Tourists visiting Key West have the luxury of many great beaches to choose from, each with their own characteristics that set them apart. There are beaches for those who enjoy a lively atmosphere and a variety of entertainment, family beaches where the water is shallow and calm, and even a beach for the best sunrise and sunset in the Keys. Some are perfect for active water sports like jet-skiing and parasailing, while others are best for relaxation and serenity.
Most of Key West’s best beaches are located on its southern shore , most of which are clustered along a stretch of water just over a mile long. Key West’s largest beach, Smathers Beach, is an exception, stretching along part of South Roosevelt Boulevard.
1. Smathers Beach
Smathers Beach is Key West’s most popular beach, earning it the spot with excellent swimming conditions , two miles of sandy beach, and plenty to do. The gradual slope of the shoreline allows swimmers to wade into the water for a good distance, and this combined with mild currents makes it an ideal family beach in Key West, despite the crowds.
The amenities and services available to bathers are plentiful, from basics like showers and toilets to volleyball courts and vendors. There are also several rental shops along the beach where you can find beach chairs, umbrellas, snorkel gear, kayaks, jet skis, and other water sports equipment. As an added bonus, there is no entry fee at Smathers Beach, and if you don’t mind the short walk from the boulevard, parking is free as well.
South Beach is another of Key West’s favorite families thanks to the calm, shallow waters that are excellent for swimming. As the name suggests, it is located at the southern end of Key West and is known for its laid-back vibe. While there aren’t crowds of rental shops, there are several beachside dining options and a few options for lounge chairs and even towels. There are also public water fountains and a small cafe. The only drawback, especially for families with young children, is the lack of public toilets, however nearby establishments are good for allowing visitors to use their facilities.
3. Higgs Beach
Higgs Beach is one of several beaches located within CB Harvey Rest Beach Park, a small but lovely public space that also houses a restaurant and gardens. There are a good variety of options at the various rental shops here, from basic beach chairs and volleyball nets to snorkeling equipment and water sports rentals. Families will love the nearby playground, and those with four-legged children will love the dog park. There is also free parking, as well as public toilets and showers.
A unique feature of Higgs Beach is its historical significance, and here you will find monuments dedicated to the 19th-century slave cemetery located on the site. There is also a pier at Higgs Beach, where visitors often see stingrays.
4. Rest on the beach
Located within the same park as Higgs Beach , this is a small but much loved Key West beach. Its most celebrated feature is the beach location, perfectly situated to offer visitors the best view of sunrises and sunsets. For those who want a change of pace from Mallory Park’s lively sunset party atmosphere , this is the place to be. On the contrary, here you will find a quiet place to take in the views.
As a testament to Rest Beach’s peaceful nature, there’s a yoga deck, where visitors can join morning and evening yoga classes, welcoming day and night.
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach may not be known for its summer sun and volleyball games, but it’s often considered the most authentic of Key West’s beaches thanks to its natural shoreline, made up of ground coral instead of imported sand. Nature lovers flock to Fort Zach beach for its abundant plant and animal life , both on land and underwater.
As one of the best snorkeling spots in Key West , visitors will be able to see everything from schools of tiny reef dwellers to goliath grouper, as well as beloved marine creatures, including dolphins and turtles. Land lovers will appreciate the scenic trails, and visitors can also take ranger-led hikes to historic Fort Zachary , which explore Civil War-era fortifications.