Ready to experience the tropical allure of the Florida Keys? The Florida Keys have some of the best beaches in Florida, and the region is easily one of the best places to visit in the state. In fact, the Florida Keys are one of our favorite places to visit in the entire USA. The Florida Keys are heaven on earth with the feel of a tropical island right in your own backyard.
It can be overwhelming trying to decide what to do in the Keys let alone trying to figure out where to stay in the Florida Keys but we are here to help. We have visited the Florida Keys on 4 different occasions so we have a good handle on the top places to make a base.
Where to Stay in Florida Keys
There are more than 800 keys in southern Florida, so it’s safe to say that you will have many options when it comes to choosing accommodation. The Florida Keys are an incredibly versatile destination, catering to everything from luxury, to mid-range, and budget-seeking travelers. Yes, you can even camp in the Florida Keys at designated trailer parks. This guide will cover where to stay in the Florida Keys – adding some of the best hotels and resorts along the way.
The best areas to stay in the Florida Keys
Key West – Key West is best for culture and history lovers. The key is most famed for its historic Key West Old Town and Mallory Square, although it is also the birthplace of key lime pie.Key Largo – If your dream morning is spent underwater, Key Largo is for you. The key is full of diving, snorkeling activities, and plenty of chances to see marine creatures.Big Pine Key – Big Pine Key is where to head for a tranquil holiday. The key even has a population of deer that roam peacefully throughout the island.Marathon – Marathon is known for its fantastic coastline. The key has some of the best beaches in the Florida Keys and is best suited to those looking for somewhere scenic to sunbathe.Islamorada – Islamorada is famed for sport fishing and feeding the tarpon. Plus you will find plenty of water sports and adventures.
1. Key West
Visitors can enjoy a fast-paced holiday chock full of nightlife, visiting historical sites, and checking out all the incredible things to do. Key West is lively with plenty of oomph, and if you like an action-packed holiday, you are in for a treat. Even better, there’s Key West International Airport to fly into – perfect for easy access from mainland USA and other international destinations. However, we suggest visiting Key West on a road trip.
When visiting Key West, place walking Duval Street and enjoying the sunset from Mallory Square at the top of your itinerary. Duval Street is in Key West’s Downtown district and is where you’ll find all the best bars, restaurants, cafes, and shops.
The street is alive by night and day – switching between a hotspot for shoppers and partiers skipping from tiki bar to tiki bar. Mallory Square is where you’ll find street performers, markets, and beautiful views of the sun going down over the Florida Straits.
After walking Duval Street, the Key West Historic District is the next place on your agenda. The old town of key west is famed for its pastel-colored architecture and range of attractions. Mallory Square is located in the Historic District near the port and is where you’ll find the nightly sunset celebration.
Key West has many attractions, including the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, The Hemingway Home and Museum, and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Key West is the best choice if you want typical tourist activities and plenty of museums, galleries, and organized attractions. Key West is also the birthplace of key lime pie, so arrive prepared to sample some of the best desserts you’ve ever tasted.
So, why should you stay in Key West? First off, Key West is an exciting option when choosing where to stay in the Florida Keys. Key West has a real city atmosphere, electric nightlife, and endless attractions, unlike some quieter keys.
Luxury: Pier House Resort & Spa
If you want a luxury Key West resort, Pier House Resort & Spa is the answer. This luxe four-star property sits in the center of the Key West Historic District, just off of the famous Duval Street. You can read reviews on TripAdvisor as well.
Pier House Resort has every high-caliber facility that you could think of. There is a beach bar on a private beach, an on-site spa, and two restaurants with gorgeous ocean views. And, for those wanting a swimming pool day rather than a beach day, Pier House Resort has a huge outdoor pool. While to soak up the sun in your own space, some room options even include private balconies.
Perry Hotel Key West is a quiet retreat on the marina. We loved relaxing at this hotel with its elegant rooms overlooking the waterfront. What we loved about it was the local vibe. Many people from the marina stop at the pool bar for lunch and snacks. Check for Reviews and pricing on TripAdvisor / Booking.com
Mid-range: La Concha
La Concha offers an outdoor pool, terrace, library, and a cafe. Guests will appreciate the fantastic location, facilities, and comfortable furnishings. There is also a fitness center for health-conscious guests, which is good motivation for keeping active on holiday. This is a great place to stay if you want to enjoy the Key West nightlife as you are in the heart of it all.
Budget: Not Your Average Hotel
NYAH is the most budget-friendly accommodation choice in Key West. Not only does it have some of the lowest prices, the three-star hotel includes a complimentary continental breakfast each morning. It also offers dormitory rooms for those trying to save a buck.
NYAH has a budget-friendly bike rental service, three outdoor swimming pools, plus a 24-hour help desk. Good value for money, we’d say.
VRBO: Condo with Ocean Views
This property is one of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys for a luxury VRBO holiday. The space has unrivaled views over the Atlantic Ocean and an open-plan living room and master bedroom that open onto private balconies.
Guests have access to covered parking and a shared outdoor pool. However, you are just walking distance from the Key West Historic District, so you’ll have plenty of off-property entertainment.
2. Key Largo
We said that if your dream morning is spent underwater, Key Largo is the key for you, and we mean it. Key Largo claims to be the dive capital of the world and is most famous for its incredible dive and snorkeling sites.
The key is home to one of the world’s largest artificial reefs – Spiegel Grove. Spiegel Grove is a huge ex-navy ship that was sunk in 2002 to create a 510-foot-long reef for underwater flora and marine creatures.
Clearly, Key Largo takes its underwater scenery extremely seriously, and you can expect a proactive attitude towards ocean conservation. Sure, Key Largo has a lot of other things going for it. However, the area’s main draw is definitely its ocean activities.
Speaking of activities, what are the best things to do in Key Largo? Well, experiencing John Pennekamp Coral Reef is always fun. You can go scuba diving, snorkeling, or stay dry and take a glass-bottomed boat tour. There are lots of marine animals to spot – from dolphins to barracudas and sea cucumbers.
To educate yourself about coral conservation and restoration outside the water, we recommend a trip to the Coral Restoration Foundation Exploration Center. Here you can learn more about the underwater world, including what the foundation is doing to aid coral in Key Largo and the Florida Keys. Finally, when you aren’t learning about the ocean, there are plenty of adrenaline-water activities. One of the most popular is jet skiing, and you’ll be able to reach incredible speeds on the water.
Key Largo is where to stay in the Florida Keys if you want to have fun on and in the ocean. The key is the best place to enjoy snorkeling and diving, with more dive equipment shops than you ever need. Key Largo is best suited to travelers who love marine life and ocean conservation. If you’d choose a night dive over a night partying, Key Largo is the key for you.
Now, what about where to stay in Key Largo? These are our top recommendations.
Luxury: Bungalows Key Largo
Bungalows Key Largo is a stunning, adult-only luxury resort. Guests must be over 21 years old to book a room at this all-inclusive resort, giving the Bungalows Key Largo an exclusive, intimate atmosphere.
The resort has two swimming pools, one of which is especially for relaxation and downtime. It also features a fitness center with classes included in your room price. Luxury never felt more inclusive.
Mid-range: Baker’s Cay Resort
The on-site spa boasts a steam room and a hot tub, while the fitness center has numerous classes. You can even arrange kayaking and fishing tours from the front desk.
Budget: Rock Reef Resort
Rock Reef Resort is the most budget-friendly option in Key Largo. Guests receive free parking, toiletries, and wi-fi – plus a range of private rooms catering to various budgets.
VRBO: Oceanfront Condo
This two-bedroom condo is beautiful, with spacious rooms and a balcony with ocean views. However, its shared facilities are where the property comes into its own.
Saltwater swimming pools are pretty rare, yet this condo gives guests access to a saltwater swimming pool with tropical fish to swim with and feed. You’ll also get to enjoy tennis courts, a further two swimming pools, and a fire pit area.
3. Big Pine Key
Big Pine Key is the shy wallflower of the Florida Keys. The key is known for its low-key, tranquil atmosphere. It also has some of the most wildlife to spot, meet, and admire. Big Pine Key is especially famous for its key deer population, which mostly lives on this key.
The deer are the smallest subspecies of white-tailed deer and grow to just 32 inches. While they can swim between islands if they wish, Big Pine Key is a definite favorite spot. If it is peaceful enough to tempt key deer to stay, it will be tempting enough for you.
Deer aren’t the only animals you’ll see around the key either. There are alligators, iguanas, and turtles to spot. The key is heaven on earth for those interested in biology, conservation, and the animal kingdom. Its peaceful atmosphere and impressive fauna diversity make it easily one of the best Florida Keys.
Needless to say, animal spotting is one of the best things to do on the key. Visiting the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center is a top activity for any visitor’s itinerary. The 9,200-acre reserve is a protected space for endangered species and is the perfect place to get up close if you’ve never seen them before.
You can also spot the deer at Blue Hole, a small freshwater lake and popular drinking hole for local wildlife. We suggest heading to the Blue Hole Observation Platform with a picnic and just waiting to see what wildlife appears.
It is also worth visiting the nearby islands connected to Big Pine Key by the overseas highway. Little Torch Key is one of the best to visit for a taste of remote island life, and the key has just a few resorts and hospitality venues. No Name Key is even quieter, with just a handful of permanent residents.
Further up the overseas highway, there’s Bahia Honda State Park, too – a coastal park with palm trees and glorious beaches. We suggest renting a car to drive the scenic route to Bahia Honda State Park.
Big Pine Key is where to stay in the Florida Keys for a quieter experience, surrounded by nature and wildlife. It is best for travelers who are looking for nature, not nightlife. Since most of the best resorts are also located on nearby islands, visitors should be flexible about finding accommodation just outside the key. Let’s take a look at our best accommodation options.
Luxury: Little Palm Island Resort
Mid-range: Parmer’s Resort
Parmer’s Resort is a comfortable motel by the oceanfront. What more could you ask for with a heated outdoor pool, activities like kayaking and beach yoga, plus a continental breakfast each morning? Parmer’s Resort is a fantastic mid-range accommodation option.
Budget: Old Wooden Bridge Guest Cottages & Marina
Old Wooden Bridge Guest Cottages & Marina has twelve cottages to choose from and plenty of on-site amenities. There is lots to keep you entertained, from BBQs to an outdoor swimming pool.
VRBO: Canal Front Home
This VRBO property is dreamily situated alongside a canal, with a boat ramp just steps away from its front door. If you want to bring a boat when you stay in the Florida Keys, this home is a good choice.
The property also has an open-plan living room and kitchen. While upstairs, indoor/outdoor space is maximized with a private balcony off the master bedroom.
Forget ‘it’s raining men’, Marathon is raining gorgeous beaches. The key is beach after beach of stunning views and soft, tropical white sands. Beach holidays don’t get much better than a getaway on this key. You’ll love this key if you love relaxing and rejuvenating on a beautiful coastline.
The key is split across thirteen islands connected by the overseas highway. Because of this, each separate island is a small community, and most communities center their identity around their beach. Sombrero Beach and Key Colony Beach are excellent examples of this beach meets community phenomenon.
These two beaches are also where you’ll find Marathon Key’s population of loggerhead turtles during laying season. The turtles head onshore to bury their eggs, and at the end of the season, you can witness hundreds of baby turtles making a rush to the ocean.
In short, this key gets its character from its coastline. Whether you just relax amongst palm trees on a sandy beach or you get to spot baby turtles hatching, Marathon’s beaches are idyllic.
So, what is there to do apart from beach days? Visiting the Turtle Hospital is always a memorable experience; you can feel happy spending money knowing it is going to a good cause. Visitors can take guided tours of the sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation center – perfect for learning more about turtles and the charity’s essential work. A visit to the Turtle Hospital is one of the sweetest things to do on the key.
Crane Point Hammock is another place where you can learn about nature. The natural history museum is one of the best things to do on Marathon. Visitors explore nature trails, a bird rescue center, and experience marine touch tanks. While, as a day trip, you can drive further down Seven Mile Bridge or venture to nearby islands like Duck Key.
Marathon is the best choice for beach lovers. The key has some of the best beaches in the Florida Keys and a fantastic coastal culture. It’s an ideal destination for anyone who dreams of getting up close to turtles and spending day after day on a picturesque sandy beach.
Luxury: Isla Bella Beach Resort & Spa
Isla Bella Beach Resort & Spa is a 4.5-star resort, but we think it should be pushed up to five stars. Isla Bella Beach Resort is a great luxury place to stay in the Florida Keys if you want to base yourself in Marathon. It has five different swimming pools, including a heated swimming pool. You’ll also find on-site restaurants, a spa, and a garden café.
Mid-range: Courtyard by Marriott Marathon Florida Keys
Courtyard by Marriott Marathon Florida Keys is a mid-range three-star hotel, perfect for those who want comfortable accommodation at a reasonable price. The hotel is situated in a state park, just an eight-minute drive from Sombrero Beach. The on-site amenities are also second to none, with a 24-hour gym, outdoor pool, and tennis courts.
Budget: Sandpiper Motel
If you perked up at the mention of the Turtle Hospital earlier, note that Sandpiper Motel is located just across the road from it. Sandpiper Motel is cheap and cheerful with a fantastic location. Sure, it is no boutique hotel; however, Sandpiper Motel is the best value for money that you’ll find in Marathon.
VRBO: 3 Bedroom Fisherman’s Retreat
This property is heaven and truly a fisherman’s retreat. You have a private dock, a bait freezer, and a fish cleaning table – there’s even a grill so that you can cook up a storm with your catch.
When you want some downtime, watch the dock light up in the evening and enjoy your private hot tub. Relaxing by your own marina is a different sort of luxury.
Remember us saying that Islamorada is popular for sport fishing? Well, Islamorada is considered the sport fishing capital of the world. The key has some of the best fishing charters and Florida Keys fisheries. Whether you want fresh seafood on hand each day or are a keen fisher looking for an ultimate sport fishing experience, it is a fantastic holiday destination.
When stopping at Islamorada, grab a bite to eat at Robbie’s and make sure to visit the friendly tarpon. One of the most popular things to do on Islamorada is to feed the tarpon and watch them leap out of the water into your hand!
However, it lacks that commercialized edge that some other keys thrive on. Instead, Islamorada is a destination where you can escape to unwind when you aren’t exploring its attractions. We love that flexibility.
The best things to do in Islamorada are mostly ocean related. Fishing enthusiasts must not miss out on a fishing charter, and anyone able to swim should take a snorkeling or diving tour.
If getting in History of Diving Museum instead. Islamorada has a special relationship with the ocean, and it is exciting to experience the relationship for yourself through water activities and museums.
Islamorada is one of the middle keys, and it is well worth day tripping to its nearby islands. We recommend a day trip to Long Key, just a twenty-minute drive down the overseas highway. On Long Key, you’ll find Long Key State Park. Long Key State Park was once home to a luxury resort, but now it is a spectacular reserve with canoeing and bone fishing opportunities. Of course, there’s also Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, located in Islamorada itself, just a five-minute drive from the Islamorada center. Once a limestone quarry, visitors now flock to Windley Key State Park to admire the fossilized coral on numerous hiking trails.
There are many things to do in Islamorada, and we’ll link our complete guide here. The island is ideally suited to those who love fishing, seafood, and watersports. Don’t expect the outgoing atmosphere of Key West. Instead, Islamorada is perfect for a relaxing ocean getaway.
Luxury: Amara Cay Resort
Amara Cay Resort is that classic luxury. Picture poolside bars, a full fitness center, and a private beachfront to enjoy. Amara Cay Resort is perfect if you want upscale accommodation when staying in Islamorada. In fact, it is so beautiful that it is frequently booked for weddings.
Mid-range: Hadley House
Hadley House is a stunning mid-range property in Islamorada, practically located on the beach – beach access doesn’t get much easier. Guests can expect many perks, including free breakfast and complimentary bike hire. Thanks to Hadley House’s marina, you can also easily access ocean activities and rent equipment directly from the hotel.
Budget: Sunset Inn
Budget-friendly properties are unfortunately rare in Islamorada. However, Sunset Inn is a strong choice if you are looking for cheaper options. You won’t sacrifice much, as you still get a pool, BBQ area, and games room. But the complimentary cabanas, bike, hire, and wi-fi will definitely help save you some cash.
VRBO: Angler’s Reef Home with Ocean Views
This VRBO property is enormous, sleeping up to six guests and boasting four separate balconies with ocean views. It is one of the most beautiful places to stay in the Florida Keys and has marina access and its own private beach.
Located in the exclusive, gated community of Angler Reef, you can relax in this VRBO property in complete luxury.
The Florida Keys is the best destination in Florida to escape and connect with ocean life. You’ll spend your days fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sampling delicious seafood, relaxing on the best beaches, and much more. Whether you choose Key West or Islamorada, you’ll have a fantastic time. However, each key has something different and unique to offer – who knows, maybe you’ll need a return tip or a Florida Keys road trip.