Is Key West Expensive? Your Next Vacation Doesn't Have To Be!

Is Key West Expensive? Plan Your Vacation

Key West, Florida, part of a chain of barrier islands just off the tip of the southernmost state, is a tropical paradise filled with sunshine, sand, and sea. The island hosts a historic city known for its vibrant nightlife, historic landmarks, and general laid-back “beach” atmosphere.

Many people visit Key West as a vacation destination because of the clear waters, whimsical local culture, and history, but it can also be an expensive vacation. There is a high demand from tourists for lodging and accommodations, and the limited nature of availability on the island can occasionally drive up prices. Fortunately, it is possible to have a budget-friendly trip to Key West if you know where to look and do some early planning.

For example, Key West Boat Trips’ Sandbar Tour is a good place to start for an affordable excursion for groups. If you are planning a trip to Key West, read on for a few tips about how you can have an affordable trip to the Conch Republic. 


Why Is Key West So Expensive?

Is Key West expensive? Well, it can be, and there are many reasons why a destination like Key West can be somewhat costly for tourists. Much of what attracts visitors in the first place from all over the world to the islands includes attractions that are costly, such as private boat and snorkeling tours.

Because of this, the prices of hotels and restaurants, as well as activities, can be high, depending on where you stay and what you want to do. Additionally, the island is also located at the end of a long chain of islands, which means that many items need to either be flown in or driven over the connecting causeway highway.

Having to import things from the mainland also increases the cost of living on the island, for both tourists and locals. Consider some of the following points:


1) High Demand

Aside from its location out in the Gulf of Mexico, which requires costly imports of goods, the island is also a popular tourist destination, which drives up demand for hotels, restaurants, and activities.

The hotel prices in Key West change depending on the season


2) Lack Of Space

Key West itself is a small island with limited space, meaning, there is a limited supply of hotels and other accommodations that can be built on the island. As a result, prices for the limited supply of accommodations rise, particularly during peak tourist seasons.

In addition, many hotels in Key West are historic structures that have been renovated and restored, all of which add to the cost of accommodations.

Key West Hotel Room


3) Expensive Excursions

Many activities and attractions in Key West can also be expensive. For example, taking a sailboat tour at sunset or a snorkeling excursion might end up costing several hundred dollars per person, depending on the type of tour.

While most historic sites are inexpensive, if not free, some of the more upscale activities available in a tropical destination can be costly. This includes high-end restaurants. 

Key West Activities - Snorkeling And Scuba Diving


4) Special Events

Key West is also a popular destination for special events such as weddings or other types of festivals, all of which can drive up prices. During peak wedding season, it might be difficult to find affordable accommodations.

Key West Wedding


Key West On A Budget

With a little planning ahead of time and a willingness to be flexible, there are many ways to avoid the high cost of vacationing in Key West. You can visit Key West on a budget if you do your research. Consider some of the following tips:


1) Avoid Peak Season

Visit during the off-season, between October and December, and March and May. During this time, hotels and activities often offer discounted rates, and the island is less crowded with tourists.

The summer months tend to be more expensive for vacationers, and the best prices are usually at times when they are not on the island.

Key West Peak Season


2) Be Flexible About Accommodations

Stay at vacation rentals or budget hotels instead of luxury resorts to save money. There are some chain motels on the island, and while they may not be fancy, keep in mind that hotel rooms are really just a place to sleep because you will be out sightseeing and enjoying the scenery during the day.

Check out websites like Airbnb for a wide range of options, including studio apartments and entire houses. Sites like Kayak can also search for deals on Key West hotels priced around the national average. Some suggestions include:

  • Stay in a bed-and-breakfast near Old Town’s historic landmarks. There are several low-cost hotels in the area, such as the Key Lime Inn, which has rooms starting at around $150 per night, which is an average price for a budget room on the island.

  • The Truman Hotel, where a hotel room starts at around $200 per night.

  • The Chelsea House Hotel is also nearby and offers a hotel room for around $200 per night.

Key West Vacation Rentals


3) Look For Free Entertainment

Take advantage of the free events and low-cost festivals and trips that Key West has to offer. Visit the Southernmost Point, spend a day on the beach, or watch artists and performers at Mallory Square.

The Key West Cemetery is free to visit, and visitors might also consider enjoying the island’s natural beauty by walking or biking along the beach or exploring the state parks.

Mallory Square Entertainment


4) Plan Out Your Meals

There are indeed many high-end restaurants in Key West, some famous across the Florida Keys, but there are also several smaller, hole-in-the-wall establishments frequented by locals, many of which have affordable prices.

Also, be aware of and take advantage of happy hour specials from the many bars and restaurants in Key West. This is also a great way to enjoy a drink or a meal without breaking the bank. There are usually special deals on drinks, appetizers, and other menu items in the late afternoon or early evening hours.

Some places to consider include:

  • Fisherman’s Café

  • Old Town Bakery

  • Garbo’s Grill

  • Half Shell Raw Bar

  • Mary Ellen’s Bar & Restaurant

Half Shell Raw Oyster


5) Skip The Car, Walk, Or Bike

Instead of taking a taxi or public transportation or spending money on a rental car, rent a bike or go for a walk. Renting a car during the length of your stay can be costly, especially if it spends most of its time parked in a parking lot at the beach or at your hotel.

Key West is not a large island, and therefore it is easy to navigate on foot or by bike. You might consider saving money by renting a bike or walking to your destination, especially if you like to exercise.

If you stay in a hotel that is fairly central to all of the things you want to see, it will not be far to walk at all. Also, many hotels and vacation rentals offer free bike rentals to their guests, and some hotels offer free shuttles to destinations. 

Biking In Key West



Because Key West is a small island off the mainland coast at the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, how you get there can also affect your budget. The island can be reached by boat, by the seven-mile Overseas Highway, or by air. Renting a car and driving will likely be the most affordable option, though depending on the type of deals you can find, airfare or boats are not out of the realm of possibility.

The Key West International Airport is located on the east side of the island and serves many major airlines. Visitors can choose to either fly directly into Key West or fly into Miami and take a shuttle or drive down the Overseas Highway. Driving, however, offers one advantage over the other options.

The Seven Mile Bridge is a must-see attraction in and of itself for visitors to Key West, spanning several miles across the Florida Keys, giving visitors a stunning view of the ocean and surrounding islands. In some cases, it is even possible to navigate the bridge on a bicycle. Aside from being the most affordable option, driving is also one of the most scenic when you visit Key West. 

Overseas Highway


Budget Activities

Seeing the sights and staying busy on your vacation in Key West does not have to be expensive. Many activities in Key West are inexpensive or even free, allowing you to have a good time without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions:


1) Historic Landmarks

The Southernmost Point is one of the most popular attractions in Key West, where visitors can take a photo with a colorful buoy that marks the point furthest south of the continental United States.

Visitors can also see the Hemingway House, the Audubon House, the Little White House, and the Key West Lighthouse on a budget, as many are either free or low-cost admission.

Southernmost Point


2) Explore Duval Street And Mallory Square

These well-known areas are ideal for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Many affordable souvenir stops can be found in both Mallory Square and Duval Street, and Mallory Square usually has street performers that are quite entertaining.

Duval Street


3) Enjoy The Local Culture

Key West is home to a vibrant community of artists, writers, and musicians, and if you plan to visit Key West, consider seeking them out. While learning about the island’s history and culture, tourists who are exploring might consider visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum as well as the Key West Museum of Art and History at the Custom House.

Visitors should not miss the historic Key West’s Old Town neighborhood, which is a beautiful place to explore. There are Victorian homes, historic buildings, and charming streets lined with trees and flowers.

Ernest Hemmingway Home


4) Don’t Miss The Sunset Celebration

Crowds gather every day at Mallory Square to watch the sunset over the water at the Sunset Celebration. This is a free event that features street performers, musicians, and vendors selling souvenirs.

Mallory Square Sunset Celebration


5) Free Activities Outdoors

Vacationers might consider visiting the Key West Cemetery, a unique and historic site that is free to visit and where visitors can see the graves of many famous Key West residents.

Key West is also home to many beautiful beaches, including Smathers Beach and Higgs Beach, all of which are free to visit and make for a good day trip. Here, visitors can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy the beautiful views.

Smathers Beach


6) The Key West Butterfly And Nature Conservatory

For $15 a person, visitors can explore this beautiful indoor attraction and see hundreds of different species of butterflies and birds.  Many people think of it as a peaceful place to visit because it has lots of lush, tropical plants and educational displays.

Key West Butterfly And Nature Conservatory


7) Take A Self-Guided Walking Tour

The Key West Historic Marker Tour is highly recommended for history buffs. This is a self-guided walking tour that takes visitors through the island’s many historic neighborhoods and landmarks.

There are over 50 historic markers around the island that provide information about Key West’s history and culture to the visitor, and this walking tour is free. There is even a free app that visitors can install on smartphones that will guide them through the tour and include several pictures and recordings relevant to each location.

Harry S. Truman Little White House


Start Packing!

Key West is a unique and beautiful destination, no doubt, and it can certainly be enjoyed on a minimum-wage budget. If visitors take advantage of these tips and suggestions, as well as budget-friendly activities, it is absolutely possible to enjoy the island and all it has to offer without spending a lot of money.

Whether you’re interested in history, nightlife, or outdoor activities, Key West’s welcoming destinations have something for everyone. If you’re planning a trip to Key West, explore your money-saving options before you visit Key West.

It is true that Key West can be an expensive destination, but there are still many ways to enjoy the island on a budget by taking advantage of off-season rates, staying in budget-friendly accommodations, and seeking out free or low-cost activities.

If you are traveling with your friends, check out our Key West Sandbar Tour, a great option for large groups, or learn more about the tours available.

3 to 4 hours
Group Size
Up to 12

Sandbar Tour For Large Groups

If your group is larger than 6 and you have a hard time finding a boat ride to the sandbars because of the 6 passengers limit, we are here to help. You can book our 2 identical Hurricane 27 foot deck boats and our captains will drive them side by side so you can take cool photos and they will raft up the boats on the sandbars so you can enjoy and share this amazing time together.

3 to 4 hours
Group Size
Up to 6

Hopping Sandbars In Key West

What a perfect day to take a boat ride! You will see not one but several different sandbars on this tour! It will only take 25 minutes to get there on our epic adventure, and we can stop as long as you want at those sandbars that interest you the most. This is something you cannot miss!

Experience the mangrove trails of Mud Keys and hang out with locals at Snipe Point after. You won't want the day to end.

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2 hours
Group Size
Up to 6

Key West Sunset Cruise

Ocean, meet our captain! One of the best things about the backcountry waters is how it’s never too crowded. So jump in and enjoy the peacefulness and remoteness as you stand in the "middle of the ocean" with nothing but water around you. Optionally, bring some champagne to enjoy with the sunset as a backdrop. Then, just sit back and relax as you cruise on out into the middle of nowhere, leaving behind any stress or worries.

2 hours
Group Size
Up to 6

Mud Key Mangrove Safari

It's time for some adventure and excitement with a boat trip through the backcountry. After only a short ride, we'll take you on a leisurely cruise down to Mud Key Sanctuary, where you can enjoy the countryside and take in all the wonders of nature that surround you. Stop by the sandbar for a refreshing dip or just stroll around and soak up the sun. Capture your memories and cherish them forever.