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Bahia Honda State Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

The best beaches in Key West

The best beaches in Key West have incredible views, happy vibes, and warm waters. Sun worshippers, you're in for a treat.

Megan duBois
Written by
Megan duBois

Key West. Those two words often bring about images of parties on Duval Street, incredible restaurants serving fresh seafood, and, of course, stunning beaches. The white sand that gives way to perfectly clear blue waters is the stuff that island dreams are made of. No matter where you are on the island, beaches in Key West are easily accessible by car, foot, or trolly, and each one offers something unique, from water sports to family-friendly national parks worth exploring. 

After hitting the bars and other best things to do in Key West, the beach is always the place to hang out. Many of the beaches in Key West boast incredible sunset views where people will gather each night to watch Mother Nature put on a show. After the sun sets, strolling along the moonlit beach can be a romantic way to end a great day in the southernmost city in the United States. These are the eight best beaches in Key West. 

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Key West

Best beaches in Key West

One of the best beaches in Key West is located inside Fort Zachary Taylor Park, the southernmost state park in the country. The beach boasts crystal clear waters and is perfect for families looking for a unique place to cool off. The beach is at the intersection of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, making the water warm and calm most of the year. This is a great beach for snorkeling because the water is so clear. Those who prefer to just relax and soak in the sun will find plenty of room to set up camp for the day along the shore.

Higgs Memorial Beach Park is truly a unique experience in Key West. Within the park, you can see a Civil War-era fort, where you can take self-guided tours, and under the water there is the only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the United States. Those who don’t want to drag all of their beach gear can rent everything from chairs to kayaks at the rental shop. Just be warned that this beach is often overrun with seaweed from storms and a tumultuous ocean, which can leave a bad odor in the air.


Just 70 miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park. The isolated beach here is only accessible by boat or seaplane, but the extra effort to get here is worth it. Not only is the beach stunning, but there’s an old military fort to explore, and there are plenty of places to spread out for a picnic. There are four areas at the park designated for swimming and splashing in the ocean. Be sure to remember your snorkeling gear because this is one of the best spots to see fish in all of Key West.

At almost half a mile long, Smathers Beach is the biggest public beach in Key West. This is easily the most popular beach in Key West, thanks to its prime location near the city centre. Besides the traditional beach activities, local food trucks, travelers can also enjoy picnic areas and volleyball courts. There are plenty of rental facilities to get chairs, umbrellas, and even jet skis. The beach is free to visit, but if you’re parking a car, know that it will cost $5 per hour.


At the end of Duval Street, you’ll run right into South Beach. This tiny stretch of sand is just 200 feet long, so it’s not ideal for an entire day at the beach, but it is worth a gander if you’re taking the trolly tour or exploring Old Town. Many locals will go here to watch the sunrise in the morning before heading to the Southernmost Cafe for breakfast before the tourists start to fill the streets.

6. Rest Beach

Located on Atlantic Boulevard is Rest Beach. The soft sand at the beach is ideal for taking a morning walk or looking for shells. While the beach is small, there are picnic tables for enjoying a meal with friends and a sunny strip of sand to dip your toes into. This particular beach is not frequented as often by tourists because of its size, so if you don’t mind a smaller beach as a trade-off for fewer people, this is the spot.


Just outside of Key West is Bahia Honda State Park. The state park is home to two small stretches of sand that offer visitors the ability to lay in the sun or enjoy a day of snorkeling and exploring the water. Just off the shore is a large sandbar where adults can hang out and feel like they are on an island all their own. Kayaking is a popular activity, here since the waters are so shallow and calm. Kayaks can be rented once you get to the beach, so you don’t need to bring them with you.

Dog Beach
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Dog Beach

If you’re traveling with your furry friend, you’re going to want to visit Dog Beach. This is the only beach in Key West that allows dogs to go unleashed and play in the sand and surf. The beach isn’t a place that non-dog owners will want to hang around for long because it is small and very rocky, but for those looking to give their pets a bit of freedom, this secluded beach is worth seeking out.

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