Searching for the perfect U.S. beach vacation? Look no further than the Florida Keys. From Gulf of Mexico sunsets in Key West to the crystal-clear waters around Key Largo, the best beaches in the Florida Keys brush your toes with the country’s finest sun and surf.
On the island chain’s beautiful beaches, you’ll enjoy a variety of activities, including fishing, hiking, and swimming. The Florida Keys also offer some of the most coveted scuba diving and snorkeling spots in the continental United States. Dip into the warm waters around its offshore reefs to dazzle at tropical life and colorful marine life.
Not sure how to start planning your Florida Keys beach adventure? Get started with this guide to the top-rated Florida Keys beaches.
Top-rated Florida Keys beaches
Smathers Beach, Key West
Located on the southern shore of Key West, Smathers Beach is one of the top-rated Key West beaches. This white-sand public beach gives you fantastic access to the Atlantic Ocean. The beach itself is hardly ever crowded. It’s three miles long, giving you plenty of room to tan or play sports.
At Smathers Beach, tall palm trees line the shore, giving you a perfect shaded place to sunbathe and work on your summer tan. Near the shower facilities and public restrooms, there are also several volleyball courts. Watersport equipment rentals are also available if you need snorkeling gear or paddleboards.
The small vending trucks near Smathers Beach rent out beach chairs in case you don’t have your own. They also sell snacks and drinks, if your stomach starts growling after swimming or snorkeling.
Sombrero Beach, Marathon
For a sandy beach and wonderful park, check out Sombrero Beach in Marathon. Relax on your towel or chair on the long stretch of sand or play volleyball in the park. There are also huge picnic pavilions where you can chill out and eat with your family and friends.
Sombrero Beach is one of the top turtle nesting sites in Florida. From April through September, you might notice certain parts of the beach are roped off to protect turtle eggs within the vicinity. Don’t worry though: You still have ample opportunities for turtle sightings!
Loggerhead turtles are easy to spot if you take an early morning walk on this beautiful beach. Turtle nests are also visible during this time. First thing in the morning, wake up your kids or friends and see if you can find some turtles hatching.
Higgs Beach, Key West
Looking for a large beach and warm water? Higgs Beach has 16.5 acres of oceanfront shorelines to explore. It’s the perfect beach for pickleball, beach volleyball, kayak rentals, swimming, and snorkeling.
Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach is also an amazing place to learn about the history of the American Civil War. Featuring a Civil War Fort and one of the largest African Refugee Burial Grounds, the memorial park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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After spending the day in the soft sands of Higgs Beach, take a self-guided tour of the fort and walk through the amazing gardens to see the flowers blooming. You can also grab a bite to eat at the local Caribbean cafe for local fresh-caught seafood.
Calusa Beach, Bahia Honda State Park
Just outside the city limits of Key West, Calusa Beach in Bahia Honda State Park is a great place to add to your road trip plans. Calusa Beach has calm waters and beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean. Combined with Loggerhead Beach, it’s one of the most popular spots for kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming.
If you want to spend the night, there are several campgrounds and picnic shelters where you can cook and eat dinner. The nature trails in Bahia Honda are the perfect spot to see wading and shorebirds, as well as animals and plants native to south Florida.
The Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium is an absolute must-see in Bahia Honda State Park. Located on the coast of Lee Island, the nature center is 105-acres of wetlands and animal exhibits. Make sure to see the rattlesnakes, reptiles, owls, eagles, and the live insect collection.
Sandspur Beach, Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park beaches also include Sandspur Beach. Best known for its turquoise water, Sandspur Beach is part of the Lower Keys of Key West. The sandy beach is a great place to relax if you want a secluded and private atmosphere.
The shallow water makes this a great beach for swimming and a popular beach for kids. Covered picnic tables are located in the concession area, but the beach itself also has its own picnic pavilions and restrooms.
Coconut palms are scattered throughout the white sand beaches. Find a tall one and set up your beach gear beneath it to take advantage of the shade. The large palm trees are also perfect for stringing up a hammock on your Bahia Honda State Park visit.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Key West
Looking to visit one of Florida’s National Monuments? Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is a beach, park, and historic site all combined into one. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is home to Fort Taylor, one of the only forts in the U.S. predating the Civil War era.
Learn more about the American-Spanish War and the Civil War by taking a tour of the interactive exhibits inside the fort. There are also real cannons and gun ports where you can see how the soldiers defended the coast.
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After the short history lesson, grab a spot at one of the picnic tables to eat with your friends and family. Don’t forget your water shoes because there are tons of opportunities for activities in the southern part of the park! Spend the rest of the day swimming, kayaking, and canoeing.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
Snorkeling and scuba diving on your to-do list? Head over to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo to see the best coral reefs and a huge variety of tropical fish. The United States’ first undersea park, John Pennekamp Park is 70 nautical miles full of adventure.
Members of your party who don’t want to explore the underwater world can relax at nearby Cannon Beach or go canoeing and kayaking. If you have your fishing license, you can also go fishing in designated areas.
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The park is home to some of the top Key Largo beaches, with an endless amount of activities available. They also have a full concession stand and a diving shop. The 30,000-gallon aquarium is also extremely impressive.
Curry Hammock State Park, Marathon
If you’re staying between Big Pine Key and Key Largo, Curry Hammock State Park should be a destination at the top of your list. This 1,000-acre park is a top place to see wildlife and explore the marshes of Florida.
The Florida Keys have a variety of ecosystems and Curry Hammock State Park is a great place to explore all of them. Strap on some comfortable shoes for the 1.5-mile nature trail where you can see mangrove swamps and seagrass beds.
Paddleboards and kayaks are available to rent or you can bring your own. Since the park is secluded and completely uninhabited, it’s also an amazing place for camping and star gazing at night.
Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West
For the ultimate Key West experience, take a ferry to the Dry Tortugas National Park. The clear blue water is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. Home to Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas Park was an important site during the Civil War. Now, it’s one of the most visited tourist attractions in the southeast U.S.
Put on your snorkeling gear and check out the coral reefs. Make sure to visit “Little Africa,” a reef that looks just like the African continent when viewed from above. If you have a waterproof camera, you can take some amazing pictures.
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If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even camp at Dry Tortugas. Since there are no shower facilities or restaurants, you will need to bring your own food and fresh water. The sunset views make the extra work completely worth it though.
Coco Plum Beach, Marathon
Another beach on Marathon Island, Coco Plum Beach is elegant and welcoming. It’s a completely natural beach right in the middle of preserved wetlands. Coco Plum Beach is much less crowded than other areas near Key West, so it’s an amazing spot for tanning and reading.
The Coco Plum Beach Tennis Club & Marina is a popular spot for swimming and dining. In the small town area, there are local places to grab an ice cream cone or sandwich to eat on the beach. The Dolphin Research Center is also close by featuring a saltwater lagoon that’s home to dolphins and sea lions.
Harry Harris Park, Key Largo
Searching for the best family-friendly beach? Harry Harris Park is a man-made beach without the nuisance of sharp stones and nasty seaweed that often gets washed ashore at other beaches. There’s also a large playground where the kids can jump and run after getting bored at the beach.
Harry Harris Park in Key Largo is small and quiet with warm shallow water that’s perfect for swimming and boogie boarding. Near the parking area, you’ll find an in-line skating rink, volleyball net, and picnic tables. So, pack all your beach gear and get ready to spend a great full beach day with the kids!