It seems that everyone has a trip to the Florida Keys on their bucket list. The tropical climate, the beautiful scenery, the boating excursions, and the unique wildlife all call to our sense of adventure.
But just because the Florida Keys are a top snowbird destination doesn’t mean you should start packing your bags quite yet. Let’s look at five reasons you don’t want to travel south. Maybe you’ll rethink your plans.
What Are the Florida Keys?
Located off the southern coast of Florida, the Florida Keys are an archipelago that forms the southernmost part of the continental United States.
They start about 15 miles south of Miami and extend in a southwest arc to Key West, the westernmost city.
In addition, Key West is less than 100 miles from Cuba. The Keys also include the Dry Tortugas, but they remain uninhabited.
How Do You Get to the Florida Keys?
Before the 1910s, you could only reach the Florida Keys by boat until the Overseas Railway was completed. Unfortunately, hurricanes battered the railway, and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 destroyed the tracks. They were never rebuilt.
Today, U.S. Highway 1 runs from Key Largo to Key West. Additionally, the Seven Mile Bridge connects Knights Key in Marathon to Little Duck Key. At the time of its completion, it was one of the longest bridges in the world.
What Are the Florida Keys Known For?
Dolphin cruises, boating excursions, and sea turtle nestings define the Florida Keys. Many come for the sport fishing and vibrant nightlife, plus the weather of a tropical paradise.
But more than anything, the Florida Keys are known for the coral reefs. The Florida Reef, the third largest coral barrier reef system in the world, is the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo is one of the best locations to view the reef system.
Pro Tip: If you are going to explore the Florida Keys, spend the night at one of these 9 Best Florida Keys Campgrounds.
5 Reasons to Avoid the Florida Keys
Even with the stunning scenery and exotic wildlife, the Florida Keys aren’t always a tropical paradise.
The sunshine of winter turns into sweltering heat in the summer, and the remoteness of the Keys from the rest of Florida makes getting places efficiently practically impossible.
Here are a few reasons you may want to skip this trip.
1. The Crowds
The biggest reason to avoid the Florida Keys is the crowds. Residents make up about 77,000 of the people in the Keys, but you’ll find very high concentrations of people in the few cities. However, the residents aren’t the problem.
Over two million tourists visit the Florida Keys each year. The campgrounds stay full, the hotels have no vacancies, and the Airbnbs are always booked.
And whenever you go out, people crowd the streets and restaurants. Tours fill up fast, and you’ll find very little solitude to enjoy the tropical paradise of the Keys.
2. The Weather
The weather in the Florida Keys is ideal for about three months out of the year. The rest of the year, the heat feels almost unbearable. And hurricanes blast through year after year.
So if you’re looking to visit in the off-season from late spring to early fall, you’ll have extreme weather patterns.
And if you want to join the snowbirds in the winter when the temperatures are 80 degrees with beautiful weather, you’ll deal with the crazy crowds and ridiculous prices.
3. The Expense
Not only do the crowds and weather make enjoying the Florida Keys difficult, but it’s also quite hard to enjoy a place that costs an arm and a leg.
Hotel prices, Airbnb rentals, and campground rates are sky-high. The food isn’t super, but it has super high prices. The tours will cost hundreds of dollars per person. If you want a budget-friendly family vacation, skip the Florida Keys.
4. The Traffic
Because so many people gather in such a small area, the traffic is awful. Congestion often brings traffic to a standstill. Most of the Overseas Highway consists of just two lanes. It’s not a major interstate.
Speed limits also drop in congested areas, so although a trip on Apple Maps looks like 4 hours from Miami to Key West, it’ll take much longer.
5. The Remoteness
Finally, some people want to escape to a tropical paradise for a vacation. But doing so means being pretty far from conveniences like grocery stores and medical facilities.
Because the Overseas Highway is only two lanes, it can take hours to get from one location to another within the Keys themselves.
If you camp at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and want to drive to Miami for the day, it’ll take at least 2 hours with no delays.
If you rent a house in Islamorada and want to go to Key West for an excursion, it’ll take more than 90 minutes with no delays.
Pro Tip: You’ll love exploring these 7 Underrated Florida Tourist Attractions.
Is a Trip to the Florida Keys Worth It?
So now you have to decide if a trip to the Florida Keys is worth it. Is it worth paying for a vacation during the winter when the weather is ideal? Is it worth fighting the crowds and traffic to enjoy a few days at an island resort?
Some people will say absolutely. The Florida Keys remain on their bucket list. Others say they can have a more enjoyable vacation visiting St. Lucia or Baja California.
What do you think? Do the pros of a tropical vacation in the Florida Keys outweigh the cons?
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