21 Tropical Things to Do in the Florida Keys

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Is a Florida Keys road trip on your bucket list?

This stretch of highway is less than 200 miles long but can definitely fill a vacation agenda.

You can island hop for a week or more and still leave, thinking you missed something.

Here’s our guide to 21 Tropical Things to Do in the Florida Keys along the overseas highway, including places to stay, activities and restaurants to try…

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21 Tropical Things to Do in the Florida Keys

Discovered by Ponce de Leon, the Florida Keys are a string of islands that make up the southernmost portion of the continental US, formed from coral reef sediment. 

Henry Flagler’s 1912 railroad connected them to the mainland of Florida, making them highly accessible to all.

When to Visit the Florida Keys

The best time to visit the Florida Keys is when it’s not raining and the chances of a hurricane are slim. 🙂

That would include the months of November through April.

Thankfully, on my visit in early May, it only rained about 30 drops and the weather was gloriously sunny and warm.

How to Get to the Florida Keys

The closest airports to get to the Florida Keys are Miami and Fort Lauderdale. We chose to fly into Miami.

how to get to the florida keys

When you use your Southwest points and Southwest Companion Pass to fly, you’ll save a boatload on your trip that you can use for some of the fun activities or delicious meals mentioned below.

Pick up a rental car and then point it south.

You’ll be taking Highway 1 all the way down to mile marker 0, one of the most famous, and most photographed, mile markers in the country.

Florida Keys Hotels and Resorts

You’ll have your choice of a wide variety of accommodations along the route, including many different Florida Keys hotels and resorts, but here are some I recommend:

1. Baker’s Cay Resort

A good first overnight stop would be in Key Largo at Baker’s Cay Resort

Baker's Cay resort entrance in Key Largo, Florida
Spring for a waterfront room at this Key Largo resort and enjoy the contemporary decor. Rooms come with a sofa and, most importantly, a balcony to enjoy the gorgeous views.
When you’re ready to head outdoors, find the Hammock Trail and Beach with plenty of shade to keep you cool and only steps from the water.
At Rock Beach, where there are many weekly planned activities like S’mores & Stars, you’ll find:
  • Lounge chairs
  • Floating mats
  • Kayaks
  • Stand-up paddle boards
  • Swimming/snorkeling area
  • Jet skis
  • Fishing
Aerial view of Baker's Cay Resort Rock Beach, Florida Keys
Baker’s Cay Resort Rock Beach
Don’t miss toasting the sunset with complimentary champagne!

2. Faro Blanco Resort

Only an hour down the road, our next stop was in Marathon where we stayed at Faro Blanco Resort.

Faro Blanco Resort entrance
Photo courtesy of Faro Blanco Resort

You’ll have plenty of room to spread out in their spacious suite-like rooms (a former Hyatt Place hotel) complete with sleeper sofas, coffee/tea service, a mini-fridge and more.

Volleyball, 2 swimming pools, kayak and paddle board rentals and outdoor games like corn hole, will keep you busy.

Grab a free bike, included with your stay, and ride down to the Old Seven-Mile Bridge and then on to Pigeon Key until the bridge ends, destroyed long ago by a hurricane. 

Stop and look for tarpon, turtles and sharks and stay for the sunset! 

View of Faro Blanco by the water in the Florida Keys

Although the resort property itself is on the water, you won’t get a water view here, because the restaurant, marina and lighthouse claim that status.

3. Parrot Key Hotel & Villas

For your final resort stay, Parrot Key Hotel & Villas is just a quick shuttle ride from all the happenings in Key West yet completely secluded.

Entrance to Parrot Key Hotel & Villas in Key West
Whether you choose a guest room or a 3-bedroom villa, you’ll find top-notch furnishings, plush robes, tea/coffee service, a mini-fridge and a small balcony included.
A sandy terrace holds loungers, umbrellas, swings and hammocks. You can choose from 4 pools or take the complimentary shuttle to Smathers Beach to soak in some sun. The choice is yours!
Florida Keys hotels
Grab dinner at their onsite restaurant, The Grove, with live music on Fridays and Saturdays.


4. Robbie’s 

Stop at Robbie’s of Islamorada for their world-famous tarpon feeding! 

things to do in the florida keys

Be extremely brave, hold a fish over the water and wait for a tarpon to spring into action to eat right out of your hand; potentially YOUR ENTIRE HAND will go into its mouth! 🙂

With lots of other activities, you could spend a few hours here getting acclimated to all the water sports the Florida Keys have to offer you.

5. Aquarium Encounters

Want to interact with a stingray or be totally daring and climb into their tank and feed sharks?

Feeding a shark at Aquarium Encounters in the Florida Keys
Feeding a shark

You’ll learn about AND experience the marine animals at Aquarium Encounters in Marathon as you…

  • Take an audio tour 
  • Touch stingrays, starfish, queen conch, isopods and horseshoe crabs
  • Feed the stingrays, tarpon, barracuda, parrot fish, turtles, lobsters and bonnethead sharks
  • Let little fishies feed on you as they exfoliate your hands
  • Watch as one of their on-site Marine biologists feeds a 400-pound goliath grouper

Aquarium Encounters marine biologist feeding goliath grouper

And to further explore their inhabitants, join one of these exclusive encounters…

Before leaving, don’t miss this fun photo opp.. 

Caught by a shark at Aquarium Encounters, Florida Keys

You’ll be amazed at all the wonderful creatures you’ll encounter on your visit! 🙂

6. The Turtle Hospital

Just down the road, you’ll find the Turtle Hospital.

Entrance to the Turtle Hospital in the Florida Keys

Formerly a hotel, the Turtle Hospital was born when the owner built a new pool and started keeping aquatic animals in the old one. Kids asked why they didn’t have any turtles, of course, back in the day of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

Keeping turtles was only allowed if “rescuing and rehabilitating” them, so the Turtle Hospital became part of the hotel experience.

When a hurricane hit in 2005, the hotel was devastated and a 501c3 non-profit was born. 

If possible, join one of the first tours of the day, where you’ll hopefully be one of only a few guests, as they lead you on the 90-minute tour. 

As part of the tour, you’ll view a short presentation about the different species of turtles in Florida and how they might arrive at the hospital, usually an injury sustained from an accident, an impaction or tumors.

Big turtle swimming at Turtle Hospital in Florida.

To date, they’ve rescued, rehabilitated and released over 1000 turtles back into their natural habitats.

You’ll get a chance to feed some of the permanent residents, who can’t be released, before your tour ends.

7. Conch Tour Train & Old Town Trolley

The first thing I would suggest doing once you get to downtown Key West is to take a ride on the world-famous Conch Tour Train to learn about the 400-year history of Key West, including the fascinating occupations of sponging, Cuban cigars and wrecking. 

what to do in the florida keys - Conch Tour Train in Key West, Florida
Photo courtesy of Conch Tour Train

Then hop off and on at 1 of 3 stops to delve into some of the sights mentioned on the tour. 

If you want to see a wider area with 13 stops and a little different perspective of Key West, instead try the Old Town Trolley Tours.

Old Town Trolley Tours trolley in Key West, Florida

This tour provides more of a hop on/hop off experience where you can take in many more sites of Key West with less walking involved.

8. Sunset Watersports

For a wide variety of water-sport options, including a sunset dinner sail, check out Sunset Watersports

We chose the Dolphin & Snorkel combo tour.

Dolphin Tour boat at Sunset Sports in the Florida Keys.

It’s not guaranteed you’ll see a dolphin, but they try their hardest, staying in contact with other boats also on the hunt. 

We had one dolphin get EXTREMELY close to the boat, so that was super cool.

A dolphin swimming close to our boat!

Afterward, take a short ride to your snorkeling location, where you’ll have 45 minutes in the water to see if you can spot purple fan and other coral, lobsters, stingrays and colorful tropical fish.

Note: You’ll want to ask about the water conditions before you sign up, as this will greatly affect where they take you and how much you’ll be able to see. 

9. Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Originally from Indiana, Mel Fisher became a scuba diver and owned a dive shop in California.

When he read a book about sunken treasures off the coast of Florida, he immediately hightailed it there and soon started looking for the 1622 wreck of the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, or Atocha for short, off the coast of Key West.

Treasure from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in the Florida Keys
Photo courtesy of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

After looking for 16 years, in 1985 he finally found what is said to be one of the largest findings EVER, valued at the time to be worth half a billion dollars!

Entrance to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Take an hour or so to learn about Mel, his discovery of the Atocha and see recovered artifacts from wrecking expeditions at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

10. Danger Charters Sunset Sail

Want to get on the water for sunset? Danger Charters Sunset Sail near Mallory Square is an excellent choice!

Danger Charters Sunset Sail boats out on water in Florida Keys

With less than 30 people aboard and a prime seat, you’ll experience an intimate affair complete with a variety of wine tastings and appetizers.

As we were sailing, a cruise ship was leaving port with a dolphin jumping in front of it! 🐬 

As the sun slips below the horizon, raise a glass to toast another day.

11. Truman Little White House

From my hometown of Independence, MO (I’m a graduate of Truman High School no less!), Harry S. Truman chose Key West and the former 1890 Navy officer’s house as his winter White House.

Truman Little White House in the Florida Keys

Before starting the tour, visit the free museum where you’ll learn about Truman and his presidency, tour the garden full of tropical foliage and fruit trees and take a look at his original 1950 Lincoln Limousine.

Truman's 1950 Lincoln Limousine in front of Truman Little White House in Florida Keys

Head to the meeting place for the 1-hour guided tour of the Truman Little White House where you’ll be transported back in time, WAY back in time, since the house has been left “as is” from his presidency, which ended in 1953.

12. Sebago Parasail

Choose from one or more of the many Sebago Watersports activities while you are in Key West including…

  • Snorkel tour
  • 27-mile guided jet ski tour
  • Sail, snorkel and kayak eco tour
  • Parasailing tour
  • All-day adventure tour–snorkel, parasail, jet ski, banana boat, waterpark & kayak

We chose to get airborne on their parasailing tour.

Getting ready to parasail in the Florida Keys!

With a super easy on/off from the back of the boat, the 2 of us in tandem were treated to a bird’s eye view of the crystal clear waters while soaring at 300 feet.

Parasailing view, Florida

It made me wonder why I haven’t tried this WAY sooner! 🪂

13. Fury Glass Bottom Boat Tour

Not quite as adventurous?

Down at 0 Duval Street, you can board Fury Water‘s Glass Bottom Boat for a first-hand look at underwater life.

Fury Glass Bottom Boat Tour boat

It’s a 45-minute boat ride out to the reef. Be sure to look for turtles or dolphins on the way! 

Once you arrive, either head down to the viewing platform where you can take a seat or gather around the railing while standing.

Glass bottom boat view

The crew will take about 30 minutes to explain everything you’re seeing including different fish and coral before you head back to Key West.

14. Dry Tortugas National Park

Definitely on our bucket list was Dry Tortugas National Park.

Dry Tortugas National Park by Key West

Don’t think you can go to Key West and decide to go right then, like some people we talked to…:(

No need to pack food or water for the day as those are included in the price of your trip.

Once at the island, take part in a talk or tour of Fort Jefferson.

Sign for Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park

You’ll have time to snorkel or swim afterwards before the All Aboard to head back to Key West. 

15. If Only We Had More Time

What did I tell you?

We felt as if we squeezed every drop we could out of our time in the Florida Keys (and actually RELAXED as well) but even one full week wasn’t enough time to do it all!

Here are some things we would have done if only we had more time…

Best Florida Keys Restaurants

No vacation would be complete without enjoying some delicious food, some exclusive to the area.

Here’s a rundown of the Florida Keys restaurants we tried.

16. Calusa at Baker’s Cay

Our first dinner was at Calusa, seated at an outside table, in the shade, with a view of the ocean in Key Largo.

We made a reservation via Open Table which you’ll definitely want to do if you’re planning on eating during sunset.

You’ll be served water in your pineapple-shaped glass when they bring fresh, hot bread to your table.

If you order nothing else, DO NOT miss the Brussel Sprout appetizer. It’s epic!

Brussel Sprout appetizer at Calusa, Florida Keys restaurants

After that, go for a local dish like the Yellow Tail Snapper.

Yellow Tail Snapper at Calusa

One thing we didn’t try, that I wish we had, was the Keys Pink Shrimp, which is also a local dish.

Can’t fit in a slice of Key Lime pie?

No problem!

Get it to go and put it in your mini-fridge to enjoy on your balcony later if staying at Baker’s Cay.

17. Key Fisheries 

Key Fisheries is a walk-up window seafood restaurant/market/bar with covered outdoor seating set on a marina in Marathon.

You’ll want to try their world-famous Lobster Reuben sandwich.

Lobster Reuben sandwich at Key Fisheries - key West restaurant

You can even guess how many they’ve sold in the last month for a chance to win a prize!

I am a huge fan of conch salad so I tried their version, more like a taco salad, but it did not disappoint.

Conch salad at Key Fisheries

After dinner, use some quarters and feed the tarpon, sharks, parrot fish and more right at the dock.

18. Amigo’s Tortilla Bar

Home of the square taco, Amigo’s Tortilla Bar is a delicious, quick-service restaurant in the heart of Key West on Duval Street.

Amigos Tortilla Bar in Key West, Duval Street

Because we knew we wanted to try one of their especiales (and eat Key Lime pie later!), we decided to share the 3-taco platter. We were each able to order our own tacos the way we wanted; mine was a hard crunchy corn tortilla carnitas taco. 

3-taco platter at Amigos Tortilla Bar

For our especiales, we chose the roasted corn on the cob topped with chile sauce, garlic aioli, Cotija cheese and green onions. YUM!!

19. Eaton Good

After our Dry Tortugas day, we were looking for something within walking distance of the ferry terminal, so I did a quick search and found a 5-star reviewed restaurant called Eaton Good.

Eaton Good restaurant entrance
Photo Courtesy of Eaton Good

Skeptical, thinking that only their relatives must have reviewed it, we just had to give it a try!

We had the Hot Honey Pork Belly Burnt Ends, Caribbean Curry Cauliflower with toasted chickpeas, golden raisins, curry yogurt and cilantro and Roasted Carrots with scotch bonnet honey, key lime crema and pepitas.

Hot Honey Pork Belly Burnt Ends at Eaton Good

Oh my goodness, out of this world DELICIOUS!! 

My husband also gave them a 5-star rating. 🙂

20. El Siboney

We finished up the restaurant part of our road trip wanting to try some Cuban food, since in Key West “you’re closer to Cuba than a Walmart.”

Already on my itinerary, with 2 local recommendations to boot, we knew we absolutely HAD to go to El Siboney, which has 2 locations in the area: one IN Key West and one on Stock Island.

El Siboney Cuban restaurant
Photo courtesy of El Siboney

They’ve won recognition as Key West’s Best Cuban Restaurant every year since 1993. 

We tried the Ropa Vieja, Yucca Frita, #1 Roasted pork and tostones followed by flan and Cuban coffee. 

Ropa Vieja, Yucca Frita, #1 Roasted pork and tostones
#1 Roast Pork and Tostones

Other dishes include the Cuban mix sandwich, Cassava pork tamales, Siboney steak and more which you can wash down with their homemade Sangria.

If you’ve never tried authentic Cuban food before, I definitely recommend giving them a try and see what you think!

21. Key Lime Pie

No trip to the Florida Keys would be complete without trying as many slices of Key Lime pie as you’re able, right? 🙂

We stopped at all of these for a slice:

Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a Stick
If I had to pick a clear winner for my favorite rendition of Key Lime pie, which is a piece of frozen pie dipped in chocolate on a stick, it would hands down go to Kermit’s in Key West where I first tasted it many years ago. 

My husband actually makes the best Key Lime pie I’ve ever tasted, and when frozen and covered in Magic Shell, it’s even better than Kermit’s!


Need help planning your trip to the Florida Keys?

For TONS of information about all things Florida Keys, I highly recommend the Florida Keys & Key West website where they’ll suggest all the top destinations to hit, everything there is to do and where to stay as you make your way down to mile marker 0–super, duper helpful! 

Have I convinced you to add a trip to the Florida Keys to the list of places you want to visit soon?


Looking for more sunny destinations?

Check out our posts on these great beach vacations…

Go to Travel Gal has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Go to Travel Gal and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, endorsed, or approved by any of these entities.

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