Key West vs Key Largo: Key Differences

Key West vs Key Largo: When you picture your vacation in Florida, what do you imagine? White sandy beaches? Palm trees a-plenty? Hot and humid weather? It can be hard to decide which of the Florida Keys islands to visit on your next trip. I mean when looking at Key West vs Key Largo, they’re much the same, right? Wrong! While they do share some similarities, they are also very different destinations.

The differences between Key West vs Key Largo:

Key West vs Key Largo: What's the Difference?
Key West vs Key Largo: What’s the Difference?

The vibe

When you visit Key West, you’ll immediately feel like you’re in a city in Florida. Sure, it’s an island city but it definitely gives off those city vibes. Key West is faster-paced and abuzz with businesses, tourist attractions and events taking place day and night. Lesser known Key Largo has more of a small town feel, with a slower pace and less touristy attractions.

Social scene

You can’t really compare the nightlife and social scene when looking at Key West vs Key Largo. Key West has a bustling social scene with no shortage of dive bars, restaurants and clubs. Some of Key West’s most popular bars include Captain Tony’s Saloon, Sloppy Joes and a clothing optional bar, Garden of Eden! Key Largo does have its share of bars however they are much more laidback. There are in fact far more dive shops than dive bars in Key Largo!

Aquatic activities

Key West and Key Largo are equally great for all aquatic activities and watersports. From snorkeling to swimming, fishing and kayaking, both islands are top-rated destinations for these kinds of activities. The reefs around both of the islands are very healthy and teeming with marine life. Key Largos gets a few extra points for snorkeling, especially at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. There are underwater statues and a Spanish shipwreck to explore which attract plenty of exotic fish.


When you think of Florida beaches, your mind automatically drifts to popular Miami Beach or Daytona Beach. While the beaches on Key West and Key Largo are much smaller they’re also just better! Less crowded, more private and a much more relaxed atmosphere than the mainland beaches. One of the best beaches in Key West is Rest Beach. On any given day you’re likely to find people picnicking, walking their pooches or reading a book on the beach. Given that Key West has more of a city vibe than Key Largos, there are a lot more beach bars and cafés so grabbing lunch or a cold beer is much more convenient.


If you’re visiting the Florida Keys to embark on a fishing charter, choose between Key West vs Key Largo carefully! Key West does come out tops for fishing, mainly because much of the waters surrounding Key Largo are protected and ban fishing. Key West on the other hand hosts a number of fishing competitions year round with big prize pools up for grabs. For serious fishermen, hop onto a fishing charter operated by top-rated Dream Catcher Charters for the best fishing experience in Key West.

Natural Beauty

Key West vs Key Largo: The Keys are Know for their Natural Beauty
Key West vs Key Largo: The Keys are Know for their Natural Beauty

When comparing Key West vs Key Largo, many may wonder which of the two islands is the more beautiful destination? Both locations are picture-perfect with palm-lined streets, white sandy beaches and blue seas. As a bigger but less developed island, Key Largo has a number of national parks, creeks and vibrant coral reefs with more diverse flora, fauna and mammals. You’ll also find more exotic fish here because of the ban on fishing which protects the local fish population.

Key West is a much smaller island so sadly as it has grown in popularity and thus become more developed much of the natural beauty has been encroached upon by hotels, restaurants and bars. This is one of the key differences between the two islands.

Proximity to Miami

As the heart of Florida, many tourists travel through to the Florida Keys from Miami. You can reach Key Largo within an hour whereas the drive to Key West can take up to 3.5 hours if the traffic is heavy. The scenery on the drive through to Key West is incredible with a highlight for many being crossing Overseas Bridge which connects the mainland to the island city.

Getting Around

As a relatively small island, you can easily get around Key West on foot or on bicycles. Key Largo is a much bigger island and you’ll probably want to look at hiring a car if you didn’t drive through in one.


Quirky Key West is well-known for its colorful history which is often one of its main drawcards. From Ernest Hemingway to six-toed cats and a number of beautiful historical homes to being on a popular trade route that once brought pirates to the island hundreds of years ago, Key West is anything but ordinary! Key Largos has far less familiar historical attractions with its most notable one being the SS Benwood shipwreck from 1942.


Key West vs Key Largo: Sunset from Key West
Key West vs Key Largo: Sunset from Key West

If you’re familiar with the Florida Keys it’s likely you’ve heard about the incredible sunsets Key West is famous for. Key West’s positioning gives it a unique and rare perspective of the sunset, with the sun looking like it is practically sinking into the ocean as it sets. This is often followed by the green flash phenomenon which draws thousands of locals and tourists alike to watch as the sun vanishes into the depths of the ocean. In fact, the vantage point Mallory Square can get pretty festive every evening with people floating into the surrounding bars and restaurants after observing the sunset.

When deciding between Key West vs Key Largos, the decision is actually easier when you ask yourself what the point of your trip is. If a small-town feel with a focus on snorkeling and a take-it-easy attitude is what you’re up for, then Key Largos is the right place for you. If you prefer a vibier atmosphere and love all things weird and wonderful, Key West sure won’t disappoint!


See Also:

7 Unique Things To Do In Key West

Best Time To Visit Key West (& Monthly Events)

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