Key West, Florida – December 2013


At the end tip of USA – Key West, Florida

It’s December and it’s cold. What better time than now can you find yourself lazily lost at a warm tropical land such as Key West, Florida! Now, I know Miami is the big city that most folks like to chill at. But my brother and I wanted to try something other than a “beach near a big city.” We didn’t find it fun to hang out at just the beach all the time. It didn’t sound that adventurous. So that’s how Key West became our destination in 2013.

Key West is unique for a number of reasons. Key West is the island where Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his famous works such as For Whom the Bell Tolls, where President Truman came for vacation and practiced his presidency for 175 days, where U.S. Naval Air Station is located just 70 miles away from the National Park Dry Tortugas Fort is located, where the Southernmost tip of the US territory and the Florida Keys is, and where Cuba is just about 90 miles (140 km) away, the closest US territory.

 Key West Keys Map

But if you don’t care much for this formal list, just know that it’s a fun and carefree small tropical island! Their beaches may not be as famous as Miami’s or Hawaii’s but there are tons of fun things to do in the sea such as Dolphin watching, snorkeling, water jet-ski, sailing, and parasailing. It’s a place where light or heavy rain is just 10-30 minutes and where the sun shines always beautifully. It’s a place where you see how clear the seafloor can be and how beautiful a sunrise and sunset could be. It’s a place where you realize it’s ok to stay up all night, forget what time it is, not worry about street parking, and not worry about anything that society says it’s your duty to do something. It’s a free spirited place where people smile and laugh out loud without a reason. Because you don’t need a reason to smile other than that you are in Key West and 100 miles away from everything else. Oh, and we can’t forget about the chickens, birds, lizards, and all other animals that roam around the island and greeting you whenever you pose a camera on them. They say CHHEESE.

To sum up, my 5 day trip to Key West was a bliss! Each day, I realized there was something new to explore in this island that I didn’t know of before. I didn’t get to finish my “want to do list” by the time we drove back up to Miami. So, I wanted to jot down some recommendations and thoughts for future visitors to Key West so that they can take full advantage of enjoying this small sweet paradise.

Key West
Key West

First things first, transportation: How do you get there? Despite its small size, Key West has its own international airport. This means this is accessible for most people who want to fly in. The island is very small so anywhere you stay will be relatively close from the airport. Depending on where you stay for your hotel, you may or may not even need a car.

We, however, had a car because we wanted to try out the driving route from Miami. I heard that it is U.S.’s one of “must try scenic” drive ways in the States. (See National Geographic agrees.) This 3.5 hour drive is unique for its beautiful sea scenery right next to you. Check the map, the islands are linked closed together on this one highway path! For half of the time you are driving right next to the sea and the other half you are passing through the other Key islands that “used-to-be-islands.” So you can easily do a quick stop at these places and get a bite of fresh seafood. Or do a quick stop to enjoy the fresh sea water and relax. We noticed some locals comfortably placing themselves at a spot to do fishing or reading. I mean, how awesome is that!! Since the seawater is so close to the road, you probably want to try this before the water level rise more.

Driving down to Key West from Miami
Locals just fishing and relaxing on the highway next to the sea
Driving down to Key West from Miami
Driving down to Key West from Miami
The view you will see
The view you will see when you drive from Miami to Key West

Where do you eat and what do you eat? Luckily, the answer to this is very easy in Key West. Everything we tried we loved it, which is rare considering we often had trouble finding good places in other cities sometimes. It was hard to get wrong with anything because most food, seafood or not, were fresh! Few things one should definitely try here – SEAFOOD-SEAFOOD-SAEFOOD, Key lime pie, Key lime mojito or drinks, Cuban food and coffee, and 4 am beers (Most bars and restaurants are open until 4 am. Surprise!) are just a few items. Anywhere generally near the port and Duval street is good. Also note that there are random coupons for free drinks, happy hour deals, and free key lime pie all over the city so pick up that “free coupon” book when you land here. Here are few places we tried and liked it:

  1. Cuban foodEl Siboney Restaurant is where all the locals go.
  2. Cuban CoffeeCuban Coffee Queen is a small coffee shop located next to the port and offers great coffee and sandwiches
  3. SeafoodConch Republic Seafood Restaurant, Alonzo Berlin’s Lobster (go to the 1st floor here from 4-6 pm and you can get an excellent happy hour deal – 50% off all appetizers and drinks), and Hogfish Bar and Grill are some yummy places we tried.
  4. Key lime pie – most place’s key lime pie are good! But do check out this small Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie store. You’ll be amazed what diverse product one could make with Key lime.
Delicious Cuban food at El Siboney
Delicious Cuban food at El Siboney
Cuban Coffee Queen
Cuban Coffee Queen
A&B's amazing appetizer - Mussels and fresh fish dip and chips
A&B’s amazing appetizer – Mussels and fresh fish dip and chips
Key lime drink that is a must try at A&B
Key lime drink that is a must try at A&B
Tropic shot glasses
Tropical shot glasses

So what should we do at Key West? Ah, now that depends on what you consider a “good relaxing vacation.” For us, that means finding a lot of fun activities to do. For others, that may mean just relaxing at the beach, hanging out at the Duvul street drinking and shopping, hanging out at the beach eating seafood and swimming in the sea, or go for sailing, snorkeling, jet-skiing, dolphin watching, or just sunset watching. Either way, good news is that you can do all of these things in Key West! Not bad to get a lot of different people’s taste satisfied, right?

For few interesting sites to visit, here are few things we tried, liked, and would recommend others to do!

  1. Hemingway House
  2. Truman’s Little White House
  3. Southernmost Point
  4. Dry Tortugas National Park
  5. Dolphin watch,  sea snorkeling, or ski jet
Hemingway at Hemingway's House, did you know he has 45 cats now living in his house?!
Hemingway at Hemingway’s House, did you know he has 45 cats now living in his house?!
At South Beach in Key West
At South Beach in Key West
The view from inside the Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles away from Key West
The view from inside the Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles from Key West

And..like I said, I didn’t get to do all the things I wanted to do here. I’m sure there are more things to add to this “things to do in Key West.” Hope this helps your next trip!

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One thought on “Key West, Florida – December 2013

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