A Not-So-Touristy Guide to Key West

Is a relaxing trip to Key West even possible? I decided to put it to the test by avoiding the party scene, and seeking out the culture and laid back activities found on the island. I was in for a pleasant surprise.


Make a bee line for the key lime

While the key lime stereotype may seem touristy and over-rated, finding an authentic slice of pie is a great, relaxing way to start your vacation. My best advice is to drop your bags in your hotel room and run to find the key lime pie. I don’t care if it’s 8AM, your vacation starts when you have a piece of key lime pie in front of you. Better yet, for all of the chocolate lovers, try the chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. This was one of the most unusual, yet insanely amazing things I have ever tried. I’d go back just for this snack. We found this tasty treat at the Key Lime Shoppe on the corner of Front and Duval street.


Stay in a small, local hotel

One of the best ways to have a relaxing stay in Key West is to find a small, local hotel or Bed and Breakfast. Stay away from the party hotels because the pool and bar scene will get crazy at night and on the weekends (which most likely means you’ll hear the noise and won’t sleep a wink). We stayed at the Eden House and it was a small, tropical garden paradise. From a quiet pool, to a garden of hammocks, there was plenty of space to lay low and not feel confined. 


Take time for brunch

While the rest of the island is recovering from last night’s hangover, try to make it to brunch. I had my heart set on eating at Sarabeth’s, since I know how amazing the one in Central Park in NYC is. Sit back, relax and sip coffee at the outdoor patio. Starting your day on a relaxing note is the best way to be motivated to explore later in the afternoon.


Do a book exchange

While this is probably the most unusual activity on this list, it really is a great way to relax on the island. Drop off an already read book from your personal library and pick up something new. With so much activity happening around you, look for small moments like these. Plus, whatever book you trade-in can be your read for your entire vacation. It’s a win-win.


There’s such a unique, charming heritage on the island that is often over shadowed by the bar and party scenes. Take time to pick up pamphlets about the history and go on city walks. Take in the beautiful, old Florida architecture and admire the gardens found across the island. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and explore the historic district. Ask questions along the way and really absorb the unique, cultural surroundings of the island. You’ll be glad you did.

For those looking for an adventure off-island, I’ll be posting next about taking the ferry to Dry Tortugas. Stay tuned!