9 Best Beaches In Key West To Swim, Snorkel & Unwind

9 Best Beaches In Key West To Swim, Snorkel & Unwind

Best Beaches In Key West

It’s easy to think of Florida when it comes to stunning beaches, coral reefs, and great places to relax in the sun. While we would encourage anyone visiting the state to take a look at multiple public and private beaches around the region, Key West beaches offer enough of a variety that you could spend the entire of your time in just this city.

Whether you’re looking for great swimming spots, snorkeling excursions, or just a place to unwind at your leisure, we can curate a list of some of the best beaches in Key West that might fit your needs.

Booking A Memorable Key West Trip With Experts

If a more active vacation lifestyle is your goal, you may want to take the planning and guesswork out of the equation entirely. A big part of enjoying your stay at one of the many Key West beaches is in knowing that you don’t have to take care of the logistics of it all.

This is where an organization such as Key West Boat Trips can come to the rescue. We have a crew of longtime residents of the area, and each member can help you have a unique and memorable experience during your stay.

Before you book our Sandbar Hopping Tour, we’ll take you through our picks for beaches in Key West that you won’t want to miss.

Key West Boat Trips

The Best Beaches In Key West

Our list contains several of the major beaches you can find throughout the Key West area. While it may not be a comprehensive list containing every single spot, it does boast some of the most desirable locations. We’ve chosen the entries in our Florida Keys recommendations based on several criteria.

The results include something for just about everyone, so you can get a good mix of both relaxation and fun activities thanks to the choices here. There are different aspects of each of the best beaches in Key West here, and we list them for you in no particular order.

1) Smathers Beach

Key West is home to many famous beaches that tourists tend to rate highly. Most of the ones you might hear about tend to form a cluster around the southern part of the city. However, its largest one, Smathers Beach, remains a notable exception to this rule. In addition to its size, Smathers Beach gives you a bit of everything.

Part of this charm is thanks to the beach’s proximity to nearby Duval Street, an area that contains a lot of buzz and activity whenever you might be ready to experience the exciting amenities of Florida. In fact, Duval Street has its own Pocket Park as well, a beach-like area to enjoy.

Additionally, there’s a great mix of things that make this location a prime stop for almost anyone. It’s one of the best beaches in Key West to swim at a leisurely pace, and visitors can wade quite far out into shallow, calm waters. The shallow end makes it a great place for families to enjoy their time in Florida, but it makes a great rest beach for individuals and couples as well.

Due to its popularity, Smathers Beach can feel somewhat crowded at the peak of the season. It does offer amenities and activities like beach volleyball and shops to rent snorkeling gear, beach chairs, and other equipment. Best of all, the beach has no entry fee for visitors.

Best Beaches In Key West - Smathers Beach

2) Higgs Memorial Beach Park

Many people will shorten this one to just “Higgs Beach” when they talk about it, but the Higgs Memorial Beach Park is another popular destination. Higgs Beach resides within the confines of the greater Harvey Rest Beach park. Although this is a small beach, it is quite picturesque. There is also a dog park for pets, but it is more restrictive than Dog Beach.

When you’re not enjoying the sandy shores themselves, you can take advantage of the beautiful garden spaces of Higgs Beach. There is a nearby restaurant as well. Like many Key West locations, Higgs Beach has equipment rentals that can help you make a whole day out of your activities there. You’ll also get free parking and access to public showers while at Higgs Beach.

Many visitors cite this particular beach as a great place to spot some of Florida’s marine life, and those interested in stingrays may find that they can see a few of them here.

Higgs Memorial Beach Park

3) Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

Unlike some of the other beaches on this list, Fort Zachary Taylor isn’t the first that would come to mind when you think of basking in the sun or engaging in a friendly game of beach volleyball. However, it does have a unique aspect to it that is sure to be one of the most memorable parts of your Key West vacation. Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is home to crushed coral in lieu of your typical sandy structure.

Both plant and animal life thrive in abundance here. Nature lovers are sure to find various flora and fauna for photographing or studying in this region. In particular, bird enthusiasts seem to enjoy their time at Fort Zachary Taylor. Tours at this spot in Key West can include inspections of fortified structures from the Civil War, and many tourists say that Fort Zach has some of the best snorkeling you’ll find in Key West..

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

4) Dry Tortugas National Park

Most people will think of wooded areas when they think about parks, but Dry Tortugas is more like a beach within a park area. That’s because it is part of the Fort Jefferson National Park. The beach is quite far from other Key West offerings, but it has its own ferry that keeps a connection to the rest of the area active.

If a park within a typical Key West beach region sounds like your idea of fun, it is best to make sure you can set aside at least one full day of activities in order to enjoy Dry Tortugas National Park. There’s quite a bit of natural beauty to behold here, and fans of palm trees will get to appreciate them everywhere. Further, there are massive coral reefs to enjoy, and you can take a tour of Fort Jefferson itself if you wish.

Swimming and relaxing are excellent activities at Dry Tortugas, but snorkeling is probably the primary activity visitors enjoy here. Several spots can rent all the snorkeling gear you need. Your tickets may include meals, but make sure that you pack food if they don’t. The place is typically something you’ll need to access using the ferry, but some travelers opt for a seaplane ride instead.

Dry Tortugas National Park

5) Rest Beach

The name may not sound too inventive, but Rest Beach has one of the best positions out of all the ones you can choose in Key West. Rather than a beach known for its activities or structures, Rest Beach is all about positioning. It may be the best beach in Key West for viewing perfect sunrises and sunsets. This fact alone makes it a great choice for people looking for a more scenic getaway.

6) Dog Beach

If your ultimate goal is to enjoy some relaxation with your favorite four-legged best friend, there’s no better place in Key West to get this than Dog Beach. Other beaches in the region boast areas that are pet-friendly dog parks, but this one has fewer restrictions on dogs.

It is the only beach in the Keys to allow dogs to run around without things like leashes. It is an extremely small area, but Dog Beach is a little slice of paradise for pets that like to run and splash.

Dog Beach

7) Bahia Honda State Park

Some people prefer to make their stay at a beach more of a camping excursion. If this sounds like you, Bahia Honda State Park is the one that you want. It is a bit of a drive, but you can get to it on a boat as well.

Either way, you can book a stay to enjoy Bahia Honda State Park’s natural beauty and shallow water. The site also offers typical camping concessions and hookups for electricity. Once again, you’ll be able to enjoy snorkeling here too.

Bahia Honda State Park - Calusa Beach

8) South Beach

This Key West location is another prime one for swimming. If that’s the main reason you want to visit Florida, consider giving South Beach a try. Similarly, South Beach is a great swimming spot for the whole family.

The waters tend to be calmer than many other beaches in the area, and much of the beach has relatively shallow spots that might make it the best beach in Key West to swim in, especially when it comes to smaller kids.

Notably, South Beach doesn’t have as many shops or amenities as others, so some preparation may be necessary if you want to visit this beach.

South Beach

9) Simonton Beach

If you want to experience a sandy beach that usually takes you away from the more touristy spots in Key West, Simonton Beach might be just for you. Simonton is a short walk away from Mallory Square, and it is the only public beach you can take advantage of in downtown Key West.

It’s a pet-friendly location, but you’ll still need to keep control of your furry friends while you are here. Similarly, the shoreline can be rockier than other beaches, so it is a good idea to bring swimming shoes with you. Thanks to extras like picnic tables, you can grab a leisurely lunch here as well.


There are several spots along the Key West coast that can give vacationers to Florida exactly what they need. Relaxation is a big draw for people coming to the southernmost city of Florida, but you can find your fair share of exciting activities in the sun and underwater here as well.

Many of these beaches are within easy traveling distance from the Key West International Airport as well. With the huge scope of activities available in Key West, many of our readers may want to take advantage of the boat tour services we mentioned earlier.

If you’ve ever been on the fence about a Sandbar Hopping Tour to enhance your experience of Key West, there’s no better time than now. Get in touch with us to find out all the ways you can make your getaway to the Florida Keys a top-tier experience.

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