The Florida Keys! A little key lime slice of heaven just a 3 hour drive south of Miami. I never gave much thought to visiting Key West before; I think whenever I imagined clear turquoise waters and gorgeous sunsets I immediately would start dreaming of the Bahamas or Mexico instead. However, Key West can be a relaxing destination with less headache.
To make the trip a bit more scenic, we opted to fly into Miami and rent a car to drive through the keys. It turned out to be a great idea because not only is the drive beautiful but there’s so many places outside of Key West to check out. We dropped the car off at the Key West airport when we got in – the island is so small that you can walk or bike to the major areas. We even rented a scooter one day and did some sightseeing around town for a few hours in style. One of Key West’s best beaches, at Fort Zachary Taylor state park, is a must visit if you’re a beach bum like me. It’s a hike to walk to so I definitely recommend taking a bike or scooter there if you plan of making a day of it. Walking around Key West though is great, especially through it’s residential neighborhoods. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was checking out all the brightly colored, Victorian-style houses with beautiful wrap-around terraces and eclectic decorations and patio furniture.
And what’s the Key West nightlife scene like? I definitely recommend Key West if you are looking for a laid back weekend. Think bike rides, lobster rolls and maybe even fly fishing. That being said, if you want some rowdiness, you can find that at the many bars lining Duval Street. The average age in Key West is on the higher side but that doesn’t seem to stop the level of partying. While a few blocks of the top of Duval tend to be for the college/spring break types, the rest of the area has people of all ages enjoying their key lime margaritas (which made the people watching even more entertaining.)
Where to eat:
Start your morning right! Help Yourself has delicious smoothies and organic breakfast items to pick you up after a late night of overindulging. Reminded me of Joni’s in Montauk minus the gigantic line out the door. We went there everyday – I recommend the Happy Monkey smoothie!
For a delicious Cuban meal that won’t break the bank, make sure to make resies at El Siboney. It was the cheapest and quite possibly the best meal of the trip.
If you are looking for something different, take a boat ride to Sunset Key to dine outdoors at Latitudes. It’s part of the posh Westin cottages on the island and so its on the pricey side, but the food is delicious and the view is unbeatable. It definitely wins best sunset spot for me. (Also, don’t let the stuffiness of their website fool you – the restaurant is absolutely flip flop friendly.)
For your seafood fix, I recommend 3 very different types of places that hits the spot. Eaton Street Seafood Market is great if you want to pick up some fresh seafood and ready made sides for a meal at home, or just some lobster rolls to enjoy outside on their benches. DJ Clam Shack also has delicious lobster rolls as well as mahi mahi fish tacos. It also has the added value of being on Duval Street so you can people watch while you eat. Finally, if you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated that is off Duval, be sure to make reservations at Seven Fish close to old town.
Guilty confession – I tried the key lime pie at every restaurant. Which one had the best? Can’t even tell you, they were all so good.
Where to stay:
We got lucky with our stay at The Palms Hotel. I was uneasy when picking hotels because hotels were either on the extremely pricey side (upwards of $400-500/night) or affordable but on the other side of the island. Some even had shared bathrooms! The Palms is pretty affordable for the island and only about a 15 minute walk or so from Duval Street. It’s definitely “cozy” but very clean and with a nice pool area to relax at after a long sweaty day of walking or biking around town.
However, I must admit – if I could afford it, I would have loved to stay at the Westin cottages on Sunset Key!
On the way back from Key West we decided to do a mini food crawl for breakfast and lunch and also made a stop at Bahia Honda State Park. I fell in love with this place and would have loved to spend hours at the park walking along the beaches long sandbars. I also realized just how much there is to see in the keys outside of Key West. Will I be back to explore more? Most definitely.