Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Key West

By Susan Guillory · July 24, 2023 · 6 minute read

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Key West

Pastel houses. Six-toed cats. Hemingway. Key West is known for many things, but above all, it’s known for being a place to unwind and relax. Still, in between sipping cocktails on the beach and taking naps, there are plenty of fun things to do in Key West, Florida!

Read on to discover the best times to go and top 10 must-see destinations.

Best Times to Go to Key West

Compared to other parts of the country, Key West is temperate year-round. The best time to visit is from November to April when it’s still warm but you’re less likely to encounter a tropical downpour.

Here are some of the annual events in the Keys:

•  January: Key West Kingfish Mayhem

•  February: Old Island Days Art Festival

•  March: Key West NOW Women’s Film Fest

•  April: Annual Conch Republic Independence Celebration

•  June: Key West Pride

•  July: Hemingway 5k Sunset Run & Paddleboard Race

•  October: Key West Fantasy Fest

By the way, if you’ve never tried traveling solo before, Key West is a great place to do it.

Bad Times to Go to Key West

If you’re thinking about summer travel to Key West, keep in mind that it can get up to the 90s and be quite humid, which may put a damper on your plans. June through October is the wet season, so you’re more likely to get rained out. Many of the best things to do in Key West are outdoors, so plan with the weather in mind.

Average Cost of a Key West Vacation

How much should you set aside for your Key West trip? For a couple planning to stay for a week, the average cost is $4,400. This will, of course, depend on how much you spend on renting a car, accommodations, and dining, as well as activities.

If you choose to stay in a hotel, you’ll spend anywhere from $101 to $460 a night, while a vacation rental will run you $390 to $1,300 per night.

Recommended: Luxury for Less: How to Travel Posh

10 Fun Must-Dos in Key West

Here are the top things to do in Key West, based on popular opinion.

1. Snorkeling

The warm, clear waters of the Atlantic make it ideal for snorkel enthusiasts. Explore the reef near Sand Key Lighthouse and you might see snapper, sea turtles, or nurse sharks. Or take a boat and snorkel at the site of a shipwreck.

Sunset Watersports is one of the many companies offering snorkel tours. You can choose the Rise & Reef Morning Snorkel, Dip & Sip Afternoon Snorkel, Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tour, or Sunset Snorkel, depending on your interests.

2. Key West Aquarium

If you’re a land-lubber who’s not into snorkeling, you can still get to know the ocean’s inhabitants at the Key West Aquarium. Caress conchs and sea stars in the Touch Tank, feed docile nurse sharks, or take the Sea Turtles Conservation tour. Tickets start at $21.44.

3. Duval Street

By day, Duval Street is a great place to shop and explore attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium and the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. At night, it’s a hotspot for drinks and dinner. Craving cocktails? Consider the Duval Pub Crawl, which stops for drinks at places like Sloppy Joe’s and Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville — or crawl on your own. There’s also Key West Pub Crawls, which offers a Bone Island Haunted Pub Crawl & Ghost Tour.

4. Hemingway Home

Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Key West in the 1920s, and this museum is in the home where he lived for many years. During your visit, you can meet some of the famous six-toed cats that are the descendants of the cat Hemingway received from a ship’s captain. Explore the gorgeous gardens, take a tour to learn more about Hemingway’s life in Key West, or buy a memento in the shop. 9am-5pm daily. General admission $18 (cash only).

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5. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Inside this glass-domed tropical butterfly habitat, you’ll discover more than 50 species of butterflies from around the world, as well as a variety of tropical birds. The attraction makes for a popular stop for mother-daughter getaways. 9am-5pm daily. General admission $13.98.

6. Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square

Every night is a party with Sunset Celebration. See performers, shop for arts and crafts, sit for a psychic reading, and enjoy great street food every night, starting two hours before sunset. The best part? It’s totally free.

7. Conch Houses

The pastel wooden houses throughout Key West are known as “conch houses,” and you’ll see the iconic homes represented in local art and souvenirs. Built as far back as the late 1800s, the homes were constructed on posts to allow air to circulate underneath. Most have a porch across the front of the home. Explore neighborhoods on your own, or take the Conch Tour Train to learn some of Key West’s history.

8. Key West Cuisine

Key West boasts several unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Start your day with cafe con leche and a pan Cubano at Cuban Coffee Queen. When lunchtime hits, try conch, a local sea snail, in a conch fritter or cracked at the Conch Shack. Later, when you’re ready for something sweet, head for Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, where you can try the traditional key lime pie or something different like strawberry key lime pie or a pie bar. For dinner, enjoy spiny lobster (when in season) or the Caribbean “BBQ” Shrimp while listening to live music. Then roll yourself back to your hotel.

Recommended: Responsible Tourism: 8 Ways Travelers Can Support the Local Community

9. Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum

This iconic lighthouse was built in 1848 and — heavens to Betsy! — run by a woman. It was decommissioned in 1969 and is now open to the public. Climb the 88 steps to view memorabilia from the keepers of the lighthouse, and discover how the lighthouse survived hurricanes and the Civil War. 10am-5pm daily. $17 adults (you can save a little by booking online).

10. Beaches

Once you’ve sampled the local culture, it’s time to do what you came to Key West for: Grab your towel and head to one of many pristine beaches. Depending on how far you want to wander from your hotel, you can set up camp for the day at Smathers Beach, Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach, or the aptly named Rest Beach. You can also drive to one of the other Keys to explore Sugarloaf Beach, Long Beach, or Sandspur Beach. All beaches are free to locals and tourists, making beach time a great option for frugal travelers.

The Takeaway

In Key West, engaging activities, vivid history, exciting nightlife, and delicious food await you. You can choose your own adventure, whether that’s lounging and recharging on the beach or getting out and learning about the history of Key West.

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How long should I spend in Key West?

Plan for a minimum of three days in Key West. If you have more time, you can stretch out your relaxation and activities.

Where can I see six-toed cats in Key West?

The Hemingway Home and Museum is home to more than 60 of the six-toed cats who are descendants from the cat Hemingway was given by a ship captain.

What should I eat in Key West?

Key West has eclectic dishes you won’t find elsewhere, like pink shrimp, conch, and Key lime pie.

Photo credit: iStock/NAPA74

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