Specialty Boutiques and Tasty Treats Top Best Shopping List in Key West



Bypass the requisite tourist-town souvenir stands and $5 t-shirt vendors to discover a trove of small mom-and-pop boutiques filled with distinctive goods in Key West.

Many shops like Green Pineapple and Besame Mucho are devoted to the owner’s passions. These entrepreneurs scour the world for items that speak to them. Their shelves are lined with precious finds like Fair Trade linen tunics or leather babouches (slippers) from Marrakech.

Spots such as Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe and Key West Cigar Club take their specialties seriously with a wide selection of choice goods. Key West Island Books is packed with tomes on Keys history as well as novels by Florida authors. Even the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory offers a huge array of items for nature lovers at any age.

Wait until you arrive to the island before building out your beach wardrobe. Swimwear boutiques like Ocean Key Boutique and Aqua Beachwear offer selections for men and women of all sizes. Their top notch customer service makes suit shopping a breeze. Pair with the hand-crafted leather shoes at Kino Sandals for the complete outfit. Here you can watch three generations of "sandaleros" (old-world Cuban sandal makers) hard at work.



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For a town with such a rich literary heritage, it's hard to believe that this is the only remaining bookstore in Key West. Key West Island Books has an extensive collection of local interest books, and the devoted staff can help you find that perfect tome. For the bibliophiles, there's an entire section of novels by and about Ernest Hemingway, as well as a vast selection of works by local authors. Books highlighting Keys' cuisine, history, travel and local wildlife promise something for everyone. Watch their calendar for author readings and book signings. Ask about signed works they may still have in stock from past events.


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Ocean Key Boutique
Photo courtesy of Ocean Key Traders


 

Ocean Key Boutique is not your normal hotel gift shop. This elegant boutique offers visitors of all ages a well-rounded selection of clothing perfect for the Key West clime. In fact, shoppers often leave the store wearing their new purchases. One of their main lines, Island Company, labels itself an "escapist brand" with resort wear, cute bikinis, classic swimwear, linen separates, vintage sunglasses and island accessories. The store also stocks Tommy Bahama for men and women--the classic go-to for any tropical wardrobe. For women, the bathing suit section is rounded out with mix-and-match separates by Maaji swimwear. This youthful brand combines an unexpected mixture of prints, textures and cutting-edge silhouettes. They'll also find colorful coverups to match. Men can choose swim trunks and boardshorts from Quicksilver, Tommy Bahama, Island Company and Reyn Spooner.


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Duval Street
Aqua Beachwear
Photo courtesy of Claudia Miller


 

Aqua Beachwear is part of a small boutique chain that includes over a dozen stores throughout the Florida, Arizona and the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you usually dread swimsuit shopping, their helpful staff can help you find the perfect suit no matter your shape and size. They know their inventory and the styles that work for different body types. The suits come in a variety of different cuts, from one-pieces, monokinis and bikini separates in a myriad of colors and prints. Brands range from affordable to top designers like Gottex, Juicy Couture, DKNY, Ralph Lauren, Betsey Johnson, Miraclesuit and more. Add a matching coverup for a flattering ensemble you'll love. They also carry a selection of boardshorts for men.


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Packed with everything from collectible pieces like Franz porcelain jewelry to inexpensive souvenirs like butterfly pens, this is a one-stop-shop for anyone who loves nature. They offer a wide array of clothing and accessories featuring flying critters, and educational items range from a scholarly field guide to a children's puzzle. For the serious collector, step into the adjacent Wings of Imagination Butterfly Gallery, which offers original artwork by artist Sam Trophia. The acrylic shadow boxes depict the butterfly's beauty preserved and suspended in art form in a spectrum of colors, shapes and sizes. You can choose the specific butterflies for the display case from their large selection. Don't worry, these aren't the same beauties from the garden.


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Belly up to the hot sauce bar to sample their spicy sauces from around the world. (It's free!) The "tasting staff" entertains and makes helpful suggestions while visitors try everything from jerk sauce to dips and "weapons grade" (the fifth and final step of the Peppers Heat Ratings) hot sauces. Cheese and crackers help return taste buds to normal, and each sample comes with a description of what you're trying. You'll be surprised when you realize you've spent over an hour kicking it with some chili sauce. They carry over 900 products, but don't miss their house brand. Habanero jelly beans anyone?


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No visit to Key West would be complete without having a slice of refreshing Key lime pie. While who has the best Key lime pie is a hotly debated topic in the Florida Keys, Kermit's always makes the shortlist. Whether you have a classic slice of the tart confection with a dollop of whipped cream or dipped in Belgian chocolate on a stick, you'll quickly see why Florida named it the official state pie in 2006. Kermit's also makes Key lime fudge, candy, sauces and jams--perfect gifts to take back home.


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Duval Street


 

At the eco-chic Green Pineapple boutique, everything has a story. With a focus on what they call mindful consumption, the store is packed with creative up-cycled items. Candles are in old tea cups or vintage cans, and silver spoons have been flattened into pendants. Mason jar wine glasses and canvas bags made from recycled sails. They also showcase one-of-a-kind jewelry from around the globe, hand-made wooden kitchen ware and breezy tropical clothing. Other eclectic offerings focus on Fair Trade, organic and support for artisan women around the world such as stylish handbags made in Marrakech. Also home to the Key West Yoga Sanctuary, the shop is filled with Zen decor, ensuring a relaxing shopping experience. Don't miss the organic cafe, date & thyme, in the back where fresh juices and smoothies provide an energetic boost.


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While you'll pass plenty of places on Duval Street selling "Cuban cigars," there's a reason they use those parentheses. This may soon change, but for now buying or selling Cuban-made cigars is still illegal. Key West has a rich cigar history, but most stogies in the Keys are now made in other parts of Latin America with tobacco grown from Cuban seeds. If you ask the guys at Key West Cigar Club and Smoke Shop for a Cuban, they'll tell you to "start swimming." Then they'll gladly help you find the perfect cigar to match your mood from their large selection of humidors. They also have a wide offering of accessories for the smoking connoisseur. You can sit in the antique barbershop chairs in their front display window or lounge on the big comfy couches inside. You may want to stay a spell even if you don't smoke!


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Off-the-beaten path in Bahama Village, this charming boutique has an air of vintage romance. The intoxicating scents from their apothecary will draw you in with medicines, lotions, perfumes and soaps. Their approach is old-world, pure and simple like the cult-fave Smith's Rosebud Salve (said to be the best lip balm ever). It's easy to get lost among the elegant displays of European chocolates, letterpress note cards, lavender sachets and crisp linens. Their unique jewelry collection includes Spanish Milagros (protective charms) and hand-crafted brass bangles with a polished patina that develops the more you wear them. For the home, there are items like Bolivian wool throws, Syrian glass carafes and candles from the inspired Parisian team of Astier De Villatte. You can tell that each treasure was chosen with care and has a backstory. The owners are on-hand to share those stories with you.


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Your first shopping stop in Key West should be the popular Kino Sandals at the corner of Greene and Fitzpatrick Streets. The place gets packed, so you'll want to get there early. Here you'll find "sandaleros" (old-world sandal makers) hand-crafting a variety of styles using natural leather straps and rubber soles. In 1966, owner Roberto "Kino" Lopez, brought his talent with him when he fled Cuba after Castro's revolution. Three generations later, business is booming. Browse the selections for a style you like, and then ask the ladies behind the counter for your size. The best part is the price. Women's sandals start at $14. When you leave, go ahead and put on your new sandals. Your feet will thank you.


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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

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