to be missed!
If you have never tried scuba diving and want to learn, there is no place better. If you are already certified, you will love getting to explore the unique underwater landscape the Keys provides.
The average depth when diving in the keys doesn’t typically go beyond 30 feet or so, meaning you’ll be able to spend plenty of time on the bottom saying hello to sting rays and turtles.
If you’re wondering where to try diving, give Horizon Divers a call and tell them what you are looking for. You can easily get yourself on a morning 2-tank dive to explore the shallow reefs and shipwrecks in the Upper Keys National Sanctuary, and you’re guaranteed to have a good time.
@traveloffpath There’s so much more to see underwater in The Keys! . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #diving #travel ♬ Explore The World 2.0 – Brainheart & Sis
Don’t Forget To Eat
You will not go hungry in the Keys. There are so many incredible places to grab a bite to eat that we could write a novel listing them all out. However, there are a few that you definitely shouldn’t miss! Key Largo has one of the best places to grab a bite, the famous Fish House.
The Fish House has locally sourced seafood that is to die for, all served in a quirky “keys-style” restaurant. Just give them a visit and you’ll see what we mean. This is the perfect spot to grab lunch after a morning dive and it should definitely be on your list of must-dos.
Plus, there are plenty of opportunities to grab some photos with friends and family.
@traveloffpath Best spot for an after-dive lunch in the Keys. . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #diving #travel #foo ♬ Strawberry – Prod. By Rose
An Evening In Islamorada
If you are staying at the Reefhouse or somewhere nearby, be sure to schedule an afternoon/evening to visit Islamorada. This is the Key directly below Key Largo and is close enough that you can check it out without having to swap hotels.
There are 2 things you definitely need to add to your list of must-dos in Islamorada, and both are delicious.
Firstly, no visit to the Keys is complete without spending some time at The Florida Keys Brewing Company. As you can imagine, space is a prized commodity in the Keys, which is part of what makes this brewery so special.
The Florida Keys Brewing Company brews all of their beer right on-site and is one of the only local breweries that can truly say their beer is made right in the Keys.
@traveloffpath It’s impossible not to have a good time here! . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #beer ♬ Don't Stop Me Now – Remastered 2011 – Queen
Aside from how incredible the beer is, the property itself is eclectic and inviting. Everyone you meet will be friendly and nice, and you’ll be surrounded by incredible artwork, amazing beer, and a welcoming vibe.
After a beer or two, you’ll feel like a regular and probably start contemplating a move to the Keys 😅.
After a tour of the brewery, head right across the street for an amazing sunset dinner at Morada Bay Beach Café. This was one of our favorite dinners in the Keys. Not only was the food incredible, it was beautiful. Even your water comes out dressed to the nines!
And not only was the food delicious and beautiful, the scenery was gorgeous as well. We found ourselves pulling out the camera to try to capture the sunset as it would paint a different picture of the evening for you every few minutes.
If you want to feel like you are eating dinner in a beautiful painting, this is the place to do it.
The upper Keys are beautiful, and we already can’t wait to go back, but you are missing out on some of the most iconic sights in the Keys if you end your adventure there.
After spending some time checking out Key Largo and Islamorada, be sure to pencil in a few days to head down the most beautiful stretch of highway in the U.S. to Key West.
And there’s no need to rush; there are great places to stop off for a bite to eat or take in the scenery along the way.
We left right at around lunchtime, so we made a stop in Islamorada for a delicious meal at the Oceanside Safari Restaurant and Lounge — be sure to try their special Mojito with fresh mint!
It’s the perfect way to cap off your lunch and will leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed.
On your way down to Key West, you may find yourself staring out of the window at the ocean around you.
There is no other highway in the U.S. that gives quite the same feeling as the Overseas highway, and you’ll be glad you decided to drive through the Keys.
Be sure to stop off at the end of a bridge or two to take it all in and grab some photos.
@traveloffpath This is the prettiest the drive in the USA hands down. #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel ♬ Golden Hour: Piano Version – Andy Morris
Before you make it all the way to Key West, consider stopping at Bahia Honda State Park for a beach break. There are award-winning beaches and gorgeous stretches of sand to set up camp for a few hours. If you have snorkeling gear, definitely be sure to explore what’s in the water as well!
Pick The Perfect Hotel For You
After catching some sun and sand, you’ll be ready to head into Key West to your hotel (of which there are plenty!).
Depending on what you are looking for during your stay in Key West, there are tons of hotel options to suit your needs. Much of Key West’s action is centered around Duval Street, so if you are coming for the nightlife that may be where you want to look.
However, we wanted to be close enough to the action to enjoy all Key West has to offer without being right in the thick of it. We wanted to enjoy Key West but stay somewhere that felt like its own secluded area away from the rest of the island.
The Capitana Key West was the perfect place to call home that achieved exactly what we were looking for.
@traveloffpath The Capitana is the best home base for exploring Key West. . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel ♬ My Addiction – Alex Guesta
From the second you check in you can feel the calm and relaxing energy of The Capitana.
If you are staying in the main hotel building, you’ll have incredible views of the pool and beach from your room, but for a more intimate experience, we opted for the Two Bedroom Cottage.
Many people who come to Key West dream of packing up and moving there after visiting. Staying in a cottage allows you to feel like you already do!
The property is a great escape that you could spend your whole trip enjoying if you wanted to, and it is great for every type of traveler and party size.
Spend the afternoon sipping cocktails by the pool or get active and try your hand at some badminton. Either way, you’ll love your stay at The Capitana.
Key West Is Endless Fun
You’ll have trouble deciding what to do with yourself because there are endless opportunities to have an amazing time in Key West, but let us help you out by sharing some can’t-miss experiences:
There are plenty of companies offering sunset sails, and if you walk to the Marina, you’ll see signs for all of them. We decided to head out with Sebago Key West and would absolutely do it again!
You’ll head out to the beat of a live musician while the (included) drinks start to flow, and the breeze from the ocean will cool you down before taking in a gorgeous sunset from a unique perspective.
Keep an eye out for dolphins and turtles. If you are patient, you’ll likely spot a few.
@traveloffpath Amazing way to see another side of Key West with Sebago Key West’s Sunset Sail. . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel #sailing #boat #sail #floridakeys ♬ Sun Goes Down (feat. Jasmine Thompson) [Radio Mix] – Robin Schulz
Dolphin Watch & Snorkeling
Speaking of dolphins, if you’ve never seen them up close and personal, then you should definitely go out on a dolphin watch. We went with Honest Eco, and cannot recommend them enough.
They explained so much about Key West’s dolphin population and you could tell they cared a great deal about the dolphins and making sure the experience was a great one for both humans and dolphins.
We were lucky enough to have some dolphins come right up to our boat to say hello, and it was a bucket list item of mine. I’m a bit of a sucker for animals, and this experience was surreal. I’ve always loved dolphins and been amazed at their intelligence; I’m not ashamed to say I teared up having them so close — there’s no experience quite like it.
If you are on the fence about a dolphin watch, go ahead and book it, especially if heading out with Honest Eco.
@traveloffpath What an incredible experience with Honest Eco in Key West. . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel #boat #diving #dolphin ♬ These Memories – Hollow Coves
The Hemingway House is a classic tourist attraction in Key West, but there’s a good reason for it. The house itself is gorgeous, and the history behind it is fascinating.
Most people know it as Ernest Hemingway’s former home, but before Hemingway owned it, it once belonged to Asa Tift, one of the richest people to ever live in Key West and the most famous wrecker in the area.
Even if the history of the home isn’t your thing, it’s fun to see how many kitties you can spot around the property, all of whom are UNESCO world-heritage protected and allowed to roam the property at will.
@traveloffpath See how many kitties you can spot at the Hemingway House in Key West. . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel #keywest #hemingwayhouse ♬ I'm Just a Cat – Simon and the Astronauts
Many of the best things to do in Key West are in or on the water, and a kayak tour is one of them.
You’ll see all sorts of wildlife from nurse sharks to starfish, and get to learn about the importance of the mangroves and their significance in the ocean ecosystem.
Kayaking through the mangroves makes you feel completely cut off from the world in the most beautiful way and is an experience you should try at least once. For a one of a kind experience, we went with Lazy Dog.
@traveloffpath See a unique side of Key West during a Kayak tour with Lazy Dog Charters. . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel #keywest ♬ Adventure of a Lifetime – Coldplay
Food Walking Tour
I can’t stop going on food tours! Seriously, they are the best way to learn about a new destination and a great way to get the lay of the land at the beginning of your trip.
Not only do you learn about the area geographically, but you will also leave with a huge list of all the best places to eat and drink. Aside from the food, you’ll also learn about the culture and history of the area.
In Key West’s case, you’ll never be short on history, culture, or food to sample. Around every corner, there is another story waiting to be told and a new one ready to unfold. There is so much fascinating history in Key West, and it is certainly one of the most unique places in the U.S.
To get the most out of this experience, we went with Key West Food Tours, and the tour did not disappoint.
@traveloffpath Food tours are a great way to get to know a destination, especially Key West! . #onlyinthekeys #soulcenteredgetaway #floridakeys #travel #foodie ♬ Don't Worry Be Happy – The Hit Crew
Food, Food, And More Food
We said above that you wouldn’t go hungry in the Upper Keys, and the same holds true in Key West. There are a million food options that are all incredible, each with their own unique Key West flair. Certainly don’t restrict yourself to our list, but some of our favorites include:
- Half Shell Raw Bar – If you love oysters, this is your spot! Right in the Marina, you can enjoy your meal knowing you are eating some of the freshest seafood money can buy.
- Milagro – Chef Kevin has worked with Michelin Star chefs for most of his career and took that experience to create a restaurant with 5-star cuisine in a casual, bistro environment. The food is deliciously decadent in a more laid-back setting — in true Key West fashion.
- Blue Heaven Key West – The most iconic brunch spot in Key West and a definite must. Not only is the food delicious, but you’ll feel like you stepped into another world the second you cross the threshold of the entrance.
No Keys Experience Is The Same
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that every vacation must eventually come to an end, but some destinations are worth endlessly repeating. The Florida Keys is definitely one of them.
There is a reason so many travelers come here time and time again, and every visit to The Keys will reveal something new and exciting.
We loved our time in The Keys and, like so many others, will be coming back the first chance we get!
**Travel Off Path was a guest of The Florida Keys, who helped with the creation of this itinerary by hosting some of our accommodations and attractions. Our opinions, recommendations, and suggestions remain our own.**
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com