Key West and the Florida Keys for a romantic vacation
The charming Florida Keys are known for many, and vastly different, reasons. With a Caribbean climate, sweeping islands, beautiful resorts, a plethora of nightlife, restaurants, and bar options, ocean activities everywhere, and sunsets that could draw envy from the Northern Lights, the keys beckon romantic couples with the promise of an unforgettable trip. In fact, the keys are reported to attract around 2 million visitors a year, with a large amount of visitors traveling as a couple seeking a romantic island escape. Some of these couples choose to solely visit the most popular island, Key West, while others choose to visit the entire chain of islands.
Generally speaking, visitors to the Florida Keys, from Miami and beyond, stay on Key West and travel up the keys to visit some of the area’s attractions, but if you rent a car, or drive your own down to the islands, you can easily do the opposite and stay on one of the other main islands and drive down into Key West. Either way, you’ll experience beautiful coastline on both sides as you drive on and off of tiny islands and the bridges that link them. To learn more about how to experience a romantic vacation in the Florida Keys, and what it will cost, read more below.
Weddings in the Florida Keys
There are several places to host a wedding within the island chain, from resorts like the Sunset Key Cottages, to the Hyatt Centric Hey West Resort and Spa, to Islander Resort in Islamorada. All of the wedding venues in the keys offer services for both the wedding and the reception. And because the Florida Keys are such a popular destination wedding choice, you’ll find that the islands provide everything you need from dresses and suits to plate options and the cake itself.
Honeymooning in the Florida Keys
Honeymooning in the keys is just as easy as having a wedding here. You’ll find an almost absurd amount of romantic things to do and see, as well as resorts that make it easy to stay in bed all day. From the small island beaches of Key West to the many water sports and guided excursions, you’ll find you’re able to check everything off of your list. As you read further down, you’ll find recommendations for shopping, dining, and more.
Some of the most romantic things to do? A sunset viewing and dinner at Mallory Square in Key West comes to mind first, followed by a snorkeling adventure at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park just off of Key Largo at the top of the island chain.
Hotel and resort options in the Florida Keys
There are may fantastic hotel and resort options throughout the Keys, but more so on the island of Key West. On this island, you’ll find more resorts cater to romantic couples in addition to families and groups, instead of just to the general public. If you’re searching for a resort that offers an on-site spa, you’ll want to look further into the Ocean Key Resort & Spa. Because of the resort’s price range, you’re less likely to see families here.
If money is not an issue, then the Sunset Key Cottages are certainly worth a look. These luxury cottages are situated on a private 27 acre island just off of Key West and offer their own dining options, a spa, a private beach, swimming pool, tennis courts, and excursions into the ocean.
In addition to hotels and resorts, couples can choose to stay in an Airbnb as there are several not just on Key West, but in the entire chain of islands. However, if you like the idea of glamping, you won’t find any accommodations here.
Activities, excursions, and sights
The entire island chain is home to attractions, activities, and tours that differ widely from one another, making it so that each couple who visits should have no difficulty finding things to do that interest each partner. On the southern most island, Key West, couples will find nature activities, shopping and sightseeing opportunists, and a heavy selection of historical attractions, which tends to surprise visitors as the island itself is very small.
Below you find, in separate summaries, a few popular and well reviewed attractions on Key West, as well as the other islands that are well worth your time.
Key West historical attractions
Ernest Hemingway’s House – Both beautiful and historic, this attraction is a great choice for those interested in a quick history lesson and a stunning garden walk. One thing you’ll want to note however, is that there are lots of cats that live on the grounds here, which is great for cat lovers, but not so much if you have any type of cat allergy.
Fort Zachary State Park – This old fort showcases Civil War structures and is easy to walk around in. Most visitors grab a few treats to enjoy at a local shop before venturing in. Usually, you’ll find that you’ll can spend an hour or so exploring, and longer if you decide to sit down on the beach and watch the boats fish off in the distance.
Key West nature attractions
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory – Located at the very end of Duval Street, this attraction consists of a beautiful indoor, air conditioned gift shop and an outdoor glass dome that houses not only butterflies, but small colorful birds, fish, and turtles as well.
Local reefs – There are plenty of great reefs along the Caribbean side of the Florida Keys, but most would argue that the best ones are outside of the lower islands, including Key West. If you don’t feel like renting a boat, you can buy tickets and board one of Fury’s tour boats and explore that way. However, if you do decide to rent a boat at one of the many boat rental companies, then you’ll not only be able to drive out to one of the popular tourist spots, but the closer patch reefs as well. Anyway you choose, you’ll want to bring an underwater camera of some sort, as the photo opportunities are endless.
Key West shopping attractions
Key West Historic Seaport – This popular attractions sports not only shopping, but dining and entertainment options as well. But if shopping is the only thing you are interested in then you’ll find a large assortment of things to buy, including art, trinkets, clothing, and jewelry.
Duval Street – Famously known for its nightlife and excellent bar choices, Duval Street is also a great shopping area. Because it is a long two lane street that is easy to cross from side to side, you’ll be able to shop in a lot of different stores without spending days doing so. And if you feel like a little day drinking while shopping, you’ll find that easy to do as well. Our recommendation? Fat Tuesday.
Other attractions throughout the Florida Keys
Dry Tortugas National Park – To reach this national park, you’ll board the Yankee Freedom III for a venture south of Key West to Fort Jefferson. This beautiful, in the middle of nowhere, attraction is a photographers’ dream, let alone the perfect romantic spot for a honeymooning couple, or simply one taking an island vacation. This attraction is so romantic, that the fort is often used as a backdrop to a marriage proposal.
Bahia Honda State Park – Located near the Seven Mile Bridge, this little jewel is a great place to relax, unwind, enjoy the swallow peaceful water, and people watch. It’s common to see local families here, but the small beach and broken bridge are beautiful enough to still consider this location romantic. You’ll also find a few hiking trails here, but honestly, they’re not much of anything.
Restaurants and bars in the Florida Keys
One of the great things about this little corner of the world is the amazing food and drink options. Naturally, because of all of the surrounding ocean, you’d expect fresh local seafood, but there are plenty of other things to try as well. You’ll have no problem fining sushi, Caribbean, Mexican, American, Italian, and Cuban dining options. You’ll also find tons of great breakfast cafes, and restaurants that pride themselves on offering a romantic atmosphere to enjoy your dinner in.
For that fresh seafood you’ve been waiting to try, you’ll want to visit Eaton Street Seafood Market & Restaurant and the Seaside Cafe at the Mansion, both of which are on Key West. Other great restaurants that offer international dishes include Fernandys Cafe, Azur Restaurant, Miscohappy, and Blue Heaven, which is easily one of the most well known restaurants in south Florida.
If you’re looking for a romantic vibe and don’t feel that outside tables in a mock ‘shack’ will do the trick, then you’ll most certainly want to visit Better Than Sex. This restaurant is a bit different from your typical restaurant because instead of eating dinner before dessert, you’ll skip it all together and jump straight into a decadent dessert of your choice. Because the dessert options are so tasty, many Key West visitors eat here more than once during their stay.
How much does a visit cost
Depending on the budget you have, you can find that a visit to the island chain can cost a lot of money, maybe more than you want to spend. With that said, there are things you can do to decrease your daily spending. While the islands do have some fantastic dining options, you can cut back on your spending by buying snacks at the grocery stores. On Key West itself, you’ll find a few different ones, including Publix. When you do go out to eat, you can expect to pay between US$3 and US$30+ per person.
When it comes to shopping, you can save money by looking before you buy. What we mean by this is that on Duval Street you’ll find lots of store fronts that carry the same exact item, but at different prices. To avoid accidentally paying too much, it’s wise to walk the entire length of stores first, then return to the one that had the cheapest price.
Attractions and tours can also add up, but one way you can save money, if you plan on visiting the mainland as well, is to purchase the Go All Florida Pass. Without this pass, you can expect to pay almost US$50 for a Key West Conch Tour Train ticket. For a morning snorkeling trip, expect to pay between US$40 and US$50 and for a sunset cruise, around US$40 per person.
Hotels and resorts here start out at a budget range of US$98 to US$132 while luxury resorts can cost upwards of US$250+ for two people, but start in the US$170+ range.
Pictures from Flickr users Mercedea, dr.coop, FedericoLukkini, Laurie Chipps, Brent Boynton, Diana Robinson, Ed Schipul, and Gary.