Key West is a subtropical paradise of just seven square miles, packed with exciting and romantic things to do for couples.
More than 100 miles from mainland Florida, Key West is the southernmost region of the continental U.S., infused with the sights and scents of the tropics and at the same time, quirky, creative, and romantic. Little wonder, then, that artists, writers, and musicians have long been drawn to the island city.
Along with diving and snorkeling, discover Key West for yourself by exploring art galleries, strolling Duval Street, unraveling the history of the island, and sharing a slice of scrumptious Key lime pie with your loved one.
Enjoy this selection of 14 romantic things to do in Key West for couples.
Snorkel Over Coral Reefs
The Florida Keys are part of North America’s only living coral reef. Discovering the beauty of the underwater world together is one of the best things for couples to do in Key West.
As one of the best islands for snorkeling, Key West is a delight for divers and snorkelers with its clear waters, thriving reefs, and wrecks in relatively shallow depths.
As your boat heads to a snorkel and dive site, enjoy the wind in your hair as you look out for dolphins cruising the tropical waters. At Rock Key, seven miles southeast of Key West, you could spot moray eels and grouper in the wide crevasses and canyons—and at the same time, see cannonballs and ballast stones from shipwrecks.
Divers and snorkelers at Eastern Dry Rocks Reef, near Rock Key, can view conch, sea turtles, brain coral, angelfish, tarpon, and barracuda. Sand Key, seven miles southwest of Key West, is known for loggerhead turtles, grouper, barracuda, and dazzling corals.
In the shallow waters of Cottrell Key, a mangrove-filled island nine miles northwest of Key West, you can float above sponges and sea fans, listening to parrotfish munching on the coral.
Stroll Through Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden
Strolling through the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is a romantic activity for couples. A walk through the greenery provides a sense of natural Key West and the Caribbean as the land was before development.
You meander through a canopy of tropical trees and pass by Champion Trees, specimens that rate among the tallest of their type, including a stalwart locust berry, cinnamon bark, and saffron plum.
The waterfall and the butterfly gardens make for a particularly romantic backdrop for pledging one’s affections.
Swim & Snorkel at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park features Key West’s best beach. Sunning, swimming, and snorkeling at this park is a dreamy way for romantics to spend the day.
Tall Australian pine trees sway in the breeze, and snorkelers might spot lobster, snapper, parrotfish, and other tropical beauties near the jetties.
At the Chickee Hut, rent snorkel gear, chaise lounges, and umbrellas. For lunch, the park’s Cayo Hueso Café plates ham and cheese, grilled chicken, burgers and traditional Cuban sandwiches.
Allow time to discover the park’s other side, the historic fort. Despite Florida’s status as a southern state, Union forces controlled the fort during the Civil War.
The U.S. Navy deterred Confederate ships from bringing supplies and weapons to Confederate ports. Be sure to see the fort’s impressive row of cannons.
Pay Homage to Inclusivity
In 2000, Key West adopted “One Human Family” as the city’s official philosophy. At Duval and Petronia streets, four crosswalks striped with the colors of the rainbow flag, a symbol of LGBTQ+ unity, symbolize both Key West’s Gay pride and the city’s welcoming attitude to all.
Initially installed in 2015, the landmarks were repaved in 2020 to make the colors pop even more brightly.
Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Key West AIDS Memorial, completed in 1997, features the names of 1,000 men and women who have lived in, worked in and visited Key West and died of AIDS.
With a long history of inclusion, Key West became popular in the 1970s as a gay-friendly destination as more and more LGBTQ+ people gravitated to the city. It continues to be a safe and welcoming place for couples, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Take a Selfie at Southernmost Point
A fun thing for couples to do in Key West is to take a selfie at the Southernmost Point Buoy at the end of Whitehead Street. The colorful marker’s Key West iconography says it all.
The sides of a yellow triangle identify your location as “The Conch Republic” and a conch shell floating in blue serves as the insignia. The signal’s red, black, and yellow bands trumpet “90 miles to Cuba, Southernmost Point Continental U.S.A., Key West, Fl.”
While waiting in line (usually there is one) for the perfect shot, enjoy the dazzling ocean view.
Nearby, try Key West’s local fare by lunching at Ana’s Cuban Café. Residents and visitors rave about the Cuban sandwiches here. Or bite into a tasty lobster roll at the Key West Lobster Shack.
Climb the Key West Lighthouse
Keep thinking of the glorious view as you round the 88 steps to the catwalk of the Key West Lighthouse.
From the uppermost viewing area of the sentinel, which was constructed in1848, Key West appears in all its glory—a ribbon of greenery and white beaches surrounded by the aquamarine Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
When the keeper of the 1825 light, the first erected on the site, died in 1832, his wife Barbara Mabrity took over, becoming the first woman lighthouse keeper in the U.S.
After a hurricane in 1846 destroyed that lighthouse, the current one opened. In the Keeper’s Quarter’s Museum, you can view historical documents and see how the keeper and family lived.
Pay Your Respects at Higgs Beach
Higgs Beach is also noted for its Key West African Refugee Cemetery and memorial marking the graves of 294 African men, women, and children who died in Key West.
In 1860, the U.S. Navy intercepted three ships carrying 1,432 free Africans slated to be sold as slaves in Cuba. Even though the military provided food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment, 294 of the Africans perished.
Historians believe the Higgs gravesite to be the United States’ only African refugee cemetery. This poignant fact aside, Higgs Beach is a glorious spot for sunbathing, swimming, and further from the shore, snorkeling over colorful reefs.
Paddle a Kayak at Smathers Beach
Locals say the soft white sand at Smathers Beach, the largest public beach in Key West, is imported from the Bahamas. This in no way diminishes the beauty of the beach, shaded by swaying palms and almost a mile long, the shore sloping gently into the calm, turquoise waters.
Test the strength of your relationship by renting a double kayak and paddling through the shallow waters.
This can be a bonding activity—but if you find your teamwork doesn’t extend to kayaking, you can always jump ship into the warm, clear water.
Share a Key Lime Pie
Sharing a slice of Key lime pie and other island specialties is a memorable thing for couples to do in Key West.
Key limes, juicier and more aromatic than other varieties, star in the Keys’ famous pie, a creamy mix of condensed milk, egg yolks and Key lime juice.
At Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe, order a slice of the famous pie that Key West is known for—or try the pie frozen and dipped in Belgian chocolate.
Among the many other places serving lip-smacking versions are the Key Lime Pie Bakery and Blue Heaven. Vegans can sample a non-dairy version of the sweet treat at The Café, a vegan restaurant.
Go on a Food Safari
Create memorable moments together by sampling some of Key West’s special fare. The city’s culinary notables go well beyond Key lime pie.
Start your food safari with a plate of sweet pink shrimp. Many restaurants serve the flavorful shrimp as well as stone crab claws, another local dish. Stone crabs have big claws with tender, flavorful meat.
Try them in season (October 15 through May 1) at the Eaton Street Seafood Market and The Stoned Crab.
Key West has proclaimed itself the Conch Republic, and at Louie’s Backyard, a well-known restaurant, you’ll find out why. Sit on the deck with its ocean views, and order conch, pronounced “konk”.
Like many places, Louie’s serves conch in chowder, as a coconut ceviche, or deep-fried as fritter.
The Conch Republic Seafood Company’s specialty is cracked conch, tempura-battered conch lightly fried and served with orange horseradish marmalade.
Don’t favor seafood? No problem. Cuban fare is a Key West staple. At Sandy’s Café, bite into a Cuban Mix Sandwich of ham, pork, salami, and Swiss cheese.
At Fritas Cuban Burger Café, the namesake patty has Spanish/Cuban spices and a blend of pork and beef.
Family-owned El Meson de Pepe, near Mallory Square, serves a variety of Cuban sandwiches plus Cuban-style pork chops, chicken, steak, and seafood.
Enjoy the Atmosphere in Mallory Square
There’s plenty to love about Mallory Square, the social hub of Key West. The square is famed for its nightly sunset celebrations but has a happy buzz all day long.
Enjoy gorgeous views of the dazzling turquoise Gulf of Mexico and explore the aquarium, shops, and restaurants around the square.
You’ll see sharks, jellyfish, and turtles at the Key West Aquarium. Discover items by local artists at the Shops at Mallory Square. Browse for prints of Key West at Backyards of Key West and Wello Art Studio, which also features ceramics. Key West Sail Bags, meanwhile, sells bags and purses created from recycled boat sails.
Peckish? The Conch Fritter Stand in the historic square is a good place to try the local specialty. At El Meson de Pepe, next to Mallory Square, the Cuban Conch cuisine includes Cuban nachos, sandwiches, and paella.
Browse Art Galleries
Purchasing art from a treasured vacation is one of the best things to do in Key West for couples, as it’s a shared memory of your romantic vacation.
One of Key West’s oldest private galleries, the Gingerbread Square Gallery showcases works by the island’s noted artists, many of whom reflect their Key West roots in their art. For example, one of Gingerbread’s artists, Sal Salinero paints colorful island foliage.
At the Gallery on Greene, view works by such noted Key West artists as Peter Vey, known for his lush tropical scenes, and Mario Sanchez, a Cuban American folk artist who carved wooden figures, then painted and applied them to his canvases to fashion an old-time Key West scene.
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Jeff MacNelly’s cartoons, pen and ink drawings, and original canvases are also at the Gallery on Greene. At the non-profit Key West Art Center, more than 50 local artists display their sculptures, canvasses, ceramics, and jewelry.
Discover the Literary Scene
Intrigued by Key West? Then find out more by buying a book about the island and its culture.
At Key West Island Books, browse new, used, and rare books, including novels by Ernest Hemingway and books by Lucy Burdette, the pen name for Roberta Isleib, who writes the successful Key West Food Critic Mystery Series. Those are perfect tomes to read in your cabin or on deck.
Check out Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West, the community’s only non-profit bookstore. The shop, co-founded by resident and author Judy Blume, features a curated selection of interesting literature.
Visit the Hemingway House
For some, it’s a shrine, and for others, a curiosity. Either way, visiting Hemingway’s House is essential for literary-minded couples to do when visiting Key West.
The Spanish colonial-style home, a gift in 1931 from a wealthy uncle of Hemingway’s wife, was built in 1851. The couple refurbished the house, living at the residence from 1931 to 1939.
At the estate, Hemingway completed such famous works as Death in the Afternoon, The Green Hills of Africa, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Spanish colonial furnishings, a favorite style of the author, adorn the rooms.
The estate is graced by some 60 cats, descendants of Snow White, a white, six-toed cat gifted to Hemingway by a ship’s captain. Although all the felines carry the six-toed gene, only half of the kitties actually pad around on six toes.
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