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The Keys for a Perfect Vacation

The Florida Keys are a 100-mile-long string of islands, just off the southern Floridian coast. Formed from the waste produced by subtropical coral reefs over millions of years, they are a paradise for lovers of the Great Outdoors, offering snorkeling, diving, walking and wildlife in abundance. Of all the Keys, Key West is the one that attracts the most visitors, boasting colorful streets, friendly bars and delicious cuisine. Hotels in the Florida Keys are as eclectic as the islands themselves, offering comfortable accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets.

With accommodation options aplenty, it can be difficult to decide where in the Florida Keys to stay. If you haven’t made your mind up, it’s best to look at the Keys in three groups, rather than as individuals. To make things easier, start off by considering Florida Keys hotels in the Upper Keys, Middle Keys and the Lower Keys.

The Upper Keys

Key Largo is one of the best places to start your tour. The most northerly of the islands, it has earned its reputation as ‘The Diving Capital of the World’, thanks to the abundance of sea-life that live there. Divers and snorkelers can also explore a genuine shipwreck and marvel at the kaleidoscope of colors presented by the only living coral reef in North America. Key Largo is also only around 15 minutes’ drive from the spectacular Everglades National Park, where you can take an airboat ride and spot ‘gators slipping into reed-strewn rivers.

Islamorada is made up of six islands and you’ll find some excellent, small, boutique hotels in the Florida Keys here. For sun-worshippers, there are some sun-bleached beaches to enjoy, while the sapphire seas are alive with water sports enthusiasts, divers, and fishermen. However, it’s not all about the beach; you’ll find some excellent attractions in Islamorada, too, including the Indian Key State Historic Site, the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, and the Theater of the Sea.

Middle Keys

Known as ‘The Heart of the Keys’, Marathon is an island with family fun at its core. As well as playing home to white-powered beaches there are also some superb sights to see, such as the Dolphin Research Center and the world-famous Turtle Hospital. The island’s relationship with the ocean is celebrated in everything from the sumptuous cuisine to the seafood festivals. Here, Florida Keys hotels range from rustic inns to fully-facilitated family resorts.

Lower Keys

In keeping with their name, the Lower Keys are where you want to go for a more laid-back vacation. Key Bahia Honda is home to the Key Bahia Honda State Park, which covers most of the island, and is the ideal spot for snorkeling and diving. The waters are teeming with reef fish and rays and the beaches are out of this world; perfect for couples who want to escape the crowds.

While Big Pine Key has all the natural wonders you’d expect from exotic islands, it’s also widely regarded as the best place to come for shopping. In addition to the diving shops, you’ll find fashion stores, home furnishings, gift shops, antique stores, and the Big Pine Shopping Center. Take some time out to visit the Big Pine Key Fleamarket on a weekend, where you’ll find stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to vintage clothing and crafts.

Key West

Birthplace of the world-famous Key Lime Pie and inspiration for writers and artists, such as Tennessee Williams, Ernest Hemmingway, and Truman Capote, Key West is one of the most popular of the Florida Keys. It’s also home to some of the best Florida Keys hotels. Boasting friendly bars and restaurants serving up local delicacies such as conch fritters, seafood chowders and fish tacos, there’s a permanent carnival ‘feel’ to the whole island. Shopping is excellent and there are festivals throughout the year. With all this and some of the best beaches in Florida, it’s easy to see why this, of all the Florida Keys, is the most famous.