10 Best Beaches for Sunny Days and Sandy Feet in Key West

Which way to the beach? It’s one of top questions asked by first-time visitors to Key West. If you’re dreaming of long stretches of soft dunes next to crashing waves, don’t drop your suntan lotion when you hear the answer. While the Florida Keys reap the benefits of having the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. off its shores - with excellent fishing, snorkeling and diving - that same reef keeps the sand from washing ashore and creating natural beaches.

Sun bums and water babies shouldn’t lose all hope. Key West has a sprinkling of small private and public beaches hidden across the island and surrounding locales. The public sands along the Atlantic shore may be modest in size, but that makes them no less popular with locals and visitors alike. With calm shallow seas and a variety of watersports rentals, they’re perfect for either a lazy day under an umbrella or an active afternoon on a paddle board.

At parks like Bahia Honda, Fort Zachary Taylor and the Dry Tortugas, the beaches rest in the shadows of historic relics like Flagler’s rusted railroad bridge and crumbling Civil War forts. Other prime shorelines (usually made with imported sand) line private resorts like Casa Marina, and they’re primarily for guest use. You can still sample their amenities--think massage on the beach or long lunch at a waterside cafe. So throw on your swimsuit, slather on that sunscreen and head to these top 10 beaches for fun in the sun.

Just 500 yards across the Key West Harbor, Sunset Key's private crystal white beach beckons visitors with its hammocks and thatched tiki huts. The beach is reserved for resort guests, who have the luxury of staying in quaint cottages along the...  Read More

This elegant boutique hotel boasts a large private natural-sand beach and a picturesque pier with a gazebo extending over the Atlantic. If you're a guest, you'll be treated to sunrises each morning--if you wake up in time. You can relax in...  Read More

This mansion-style resort boasts 1,100 feet of private beach dotted with palms and swaying hammocks. If you're lucky enough to stay at this timeless beauty, listed on the National Register for Historic Places, your beach concierge will handle...  Read More

Some refer to it as "The Jurassic Park of the Florida Keys," but the Marquesas comprise a doughnut-shaped chain 25 miles west of Key West. The 10 uninhabited islands are the only natural atoll (ring shaped coral reef) in the Western Hemisphere....  Read More

Not far from Duval Street in Old Town Key West is Higgs Beach, a popular spot to soak in some rays and take a dip in the shallow water. Amenities include tennis courts, volleyball courts, children's playground and a dog park, and White Street...  Read More

Airport - Eyw

Key West's largest beach has all the ingredients for a golden tan: picture-perfect stretch of sand, chair rentals, volleyball courts and a calm breeze. Located on the southern shore of the island, the man-made beach offers calm shallow waters...  Read More

Located at the end of Duval Street on the Atlantic Ocean, South Beach is one of the smallest public beaches in Key West. This 200-foot-long stretch of sand is flanked by the Southernmost Beach Resort and the South Beach Pier. It's backed by the...  Read More

Fort Zachary Taylor is blessed with a well-maintained, sandy beach with chairs, umbrellas and water sports equipment for rent. Completed in 1866, the fort played important roles in the Civil War and Spanish-American War, and visitors can tour...  Read More

About 70 miles from Key West lies Dry Tortugas National Park, seven islands that straddle the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The shallow waters surrounding the islands are perfect for snorkeling amid the ruins of Fort...  Read More

The three soft sandy natural beaches at Bahia Honda State Park would be enough to set it apart from the rest of the Florida Keys. But when you add in the nature trails, unparalleled reef snorkeling and a piece of railroad history, you get one of...  Read More


Meet Claudia Miller

Claudia Miller has been writing about South Florida for over 17 years--seven from Key Largo. A budding photographer, she can usually be found stalking a sunset. Despite being a tad...  More About Claudia