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Turn up the Beach Boys:
🎵 We’ll get there fast and then we’ll take it slowwww, way down in Kokomo 🎵
Or at least, we’ll get to the real place near the fictional island of Kokomo: the Florida Keys.
The Florida Keys are a group of stunning tropical islands arranged in a chain off of the Sunshine State’s southernmost tip. A world apart from the mainland (almost literally — the Keys are technically closer to Cuba than Miami!), the archipelago is filled with endless natural attractions such as mangrove-flanked lagoons, white sand beaches, colorful coral reefs, and vibrant ocean sunsets.
There’s far more to the Florida Keys than their spectacular nature, though. Festivals, museums, excellent restaurants, and legendary nightlife barely scratch the surface of the area’s cultural attractions.
Getting to the Keys on the iconic Overseas Highway, a.k.a. U.S. Route 1, is an attraction in its own right. Spanning 113 miles between the mainland and Key West, the highway connects 44 of the 1,700-plus islands via 42 bridges, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge.
Which of the Florida Keys are popular to visit?
Key Largo, Marathon, Islamorada, Big Pine Key, and Key West are among the most notable and frequently-visited islands, each with their own distinct vibes and unique offerings.
Islamorada is known for its art community and world-renowned fishing, Big Pine for unspoiled nature, Key Largo for some of the world’s best snorkeling and diving, Marathon for its spectacular beaches and restaurants, and Key West for vibrant cultural and nightlife scenes.
What is the weather like in the Florida Keys?
The climate in the Keys is mild year-round, with temperatures rarely dipping below the 70s. Unlike most beach destinations, the summer is actually the low season here, since it can get unbearably humid. The November and December holidays, as well as spring break, are peak tourist seasons, when accommodation and tours rise significantly in price. As a result, fall and spring — with the exception of spring break, of course — are the best times to visit, when the weather is pleasant and crowds are low.
Is it easy to get to the Florida Keys?
With so much to see and do year-round, the decision to visit the Florida Keys is an easy one. With so many islands to choose from, the logistics can get a little tricky though, especially for first-time visitors.
Wanderu is your secret weapon to finding cheap bus and train travel, whether you’re heading to the streets of Manhattan, the trails of Yosemite, or the beaches of the Keys. So we’re helping you get there fast with this comprehensive guide to transportation to and around the Florida Keys.
Taking the Bus to the Florida Keys
Yes, you can take a bus to these islands! Thank you, bridges.
Most travel to the Florida Keys goes through Miami, since it’s the biggest major city in South Florida. Catching a bus from Miami to Key West is a breeze, with plenty of stops at most major islands along the way. However, there are tons of bus routes that depart from various cities in Florida.
There is bus service available to Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West. Check out the bus routes available to each of these cities along the Keys:
Buses to Islamorada
Buses to Marathon
Buses to Key West
Bus prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.
Most of the shorter routes, like a bus to Key Largo from Miami, are direct, since they travel straight down U.S. 1. However, if traveling from other parts of Florida, such as Jacksonville to Key West or Orlando to Marathon, typically a transfer in Miami is required.
Once you actually arrive in the Keys, there’s no need to set sail (although that’s a wonderful option!), as there are plenty of buses between individual islands. Travelers can easily take a bus from Key West to Islamorada or make their way through the string of islands, going from Florida City to Islamorada, then Islamorada to Marathon, and from Marathon to Key West.
Most bus services in the Florida Keys are provided by FlixBus, but it’s also possible to take a Greyhound from Miami to Key West. Alternatively, there are a handful of additional buses and private shuttles that make the Miami to Key West drive.
If you’re taking a Miami to Key West bus and need to transfer along the way, take note of the bus stations. They’re not typical brick-and-mortar transit stations and can be tricky for visitors to spot. Major bus stations on the Keys include:
81868 Overseas Highway
Trading Post parking lot
Islamorada Bus Stop
6495 Overseas Highway
IHOP parking lot
Marathon Bus Stop
910 Caroline Street
Key West, FL
Behind Old Town Garage
Key West Bus Stop
Taking the Train + Bus to the Florida Keys
There is no direct train service to the Florida Keys, and the closest Amtrak train station is in Miami, Florida. 100 years ago, such a journey was possible, when an ambitious railroad line connected mainland Florida with Key West. Unfortunately, a hurricane came in like a wrecking ball and destroyed the rail line after only 23 years.
Today, visitors can take a train to Miami, and then travel by bus from Miami to Key West (or Islamorada, or Marathon). When booking on Wanderu, these two trips would be booked as separate itineraries — first, the train from your home city to Miami and then the bus from Miami to Key West.
Here are some of the most popular train routes to Miami:
Train prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period.
Once you’ve booked your train trip to Miami, the last step is booking a bus trip from Miami to the city of your choice in the Keys. See above!
It’s also worth splitting up your travel by sticking around Miami for a while. We’ve got the best things to do in Miami rounded up right here for you.
Taking a Ferry to the Florida Keys
If you fancy traveling to the Keys on a commercial boat, another option is ferry service from Fort Myers, Florida. Offered by Key West Express, the postcard-perfect journey costs about $150 roundtrip per person and takes 3.5 hours.
This is also an easy two-step itinerary, though you might need to spend the night in Fort Myers if you’re not up for red-eye travel. First, travel to Fort Myers, and then board the Key West Express in time for its 8:00am departure.
The return ferry trip from Key West is especially scenic, since it departs a few hours before sunset. Watching the sun dip down into the Gulf of Mexico is an incredibly memorable experience. While the ferry is pricier than other transportation options, it’s worth considering, particularly for a multi-day visit to Key West. With comfortable amenities and a large upper viewing deck, it may just be the highlight of your trip!
Flying to the Florida Keys
If you’re wondering where to fly into for Florida Keys travel, there are several options. The most convenient is Key West International Airport. While it has just one terminal, the airport welcomes over one million visitors a year.
Most major airlines, including American and Delta, serve Key West from major hubs such as Dallas, New York, and Washington, D.C. Direct flights to Key West depart from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlanta. In the off-season, travelers can often find flights from Miami under $100!
You can also fly to the Keys Florida by way of either the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport or Miami International Airport, and then rent a car to make the scenic Miami to Key West drive. Both of these major airports are easily accessible from several domestic and international destinations, served by various carriers. Budget and regional carriers typically fly into Fort Lauderdale, offering many great options for affordable weekend getaways.
Once you’re on the ground at either airport, compare rental cars on Wanderu to find the best deal and set off on your island adventure.
Driving to the Florida Keys
The ultra-scenic Miami to Key West drive is one of the best road trips in the United States! It only takes about 3.5 hours (and 42 bridges!) to reach Key West at the “end,” but most people will want to break the drive up over a couple of days and create an entire Florida Keys road trip itinerary — there’s just so much to see en route!
It’s just a one-hour and 15-minute drive from Miami to Key Largo, the first of the Keys. From here on out, heavy traffic is common on the Overseas Highway, especially on weekends and holidays. Because the bridges are narrow without many lanes, accidents sometimes even temporarily shut down the highway. If you find yourself in this situation, however, there’s no need to stress; with infinite ocean views and islands close to one another, the chance for a break presents itself often.
For the most direct drive, simply head south on U.S. 1 and continue until the mile markers hit zero! It’s nearly impossible to get lost since this is the only major road south of Homestead, Florida (where you can visit Biscayne National Park).
Fortunately, the only tolls you’ll encounter on the Miami to Key West drive are in the Miami metro area, for example on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, which helps travelers avoid traffic on parts of U.S. 1.
If you’re flying into Miami or would prefer not to drive your own vehicle, complete your Florida Keys road trip itinerary by booking a rental car through Wanderu for the lowest rates!
A Day Trip to the Florida Keys
If you’re staying in Miami or Fort Lauderdale but also want to visit the Florida Keys, consider leaving the travel logistics and planning to others and book a day trip to Key West!
On this organized tour, a luxury bus will pick you up right from your hotel and drive you through the islands to Key West. Once you arrive, you’ll have about six hours total to enjoy Key West, which includes a lovely 3-hour catamaran cruise.
There are options to add on snorkeling or parasailing adventures! Afterwards, explore Key West before heading back on the bus to Miami.
This relaxing tour is a wonderful option for visiting the Keys, especially if you only have one day open in your itinerary. Best of all, it includes free cancellation in case your travel plans change!
How to Get Around the Florida Keys
Once you’re in the Florida Keys, transportation is easy, but there are a few details to consider.
Heavy traffic on U.S. 1 does occur, especially during high season and on weekends. However (and fortunately!), the highway is rarely backed up for several consecutive hours. Typically, traffic is much worse closer to Miami and then it thins out once you get into the lower Keys. If you’re on an Orlando to Florida Keys road trip or a similarly long journey, plan to stop in Key Largo or Islamorada to break up the drive.
Ample parking is available throughout the Keys, other than in Key West. This farther city is rather compact, so leaving your car in a paid public lot for the day while you explore is best. Key West also has a free hop-on, hop-off bus called the Duval Loop, which connects many local landmarks and tourist hot spots.
If you’re not staying in the heart of Key West and instead visiting nearby Stock Island or New Town, Key West Transit offers North & South Line buses. There’s also the Lower Keys Shuttle, which runs to Marathon.
Where to Stay in the Florida Keys
You’ve arrived in the Keys! It should come as no surprise that there are some incredible Florida Keys hotel and resort options, but there are also some hidden-gem budget accommodations available that your wallet will appreciate.
These are our recommendations for the best places to stay in some of the Keys’ biggest towns:
Hotels in Key Largo
Hotels in Marathon
Hotels in Islamorada
Hotels in Key West
Things to Do in the Florida Keys
Now that you’ve figured out the logistics of where to fly into for the Florida Keys or your Florida Keys road trip itinerary, it’s time for the fun stuff: planning the best things to do in the Keys!
- Dolphin Spotting and Snorkeling – Snorkel through the pristine, vibrant waters of the Gulf of Mexico, home to one of the only easily-accessible living coral reefs in the United States.
- Taste Key West Culture – Discover the Cuban and Caribbean influences on the Keys’ food and culture on a small-group guided tour that includes delectable samples.
- Hemingway’s House in Key West – The famed author’s house has been converted to a popular museum offering informative tours and a beautiful garden. Follow up your visit with a tour centered on Hemingway’s life.
- Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe – Many, many bakeries lay claim to having the best key lime pie in Key West, but Kermit’s, well, takes the cake.
- Bahia Honda State Park – Spot iguanas through the exotic tropical foliage while relaxing on one of the most stunning beaches in the Florida Keys.
- Duval Street – Drink and vibe on Key West’s legendary colorful and boisterous main drag. You can discover the city’s Old Town on a bike tour or a pub crawl, depending on your style.
- Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar – Chow down on fresh local seafood while enjoying impressive sunset views and live music in Islamorada.
- Dry Tortugas National Park – Take a seaplane or ferry to this remote island with a fort, spectacular untouched beaches, and some of the best snorkeling in the country.
Exploring the Florida Keys is an ideal getaway for everyone, whether it’s a romantic getaway or an extended family affair. With unforgettable experiences both on and off the water, the Keys is truly one of America’s most unique destinations.
Be sure to check Wanderu to book all your travel plans and make your island dreams a reality! Or if you are feeling the wanderlust and want more destination inspiration, check out our recommendations for the best mountain destinations, best places for a bachelorette party, and budget-friendly destinations for family fun.