Where to stay in Key West for first time: 4 Safe areas

Finding where to stay in Key West as a first-timer can be overwhelming. That’s why, in today’s article, I will help you to find safe places to stay in Key West for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safe areas to stay in Key West for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and things to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Key West and recommend some of the best hotels for various budgets.

Key West is a popular tourist destination located at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, a chain of islands off the southern coast of Florida, USA.  It is approximately 145 km north of Cuba and is known for its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and vibrant coral reefs.

Key West has a rich history, including its association with famous figures such as Ernest Hemingway and President Harry S. Truman. The city was also a base for treasure hunters and pirates in the past.

It also has a unique and quirky history, including its brief secession from the United States in 1982. The residents humorously declared the establishment of the Conch Republic as a protest against a roadblock set up by the U.S. Border Patrol.

Duval Street is a famous street in downtown Key West known for its vibrant nightlife, shopping, and restaurants. The Southernmost Point Buoy, popular spots for photos, marks the southernmost point in the continental United States. 

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is another popular attraction in Key West, where the famous author lived for many years. The property is home to polydactyl (six-toed) cats, descendants of Hemingway’s original cats.

The city is accessible by air through the Key West International Airport. Additionally, the Overseas Highway connects Key West to the mainland of Florida.

Is Key West safe to visit?

Key West is generally safe to visit. The city has a low  violent crime rate compared to  other areas of Florida. But, like any popular tourist destination, it’s advisable to take common-sense precautions to ensure your safety. 

This includes being aware of your surroundings, securing your belongings, locking your bike if you rent one, sticking to well-lit streets with more pedestrians at night, and avoiding walking alone at night in poorly lit areas.

Tourist areas like Historic Seaport, Duval Street, and Mallory Square are the safest parts of Key West for visitors to book their accommodations. Regardless of the neighborhood you are in, always use common sense and avoid doing things you wouldn’t do at home or in any other city.

Where to stay in Key West for the first time?

The best and safe areas to stay in Key West for first-timers and tourists are Duval Street, Historic Seaport, Casa Marina, and New Town/ Smathers Beach. These areas provide a variety of accommodations for all budgets and preferences.

Duval Street is one of the most popular areas to stay in Key West for first-time visitors and those who want to be in the heart of the action. This is the main thoroughfare in Key West and is known for its vibrant nightlife, shopping, and dining options. It can be noisy at night due to the bustling nightlife.

The Historic Seaport area offers a charming and picturesque setting with waterfront views. There are also plenty of restaurants, shops, and maritime activities in the vicinity.

Casa Marina is known for its beautiful beach and is a more relaxed and upscale area. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere and enjoy beachfront living, this might be a great choice.

New Town is a good base if you prefer a quieter and more laid-back atmosphere. This area offers a more residential feel and is close to Smathers Beach. The downside is that it’s farther from downtown, so you might need to take an Uber/taxi to reach the main tourist attractions.

During my trip to Key West, I stayed at the Southernmost Point Guest House & Garden Bar. It was a good value for money hotel located in a prime location on the lively Duval Street, easy access to the Southernmost Point and the beach. The room was spacious, bed comfortable, and breakfast was lovely.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Key West for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Key West first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Key West first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Key West, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Key West have been carefully selected by me from well-known and secure booking sites such as booking.com, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. 

If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

4 Safe areas to stay in Key West for first-timers and tourists:

1. Duval Street

Duval Street is one of the most iconic and lively areas in Key West, making it a popular choice for many first-timers and visitors. Duval Street is the heart of the city’s nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues.

Duval Street is lined with a variety of shops, boutiques, and galleries. You can find everything from souvenirs to high-end art, making it a great place for shopping enthusiasts.

The street is home to a diverse range of restaurants, cafes, and eateries, offering a variety of cuisines to suit different tastes. From seafood to international cuisine, you’ll find plenty of dining options.

Many popular attractions are located near or around Duval Street, including the historic district, museums, and landmarks like Mallory Square, Hemingway House, Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, and Southernmost Point. This makes it convenient for exploring the city on foot or by bike.

Duval Street often features street performers, artists, and various events, adding to the vibrant and entertaining atmosphere. It’s not uncommon to encounter live music or other forms of entertainment while strolling along the street.

Due to its popularity and vibrant nightlife, Duval Street can be noisy and crowded, especially at night. If you’re looking for a quiet and peaceful stay, this may not be the ideal area for you.

Best places to stay in Key West in Duval Street for first-timers:

Mid-range ($$): Truman Hotel, 3-star trendy boutique accommodation, centrally located on Truman Avenue, away from crowds and noise, but very close to Duval street, where you can find many restaurants, bars, and shops. Easy access to the hop-on-hop-off trolley and the free loop bus. It  has an outdoor pool, 24-hour front desk, beautiful courtyard, and modern guest rooms.

Mid-range ($$): Douglas House, great 3-star historic adult-only inn located in a quiet area close to Bahama village, 5 mins walk from the southernmost point of the United States. The hotel has free parking, which is a bonus for those who drive. There are no  elevators ( like most historical accommodation in Key West), you will need to use stairs to access second floor rooms.

Mid-range ($$): Simonton Court Historic Inn & Cottages, 4-star good value for money adult-only inn located on Simonton Street, easy distance from Duval Street, Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, and Mallory Square. It has 4 outdoor pools, parking, complimentary bike rentals services, and delicious breakfast. There are no elevators, you might have to carry your luggage to upper rooms via stairs.

Luxury ($$$): The Gardens Hotel, beautiful adult-only hotel located in the heart of Downtown Key West, just off Duval street, very close to Ernest Hemingway house and the sunset. It has spacious rooms, heated pools, gardens, and fabulous breakfast.

Budget ($): Blue Marlin Motel, 2-star good value for money motel conveniently located on Upper Duval,  away from the busy part of Duval Street, but easily walkable to everywhere in Key West, 5 mins walk from the southernmost point of the continental US and the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. The hotel has family rooms, and welcomes children of all ages.


2. Historic Seaport

The Historic Seaport is a prominent and picturesque area in Key West. It is situated along Key West Harbor and is easily accessible from popular attractions like Mallory Square and Duval Street.

The seaport features a scenic boardwalk and promenade along the waterfront. You can take a leisurely stroll, enjoy beautiful views of the harbor, and watch boats coming and going.

The area is home to a variety of shops, boutiques, and restaurants. You can find everything from nautical-themed souvenirs to locally made crafts. The restaurants offer a range of dining options too.

The seaport is a hub for water activities and excursions. You can book boat tours, fishing charters, snorkeling trips, and sunset cruises, allowing you to explore the surrounding waters.

There are several landmarks near the seaport, such as the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, Custom House ( now the Key West Museum of Art & History), Key West Aquarium, and Shipwreck Museum.

Best places to stay in Key West in Historic Seaport:

Mid-range ($$): Island City House, 3-star good value for money historic accommodation conveniently located on  William Street,  within distance from the sea port and everything in the old Town. Also close to the Aquarium, Sunrise Pier, Mallory Square, Museum of Art & History. It has a garden, Luggage storage, laundry facilities, car/bike rental services, and comfortable family rooms with a kitchen.

Mid-range ($$): Westwinds Inn, 4-star boutique accommodation in Downtown Key West, within walking distance to the beach, harbor, local attractions and amenities. Easy access to ferry terminals to Marco Island. Close to Duvall but far enough for a quiet atmosphere. 

Mid-range ($$): Key West Harbor Inn – Adults Only, 4-star good value for money accommodation, right next to the old harbor, 5 mins walk from Simonton Street Beach, easy access to South Beach, Waterfront Walk, Mallory Square, and Key West Aquarium. The hotel has a lovely breakfast and happy hour.


3. Casa Marina

Casa Marina is a great base for a quieter location, while still having easy access to the popular Duval Street, the old town, and the beaches. You can find numerous accommodations in this area.

Popular points of interest in this area include Higgs Beach, Clarence S.Higgs Memorial Beach, Edward B. Knight Pier, and The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.

Best places to stay in Key West in Casa Marina:

Mid-range ($$): Alexander Palms Court – No Additional Resort Fees, 3-star guest house on  South Street, 5 mins walk from Southernmost Point and South Beach. The hotel has free parking which is great for travelers with a car. It has an outdoor pool and family rooms.

Budget ($): Southwinds Motel, 2-star accommodation in a great location, on the south end of old town, 2 mins walk from Duval Street, but still a good distance from the craziness part of this famous street. The hotel has luggage storage, onsite parking, and laundry services.

Luxury ($$$): Santa Maria Suites Resort, 4-star family-friendly accommodation located 1 block from  Duval Street and the Atlantic Ocean. The resort has suites come with a well-equipped kitchen.


4. New Town/ Smathers Beach

New Town is a good choice if you prefer a residential and quieter atmosphere, and you don’t mind being a bit farther from the main tourist attractions. It’s particularly suitable for those looking for a more local experience or if you plan to spend a significant amount of time at Smathers Beach. 

Smathers Beach is one of the larger beaches in Key West. The beach offers a variety of water activities. The calm and shallow waters make it a suitable spot for both beginners and experienced water enthusiasts.

Consideration: New Town is located a bit farther away from the main tourist attractions. You may need transportation to reach places like Duval Street, Mallory Square, or the historic seaport.

Best places to stay in Key West in New Town:

Mid-range ($$): The Laureate Key West, 3-star well equipped apartment style hotel located in New Town, featuring a business center, an outdoor pool, family rooms, and a 24-hour front desk. Great base for families or a group of friends. Short Uber ride to Downtown Key West.

Mid-range ($$): The Capitana Key West, 4-star beachfront hotel with a private beach area, featuring free parking, an outdoor pool, and 2 restaurants. 

Mid-range ($$): Margaritaville Beach House Key West, 3-star accommodation near Smathers Beach. The hotel has paid airport shuttle services, parking, and an outdoor swimming pool.


In conclusion, Duval Street, Historic Seaport, Casa Marina, and New Town/ Smathers Beach are the best places to stay in Key West for first-timers and tourists. There are popular and safe areas for visitors to book their accommodations and explore the city.

You can continue reading about other destinations in Florida in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Key West. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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