Best Time to Visit Key West for Weather, Prices, and Crowds

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Aerial view of a port with greenish-blue water and boats
Key West is home to the only living coral reef system in the continental US

Key West is a tropical island paradise just a few hours from the South Florida mainland. It is known for its sparkling turquoise waters which are home to the only living coral reef system in the continental US. This reef system is one of the largest in the world and a top attraction for divers and snorkelers.

Although Key West is part of the United States, it feels much more like a Caribbean island. There's plenty of sunshine, tropical breezes, and a laid-back island vibe. In addition to the beaches and water recreation, Key West is full of museums, historic landmarks, and a bustling nightlife. The world-famous Duval Street is home to pubs, restaurants, unique shops, quirky art galleries, and even haunted places!

Key West is also known for its unique and fiery festivals. From the costumed revelry of Fantasy Fest to hoards of Hemingway lookalikes that take on Duval Street for Hemingway Days, there's always a party! Whether planning to attend a festival or just relaxing on a beach, read on to learn when the best time to visit Key West is.

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Best Time to Go to Key West

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Key West Vacation Planning Questions

Islands surrounded by a body of water with sailboats in the distance
The best time to visit Key West depends on the activities you want to do
A green kayak in the water and an island with trees in the distance
November through March is a great time to visit if you plan on being on the water

When is the best time to visit Key West?

Like many destinations, deciding on when to visit Key West can depend on what you plan to do there. Certain times of the year may be better suited for specific activities or events. Since most people go to the Keys to spend some time in and on its sparkling green-blue waters, winter and spring are usually the best. Specifically, the months of November through March.

This time of the year brings cooler temperatures, lower humidity, less rain, and most importantly--no threat of hurricanes! While these are the cooler months, Key West's tropical climate still brings plenty of sunshine and warm weather in which to enjoy the beaches and water activities. The typically calm, clear blue waters of this time of year are also ideal for Key West's popular kayaking eco-tours.

A body of water with buildings and palm trees next to the water
Key West has lower hotel prices in August and September, during hurricane season

When is the cheapest time to visit Key West?

The cheapest time to visit Key West is during August and September. Hotel prices have been known to be up to 50% lower than normal rates. A lot of tourists tend to avoid traveling here due to the oppressive and uncomfortable weather conditions with temperatures reaching into the 90s degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity, and frequent rainstorms.

Note that August and September are the most active months of the hurricane season. Visitors should have a hurricane evacuation plan in place. The entire island of Key West is a hurricane evacuation zone.

Regardless of which time you visit, there are a ton of free things to do in Key West. If you are on a budget, August or September can be a great time to visit.

Markus Mainka/
The best time to visit Key West is in January if you want to save money on flights
January is a popular time to visit Key West, for lower flight prices

When is the cheapest time to fly to Key West?

Key West's airport is quite small and houses only one terminal. Prices can vary drastically depending on departure city and ticket demand. Overall, according to online flight price data trackers, January trends toward lower prices. If you are planning to fly there, January may be the cheapest month to visit Key West.

Keep in mind that although flight prices for January may be lower, that doesn't mean hotel prices will be. January is still a busy time for Key West but it is often filled with in-state visitors. Local vacationers are more likely to drive to Key West than fly there.

Body of water next to a building with a dark and cloudy sky
Key West is considered rain season in late summer (August and September)

When is the worst time to visit Key West?

Key West is a year-round tropical paradise. While that may include some days of scorching hot weather or torrential downpours, there's still no bad time to visit Key West!

The less ideal time to visit would be during late summer and early fall. This encompasses August and September when the weather is very hot, humid, and rainy. It's also during the peak of hurricane season. Visitors should have a hurricane evacuation plan as the entire island is in an evacuation zone.

Short of a hurricane threat ruining your trip, a great time can still be had if your Key West itinerary is flexible. Rainy afternoons are great for exploring unique museums like the Key West Shipwreck Museum or Hemingway House. Or, you can escape the heat with a frozen drink in one of the many famous pubs on Duval Street.

Waves crashing against a wall with streetlamps and a cloudy-dark sky
Key West is an evacuation zone during the Atlantic Hurricane Season

When is the Key West hurricane season?

Key West is in the Atlantic Hurricane Season which runs from June to the end of November. Hurricanes can develop at any time and visitors to Key West during hurricane season should always have an evacuation plan in case of a hurricane threat. The entire island of Key West is an evacuation zone.

Chuck Wagner/
A Christmas tree in front of an arch with a blue sunny sky
Key West attracts "snowbirds" from northern states and Canada during winter

When is the Key West high season?

Key West's high season is in winter. This includes the months of December, January, and February. The Keys not only sees an influx of holiday travelers but also those escaping the north's cold winters. Northerners see winter as the best time to travel to Key West.

Like most of Florida, Key West has "snowbird" residents this time of year. Snowbirds are northern states and Canadian residents who live part-time in Florida in the winter. High season brings high crowd levels leading to more expensive hotel prices, especially around Christmas and New Year.

A wooden walkway with palm trees on either side of it leading to the water
Key West's off-season is during hurricane season from August to September

When is the Key West off-season?

The off-season in Key West is late summer and early fall. Visitation starts dropping after Independence Day (July 4th) and reaches its lowest point around August and September. This is mostly due to the end of summer vacations with schools going back in August.

August and September in Key West are hot, humid, and rainy. It is also the height of hurricane season. Visitors can still enjoy much that Key West has to offer but should be prepared for intemperate weather and potential hurricane threats.

A school of fish swimming in the blue-green water
The best time for snorkeling in Key West is between December and May

When is the best time to snorkel in Key West?

While water conditions vary, winter and spring are generally considered the best for snorkeling. December through May is considered the drier season and water clarity is at its best. If snorkeling is part of your plans, this is the best time to travel to Key West.

There are plenty of places to snorkel in Key West. If water conditions are not great in a particular area, your boat captain will often change course. Because winter and spring tend to have the best water conditions, snorkeling is a top attraction in Key West and available year-round barring dangerous weather.

From reef snorkeling trips to snorkeling right off the beach and even snorkeling tours of private islands, Key West has no shortage of snorkeling options.

Weather, Prices, and Crowds in Key West

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Buildings and streets along with a large cruise ship in the water
Planning a trip to Key West while considering the weather, prices and crowds

Key West in January

Key West in January has cooler temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to upper 70s degrees Fahrenheit. Crowds thin out after the New Year's holiday but local Florida vacationers and snowbirds remain. According to online flight price data trackers, flights to Key West are typically lower in January. However, hotel pricing remains fairly high due to the high volume of in-state travelers.

January does see some of the coldest water temperatures that Key West gets, from 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people find this a bit too cold to venture into the water but it's an excellent opportunity to take a glass-bottom boat tour of the reef.

Runners flock to Key West in January for the Key West Half Marathon and 5 km race. This iconic race in ideal conditions runners will be treated to the most gorgeous views they will find anywhere in the US during a January race.

Key West in February

Key West in February has pleasant weather with temperatures that range from the upper 60s to upper 70s degrees Fahrenheit. Crowds and pricing in February are moderate as the winter high season draws to a close.

The water temperature can still be a little cold for some people averaging around 70 degrees Fahrenheit but it's a perfect time for other outdoor activities. You could set off on one of Key West's famous walking tours. The Southernmost Food and Cultural Walking Tour is one of the most popular tours and showcases the city's history, culture, and cuisine.

Key West in March

Key West in March kicks off springtime with warmer temperatures that hover around the upper 70s degrees Fahrenheit for both air and water. Many see this as the best month to visit Key West as it is ideal weather for water activities like kayaking and snorkeling.

However, March is the beginning of spring break season so crowds and pricing start to climb, especially near the popular party destination of Duval Street. Beaches are packed during the day followed by packed pubs and clubs on Duval Street at night. Pub Crawls and Sunset Party Cruises are very popular and tickets often sell out.

Key West in April

Key West in April is still in spring break season featuring busy beaches during the day and packed pubs at night. However, the crowds start to thin toward the end of the month. Hotel pricing remains moderate to high depending on location. Accommodation in hotspots like Duval Street will often fetch a much higher price.

The weather in Key West in April is pleasant with long sunny days, temperatures around 70s degrees Fahrenheit, and tropical breezes. It's warm enough for beach days and snorkel trips but not overly hot like in the summer.

The Conch Republic Independence Celebration takes place in April. This weeklong festival celebrates the unique history of Key West and how it came to be known as The Conch Republic.

Key West in May

Key West in May is when temperatures begin to rise. Average daily highs can be in the mid to upper 80s degrees Fahrenheit. The good news is water conditions are often excellent in May so beachgoers and snorkelers will enjoy cooling off in the calm, clear blue waters.

May is typically less crowded than in early spring. At this point, all of the spring breakers and winter vacationers have left. Prices are moderate but hotels will take advantage of Memorial Day weekend and tourists who want accommodation for other desirable events.

Several events take place in May in Key West including the famous Key West Songwriters Festival, a 5-day-long celebration of music as well as the Key West Whiskey Festival and Keys 100 Ultramarathon.

Key West in June

Key West in June is the beginning of summer which brings much warmer and wetter weather. Visitors can expect temperatures in the high 80s degrees Fahrenheit, high humidity, and rain. June is also the beginning of hurricane season. While historically not many hurricanes occur this early in the season, any visitors to the island during hurricane season should have an evacuation plan.

June is Pride Month and Key West hosts their famous Key West Pride Festival. This week-long celebration of parades, parties, and concerts brings visitors from all over the world. Hotel accommodation can be on the pricier side, especially near Duval Street where many of the festivities take place. The end of June also kicks off the Key Lime Festival, another tourist drawcard.

Key West in July

Key West in July is one of the hottest months with temperatures in the 90s degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the heat, July is probably the best month to visit Key West for festive celebrations. From Independence Day to the Key Lime Festival to the Hemingway Days Festival, July is a busy month for Key West.

Celebrating Independence Day (July 4th) and the Key Lime Festival are crowd drawers. The Key Lime Festival takes place in the last week of June and the first week of July celebrating the island's signature fruit, the key lime. Visitors can taste a number of special confections made from the famous fruit, from mouthwatering key lime pies and fudge to interesting tasting key lime wine and beer.

Hemingway Days Festival takes place towards the end of July and celebrates the life and legacy of Ernest Hemingway, the island's most famous resident. Revolving around his birthday on July 21, the festival is full of competitions, literary readings, and plenty of costumes. Hundreds of Hemingway lookalikes can be spotted all over Key West as part of a famous contest held every year.

Because July has some of the best Key West events, crowds and prices are high. Hotels closest to Duval Street are even pricier but still book out quickly. Visitors should also keep in mind it is still hurricane season.

Key West in August

Key West in August is another of the hottest and rainiest months. Temperatures are commonly in the 90s degrees Fahrenheit and humidity levels are high. Tropical activity increases with frequent thunderstorms and the possibility of a hurricane developing is at its highest. Key West visitors in August should have an evacuation plan in place as the entire island is an evacuation zone.

When rainy days occur, the trolley tour can offer a more comfortable (and covered) way to explore the city and see famous Key West landmarks. You'll also learn history and some fun facts about the city.

Crowds and hotel pricing in August is typically on the lower end except during the week of the Key West Lobsterfest. This usually occurs early in the month and brings lots of Florida locals to the area.

Key West in September

Key West in September is still quite hot and humid. Temperatures are commonly in the mid to high 80s degrees Fahrenheit. Chances of a hurricane forming are still high so September visitors to the Keys should have a plan in place in case of evacuation.

The beginning of the month can be slightly busier with Labor Day Weekend and the Key West Brew Fest. After that, the crowds taper off a bit before the next big surge of visitors in October. Mid to late September is one of the least crowded times in Key West. Hotel pricing can be low to moderate.

Key West in October

Key West in October sees some relief from the intense summer heat with temperatures returning to the moderate 70s and 80s degrees Fahrenheit. It also kicks off one of the busiest times of the year in Key West--Fantasy Fest.

Fantasy Fest is a 10-day, adults-only-themed costume event featuring parades, parties, and music. Locals compare Fantasy Fest to a mix of Mardi Gras and Halloween. Duval Street is packed with parade floats and costumed revelers until all hours of the night. Hotel prices are at an all-time high during Fantasy Fest and must be booked far in advance.

Key West in November

Key West in November starts to become more crowded as holiday travelers and snowbird residents begin to arrive. November marks the end of hurricane season and the temperatures hover around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The pleasant climate makes outdoor activities more enjoyable.

The famous Key West Film Festival takes place in November and often draws in large crowds. Thanksgiving week is also a busy time. Hotel pricing in November can be moderate to high. November's cooler nights are a great time to take one of Key West's famous ghost tours.

Key West in December

Key West in December is transformed into a holiday paradise from the Lighted Boat Parade to the Key West Holiday Fest. Duval Street is all decked out in lights and tourists and locals alike can be seen enjoying the festivities. You may even catch a glimpse of a surfing Santa Claus! The holidays are regarded by many as the best time of year to visit Key West.

December weather is pleasant with temperatures in the 70s degrees Fahrenheit and perfect for all outdoor activities--except for perhaps swimming. December gets crowded in Key West and accommodation is at a premium, especially over Christmas and New Year's Eve. Duval Street is the hotspot for holiday parties and other events. December offers a nice mix of holiday festivities in a warm tropical environment.

In Summary

An island paradise such as Key West is a rare gem in the US, so it's no wonder so many flock there year-round. No matter in what season you travel there, you'll be sure to find lots of things to see and do on your Key West vacation. From beautiful beaches and turquoise waters to the buzz of Duval Street and hoards of Hemingways, there's no other place like Key West!

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Written by Lauren Rey

L_Rey FORMER WRITER Lauren might be based in Florida, but she is always plotting out a new road trip route with her partner-in-crime, Pickles. Pickles is a mixed-breed rescue dog that loves hiking, road trips, and Starbucks as much as her mom does!

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