Key West Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Far to the left Not only is this island farthest to the left in the Florida Keys, it's also very far to the left on the political spectrum. As the home to large Cuban and gay communities, Key West and the Conchs take pride in being accepting.
- In the shade There are museums, bars and sights a plenty on Key West; however, if you are looking for watersports and serene beaches, some of the other Keys have more to offer.
- Literary tradition Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams both wintered here. To perpetuate the island's wordsmith heritage, the Key West Literary Seminar brings celebrated authors to the island every January.
Known for warm beaches and eccentric residents with a live-in-the-moment philosophy, Key West offers a relaxed yet unexpected seaside adventure. Do as the residents (known as Conchs) do and see where that free spirit might take you. Perhaps you'll end up at the aquarium, at a Duval Street bar, in a Mallory Square shop or even touring Ernest Hemingway's old home.
Or maybe you'll skip all four activities. Key West once threatened to go rogue (in 1980 with a mock secessionist movement to create "The Conch Republic"); so this is definitely the place to throw a set itinerary out the window. Take a stroll, sip a margarita, spy a six-toed cat and set your own pace.
How To Save Money in Key West
- Spring for it You can either pay lots of money to visit during hurricane-free winter or arrive in reasonably priced spring.
- Transportation with two wheels Renting bicycles and scooters is popular but expensive. Bring your own and reduce your costs. And wear your helmet -- who needs unnecessary medical bills?
- Heed the tide The tourist tide that is. If you avoid Key West's special events, which pack the island's accommodations, you'll save some dough.
Key West Culture & Customs
Key West is unique for its eclectic and diverse collection of residents, many of which are immigrants of European descent from the Bahamas and call themselves "Conchs." Those who were not born on the island are affectionately known as "freshwater Conchs." The origin on the name is largely unknown, but the main theory stems from the American Revolution. Loyalists who had moved to the Bahamas started calling the locals Conchs after their shellfish-heavy diet.
You might notice souvenirs with the phrase "Conch Republic" around the island. The term was coined in the early 1980s, when the city threatened a mock secession from the United States when the U.S. Border Patrol tried to set up a Key West inspection point to search for drugs and illegal immigrants. Ultimately, the publicity from the event -- and the Conchs' resistance -- only increased tourism to the area.
Key West Dining
Key West's dining is unique and casual. It's not unusual to see the occasional animal stroll by your table. Seafood is the foundation of much area fare; however, Caribbean and Cuban influences add a bit of a kick to your standard fish dish. Some of the best spots to eat are in Old Town, such as the traveler-recommended Seven Fish.