Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all but your bank account isn’t as enthusiastic about the idea. That’s when you need to make vacation plans that will deliver the most memorable experiences for your money. And that’s where Key West on a budget comes in. Discover the best ways to stretch your vacation dollars further so you can vacation and enjoy it, too.
Enjoy Your Pick of Public Beaches
Despite being a small place, Key West offers multiple public beaches you can access. Smathers is the most popular among visitors. It’s located on the south side of the island and has the sandiest shores bordered by lush palm trees. Dog Beach is also a great pick if you’re traveling with pets; dogs are welcome to play in the sand and surf here.
Many of the beaches offer amenities like restrooms, snorkel and beach gear rentals, and concession stands offering light snacks and cold drinks. Getting to these beaches is convenient because of Key West’s public transportation system; in addition, many hotels offer bikes to rent or borrow for free which makes it easy for you to plan your day according to your preferred schedule.
Book the Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park
Although the ticket prices to take the ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park isn’t cheap, it’s worth every penny. This mostly underwater park sits roughly 70 miles from Key West, and the ferry reservations book out months in advance, so you’ll want to plan ahead. The snorkeling here is world-class, and fortunately, it’s very welcome to inexperienced snorkelers, too, so everyone can have a good time. The waters include shallow shipwrecks and coral reefs for snorkeling.
Check out the sunken Windjammer and Avanti wrecks and explore the reefs known as Little Africa and Texas Rock. Night snorkeling is also available, and this park offers a great place to check out nocturnal sea life you might not otherwise encounter. The park includes a cluster of several islands, and Garden Key is the biggest.
Walk the grounds of Fort Jefferson, picnic, swim, and kayak. Go birdwatching or camp overnight and spend the night stargazing without city lights affecting the skyscape. Fishing in this area is limited; however, booking a fishing charter through an experienced company like All In Fishing Charters will get you as close as you can be.
Experience a Local Food Tour
There are dozens of restaurants and bars in Key West, and even if money were no object, it would be hard to decide which ones to visit first. With a food tour, you can enjoy a dizzying array of exciting menu samples from a wide range of local restaurants for a reasonable rate while also learning about the history and culture of Key West as shared by experienced tour guides.
Explore impressive culinary influences, such as Latin American, Asian, French, Southern, and more. Be sure to try the key lime pie! These tours typically last a few hours and because they’re walking tours, you’ll want to put on comfortable shoes before starting out. A food tour is also a great way to explore Key West in a guided way, making notes of the places you’ll want to double back and visit later on your own.
Indulge in the Freshest Seafood
No trip to Key West would be complete without dining on the freshest local seafood you can find. Add Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant to your itinerary for outstanding fish sandwiches, lobster roll, conch chowder, conch fritters, and more, served by knowledgeable and friendly staff. With outside dining and to-go options, guests can linger and people-watch in charming Old Town Key West or head back to their accommodations for a private meal.
Fun for All at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
If the ferry fare to Dry Tortugas isn’t in the cards for you, consider visiting Fort Zachary Taylor State Park instead. Like Dry Tortugas, it offers visitors access to a historic fort, expansive grounds, a beach, and clear water for snorkeling and swimming. Walk or bike along numerous paths, fish off of the jetty, and grill in the picnic area. Or, pick up a light breakfast, lunch or early dinner from the on-site cafe.
The beach here has been voted Key West’s best, so it’s definitely worth a stop. Because it’s a state park, admission fees are nominal; a family of four arriving by car would pay less than $10, with beach gear rentals additional.
Use these tips to build a Key West itinerary that offers a wide range of activities and enjoyment while still being mindful of your overall financial health. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy great vacations. Plan one close to home in Key West and discover how you can still have the trip of a lifetime without paying for it forever.
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