The laid-back Florida island of Key West specializes in relaxation and good times, luring visitors with its beaches, bars and tropical vibe. Hop between local art galleries, sip cooling cocktails in waterfront bars and celebrate the nightly sunset with other vacationers and island inhabitants.
Because of its natural deep water port, Key West became an economic and trading center during the 19th century. These days, tourism is the island’s principal industry and cruise ships often pull into port here.
Lounge on the largest public beach, Smathers, where palm fronds provide shade, or head to the small sandy South Beach, a former hangout spot for Tennessee Williams. Another good option is the artificial Higgs Beach, where plentiful amenities, including barbecues, picnic benches and a pier, draw crowds.
While beach or poolside lounging is an important facet of most Key West vacations, there is also lots to see and do here. View the Spanish colonial-style Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway lived from 1931 to 1940. Look for the unique six-toed cats that roam the property some of these are descendants of Hemingway’s own six-toed feline, Snow White.
Take a walking tour to survey the interesting architecture of the island. Among the standout constructions are the Spanish mission-style San Carlos Institute the Fort East Martello Museum, whose design echoes that of Martello towers and the Little White House, where President Harry S. Truman used to stay.. As evening draws in, head to Mallory Square to join the crowds who come to watch the sunset, drink beer and listen to music. Many street performers can also be seen here. For more insight into local life, visit the Studios of Key West to view exhibits, listen to lectures and attend workshops.
Fly into Key West via Key West International Airport or take a bus or boat from Miami. To get around Key West itself, either rent a bike, a moped or a small electric car. Bus routes run across the keys and hop-on hop-off trolley services are also available.