A week ago today I was traveling home from one of the best vacations in years.
Key West has been at the top of my "must travel bucket list" for years. It remained on the list for quite some time, simply because it seemed like an impossibly difficult place to get to. Most people don't realize, but Key West is a good four hours south of Miami.
Thankfully my blogger bestie and partner in crime, Jenn, agreed to tackle this travel endeavor and prove it can be an easy weekend getaway. Once committed to the trip, we quickly started planning and doing our research on getting to the Southernmost Point.
Everyone we seemed to ask had the same thing to say. "Drive. Don't fly into Key West." Mostly because direct flights into Key West will leave your wallet empty before you even arrive, but the main reason was because the views along the drive are well worth saving those extra Benjamins.
One of Jenn and I's main goals for this trip was to stick to a budget. While we ultimately blew right past that, we still made a conscious effort to save money where we could. Traveling to The Florida Keys was our first hurdle. We decided to fly into Miami and make the four hour trek by car. Convertible style. Why the heck not?! Might as well arrive to the islands in style. When in Rome, right?
Our flights were direct via American Airlines into Miami. How much did it cost? $180 roundtrip. No joke! It helped that we flew out on the first flight Thursday morning, and returned on the last flight Monday night. If you can, be flexible with travel dates in order to get the best deal.
We rented a car online ahead of time via Kayak and Budget Rentals. When we arrived to Miami, we took a short tram ride over to the car rental hub. There was no wait, and we walked right up to receive our car. One piece of advice. Take whatever price you're quoted in advance for the car... and double it. Florida unfortunately has a lot of hidden fees. Between costs for adding additional drivers, pre-purchasing fuel, and the SunPass daily toll fees, extra charges can add up pretty quickly. Jenn and I weren't prepared for this, but we still ultimately traveled cheaper than flying into Key West. And, we weren't going to let this speed bump get us down. We were "in Miami trick!"
We headed out to our rental car, only to find our version of a Transformer... Bumblebee!! Jenn and I just died laughing. Everyone was going to see us coming from a mile away.
After thirty minutes of figuring out how to take the top down, attempting to fit two very large suitcases into the tiniest trunk ever, and then figure out how to turn the SunPass on, we were on our way!
The drive from Miami to Key West is pretty easy. After a short reroute, we quickly turned onto a highway that literally ended with us arriving to our resort. Zero turns or detours. That's my kind of directions!
The first hour or so of the drive is pretty blah. Not much to see. Not many places to stop. But once you hit Key Largo, the scenery instantly transforms, making you double check that you didn't enter a new country. Because yes, you're now in paradise. Ocean, for as far as the eye can see. Every shade of blue you can imagine. I mean, THIS is what everyone was talking about. THIS was the reason everyone said the drive was well worth it. THIS was the point we turned up the music and jammed out, because life was definitely good today.
Another suggestion for our journey down from Miami, was to stop for lunch at The Beach Cafe at Morada Bay in Islamorada. This was actually a local's suggestion... so, you're welcome for this hidden gem. The Beach Cafe is literally right off the highway. You'd totally miss it if you didn't know it was there. Once you park your car, walk past a few palm trees and pineapple bushes (is that what they're called?!), you instantly see the most gorgeous setting. A large beach front with colorful tables, chairs and umbrellas. And a super cool gift shop housed in an Airstream. The view alone was worth the stop.
Jenn and I enjoyed lunch basically to ourselves. We arrived right when it opened. I had the crab cakes, and Jenn had the tuna tataki. Both were fabulous. The Beach Cafe really kicked off our weekend in the best way possible. If you're making the drive down to Key West, I highly recommend timing out your trip to stop here for lunch or at their sister restaurant next door for dinner, Pierre's.
After a quick lunch pitstop, it was back on the road. It's about another hour or so to Key West from this point. We were heading to our hotel, The Inn at Key West. We literally stumbled right into it off the highway. I'll be sharing a recap of our hotel stay on the blog tomorrow. So stay tuned for that, and TONS of more Key West travel recaps coming your way this week + next!