Relaxing and laid-back, the Florida Keys call to beach bums who prefer their landscape pristine and untouched. The Florida Keys are famous for watersports, nightlife, beaches and historic sites. Whether you prefer culture or the outdoors, the southernmost part of Florida has plenty to offer in a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.
Abundant sunshine and gentle breezes make the Keys one of the most popular tourist destinations in Florida. With over 320 sunny days per year you’ll most likely get the weather you want, no matter when you visit. Be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and beach umbrellas as the UV rays can be quite strong here. The sea temperature is almost bath water and you’ll love the turquoise-blue color.
Here are 10 of our favorite Florida Keys beaches:
Located in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Largo Sound, Cannon Beach is one of two human-made beaches in the park. The beach’s name comes from the 17th-century cannons that sit on its rocky shore, but most visitors spend their time at Cannon Beach snorkeling. While checking out the marine life, don’t miss the Spanish shipwreck replica about 100 feet from the shoreline. This state park also features the country’s first undersea park, which covers the water west of Cannon Beach and Key Largo.
After snorkeling at Cannon Beach, you should head about a half-mile east to Far Beach for a relaxing afternoon spent under the palm trees. This beach, also located in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, provides a less rocky alternative to Cannon Beach. Take time for a refreshing swim before having lunch in the picnic area. Far Beach is family-friendly, with both parking and a children’s playground located nearby. You can even book a glass-bottom boat tour to view the sea life from above the water or rent a kayak, paddleboard or canoe to explore the mangroves and water trails. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the park also offers scuba diving tours twice daily.
Founders Park Beach’s shallow waters draw travelers to the Florida Bay in Islamorada. The 45-acre Founders Park primarily serves as a recreation area for Islamorada’s residents, but visitors are also welcome to take advantage of the park’s amenities, activities and special events. The beach features grills and a picnic area as well as a volleyball court, a pirate ship-themed playground and outdoor showers. After a day at the beach, head about a mile northeast to Twisted Shrimp for fried shrimp, fish tacos and cold brews.
This lesser-known beach in the Middle Keys is a favorite among locals and the lucky few travelers in the know. Sombrero Beach’s soft white sands border the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean, making the area ideal for snorkeling. The beach also serves as the perfect spot to catch a few rays and enjoy a swim. Sombrero Beach is handicapped-accessible and pet-friendly, though pups must remain leashed. If you plan on spending the day, bring a lunch to enjoy under the shady picnic pavilion. Then, mosey back toward the sand to play a few games of beach volleyball in the afternoon. To experience the Gulf of Mexico side of Marathon, spend a few days in one of the guest rooms or private houses at Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort, where you can also relax on the property’s private beach.
This 1,200-foot-long beach sits on the Atlantic Ocean in Curry Hammock State Park. The park comprises 1,000 acres of pristine tropical maritime wilderness, making it the largest tract of undeveloped land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The protected beach features mangroves and shallow waters, which are perfect for exploring via paddleboards and kayaks. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a manatee or a dolphin. Looking up from sunbathing or building sandcastles on the beach, you might also see adventurous kiteboarders cutting through the turquoise waters.
Calusa Beach is the smallest of the three beaches in Bahia Honda State Park. The park positions visitors the northwest side of Big Pine Key and features freshwater showers and picnic pavilions. Architecture enthusiasts will appreciate the beach’s unique view of the Florida Keys Overseas Railroad trestle bridge, which now serves as a part of the Overseas Highway. The park is also home to three trails, where you can spot a variety of rare plants and animals. The Great Florida Birding Trail even distinguishes Bahia Honda State Park as the best birding habitat in the Florida Keys.
Loggerhead Beach sits on the south side of Big Pine Key in Bahia Honda State Park. This beach is notable for its shallow water, which separates the coast from a large sandbar several feet offshore. After the sun sets, Loggerhead Beach offers one of the best stargazing experiences in Florida. The visibility is exceptional in this locale due to minimal light pollution, so a myriad of stars become easy to see in the night sky.
Known to locals as Fort Zach Beach, this rocky beach takes its name from the southernmost state park in the continental U.S., Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. A favorite Key West beach among locals and visitors, Fort Zach boasts temperate and clear waters, which make for excellent swimming and snorkeling conditions. For an afternoon activity, travelers should take a tour of Fort Zachary Taylor, a National Historic Monument that predates the Civil War. History comes to life with re-enactments in the park during the third weekend of every month. For lunch, sample local beach specialties while admiring the Atlantic Ocean at Cayo Hueso Café. Then, spend the afternoon paddleboarding, fishing, birdwatching or hiking along the area’s trails.
Located on the Atlantic Ocean along South Roosevelt Boulevard, Smathers Beach is one of Key West’s largest and most popular beaches, especially during spring break. The beach’s soft white sand makes it the perfect place for a game of volleyball, a run along the coast or a relaxing spot to read a book. For the more adventurous, Sunset Watersports offers an array of activities that include parasail rides and Jet Ski rentals, plus access to equipment like sailboats, paddleboards and kayaks. Parking near the beach is free and it’s free to access the beach’s shower facilities as well. After freshening up, head to one of the local bars for a salt-rimmed, frosty margarita while watching a brilliant Key West sunset.
Set sail on board the Yankee Freedom III out of Key West for a full day (7 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.) exploring the historic Fort Jefferson, seven islands and four beaches of Dry Tortugas National Park. Located almost 70 miles west of Key West, the remote Dry Tortugas National Park covers 64,000 acres and extends into the Gulf of Mexico. Spend your morning exploring the unfinished Fort Jefferson, then devote the afternoon to snorkeling or skin diving through the coral- and tropical fish-filled waters surrounding the fort. If you would rather relax, the towering palm trees on the white sand beaches provide excellent sunbathing spots.