Key West

Key West Overview: Facts and Important Information You Need to Know

Located at the end of the Florida Keys, Key West is home to stunning beaches, delicious seafood, and a rich history. Whether you’re traveling with family, friends, or solo, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.

Key West is a small island, but it’s packed with attractions and activities. You can spend your days lounging on the beach, exploring the local art scene, or learning about the island’s history at one of the many museums. With a population of just under 25,000, Key West has a friendly, laid-back vibe that’s perfect for a relaxing vacation.

Geography and Climate

Island Features

Key West is a beautiful island city located at the southernmost point of the continental United States. The city is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. The island is only 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, making it a small but vibrant community. Key West is known for its unique architecture, crystal-clear waters, and stunning sunsets.

Weather Patterns

The climate in Key West is tropical, with warm temperatures year-round. The average temperature is 77°F (25°C), with highs in the mid-80s°F (29°C) and lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C). The warm waters surrounding the island help to moderate the temperature, making it a pleasant place to visit any time of year.

During the summer months, Key West experiences a rainy season, with frequent afternoon thunderstorms. The hurricane season runs from June to November, and visitors should be aware of the potential for severe weather during this time. However, the island has not experienced a direct hit from a hurricane in over 30 years.


If you’re interested in history, Key West has plenty to offer. This small island has been inhabited for thousands of years, with the earliest known inhabitants being the Calusa people. Later, the Spanish arrived and named the island Cayo Hueso, which means “bone key” in Spanish. The name was later anglicized to Key West.

During the Civil War, Key West was an important base for the Union Navy and played a key role in the blockade of Confederate ports. After the war, the island became an important center for the cigar-making industry, with many Cuban immigrants settling here to work in the factories.

In the 20th century, Key West developed into a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. The island’s colorful history and unique culture have made it a favorite of artists, writers, and musicians.

Early Inhabitants

The first known inhabitants of Key West were the Calusa people, who lived on the island for thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish. The Calusa were skilled fishermen and hunters, and they built impressive shell mounds that can still be seen on the island today.

Civil War Era

During the Civil War, Key West was an important base for the Union Navy and played a key role in the blockade of Confederate ports. The island was heavily fortified, and several forts and batteries were constructed to defend against Confederate attacks.

20th Century Developments

In the 20th century, Key West developed into a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. The island’s colorful history and unique culture have made it a favorite of artists, writers, and musicians. Many famous people have lived or spent time on the island, including David Porter, John Simonton, and Ernest Hemingway.

Today, Key West is part of Monroe County and is known for its laid-back atmosphere, beautiful beaches, and vibrant nightlife. The island is home to a diverse population of people, including Conchs (native-born residents), Cuban immigrants, and Bahamians.

Culture and Lifestyle

When it comes to culture and lifestyle, Key West has a unique and laid-back vibe that you won’t find anywhere else. Here are some things you should know about the local traditions, arts and entertainment, and cuisine.

Local Traditions

One of the most well-known local traditions in Key West is the Conch Republic. This is a tongue-in-cheek “micronation” that was established in 1982 as a protest against a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint. The Conch Republic has its own flag, motto (“We Seceded Where Others Failed”), and even a navy. You can learn more about the Conch Republic at the Conch Republic Independence Celebration, which takes place every April.

Another local tradition is the Key Lime Pie. This delicious dessert is made with Key lime juice, condensed milk, and a graham cracker crust. You can find Key Lime Pie all over Key West, but some of the best places to try it are Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe and Blue Heaven.

Arts and Entertainment

Key West has a thriving arts and entertainment scene. There are numerous art galleries and studios, as well as theaters and performance spaces. Some of the most popular arts events include the Key West Literary Seminar, the Key West Film Festival, and the Key West Songwriters Festival.

If you’re looking for nightlife, Key West won’t disappoint. There are plenty of bars, clubs, and live music venues to choose from. Some of the best places to check out include Sloppy Joe’s Bar, the Green Parrot, and the Hog’s Breath Saloon.


When it comes to cuisine, Key West has a lot to offer. Seafood is a staple, with fresh catches including grouper, snapper, and lobster. You’ll also find plenty of Cuban and Caribbean influences, with dishes like Cuban sandwiches and jerk chicken. Some of the best places to eat in Key West include El Meson de Pepe, Blue Heaven, and Santiago’s Bodega.

Landmarks and Attractions

Here are some of the top landmarks and attractions you won’t want to miss:

Historic Sites

Key West is home to several historic sites that are worth checking out. One of the most famous is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. This beautiful property was once owned by the famous author and is now open to the public for tours. You can see the room where Hemingway wrote many of his famous works, as well as the beautiful gardens and swimming pool. Ernest Hemingway also has a special Florida cocktail named after him.

Another must-see historic site is the Little White House. This was once the winter home of President Harry Truman and is now a museum dedicated to his life and legacy. You can take a tour of the house and learn all about Truman’s time in Key West.

Natural Attractions

Key West is surrounded by natural beauty, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of natural attractions to explore. One of the most popular is Dry Tortugas National Park. This beautiful park is located about 70 miles west of Key West and is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Once you arrive, you can explore the historic Fort Jefferson, go snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters, or simply relax on the beach.

Another natural attraction worth checking out is the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. This beautiful indoor garden is home to hundreds of butterflies and exotic birds, as well as a variety of tropical plants and flowers.

Recreational Activities

If you’re looking for some fun outdoor activities, Key West has plenty to offer. One of the most popular is renting a bike and exploring the island on two wheels. You can ride along the beautiful beaches, through historic neighborhoods, and even across the famous Seven Mile Bridge.

For a more relaxing experience, head to Mallory Square to watch the sunset. This beautiful spot is located right on the water and is famous for its nightly Sunset Celebration. You can watch street performers, enjoy live music, and take in the stunning views as the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico.

Tourism and Accommodations

Hotels and Resorts

Key West is home to a variety of hotels and resorts, ranging from budget-friendly options to luxury properties. Many of these hotels are located in the heart of Old Town, within walking distance of popular attractions like Duval Street and Mallory Square. Some of the most popular hotels in Key West include the Casa Marina Key West, the Pier House Resort & Spa, and the Ocean Key Resort & Spa.

Shopping and Dining

Key West is known for its unique shopping and dining scene. You’ll find a variety of boutiques, galleries, and gift shops throughout the island, as well as a wide range of restaurants serving everything from fresh seafood to Cuban cuisine. Some of the most popular dining spots in Key West include Blue Heaven, Santiago’s Bodega, and Louie’s Backyard.

Events and Festivals

Throughout the year, Key West plays host to a variety of events and festivals. Some of the most popular include the Key West Food and Wine Festival, the Key West Songwriters Festival, and the Hemingway Days Festival. Whether you’re interested in music, food, or culture, there’s always something happening in Key West.

Economy and Demographics

Population and Growth

Key West is a vibrant city with a population of approximately 26,800 people as of 2021. The city has seen a steady population increase of 9.31% between 2020 and 2021, with a median age of 44.2 years. The city’s population is diverse, with 59% being White, 12% Black, 2% Asian, and 25% being of mixed race. The city also has a significant Hispanic population, with Hispanic respondents of any race accounting for 38% of the population.

Key Industries

The economy of Key West is driven by several key industries, including tourism, the military, and the Border Patrol. The city’s beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and year-round warm weather make it a popular tourist destination. The tourism industry provides employment opportunities for many people in the city.

The Naval Air Station Key West and the US Navy also play a significant role in the city’s economy. The Naval Air Station Key West is the primary training center for naval aviation in the United States. The US Navy also has a presence in the city, providing employment opportunities for many residents.

Another significant employer in the city is the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol is responsible for securing the United States’ borders and preventing illegal immigration. The Border Patrol provides employment opportunities for many residents and is an essential part of the city’s economy.