Given that Key West is so popular with college kids and spring breakers, it’s a little surprising that budget accommodation is so elusive. Prices are comparable to Manhattan ($200/night is common) and it doesn’t help that the idyllic weather makes “high season” last forever.
So here are a few money-saving tips for your hotel search (and for more budget-friendly ideas, here’s a list of free things to do).
Don’t hold your breath for a great hostel. The Key West Youth Hostel is essentially the only game in town—its reviews are sketchy at best and at $54/night, it’s not enough of a bargain for many travelers, especially solo women who have concerns about safety and security. The market seems to be wide open for a clean, comfortable, step-up hostel for 20- and 30-somethings who fall between the bunk bed set and the hotel crowd, but for now, hostel options remain limited.
Try a bed-and-breakfast. Some B&Bs run only $100/night and a nice hearty breakfast is included. B&Bs are also conducive to meeting new people and the owners tend to be very knowledgeable about the region. I had a fantastic experience at the Blue Parrot Inn, which was built in 1884 by a city mayor. The white picket fence is just the beginning: the blooming plant life, wrap-around veranda, warm pool, and tranquil location away from hectic Duval Street made my weekend.
Stay further inland. Prices skyrocket on the beach, or anywhere with views of the sunset, and you’ll also pay more to stay on (or near) Duval Street. Just remember that Key West is tiny and you can walk nearly everywhere in under 25 minutes, so why not save money by staying away from the action? Besides, those inland side streets are gorgeous.
Go in summer, fall, or just before Christmas. June, July, and August in South Florida are hellishly hot, humid, and mosquito-ridden, but if you can hack it, you’ll enjoy lower prices and far fewer crowds. There’s also a cheaper window in the fall, as well as just before Christmas, largely because everyone wants to party from Christmas until New Year’s. Bargains in winter and spring are generally a lost cause.
What was your budget hotel experience in Key West?