Are you planning a vacation to Florida’s beautiful Keys but can’t decide where to go? Well, I set up a Key West vs Key Largo article for you to help you decide.
On the one hand, you have the vibrant nightlife and art scene of Key West, while on the other, Key Largo boasts secluded beaches and stunning coral reefs.
I have to tell you upfront: I LOVED Key West (so I may be a bit biased)! The town is village-like, with an amazing atmosphere, lots to do, lovely restaurants, bars, shopping, and general vibe.
That’s just me, though. It might be a tough call, but don’t worry; soon, you will know what you want to do!
Key West vs Key Largo
In this article, we’ll compare the two destinations, highlighting their best activities, beaches, accommodations, and restaurants so you can choose the ideal spot for your dream getaway.
Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys you hit when you leave the mainland and is only around one and a half hours away from the Metropol of Miami.
This is definitely an advantage to the almost four-hour drive all the way to Key West!
Then, of course, you will be mission out on the spectacular drive over the incredible seven-mile bridge between Marathon and Big Pine Key!
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Although a lot more tranquil than Miami, Key West is still famous for its vibrant nightlife, a plethora of activities, and art scene. And it is the absolutely furthest point you can get to the south of the US. This is where the United States ends!
It is an ideal destination for travelers seeking an active vacation both day and night; you can sleep when you get old!
If you don’t need Key West’s bustling nightlife scene and you prefer daytime activities and a quiet atmosphere, Key Largo may be the perfect alternative. It is also a shorter drive from the US mainland if that matters to you!
Whether you’re an adventure seeker or prefer a more laid-back getaway, Key West and Key Largo have something for everyone.
So, let’s dive in and discover which one is right for you.
Looking For An Active Vacation? Choose Key West!
Key West is sooooo niiiceeee!
I just instantly fell in love with the laid-back yet urban mixed vibe in Key West, with classic southern houses, lovely gardens, a stunning marina with boats and restaurants, and bustling bars from 10 am in the morning!
You want to go here to see the sunrise, or sunset – or both!
Key West offers a range of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy, from snorkeling and diving to kayaking and paddleboarding.
For an unforgettable experience, plan a top-rated day trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park, located 70 miles west of Key West.
I went scuba diving on the wreck of the Vandenberg, a 500 ft ship that was intentionally sunk here in order to become a new reef. It is a stunning sight, overgrown with corals and home to several morays.
Sharks also often hang around the sides of the ship, and we passed by a ray chilling in the “sun” on deck!
This dive is for advanced divers only, as you go to 100 ft, but for open-water divers and snorkelers, there are also amazing coral reefs at shallower depths to be explored. Or go jet skiing if you like the fast and the furious!
You can also rent a bike and go around Key West at your own pace. It is not big at all, and you can make your own itinerary for your time here.
Stop to visit one of the rum distilleries, Ernest Hemingway’s house, which is now a museum, and for freshly squeezed juice in one of the cafes.
Key West has many super charming places that offer organic healthy foods, and the juices and smoothies are amazing!
It is also a haven for anyone into energy healing, tarot, or alternative medicine.
You can get your reading done or get a new crystal or a set of tarot cards at one of the scent-filled shops on Duval Street. Or get a massage in one of the day spas in the Old City!
This southernmost island gem is also home to the largest brick structure in the western hemisphere, the historic Fort Jefferson, which was built in the 19th century to protect the Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re looking for a more laid-back way to discover the island, rent a bike or take a leisurely stroll through the charming neighborhoods of Old Town.
You’ll discover incredible, well-kept, colorful Victorian mansions, quaint cottages, and lush tropical gardens at every turn!
For an unforgettable sunset experience, take a sunset cruise or head to Mallory Square, where crowds gather each evening to watch the sun dip below the horizon in a dazzling display of colors.
With so many activities to choose from, Key West is the perfect destination for travelers who want to stay active and explore the island’s natural beauty!
Known as the “Diving Capital of the World,” Key Largo boasts some of the best reefs and wrecks for scuba diving and snorkeling.
There is no town center in Key Largo; in fact, there is not really a “town” at all, as the key is long and narrow with hotels, restaurants, and activity services scattered on the sides of the road passing through.
So, to love Key Largo, you should love staying at a seaside hotel where you can chill and relax and love embarking on water and beach activities, of which there are plenty in Key Largo!
In Key Largo, you can also enjoy a sunset sail aboard a catamaran, a nice family picnic, or head out on a kayak tour trying to spot the incredible manatees and other wildlife at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park!
These slow-swimming, gentle creatures, also called “sea cows,” can be admired in several nature parks in Florida state, not just John Pennekamp.
If it is on your bucket list to go kayaking with manatees in Florida, you can venture out to visit any of these places!
Take in the scenery of Florida Bay and views of the incredible Everglades while fishing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
I went kayaking in the mangroves, and I loved it! Just please remember water-resistant SPF!!
The pace of Key Largo makes for a tranquil atmosphere, ideal for unwinding and reconnecting with nature.
There’s also a variety of eco-tours and birdwatching opportunities for those interested in learning more about the local wildlife.
Ready to hit the beach?
Check out the upcoming “The Best Beaches in Key West” section for a rundown on the top spots to catch some rays and cool off in the crystal-clear waters.
The Best Beaches In Key West
When it comes to beaches, Key West has some of the most beautiful in the world.
The island is surrounded by crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
One of the most famous beaches is Smathers Beach, located on the south side of the island.
This two-mile stretch of sandy beach is perfect for sunbathing and taking a dip in the ocean.
For a more secluded experience, head to Bahia Honda State Park. This park has one of the best beaches in the country.
With soft sand and turquoise waters, there are plenty of opportunities for water activities like kayaking and paddleboarding.
Higgs Beach is another popular spot, with calm waters and a long pier perfect for fishing.
Looking for a more family-friendly beach? Check out Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The beach is surrounded by lush foliage, and the water is shallow and calm, making it perfect for kids to swim in!
There’s also a fort on the park grounds that you can explore, adding extra adventure to your day at the beach.
Now that you know all about the best beaches in Key West, it’s time to head to Key Largo to discover some of the best beaches in the area.
The Best Beaches In Key Largo
Key Largo is a tropical paradise with some of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches in the world.
Whether you’re looking for a secluded spot to catch some rays or a lively beach to surf and paddleboard, there’s a beach in Key Largo for everyone.
The beach in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of the most popular beaches in Key Largo, perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving as it’s right next to the world-famous coral reefs.
The beach is also great for families, with calm waters and plenty of facilities to keep everyone comfortable.
For a more secluded and quiet beach experience, head over to Harry Harris Park. The beach here is tucked away from the crowds, surrounded by beautiful mangrove trees, and will give you serene peace and quiet!
The water is crystal clear and perfect for swimming, and there’s even a playground for kids and picnic tables for a family lunch.
Cannon Beach should be your go-to if you’re looking for a beach with a more lively atmosphere and plenty of activities!
You can rent paddleboards and kayaks to explore the bay or simply relax on the beach and people-watch. If you have never rented before, check out this easy guide to paddle board rentals!
There are also volleyball nets and grilling stations, so you can make a day of it with friends and family.
Now that you know all about the best activities and beaches in both places, it’s time to start planning your trip.
And what better way to do that than by finding the perfect place to stay?
The Best Places To Stay In Key West And Key Largo
When it comes to finding the best places to stay in Key West and Key Largo, it all depends on your preferences.
If you’re looking for a luxurious getaway, there are plenty of high-end resorts and hotels to choose from in both locations.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, both places have a version of that, but let’s be real: South Florida will not be a cheap destination either way!
These resorts offer stunning ocean views, private beaches, and top-notch amenities such as spas, tennis courts, and swimming pools.
If you prefer a smaller, more intimate setting, you might consider one of the numerous bed and breakfasts or smaller boutique hotels scattered throughout Old Town.
But be advised: the Florida Keys is NOT a cheap place; you will be hard-pressed to find accommodation for under $100 a night, even for shared accommodation.
I stayed at the NYAH (short for Not Your Average Hotel), and it was great for the budget; it had the perfect location, breakfast included, was super nice, free coffee 24/7 (important!), and had a great backyard with three pools!
The NYAH also has dorms if you prefer to be social or keep your housing on budget.
In Key Largo, you’ll find a range of accommodations, from basic motels to luxurious waterfront resorts.
Several resorts offer private beaches, water sports, and outdoor activities like tennis and golf.
For a more secluded experience, you might opt for a cozy waterfront cottage or a houseboat rental!
This “Happy Houseboat” has a 9.2 score from other travelers, sleeps up to three people, and you can be on the water all the time!
Now that you’ve hopefully got your accommodation sorted, it’s time to start thinking about one of the most important things in the world – where to eat!
Check out Key West and Key Largo’s best-rated restaurants for delicious and memorable dining experiences.
I just want to share with you the top-rated tours in these two keys first; check them out!
I did the sunset catamaran sail in Key West and the mangrove kayaking in Key Largo myself; you see the photo and a short video above; it was MAGIC!
Top Rated Tours In The Keys
- Mangroves and Manatees Guided Eco Kayak Tour
- Key Largo Two Reef Snorkel Tour
- Introduction to Scuba Diving Day Tour
- Key West Sunset Sail Tour – Full Bar & Live Music
- Guided Bicycle Tour Old Town Key West
- Key West Mangrove Kayak Eco Tour
The Best Restaurants In Key West And Key Largo
When it comes to dining in Key West and Key Largo, you’ll find an impressive selection of restaurants featuring a mix of fresh seafood, Cuban cuisine, and the classic Florida Keys staple, conch fritters!
In Key Largo, you can’t miss the casual and lively atmosphere at The Fish House, where you can enjoy fresh fish right on the waterfront.
For a more upscale dining experience, head to the Key Largo Conch House, infamous for its conch chowder and lobster dishes.
In Key West, you’ll find an even wider range of dining options, from casual cafes to high-end restaurants.
For a hearty breakfast, check out Blue Heaven, tempting you with its fluffy pancakes and outdoor seating in a lush garden setting.
For lunch or dinner, head to the Cuban hotspot, El Meson de Pepe, where you can enjoy authentic Cuban sandwiches or seafood paella.
For a unique dining experience for all senses, head to Latitudes on Sunset Key, accessible only via a short boat ride from Key West.
This upscale restaurant offers stunning ocean views and gourmet cuisine, perfect for a romantic date night or special occasion.
No matter where you choose to dine, both Key West and Key Largo offer plenty of delicious options to satisfy any craving. So sit back, relax, and indulge in the flavors of the Florida Keys!
How To Get There?
If you have a car, that problem is already taken care of, but if not, there are a few options to get to both Key West and Key Largo.
The Greyhound bus has departures multiple times a day from Miami to both destinations.
This is a comfortable and very budget-friendly option, but it leaves no room for stopping and exploring when you want to!
You can get a rental car for the duration of your getaway, which is perfect for designing your own road trip and allows you to stop and check out all the fun and interesting sights on the way.
If you prefer not to drive (or can’t), but want some level of freedom, you can also choose a private transfer.
That is a pricier option but gives you the freedom to stop here and there, chill in the back, and enjoy the scenery when you are on the move.
Or even a one-day tour of the Florida Keys and get it all in a one-day round-trip!
Is Key West A Party Town?
Although it can not compare to Metropol Miami, Key West is renowned for its nightlife and vibrant festive culture!
Key West has a diverse variety of restaurants, bars, clubs, live music venues, and even dedicated pool parties.
Although Key West has a calmer and more tranquil vibe, party animals will not be disappointed here on the tip of the US!
Why Is Key Largo Famous?
Key Largo is the first little islet of the Florida Keys you meet when you leave the mainland. Situated just on the edge of the Everglades, it is a perfect starting point for a variety of nature experiences.
Also, Key Largo itself has appointed the island as a scuba divers’ paradise, as well as a haven for snorkelers who prefer to hit the deep without tanks.
You will find a plethora of amazing sites for both activities in Key Largo, which is also a famous starting point for deep-sea fishing. Or, just stay on the shore and find yourself a beach!
Is Key Largo A Party Spot?
If you want neverending parties, Key Largo might not be your perfect destination.
Although there are bars and restaurants, this island is not famous for its vibrant nightlife but rather for being a tranquil and calm oasis for adventure seekers.
How Far Apart Are Key West And Key Largo?
There are around 106 miles between Key West and Key Largo, including the impressive Seven Mile Bridge.
The drive normally takes just under two and a half hours.
Can You Swim In Key Largo?
Yes, you can swim in Key Largo!
Head out to Cannon Beach, which is a beautiful white sandy beach, super popular and famous for its Caribbean vibe waters!
Is Key West A Walking Town?
Yes, it is really easy to walk on foot around the most popular places in Key West. This includes the famous southernmost point, as well as Whitehead Street, Duval Street, and Mallory Square.
If you get tired, you can scoop over to the Key West Trolley as well!
Which Key Has The Best Nightlife?
Key West is definitely the best option if great nightlife is on your must-have list for amazing holidays.
The other keys are smaller and more laid back (but with lots of activities).
Do You Need A Car On Key West?
The central and most important and popular places in Key West are very walkable, so you don’t really need a car in Key West.
If you take the Greyhound bus or any other transport down, you will be fine, just on your feet!
Which Key Has The Clearest Water?
The Florida Key, which has the clearest and most stunning waters, is not among those that you can drive to get to!
Dry Tortuga National Park is considered the winner in this regard and is an island situated around 67 miles west of Key West, accessible only by boat.
Wrap-Up Key West vs Key Largo
If you’re trying to decide which destination to visit between Florida destinations Key West and Key Largo, hopefully, this guide has provided you with all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Key West is great for those who crave an active vacation with heaps of excitement and buzzing nightlife.
Key Largo is the perfect destination for those who want to unwind on secluded beaches and soak up the natural beauty of the area.
Either way, the Florida Keys truly is a sun-kissed paradise that offers a wealth of adventure and relaxation opportunities for travelers seeking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
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