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Enjoy Key West Without Going Broke–Top Five Tips

Being a tourist can be expensive. If you’re blessed financially, more power to you. However, if you’re like most people, you make sacrifices in one area of your life to afford spending in another.

After a dozen trips to Key West in the past decade, I’ve learned a few tricks to experiencing the getaway of a lifetime without going home broke.

  1. Rent a bike or scooter. Traveling in Key West via taxi and car can be expensive. By biking or motoring around Old Town, you will avoid the hassle of parking fees and experience the island on a more personal level.
  2.  Eat where the locals eat. Bo’s Fish Wagon at 801 Caroline Street isn’t much to look at, but provides an inexpensive, tasty lunch-on-the-go. Enjoy a delicious Cuban meal for a very reasonable price at El Siboney on Catherine and Margaret. Trek over to Petronia Street and check out the Bahama Village stores for other hidden food deals. Take advantage of local bar and restaurant Happy Hours, such as Alonso’s 1/2 price appetizers.
  3. Enjoy its public beaches. Pack your water bottles (purchase a 6-pack at CVS) and a couple pieces of fruit (from your Continental Breakfast or mom-and-pop deli), beach towels, and your favorite book. Snorkel the clear waters at Fort Zachary for a nominal entrance and gear fee, and then read on the beach in the shade of a tall pine tree until you get your fill.
  4. Stroll Duval Street. People-watch your way from Upper Duval with its upscale retailers and art galleries to Lower Duval with its quirky souvenir shops and tourist bars.
  5. Intersperse splurge activities with budget ones. You’ve traveled a long way to enjoy a dream holiday with your loved one. Choose one or two extravagant activities–go all out! (SEE BELOW for suggestions)


SPLURGE Activities:


MODERATE Activities:

  • Sunset Sail
  • Eco Kayak and Snorkeling Tour
  • Party Boat — Fishing or Snorkeling with a larger group
  • AQUA Club Drag Show
  • Parasailing
  • Jet Skiing


BUDGET Activities:

  • Key West Cemetery
  • Key West Butterfly Conservatory
  • Nancy’s Secret Garden
  • Ghost Tour
  • Ernest Hemingway Museum and Home
  • West Martello Tower
  • Peruse local FREE newspapers for lectures, exhibits, concerts, matinees, gallery openings, or library programs


Please share your travel tips with us! We all love to save money, right?

12 comments on “Enjoy Key West Without Going Broke–Top Five Tips

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jill. Thanks for the kind words and I’m happy you enjoyed the post. Hopefully you will be able to get away there sooner rather than later. 🙂

  1. I wish I was there now too! It’s been years since I visited the Keys, but I wish I had these tips then. I can’t remember where we ate, but I tried oysters for the first time in the Keys! And we did moderate spending by jet skiing. These are great tips! We definitely take advantage of continental breakfast or coffee services and grab our morning cups then head out and walk around town early in the day. And we’ll do a drink and appetizer for lunch, which is less spendy, allows more time to bum around to activities, then treat ourselves for a nice dinner.

    Another fave way to save money during vacation is when the hotel has a mini fridge. One night or two, we’ll have a romantic dinner in by feasting on fresh fruit (we tried lychee and rabutan? in Toronto) and cheese and some crackers, and we’ll try to get a local bottle of wine. Maybe take a bath together… You know where this is going. 😀 I love vacations!

    1. LOL. Happy to have provided a moment of relaxation and memories for you, Jess. I love baths for two, especially with a glass of wine and fresh strawberries. Yum. . 😉 Yeah, I know where you’re going…

  2. You’re making it so enticing that I feel that I have to go. How are the prices in Sept? My anniversary is then. Hmmmm.

    1. Hi Donna! You will LOVE Key West. That month, once you get past Labor Day weekend and Woman Fest is considered lower season for the island. For example, the Key West Grand Guesthouse where we stay has suites for $148-$158 a night beginning September 17th. You can always check out the B&B queen rooms at various places or budget hotels (email me for details if you’re interested) if you want to spend less per night. Luxury hotels in Key West are quite expensive no matter the time of year (like Vegas, I suppose). September has the potential for hurricanes, so if you decide to travel then I’d purchase travel insurance. It’s reasonable.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Donna, and I wish you happy anniversary planning. 🙂

      1. Keep this up, Lisa Jo and you should ask for pay with all the publicity you’re generating. lol

    1. Hi Jeannie! Key West has something for everyone. You can be as crazy as you’d like (without breaking the law, of course) or as laid-back as you wish. I tend to be a bit of both, which is why it’s a perfect place for me. 😉

      Feel free to ask for more information, and you can always email me with personal details or requests. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  3. Jolyse,

    I am currently getting ready for my next Hemingway look alike contest at Sloppy Joe’s, in Key West, on July 19th. I look forward to seeing you there again.

    Papa James

    1. Hi Papa James! So nice of you to stop by. My husband and I had hoped to make it back down to KW for Hemingway Days this summer, but unfortunately it coincides with my writing conference. While you’re vying for top Papa at Sloppy Joe’s, I’ll be pitching my romantic suspense novels in Atlanta. 🙂

      We wish you the best of luck, and will follow the contest from afar. Looking forward to our next getaway to the Conch Republic in October. ENJOY!!!!

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