Visiting the Florida Keys in Summer – Planning Fun and Staying Cool in the Hottest Months
The Florida Keys in summer are toasty, but are still a very popular vacation destination. Known for their beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere summer brings visitors from all around the world, including families from around the USA who are on summer break. July and August are peak tourist season in the Keys, as visitors from seemingly everywhere flock to the islands to enjoy the hot weather and abundant outdoor activities.
While the summer months can be hot and humid, they also offer some of the best opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. Visitors can expect to encounter large crowds in popular places like Key West, and higher prices during this time, but there are still plenty of ways to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy the natural beauty of the Keys. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a family vacation, the Florida Keys in July and August offer something for everyone.
Average Temperatures in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys have a subtropical climate, and I think it’s very humid (and I live here in Florida), with warm temperatures throughout the year. The average temperatures of the Florida Keys each month are:
- January: Highs in the mid-70s°F (23-24°C), lows in the mid-60s°F (16-17°C)
- February: Highs in the mid-70s°F (23-24°C), lows in the mid-60s°F (16-17°C)
- March: Highs in the high 70s°F (25-26°C), lows in the mid-60s°F (16-17°C)
- April: Highs in the low 80s°F (27-28°C), lows in the upper 60s°F (20°C)
- May: Highs in the upper 80s°F (30°C), lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C)
- June: Highs in the upper 80s°F (30°C), lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C)
- July: Highs in the low 90s°F (32°C), lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C)
- August: Highs in the low 90s°F (32°C), lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C)
- September: Highs in the upper 80s°F (30°C), lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C)
- October: Highs in the mid-80s°F (29°C), lows in the mid-70s°F (24°C)
- November: Highs in the mid-70s°F (23-24°C), lows in the mid-60s°F (16-17°C)
- December: Highs in the mid-70s°F (23-24°C), lows in the mid-60s°F (16-17°C)
Keep in mind that temperatures can vary within the Keys depending on location, as well as weather conditions, such as rain or wind. It is always a good idea to check the forecast before planning any outdoor activities.
We’ve been in the Keys in December and had hot, gorgeous weather on land and frigid winds just offshore. We’ve also had beautiful sunny days in Key West or Key Largo, but then had every activity and tour cancelled during the week because of harsh winds and tides. While the Florida Keys are relatively consistent and you’ll most likely have amazing weather, it’s always an uncontrollable factor that can impact your visit. Always consider the potential weather when you plan a Florida Keys vacation.
Is the Water Always Warm Enough to Swim in the Florida Keys?
The average temperature of the water in the Florida Keys varies throughout the year, but it is generally warm enough for swimming and water activities year-round. The Florida Keys in summer have the BEST temps for swimming, hands down. The average water temperature in the Florida Keys each month is:
- January: 71-73°F (22-23°C)
- February: 72-74°F (22-24°C)
- March: 75-77°F (24-25°C)
- April: 78-80°F (26-27°C)
- May: 81-83°F (27-28°C)
- June: 84-86°F (28-30°C)
- July: 85-87°F (29-31°C)
- August: 86-88°F (30-31°C)
- September: 84-86°F (28-30°C)
- October: 81-83°F (27-28°C)
- November: 77-79°F (25-26°C)
- December: 73-75°F (23-24°C)
These are average temperatures, and the actual water temperature can vary depending on factors such as location, time of day, and weather conditions. It is always a good idea to check the local water conditions before engaging in any water activities, especially during the winter months when the water temperature can drop below 70°F (21°C) in some areas.
While 72°F water may sound great and plenty warm for swimming, it is much more refreshing than you might expect. Jump off a boat when it’s mid-winter and the water is in the low 70s and you’ll be back on board quickly. True, many tour operators that lead snorkeling trips will provide partial wetsuits during winter months, but it’s still cold.
Keeping Cool in Summertime in the Florida Keys
Summer in the Florida Keys can be quite hot and humid, with temperatures often hovering around the 90s. However, there are still plenty of things to do to avoid the heat and enjoy your time in the Keys. I love visiting or revisiting certain museums, particularly in Key West. True, we all get hot on the walk between air conditioned spaces, but I feel like it’s manageable as long as you take your time and stay hydrated.
Things to Do to Help you Cool Off in the Keys in Summer
Here are some suggestions for great things to do in the Florida Keys in summer that will keep you cool:
- Explore the history: There are several museums and historic sites in the Keys, including the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West (I love the kitties everywhere), the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada, and the Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West.
- Go kayaking or paddleboarding: There are plenty of calm bays and channels to explore in the Keys, and getting out on the water can be a refreshing way to beat the heat. Check out this great guide to Kayaking in the Florida Keys!
- Take a sunset cruise: The temperatures can cool down a bit in the evening, making it a perfect time to take a sunset cruise and enjoy the beautiful views of the Keys.
- Visit the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: This protected area offers opportunities to snorkel or dive among the coral reefs and see a variety of marine life, including sea turtles, dolphins, and colorful fish.
- Enjoy indoor activities: There are many indoor activities in the Keys, including art galleries, theaters, and aquariums. You can also take a break from the heat and go shopping or relax in an air-conditioned café.
- Spa Day. I don’t need to get into the details, but spa days are amazing.
- Go on a bike ride: The Keys have a network of bike paths that wind through scenic areas, making it a fun way to explore while staying cool. You can actually ride all the way from Key Largo to Key West, mostly in a dedicated bike lane. Biking is a great way activity to both have fun and explore the Florida Keys on a budget.
Remember to stay hydrated and wear light, breathable clothing when outdoors during the summer months in the Keys. Also, there’s no shame in carrying an umbrella for both rain AND sun. Take the next step in bringing back parasols as fashionable!
Beach Access from Key West to Key Largo
The Florida Keys aren’t known for having the most gorgeous long stretches of beaches. Yes, there are lots of beaches to visit and cool off at, especially if you’re visiting the Florida Keys in summer, but they aren’t as copious as the rest of mainland Florida. The best outdoor way to keep cool in the Florida Keys in summer months is by being on a boat, but that’s not always in the budget or doable on a windy day, so beaches are great for then! Also, beaches are really easy to add to your Florida Keys road trip plan.
Public Beaches in the Upper Florida Keys
There are several public beaches in the upper Florida Keys that are popular with visitors and locals alike. Key Largo, despite being the largest of the Florida Keys, only has a couple of public beaches. Don’t worry though, you’ll be quite satisfied with them. Here are a few of the top options:
- Key Largo Beach: Located in Key Largo, this beach is known for its crystal-clear water and stunning sunsets. The beach is small but offers plenty of space to relax and soak up the sun.
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Beach: This beach is located within the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo and is known for its world-class snorkeling and diving opportunities. Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, and other water activities within the park.
- Rock Harbor Beach: Located in Key Largo, this small beach is known for its calm waters, making it a great spot for kayaking and paddleboarding.
- Harry Harris Beach: This beach is located in Tavernier and features a playground, picnic tables, and grills, making it a great spot for families. The beach has a shallow, sandy bottom and clear water, perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Beach Access in the Middle Keys
The Middle Keys are a fun place to have your home base during a Florida Keys trip. There are a few nice beaches here, but you’ll still find the best Keys beaches in the Lower Keys.
- Islamorada Founders Park Beach: Located in Islamorada, this beach offers a white sand beach, picnic pavilions, a boat launch, a pool, tennis courts, and a skate park.
- Anne’s Beach: Also located in Islamorada, this beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking, and features shallow waters perfect for children.
- Long Key State Park Beach: Located in Long Key, this beach is part of the Long Key State Park and features a beautiful sandy beach, picnic areas, and nature trails.
These are some of the most popular beaches along the stretch between Tavernier and Duck Key. Each beach offers its own unique features and attractions, making it worth exploring more than one.
Beaches in the Lower Keys and Key West
The Lower Keys, starting in Marathon, have the best beaches of the whole chain of islands. Here you’ll find sandier beaches and they are more frequent. Once you’re in Key West, there are five beaches, but they’re not all natural. Because of the nature of the currents flowing between the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, most shorelines are quite rocky so mankind helps them out with some sand reinforcements.
- Curry Hammock State Park Beach: Located in Marathon, this beach is part of the Curry Hammock State Park and offers visitors a long stretch of beach, picnic areas, and nature trails.
- Sombrero Beach: Also located in Marathon, this beach is known for its crystal-clear water and powdery white sand, making it a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing.
- Coco Plum Beach: Located in Marathon, this beach is a popular spot for snorkeling, with a long stretch of beach and shallow waters.
- Bahia Honda State Park Beach: Located in Big Pine Key, this beach is part of the Bahia Honda State Park and is known for its clear water and sandy beaches, as well as its historic bridge and nature trails.
- Higgs Beach: Located in Key West, this beach is popular with locals and tourists alike, with a long stretch of sandy beach, volleyball courts, and a playground.
- Smathers Beach: Also located in Key West, this beach is the largest public beach in the area and offers a long stretch of white sand, picnic areas, and water sports rentals.
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach: This beach is located within the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West and offers visitors a chance to swim, snorkel, and explore the park’s historic fort.
If you are making the journey to Dry Tortugas National Park, you’ll see that there are several beaches on Garden Key (in the park) that are great for lounging and snorkeling. Getting out to Dry Tortugas is a feat though and you do have to plan that trip months in advance.
Summer in the Florida Keys aka Hurricane Season
If you are visiting the Florida Keys during hurricane season and a hurricane warning is announced, it is important to take immediate action to ensure your safety. Nobody will think you’re brave for waiting our a major storm, so take appropriate action to protect yourself and your family. Here are some steps to follow:
- Stay informed: Keep track of the latest weather updates and any evacuation orders from local officials. Follow trusted sources such as the National Hurricane Center and local news outlets.
- Evacuate if necessary: If an evacuation order is issued, follow the instructions provided by local authorities. The evacuation process will likely involve driving north along the Overseas Highway, which is the only road connecting the Keys to the mainland. NOTE: if YOU feel like you should evacuate for your own comfort and safety even if an evacuation hasn’t been ordered, do it. If you’re freaking out you’re no longer enjoying your vacation, so it’s better to leave the Keys and go where you feel safe.
- Plan ahead: If you are staying in the Keys during hurricane season, have a plan in place for how you will evacuate if necessary. Make sure you have a full tank of gas in your car and enough supplies to sustain you during an evacuation. This goes for either longer summertime visits or if you’re just in the Keys for a week. Be smart and prepared.
- Secure your property (for long term visitors, vacation rental folks): If you are not evacuating, make sure to secure the property as best as possible or per your host/landlord’s instructions. This may include boarding up windows, securing outdoor furniture and loose objects, or turning off utilities even if you’re staying during the storm.
- Seek shelter: If you are unable to evacuate, seek shelter in a designated safe location. This may include a hotel, shelter, or the home of a friend or family member located in a safe area. If you’re camping in the Florida Keys and a storm is on the way, you need to pack up your gear because it WILL NOT withstand high winds or a storm surge.
The average travel time from Key West to the mainland during a hurricane warning can vary depending on traffic and the severity of the storm. However, it can take several hours to reach the mainland, so it is important to leave as soon as possible if an evacuation order is issued.
BONUS TIP: I keep the National Hurricane Center storm tracker webpage on my phone and check it each day. During hurricane season. This keeps me informed of anything on the horizon and helps us plan accordingly.
When is Hurricane Season in the Keys
It is worth noting that hurricane season in the Keys runs from June 1st to November 30th, so it is important to be prepared and stay informed during this time. Be sure to monitor weather conditions and follow the advice of local officials to stay safe. This doesn’t mean that on June 1st a named storm will hit, and it doesn’t mean that December 1st it’s immediately calm, but it means that the conditions are usually right for hurricanes and tropical storms to develop.
“Is a Tropical Storm Dangerous like a Hurricane?”
This is a good question. I’ve been through hurricanes, tropical storms and systems that they thought would develop into named storms. They ALL can be very intense and scary, and each can have a huge impact on travel. If a storm reaches a tropical storm designation, it can have intense winds, gusts, a ton of rain, and sometimes it will cause serious flooding, nearly like a storm surge. All of this CAN be dangerous.
A hurricane will have all of that, but what makes it worse than a tropical storm is that its winds are stronger and are sustained. Hurricanes cause so much damage because of their unrelenting force paired with the rest of the weather and then the changing pressure on the water. A tropical storm might not be as damaging as a hurricane, but neither one should be shrugged off if you’re traveling in the Florida Keys in summer.
Visiting the Florida Keys in summer really is wonderful. If I made it sound trecherous or like a hurricane-centric doomsday, it really isn’t. The Keys have so many wonderful things to do and so much beautiful water to explore that you’ll really enjoy a summertime trip to the Keys.
If you have any questions we didn’t answer or have your own thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment or send us a note! Happy traveling!