Key West Vs Miami: How To Choose Between These Two Iconic Florida Cities

Key West and Miami are two of Florida’s most popular vacation destinations. But they offer very different atmospheres and experiences.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Key West has a laid-back, island vibe with historic architecture and outdoor activities. Miami is larger and more cosmopolitan, with beautiful beaches, multicultural flair, and a lively nightlife scene.

This in-depth guide compares the two iconic cities across categories like beaches, attractions, costs, weather, and more to help you decide which Florida destination is better for your travel style and interests.

Beaches and Water Activities

Key West’s beaches

Key West is renowned for its stunning beaches that offer a picturesque tropical paradise. The most famous beach in Key West is the Smathers Beach, stretching two miles along the Atlantic Ocean. With its soft white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, it’s the perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying water sports.

Another popular beach is Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach, known for its calm waters and snorkeling opportunities.

Miami’s beaches

Miami is home to some of the world’s most famous beaches, attracting visitors from all over the globe. South Beach is the iconic hotspot, known for its vibrant atmosphere, colorful lifeguard stands, and beautiful people.

Miami Beach is another popular choice, offering a wide stretch of sandy shoreline ideal for sunbathing and beach volleyball. Crandon Park Beach, located on Key Biscayne, is a family-friendly option with calm waters and ample recreational activities.

Snorkeling and diving

Both Key West and Miami offer fantastic opportunities for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts. Key West is known for its vibrant coral reefs, such as the Florida Reef, which is the third-largest barrier reef in the world.

Visitors can explore these underwater wonders and encounter diverse marine life, including colorful fish and mesmerizing coral formations.

Miami also boasts excellent diving sites, including the famous Neptune Memorial Reef. This underwater memorial features artificial reefs and sculptures that have transformed into thriving ecosystems. Snorkelers and divers can marvel at the unique underwater art while exploring the abundant marine life that calls these reefs home.

Boating and fishing

Both Key West and Miami offer exceptional boating and fishing experiences. Key West, with its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, provides a wide range of fishing opportunities. Anglers can try their luck at catching various species, including sailfish, marlin, and snapper.

The city’s bustling marinas also offer boat rentals and fishing charters for those looking to venture out into the open waters.

Miami, with its extensive coastline and access to the Gulf Stream, is a paradise for boaters and fishing enthusiasts. Whether you prefer deep-sea fishing or angling in the calm bay waters, Miami has it all.

The city’s marinas are well-equipped to cater to boating needs, and fishing charters provide memorable experiences for both seasoned anglers and beginners.

So, whether you prefer the laid-back island vibes of Key West or the vibrant energy of Miami, both cities offer an array of beaches and water activities to suit every taste and preference. Whether you’re looking to relax on a pristine beach or dive into the underwater world, you’ll find plenty of options in both these iconic Florida cities.

Attractions and Entertainment

Key West’s landmarks

Key West is known for its charming and picturesque landmarks that showcase its rich history and unique culture. One of the most iconic landmarks in Key West is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where visitors can explore the former home of the renowned author and see the six-toed cats that still roam the property.

Another must-visit landmark is the Southernmost Point Buoy, which marks the southernmost tip of the continental United States. Visitors can take photos with this famous landmark and enjoy breathtaking views of the ocean.

Additionally, visitors can explore the Key West Lighthouse and climb to the top for panoramic views of the city, or stroll along Duval Street, known for its vibrant atmosphere, shops, and restaurants.

Key West also offers beautiful beaches, such as Smathers Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, where visitors can relax, swim, and soak up the sun.

Miami’s landmarks

Miami is a city known for its stunning architecture, vibrant neighborhoods, and world-famous landmarks. One of the most iconic landmarks in Miami is the Art Deco Historic District in South Beach, which features colorful buildings and a lively atmosphere.

Visitors can take a stroll along Ocean Drive and admire the unique architecture that has become synonymous with Miami.

Another must-visit landmark in Miami is the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, a stunning Italian Renaissance-style villa surrounded by lush gardens. Visitors can explore the opulent rooms of the villa and enjoy the serene beauty of the gardens.

Miami also offers the iconic Wynwood Walls, an outdoor museum that showcases vibrant street art from local and international artists.

For those who love sports, a visit to the American Airlines Arena, home to the Miami Heat basketball team, is a must. The arena hosts exciting games and concerts throughout the year, providing entertainment for sports enthusiasts and music lovers alike.

Museums and galleries

Both Key West and Miami offer a variety of museums and galleries for art and culture enthusiasts. In Key West, the Key West Art and Historical Society operates three museums, including the Custom House Museum, which showcases the island’s history and art.

The Key West Museum of Art and History is another popular attraction, housed in the historic building of the former Key West Post Office and Customs House.

In Miami, art lovers can visit the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), which features modern and contemporary art from around the world. The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami is another notable institution, showcasing innovative and thought-provoking contemporary art exhibitions.


When it comes to nightlife, both Key West and Miami offer unique experiences. Key West is famous for its lively and eclectic nightlife scene, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues scattered throughout the island.

Duval Street is particularly known for its vibrant nightlife, with a wide range of establishments offering everything from live music to drag shows.

Miami, on the other hand, is renowned for its glamorous and high-energy nightlife. The city is home to world-famous nightclubs such as LIV at the Fontainebleau Hotel and STORY, where visitors can dance the night away to the beats of renowned DJs.

Miami also offers trendy rooftop bars and beach clubs, providing a variety of options for those looking to enjoy the city’s vibrant nightlife.

So whether you’re looking for historical landmarks, world-class museums, or an unforgettable nightlife experience, both Key West and Miami have something unique to offer. It ultimately comes down to personal preferences and the type of experience you’re seeking.

Whichever city you choose, you’re guaranteed to have an amazing time exploring all the attractions and entertainment they have to offer!

Accommodations and Cost

Hotels and resorts

When it comes to accommodations, both Key West and Miami offer a wide range of options to suit every budget and preference. In Miami, you’ll find luxurious beachfront hotels and resorts that offer stunning views and top-notch amenities.

The vibrant city is known for its glamorous hotels, such as the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and The Biltmore Hotel. On the other hand, Key West offers a more laid-back atmosphere with charming boutique hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts.

The Southernmost Beach Resort and The Reach Key West are popular choices among visitors to the island.

Vacation rentals

If you prefer a home-away-from-home experience, both Key West and Miami have plenty of vacation rental options available. From cozy apartments and beachfront condos to spacious villas, you can find the perfect rental to fit your needs.

Websites like Airbnb and VRBO offer a wide selection of vacation rentals in both cities, allowing you to have a more personalized and flexible stay.

Cost of accommodation

In terms of cost, Miami generally tends to be more expensive than Key West. The luxury hotels and resorts in Miami can come with a hefty price tag, especially during peak tourist seasons. However, there are also more budget-friendly options available, particularly in the downtown area.

Key West, on the other hand, offers a range of accommodations to suit different budgets, with more affordable options available throughout the island. It’s worth noting that prices can vary depending on the time of year and availability, so it’s always a good idea to book in advance to secure the best deals.

Food, drink, and activities

Both Key West and Miami are known for their vibrant culinary scenes, offering a wide array of restaurants, bars, and cafes to satisfy any taste bud. In Miami, you can indulge in a diverse range of cuisines, from fresh seafood to Latin American flavors.

The city is also famous for its trendy rooftop bars and lively nightlife. Key West, on the other hand, is known for its fresh seafood, conch fritters, and key lime pie. The island has a laid-back atmosphere with waterfront restaurants and bars where you can enjoy breathtaking sunsets.

When it comes to activities, Miami offers a plethora of options, including water sports, art galleries, shopping districts, and cultural attractions. From exploring the vibrant neighborhoods of Wynwood and Little Havana to relaxing on the beautiful beaches of South Beach, there is always something to do in Miami.

Key West, on the other hand, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. You can go snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, or take a leisurely bike ride around the island. The famous Duval Street is also a must-visit, known for its lively bars and vibrant nightlife.

Weather and Crowds

Average temperatures

When it comes to weather, both Key West and Miami offer warm and sunny climates that are perfect for beach lovers. Key West, located further south, tends to have slightly higher average temperatures throughout the year compared to Miami.

The average temperature in Key West ranges from the mid-70s to the low 90s Fahrenheit (24-32 degrees Celsius), while Miami sees average temperatures ranging from the high 60s to the low 90s Fahrenheit (20-32 degrees Celsius).

So, if you prefer hotter temperatures, Key West might be the ideal choice for you.

Rainy season

Both Key West and Miami experience a rainy season, which occurs during the summer months. Key West’s rainy season typically runs from June to October, while Miami’s rainy season is from May to October.

During this time, you can expect afternoon showers and thunderstorms, but don’t worry, they usually pass quickly and won’t dampen your entire day. If you don’t mind a bit of rain and love the lush greenery that follows, you’ll enjoy the vibrant colors that the rainy season brings to both cities.

High and low seasons

Key West and Miami have different high and low seasons due to their unique attractions and events. Key West experiences its peak season from December to April when visitors flock to the island to escape the colder northern climates.

During this time, the city can be quite crowded, and prices for accommodations tend to be higher. On the other hand, Miami’s high season is during the winter months, particularly from November to April, when tourists come to enjoy the warm weather and events like Art Basel Miami Beach.

As for low seasons, Key West sees fewer crowds and lower prices from May to November, while Miami’s low season is from May to October.

Peak crowds

If you prefer to avoid large crowds, it’s important to consider the peak times when both Key West and Miami are busiest. Key West’s peak crowds are typically during major holidays like New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July, and Fantasy Fest, a vibrant Halloween celebration.

Miami’s peak crowds coincide with events like the Ultra Music Festival, the Miami International Boat Show, and the Miami Open tennis tournament. If you want a more relaxed and less crowded experience, consider visiting outside of these peak times.

Getting Around

When it comes to exploring Key West and Miami, getting around efficiently is essential. Both cities offer various transportation options to suit different preferences and budgets.

Flying into Key West or Miami

If you’re coming from a different city or country, you’ll most likely arrive at either Key West International Airport or Miami International Airport. Key West International Airport is a smaller airport, but it offers direct flights from several major cities.

On the other hand, Miami International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the United States, with a wide range of domestic and international flights.

Public transportation

Both Key West and Miami have public transportation systems that are convenient and affordable. In Key West, the Key West Transit operates buses that cover most areas of the city. The Duval Loop is a free bus service that runs along Duval Street and connects various popular attractions.

In Miami, the Metrorail and Metromover are the primary means of public transportation. The Metrorail is a train system that serves the city and the surrounding suburbs, while the Metromover is a free, elevated people mover that operates within downtown Miami.

Renting a car

If you prefer the freedom and flexibility of having your own vehicle, renting a car is a popular option in both Key West and Miami. There are several car rental agencies available in both cities, offering a wide selection of vehicles to choose from.

Renting a car allows you to explore at your own pace and visit off-the-beaten-path attractions. However, keep in mind that parking can be challenging and expensive, particularly in downtown Miami.

Taxis and rideshares

Taxis and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are readily available in both Key West and Miami. They offer a convenient way to get around, especially if you’re traveling with a group or have a lot of luggage.

Taxis usually have fixed rates, while rideshare services offer more flexible pricing options. Additionally, in Key West, you can also explore the city by hiring a pedicab, which is a bicycle-powered taxi.


Deciding between Key West vs Miami depends largely on the pace and type of vacation you’re seeking. Key West offers a more casual, flip-flop vacation while Miami excels in sophistication, arts, culture and nightlife.

Consider your must-have activities, preferred weather, and budget to determine if the ‘Conch Republic’ of Key West or the glittering city of Miami is the best Florida getaway for you.

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