Key West Spend or Save: Planning a Terrific Trip
Just thinking about Key West's warm sunshine and clear waters makes me happy. Yet planning this idyllic trip was an exercise in compromise. This was one of our first long trips and we traveled for about 21 days. Since Key West was just a four-day stint in the middle of that 21-day trip, we had to keep expenses under control. We found so many different options for activities, campgrounds, food, and entertainment. So we looked for ways to save a little cash on things we always do (like eat or buy souvenirs) and spend more on the things we could only do in Key West. For instance, since we knew the water vistas were spectacular, we spent a little extra on the campground to get an ocean front site, but we scaled back on eating out every day. We took a bus into downtown instead of a cab but splurged on a sunset cruise. What we found is that you can have a great time and spend a lot of money or have a great time and spend just a little money. Here is our rundown on enjoying Key West with your RV from a 'spend/save' perspective.
Spend - Boyd's Campground. The water views are spectacular, but they have interior sites too. The proximity to downtown Key West is great. Campsites are VERY close together. Amenities: pool, private showers, gift shop, coffee shop, boat ramp, full hook-ups including cable TV, game room, coin laundry and more. City bus service has a stop at the campground.
Cost: Waterfront site $125.00 per night / for an interior site $104.00
Save - Bahia Honda State Park campground on Marathon Key. The full hook up sites are on the water but face Highway 1, so traffic noise may be an issue. There are tent/small RV sites on the quieter beachside nestled in the trees (but they don't have hookups). Bike riding, kayaking, and nature programs are available. About a thirty to forty minute drive to Key West. As of January 2018, two of the three campgrounds should be available. Sandspur campground won't be ready until 2019 due to the damage from hurricane Irma.
Cost: $4.00 per vehicle. Camping reservations are typically around $40.00 per night.
Spend - The Dry Tortugas National Park is a fascinating experience, leaving Key West behind and getting on the water to visit this island fortification. Accessible only by boat, you can catch a ferry for the 70-mile journey. Fort Jefferson, one of the largest 19th-century fortifications in the U.S., is an amazing site, surrounded by coral reefs in tropical waters. Add on swimming, snorkeling and relaxing to create a full day's adventure. Make sure to bring in what you need - there are no shops, food or drink facilities on the island.
Cost: Park admission is only about $10.00 per person, but you have to figure in transportation. You can get a ferry for the 2.5-hour journey for about $175.00 per person. (to move this to the "save" category you can take your own boat if you brought one. Check on boat permits and reserving a mooring ball.)
Save - Visit Fort Zachary Taylor State Park ($2.00 per person if you are on foot. Cars are $6.00). Fort Zachary Taylor offers guided tours of the Fort daily but its outdoor areas are pretty nice if you just want to enjoy a laid-back visit. The beach is lovely, snorkeling and kayaking are good ways to enjoy the water. The Hemmingway Museum and The Mel Fisher's Museum are two more cost-effective ways to enjoy Key West as well as a multitude of art galleries and shops offer hours of enjoyable browsing.
Cost: Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park admission is just $2.00 per person if you are on foot. For a car, it is $6.00. For the Hemmingway House admission is $14.00 per person that includes a 30 minute guided tour. The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum admission is $15.00 per person. An audio tour is available for an additional fee.
Get Out On The Water:
Spend - Sunset catamaran cruise. There are many sunset cruises available, with or without dinner. We chose a small vessel that served drinks and hors-d'oeuvres only. The dinner cruises had room for about a hundred diners whereas the drink and snacks cruise held about forty people. There is music on board with both options and refreshments are included in the price.
Cost: $60 per person (includes drinks and hors d'oeuvres)
Save - Kayak at Bahia Honda State Park. The kayak put-in point on the Atlantic side beach is a quiet cove. The water is clear and shallow so watching the fish and seagrass is mesmerizing. Paddling the length of the beach is easy in the protected crescent out of the main current. There are canoe and kayaks rentals available.
Cost: Admission to the park is $4.00 per vehicle. You can rent kayaks from a local concessionaire or bring your own.
Spend - Key West Butterfly Conservatory butterfly display or, Reproduction Atocha Spanish Real Coin Pendant from Mel Fisher Museum
Cost: Framed 6" x 6" square display with two butterflies, $70.00. Reproduction Atocha jewelry from $90.00 to $$$$$!
Save - Kermit's Key Lime Juice or Cold Pressed Key Lime Oil
Cost: Key Lime Juice about $6.00, Cold Pressed Key Lime Oil $14.95