Key West hotels

There are forty hotels in Key West and five questions you need to ask in order to find the perfect hotel for you here in Key West. My aim is to narrow your short list down to a couple of Key West hotels from which you can make your final choice.

The big 5 questions are:
  • When do you want to stay / how much in advance are you now from your stay?
  • What is your budget? To read my post on the best cheap / value hotels in Key West - click here
  • How far away from the center of Key West do you want to be?
  • How important to you is an ocean view?
  • Would you consider a guest house?
Later down this post, I look at my favorite hotel and evaluate some of the bigger hotels, or "resorts" as they all call themselves here, on Key West including Hyatt, Pier House, Casa Marina, Galleon, Ocean Key and the Westin.

First, let's consider these 5 questions, one by one:

When do you want to stay / how far in advance are we now of that date?
This is important because Key West is very seasonal. Peak season is between December and April and during this time:
  • Key West is very full
  • Hotels have very high occupancy rates, i.e. in the 90% during the week and 100% at the weekend
  • Best hotels get booked up months in advance
  • The prices of most rooms in most hotels are 30% more expensive than during off peak time
You might be thinking at this point of coming in the off peak time. If you are new to Key West then this is when it's really, really humid and so I don't recommend you come off peak. If you want to learn more about the best and worst times to visit Key West, I've written another post on this here.

My recommendation: Visit Key West December through May. Book at least 6 months in advance to get the best room rates. More in advance if you can.

What is your budget?
With only 40 hotels in Key West, rooms are limited. And a lot of people want to come and stay. As a result, Key West tends NOT to be a cheap destination to stay. You will get better value from guesthouses and B&Bs (even they are expensive!) but it's worth checking out.

For my list of the best cheap / high value hotels and B&Bs - click here.

My recommendation: if hotel, expect to pay a little more than you might be expecting.

How far from the center of Key West do you want to be?
First, let's define what the "action" is. Not much happens (for tourists anyway) far away from Duval Street - the red line on the map below, to the left of the map. The busier end in every respect (bars, restaurants, tourist attractions and hotels) is the north end. Most of the big, branded, chain hotels are there. See my map below and the red arrow top left that says Top Hotels.
Hotel map of Key West 
The Casa Marina is a way away from the action, as you can see from my map (the purple arrow at the bottom middle).

Some of the cheaper hotel options are in New Town (see the big blue arrow pointing right on the map above). Then you'll need a car, taxi or hotel shuttle - too far to walk into Old Town  (i.e. DON'T stay here!!). I do not review these hotels in this post.

Here are they Key West "neighborhoods" (Key West is too small to have neighborhoods, but you know what I mean):

From Most central to least central
  • Duval Street and Front Street - the epicenter of action in downtown. Everything is a stumble away.  A car here is a positive disadvantage and will cost you to park. Big name hotels are here - including  the Westin, Hyatt, Ocean Key resort, Pier House.
  • Off Duval, first 8 blocks. Whilst I personally would think twice about staying right on Duval because of the noise, which lasts until 3am every night, a block or two back would be ok.  On Duval is La Concha and a few blocks on La Ti Da.
  • Far end of Duval - 14 blocks away and up the other, ocean, end of Duval is Southernmost House hotel and Santa Maria Suites (#1 on TA). And a little further along is the very historic Casa Marina hotel, now a Waldorf Astoria chain hotel.
  • East of Duval but in Old Town - many of the inns and B&Bs occupy old mansions or houses and long one of the tree lined, wide roads of Old Town - Eaton Street, Fleming Street, Truman Avenue.
  • Way out in New Town - right by the entrance/exit to the island and the main roads around the island - there are many big resort hotels. You'll need to drive into Duval from here as the walk is well over an hour.
  • Island off the Island - 400 metres away from Front Street is the small island of Sunset Key and Westin cottages. There is a small boat that goes back and forth to get you there. 
My recommendation: Stay in Old Town, but not essential to be right near Duval Street or Mallory Square (too noisy). Everywhere in Old Town is walkable in 20 minutes and the walk is pretty.

How important is an ocean view to you?
If yes, then you'll need to pay a premium and this will cut down your choices to fewer hotels. Beware "partial ocean view"  when booking and make sure exactly how partial it is.

If you're lucky and can pay, and you choose a good, ocean view room in one of the big Front Street hotels - you can get a great view.

Would you consider a guest house at all?
Push aside any preconceptions you have. There are some very high quality guesthouses here and some distinct benefits - click here to find out more.

My recommendation: seriously consider a guest house. They are more "Key West" and more fun.

My views are independent: I am not affiliated or paid by anyone in this blog post. These views are all mine, and mine only. I am a regular visitor to Key West, who has been taking vacations in Key West for the last 14 years. I hope you find my independent views useful and you have a great stay in Key West.


NOW LET'S LOOK AT SOME SPECIFIC KEY WEST HOTELS

The Big 6 - and my favorite hotel of all the Big Hotels
The Key West Hyatt (green and blue loungers) in the foreground. Pier House to the back left. You get an idea of the ocean view. This picture is taken from roof of the Galleon resort.
When I say Big 6 I am talking about the Big 6 brand hotels which are arranged in a line in the center of town along Front Street - in geographic order:
And then add a 6th, a few miles way, the other big player, the Casa Marina hotel, a Hilton hotel.

A few general comments about ALL these Big Hotels:

Cost
These hotels will be expensive. In peak season, very expensive. With the best ocean views, very very expensive.

You can get a much better deal if you stay (in a guest house or) out of peak time when the rooms typically in KW are 40% less cost than peak.

These cost considerations are dealt with here in my post on the best time in the year to visit Key West.

Centrality vs noise 
These are all near ground zero in Key West, the very center of town, with the busiest activity and background noise.  The furthest away is the Galleon which is less than 6 minutes walk form the 'most central' which is the Westin.  BUT...

You'll find that the noise increases a lot as you do down the list and move towards Mallory Square.  So the Hyatt will be the quietest. By the time you're got to Ocean Key and the Westin it will be noisy  - as we shall see later, the rooms there are right above the main boardwalk. Ocean Key is also noisy with noisy Mallory Square on one side and their noisy pier on the other.  

So if you want relaxation with your sea view, then bear this in mind. In this case, you'll much prefer the Hyatt or Pier House.

Ocean view
They are all on the ocean and have ocean views.  Some of these hotels though are sprawling complexes and so many of the rooms are inwards facing and have poor views. Of course, if you can pay enough you'll get a suite with a great sea view.  But with some of the rooms you'll get a view of a palm tree and nothing else.  So choose your room type carefully. And in peak time don't assume you'll get/be able to upgrade - your hotel will be full.

Beach (or sandy area) as part of/in the hotel
There is no natural beach in this part of Key West. Three of the hotels (Hyatt, Galleon and Pier House) have artificially made a beach (as well as a pool) by 'importing' sand. They are SMALL/tiny. But better than nothing... the other two (Ocean Key and Westin) have not bothered - there is no beach.  If you are going to pay that much money for these hotels then I would go for the beach, even if artificial. The best "beach" is Pier House.


My overall favorite of all these 6 is: PIER HOUSE RESORT.

Here is my very quick guide, but click the links to get my more in depth view of each:

Favorite of the Big 6 - Pier House. Buy only if you splash out on an ocean view room. If you have garden view, you might prefer the others. Lots of bars, a real resort, largest beach (apart from Casa Marina). More space than the others.

Hyatt. If you prefer it much quieter. Seems well run and well maintained though. Would be good choice.

Galleon. The budget choice as the rooms are feeling a little tired and old now.

Ocean Key. The best (only just, there is not much in it) on Tripadvisor but I don't see why. Too noisy as it's right on Mallory Square. Good if you don't mind it mega busy.

Westin. Don't stay here. The buildings have little style. Built above the stores and shops in the harbor where the cruise ships dock. Pay for ocean view and get a view of a huge ugly cruise ship.

The Casa Marina - Miles away but the biggest beach by far. Huge beach compared to the rest. If you don't want to do much exploring in Key West, instead stay in this resort, consider it. Very historic and good looking hotel.

My full line up of favorites are ...

BEST LARGE HOTEL: Pier House hotel

BEST BOUTIQUE HOTEL: Marquesa hotel

BEST GUEST HOUSE: Almond Inn

BEST GAY GUEST HOUSE: Alexander's


Here are just a few pictures of  my overall favorite hotel, Pier House resort. Click on this link to see full review.





Looking at the other Front Street end hotels one by one

Let's start with the Hyatt. 

It seems to me many of the rooms have a sea view

Sun deck on the sea at the Hyatt
Hyatt Summary:
  • Looks like you get a reasonable sea view from a lot of the rooms, although many face into the pool as well
  • 2 micro beaches
  • Good feel to the place
  • Bit Hyatt corporate
The Pier House is next, it's my choice of these 4 and I covered this hotel at the top of this article.

Then next door again on to Ocean Key Hotel....




Next hotel. If you stay at the Westin resort you're right bang in the middle of downtown.

It's a large sprawling resort, right on the dock, stretching over 400 metres.

Be careful here as the cruise liners dock right in front of the hotel blocking the view of the ocean. Many of the rooms look out on the ocean but with a very busy walk way in front. I would not stay here.

Read my full review of the Westin Key West resort.

The rooms of the Westin face out onto the very busy public pier/harbor area. Nude sunbathing from your hotel balcony not recommended unless you like an audience!

One hotel to go.  And now for something totally different....

We zoom to the other end of Duval Street (and then a little more east) - 2 miles away.  And the Casa Marina, a very historic hotel (it was Flagler's hotel, opened in 1920), but now in a chain - the Waldorf Astoria/Hilton.

WHAT'S GOOD ABOUT CASA MARINA
  • It's big and impressive
  • It's design led and cool minimalist (contrast with the tropical themes of many of the other big hotels down by the harbor)
  • It's got the biggest beach by far
  • Lovely beach and sea access
  • It'll be quiet
WHAT MIGHT BE AN ISSUE ABOUT CASA MARINA
  • It's the biggest hotel so I guess it gets very busy
  • It's not at all near the action, or near anything for that matter.  It's a good 45 minute walk from the hotel, down Duval, to Front Street and the tourist attractions and bars.  
See here for my full review of the Casa Marina hotel.
Basically, if you want a relaxing time and the beach and the sun is important then stay here.  If you'll be in and out of the bars and shops and tourist attractions then this might not be the place for you.
The beach at the grand Casa Marina hotel in Key West and the rooms with sea view behind it. The beach is this hotel's best features.

Thanks for reading. If you have found this useful or you have any other suggestions or recommendations please do leave a comment below.


Other posts on my site you'll find useful

Key West guesthouses

Planing a Key West vacation

Best time to visit Key West