Key Largo vs. Islamorada: Which Island Is Better?


Island vacations are popular for honeymooners, families, and everyone in between. Vacationers go for the sunshine, palm trees, and water adventures. The Florida Keys have many exciting attractions, restaurants, and pristine beaches that make for a perfect holiday getaway. 

Key Largo is better if you are looking for exciting outdoor adventures such as kayaking, snorkeling, or visiting state parks. Islamorada is better if you are looking for world-class fishing and some great resting and relaxation time. 

CategoryKey LargoIslamorada
Cost of Stay per Week (USD)$840 per week for a hotel room$1,050 per week for a hotel room
TransportationRental car, taxi, or bikeRental car, taxi, or bike
AttractionsChrist of the Abyss, African Queen Canal CruiseAlligator Reef Lighthouse, Sunset Cruises
WeatherHot summers, comfortable winters, rarely coldHot summers, comfortable winters, rarely cold
Food and DrinkSeafood restaurants, fast food, local restaurants, American cuisine Seafood restaurants, local breweries, fast food, American cuisine
Activities for Kids Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, Island Dolphin CareTheater of the Sea, History of Diving Museum
Nature ActivitiesPennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Grecian Rocks, Founders Park, Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, Anne’s Beach

Key Largo is the largest of the Florida Keys Islands, named from the Spanish word “Cayo Largo,” meaning Long Key. This island offers almost sixteen miles of beautiful pristine beaches and countless options for water activities. Key Largo has the world’s first undersea park and the last living coral reef system in the United States. 

Islamorada, located just south of Key Largo, also has plenty of unique attractions for visitors. In addition to being the world’s premier fishing destination, guests on this island have access to quaint shops, sunset cruises, and water sports. 

Cost of Stay

Many hotels on Key Largo will cost between $120-270 per night, although there are more affordable options. Of course, prices vary depending on the time of year. You should expect to spend more during peak season.

Staying in Islamorada may be a bit more expensive, with hotels averaging closer to $150-200 per night. However, travelers on a budget could opt for an off-season vacation to save some money. 

Hotels

A great affordable option in Key Largo is the Rock Reef Resort. There are several accommodation types to choose from, such as rooms, suites, or cottages. Guests also have access to the pool, kayaks, or paddle boats during their stay. 

If you are looking for something a little more luxurious, Ocean Pointe Suites might be just right for you. Amenities are abundant and include on-site tennis courts with complimentary racquets, a playground for children, and an Olympic size swimming pool with a bar. 

The Sunset Inn on Islamorada is a quaint, simple, and affordable lodging option. What they lack in amenities they make up for in charm and rich history. They have a modestly sized pool surrounded by palm trees, and each room is equipped with WiFi, a mini-fridge, and a television. This is perfect for travelers who prefer to spend a lot of time outdoors.  

If you are comfortable spending a bit more on accommodations, the Chesapeake Beach Resort is a must. Guests at this resort will have stunning ocean views, private beach access, a pool with an ocean view, and lounge chairs on the beach.

Main Attractions

As I said earlier, Key Largo is home to the United States’ first underwater park. This claim to fame is called the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and was established to protect and preserve the only living coral reef left in the U.S. Visitors to the park have endless options of fun activities. They can snorkel, picnic, swim, or book a glass-bottom boat tour to get close up views of the reef. 

Christ of the Abyss is another fascinating attraction for visitors to Key Largo. It is a 9 foot (2.7 meters) bronze statue of Jesus Christ submerged 25 feet (7.6 meters) underwater. Visitors interested in viewing this stunning statue will have to visit one of the many boats or snorkel rental companies such as Sundiver Snorkeling Tours to do so. 

Robbie’s of Islamorada, voted the number one tourist destination, is a one-stop-shop for all things boating! There is no shortage of exciting water activities for people of all ages. They have a restaurant and bar, party boat fishing packages, sunset cruises, and many more! 

Activities for Kids 

Families with young children may be interested in visiting the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary. They are home to over 90 birds spanning 40 species who are unable to live in their natural habitat. It is a great educational opportunity for kids! Admission is free, but donations are encouraged, and they do pelican feedings twice daily! 

Theater of the Sea is sure to please kids of all ages! This family-owned operation gives visitors the opportunity to personal interactions with marine life. Swim with stingrays, wade with dolphins, or paint with sea lions! The options are endless. 

Food and Drink

Blackwater Siren provides guests with a classic Key Largo experience. Located on the Blackwater Sound, patrons will get a gorgeous view with live music and a Tiki Bar. Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen has consistently been voted the Best Hometown Cafe and is frequented by tourists and locals alike. Come for breakfast, lunch, or dinner for a wide menu selection. 

Florida Keys Brewing Company is Islamorada’s first microbrewery. This hip brewery offers a tropical, hippie vibe with games, a beer garden, and a wide variety of locally brewed beer. Private events are also an option. 

If you are interested in something more family-oriented, try Morada Bay, a stylish dining experience with two restaurant options; Check out Beach Cafe for a more casual experience or t Pierre’s Restaurant if you would like something a bit fancier. 

Weather

Both islands are hot most of the year, with summer temperatures frequently reaching 90° F (32° C) or higher. Winter months rarely get cold, typically staying above 65°F (18° C). June through September can be especially rainy, making November-April the best times to visit. 

Safety

Both beaches are popular and considered safe, although very few have lifeguards. Avoid swimming alone, and make sure you have life jackets as necessary. Be aware of rip currents, as they can create dangerous water conditions. As always, when traveling, be mindful of your surroundings at all times. 

Transportation

Neither island has reliable public transportation; therefore, it is best to get around by car. Rideshares are available everywhere if you don’t have a personal vehicle. If you are staying close to downtown, you will likely be able to walk to all of the bars and restaurants you wish. 

Another transportation option is renting a bicycle from one of the many bicycle renting companies. Check our Key Largo Bike Tours for bike rentals, guided tours, and more! BackCountry Cowboy offers bike rentals on Islamorada, with options to rent by the day or by the week.

Final Thoughts

You can’t go wrong when choosing between Key Largo or Islamorada; Both islands have a lot to offer, from museums to parks to water adventures. Visitors to Key Largo can experience endless sea activities such as diving, snorkeling, or kayaking. Islamorada visitors can experience the best fishing opportunities in the world.

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