The 12 Top Florida Keys Beaches

Relax on the sandy shorelines from Key West to Key Largo.

U.S. News & World Report

The 12 Top Florida Keys Beaches

Florida Keys Beach
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(Getty Images)

Pack your sunglasses and flip-flops for a sunshine-filled getaway at these 12 beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys are synonymous with sparkling turquoise waters, towering palm trees, striking sunrises and sunsets, and picturesque white sand beaches. A popular year-round vacation destination, the Florida Keys also attract visitors with world-class sport fishing and diving opportunities. The only living barrier coral reef in the continental United States surrounds the entire island chain and supports the islands' numerous aquatic activities. The archipelago extends 125 miles southward, from just below Miami to 90 miles north of Cuba. Its regions include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and the eclectic island of Key West. The 113-mile-long Overseas Highway connects all the islands with its 42 bridges. From Key Largo to Key West, visitors can count on an unforgettable experience exploring the unique and beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys.
Cannon Beach: Key Largo
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(Frazier Nivens/Courtesy of Florida Keys News Bureau)

Cannon Beach: Key Largo

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. Daily park entry costs $2.50 per pedestrian or bicyclist, $4.50 for per vehicle with one occupant or $8 per vehicle with two occupants plus 50 cents for each additional occupant (up to eight). The fee includes access to both Cannon Beach and Far Beach.
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Pack your sunglasses and flip-flops for a sunshine-filled getaway at these 12 beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys are synonymous with sparkling turquoise waters, towering palm trees, striking sunrises and sunsets, and picturesque white sand beaches. A popular year-round vacation destination, the Florida Keys also attract visitors with world-class sport fishing and diving opportunities. The only living barrier coral reef in the continental United States surrounds the entire island chain and supports the islands' numerous aquatic activities. The archipelago extends 125 miles southward, from just below Miami to 90 miles north of Cuba. Its regions include Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and the eclectic island of Key West. The 113-mile-long Overseas Highway connects all the islands with its 42 bridges. From Key Largo to Key West, visitors can count on an unforgettable experience exploring the unique and beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys.

Cannon Beach: Key Largo

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. Daily park entry costs $2.50 per pedestrian or bicyclist, $4.50 for per vehicle with one occupant or $8 per vehicle with two occupants plus 50 cents for each additional occupant (up to eight). The fee includes access to both Cannon Beach and Far Beach.

Far Beach: 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. The daily fee to enter the park starts at $2.50 and covers access to both Far Beach and Cannon Beach.

Founders Park Beach: Islamorada

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. Free guest passes are available for guests of local hotels and rental properties. If you're not staying locally, admission (cash only) is $8 for adults and $5 for children ($15 and $10, respectively, on select holidays). Access to the pool area costs an additional $3 for adults and $2 for children. 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.

Sombrero Beach: Marathon

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.

Curry Hammock State Park Beach: Marathon

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. Fees to enter the park by car are $4.50 for one person, plus 50 cents for each additional person, while pedestrian and bicyclist entry costs $2.50. Overnight camping is an option in the park as well.

Calusa Beach: Big Pine Key

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. Admission to enter the park includes access to all of its beaches and costs $2.50 for pedestrians and bicyclists, $4.50 for single-occupant vehicles and $8.50 for groups in a single vehicle (plus a 50 cent surcharge per person).

Loggerhead Beach: Big Pine Key

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. Entrance fees for Bahia Honda State Park start at $2.50 and include access to Loggerhead Beach and Calusa Beach.

Fort Zachary Beach: Key West

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. Entry fees cost $2.50 for pedestrians and bicyclists, $4.50 for single-occupant vehicles and $6 for group vehicles (plus a 50 cent surcharge per person).

Smathers Beach: Key West

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.

Higgs Beach: Key West

Higgs Beach sits next to the historic West Martello Tower and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. It's also adjacent to one of Key West's iconic hotels, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. The soft sand, long wooden pier and picturesque setting of this public beach make it a frequently sought-after spot for weddings. Higgs Beach also features the only underwater marine park that is accessible via shore in the country. Available amenities at the beach include umbrella and chair rentals, a casual restaurant, and tennis and volleyball courts. Plus, kids can enjoy the playground, while pets can run around in the dog park.

Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park: Key West

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. The cost is $180 per adult and $125 per child age 4 to 16 and includes breakfast, lunch, entrance fees and snorkeling equipment. For the more adventurous, you can also arrive by seaplane.

South Beach: Key West

Situated at the end of the boisterous Duval Street, South Beach is where Key West's famous Southernmost Point Buoy is located. This striped buoy represents the southernmost point in the continental U.S. and boasts the quote "90 miles to Cuba." Across the street, you'll also find the Southernmost House, a colorful Victorian mansion that now serves as a bed-and-breakfast and a museum. South Beach is small, and it can be busy with tourists. Still, it's worth a visit for a family photo, a quick swim or a casual lunch at Southernmost Beach Cafe. It's also a great way to kick off a classic Key West vacation experience, the Duval Crawl. This pub crawl covers watering holes of Duval Street, where visitors will find many of Key West's best bars and nightlife venues.
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Gwen Pratesi, Contributor

Gwen Pratesi's love for food, travel and culture have taken her around the world to explore ...  Read more

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