Ultimate Florida Keys Packing List

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Wondering what to pack for the Florida Keys? My ultimate Florida Keys packing list will show you everything you need to bring!

I love visiting the Florida Keys, and I think they’re one of the best vacation spots in the United States. Whether you’re looking for a warm-weather winter escape or some of the best festivals on the planet, you’re going to love the Keys!

You can absolutely pack light for your trip here — this is a place where you can get by in cut-offs and tank tops, and a carry-on bag has plenty of room for all you need.

This guide has sections on Weather in the Florida Keys, Essential Items to Pack, What to Wear in Key West (and the Florida Keys), and the full Florida Keys packing list — plus a few things you don’t need to pack!

Let’s dive on in.

This post was published in February 2024.

An outdoor restaurant in the Florida Keys, people sitting out o the deck.
You can eat outdoors year-round in the Florida Keys!

Weather in the Florida Keys: What to Expect

The Florida Keys are hot, right? Nestled between Florida Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Florida Keys have a tropical climate and are among the warmest places in the continental US. Key West tends to be warmest.

You can have a good time here year-round, but the time of year does make a difference:

In the winter (December, January, February), average temperatures in Key West have a low of 64-67 F (18-19 C) and a high of 74-76 F (24 C).

In the spring (March, April, May), average temperatures in Key West have a low of 68-76 F (20-24 C) and a high of 78-85 F (26-29 C).

In the summer (June, July, August, September), average temperatures in Key West have a low of 79-80 F (26-27 C) and a high of 88-89 f (31-32 C).

In the fall (October, November), average temperatures in Key West have a low of 72-76 F (22-24 C) and a high of 80-85 F (27-29 F).

Key West tends to have low rainfall from November through May, and higher rainfall from June through October. You should know that hurricane season falls between June and November, with tropical storms and hurricanes peaking in September and October.

I recommend avoiding the Keys during September and October, and if you end up in a severe storm, listen to local authorities and do as they say.

Rain storms in Florida tend to be brief and intense. I recommend bringing an umbrella at the very least; you may also appreciate having a rain jacket. They belong on any Florida packing list!

Read More: Best Time to Visit Key West and the Florida Keys

Four snorkelers in the neon teal water at Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo.

Essential Items to Pack for the Florida Keys

Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Reef safe sunscreen is critical for the Florida Keys. First off, sunscreen is essential — you’re likely going to be outdoors all day, very often in the water, and the sun can be strong down here even when you don’t expect it.

But beyond that, the Keys are surrounded by coral reefs, which are endangered — and one of the reasons is that typical sunscreen is toxic to reefs.

A good rule of thumb is to leave your usual sunscreen at home, buy reef safe sunscreen for this trip, and use it all the time — not just when you’re on a snorkeling tour at Pennekamp State Park, but all the time.

Water Shoes

I wasn’t a big wearer of water shoes as a kid, but as an adult, I wear them all the time. Water shoes are especially good for the Florida Keys because the mangrove-surrounded beaches often have tree roots on the sand, extending into the water. They make swimming so much more comfortable!

Water shoes are also good protection if you brush up against anything sharp in the water, and they help you keep your grip while stand-up paddle boarding.

Rash Guard

A rash guard is another essential item to pack for the Florida Keys. Rash guards look like tight long-sleeved shirts, and they’re made of swimsuit material.

If you are snorkeling at all, PLEASE, I beg you, wear a rash guard!! When you snorkel, you’re facing downward in the water, and your back is facing the sun and burning through the water.

So many first-time snorkelers end up with a bright red back that aches for the rest of their Florida Keys trip. Make sure this isn’t you!

A bright yellow dry bag perched on the edge of a boat, overlooking clear turquoise water.
Yes, you need a waterproof dry bag! Via Shutterstock.

Dry Bag

If you’re spending time in the Florida Keys, chances are high that you’ll be on at least one boat trip — and, more likely, several different water activities. For that reason, a dry bag is an essential item for your trip.

A dry bag is a waterproof bag. You put your belongings in it — your purse, your nice camera, your leather sandals — and this keeps them from getting wet, even if the boat capsizes. Even stable-seeming boats can get water everywhere!

I use dry bags when I kayak, when I take smaller ferries, and when I’m on snorkeling and swimming trips (because wet people DO NOT CARE about getting water everywhere).

Dry bags come in several different sizes. I recommend getting one big enough for your essentials.

You might also want to bring a waterproof phone bag — though these days, many of the latest phones are waterproof. (I’m still too afraid to take mine into the water, though!)

Sun Protection

Yes, by now we’ve talked a lot about protecting yourself from the sun in the Florida Keys. You’ve got your reef-safe sunscreen and your rash guard. What else should you bring?

Wide-brimmed hat. This is much more effective at covering your face than a typical baseball cap.

Light long-sleeved shirt. Having an actual shirt with sleeves is just as helpful on the beach as it is in the car. And so much better than just covering yourself with a blanket. This long shirt can double as a swimsuit cover up!

Sarong or pashmina. The ultimate versatile item to pack for the Florida Keys — it’s a skirt, a swim cover-up, a church cover-up, a chilly restaurant cover-up, an impromptu towel, a head wrap, a picnic mat, a beach mat, anything you can imagine!

And if you tend to burn easily or want extra protection, take a look at this sun protection hoodie. It’s light, it’s inexpensive, it has a UPF factor of 50, and it comes in a million colors. There’s also a longer version that goes to mid-thigh.

Kate doing cobra yoga pose on a paddle board in the water, surrounded by mangroves.
Rocking my Trina Turk swimsuit in Key West!

Multiple Swimsuits

How many bathing suits should you bring to the Florida Keys? I would recommend two at the minimum, but three might be even better.

You’ll be in the water most days, and most bathing suits take a long time to dry, especially in a humid environment like South Florida. And if you’re doing a Florida Keys road trip, you might not have the time to hang them up to dry. (Though if you do that, I recommend hanging them behind the front seat head rests!)

If you’re looking for something special for your Florida Keys trip, I happen to love Trina Turk bathing suits. They are colorful, incredibly flattering, and several styles come in plus sizes.

Light Jacket

Indeed, the Florida Keys are warm year-round — and Key West is the hottest island of all — but don’t forget that it gets cold at night! It also gets cold while out on boats. You’d be surprised how chilly it suddenly gets on your Key West sunset cruise!

What kind of jacket should you bring? I think a denim jacket is a good choice for the summer months. This Levi’s denim jacket is affordable, comes in plus sizes, and is available in several colors.

Some people might prefer a fun cardigan. Some might prefer a sportier hoodie like the ever-popular Lululemon Scuba Hoodie (or this more affordable version).

If you’re visiting during the winter months, you might use your jacket during the day, too, and you might prefer something a bit warmer at night. (The locals will be bundled up!) I highly recommend the UNIQLO Ultra Light Down Jacket, which is perfect for Key West winters and SO useful on all kinds of trips.

My black Teva Terra athletic sandals.
My Teva Tirra Sandals are perfect for exploring the Florida Keys!

Comfortable Shoes

What kinds of shoes should you pack for the Florida Keys? Comfy shoes. While plenty of locals are content to wear nothing but flip-flops, you don’t have to wear flip-flops if you don’t like them or physically can’t wear them.

When I travel to warm weather destinations like the Florida Keys, I bring two pairs of shoes: one pair of comfortable sandals and one pair of white sneakers.

Comfortable sandals. If you want sports sandals, I’ve been wearing Teva Tirra Sandals for more than a decade. They are SO comfortable, nearly weightless, and you can even do some light hiking in them.

I also love Abeo flip flops, which actually have arch support and are a million times nicer than plastic flip-flops. They’re by WalkingCo (formerly The Walking Company), who have all kinds of wonderful sandals with arch support. I have been buying from them for years.

Comfortable sneakers. I love white Adidas Gazelles, which are a super-versatile and stylish option at a mid-range price point. These Amazon sneakers are a highly rated cheap option.

Beach Towels

Do you really need to pack beach towels for a Florida Keys trip? Yes, because I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a beach vacation and either 1) the hotel doesn’t provide beach towels 2) they provide them, but don’t let you take them off-property 3) they provide them, but they’re way too small.

Yes, they take up a lot of space, but I’m always happier when I pack my own beach towels.

(Usually I advocate for using a microfiber travel towel, which dries quickly and packs down SO small, but not for a beach destination like the Florida Keys, as they don’t make a comfortable surface to lie on.)

Big Beach Bag

With so many fun day trips around the Florida Keys, whether you’re heading out to the best Florida Keys beaches or taking a boat trip to one of the island state parks, you’ll want to bring a lot of stuff. And that goes double if you’re traveling with kids.

Enter the big beach bag — ludicrously capacious in all the right ways. I love this beach bag in particular — it has tons of compartments (including a wet compartment!), it’s waterproof and sand-proof, it zips up, it’s affordable, and it comes in tons of colors.

I recommend using this as your personal item when you fly to Florida.

A bright pink plastic water bottle

Reusable Water Bottle

In a hot destination like the Florida Keys, you need to stay hydrated — especially when you’re swimming and you don’t realize how much you’ve been sweating. A reusable water bottle is an essential item to pack for the Florida Keys.

I love my Nalgene water bottle, which is sporty, closes tightly, and feels indestructible. It’s the perfect companion on a kayaking trip through the mangroves, or a full day trip to the beaches of Dry Tortugas National Park!

Ear Plugs

Ear plugs are a good idea no matter where you’re traveling — but especially if you book a hotel right off Duval Street in Key West, and you’re trying to sleep, but everyone is partying all night!

Even if you’re not staying on the main drag of Key West, a lot of visitors stay up late and celebrate into the wee hours, which can be annoying when you just want to sleep.

Bring the ear plugs with you so you don’t have to suffer through a night of bad sleep.

Motion Sickness Tablets and/or Bands

Do you get motion sickness on your travels? You might want to bring some motion sickness tablets or motion sickness bands, especially if you tend to get carsick or plan on taking any boat trips further out to sea (like Dry Tortugas).

I’m also a fan of ginger chews when I’m feeling a bit ill. They’re a good thing to have in your bag.

People sitting at the bar outside at Blue Heaven, a restaurant in Key West.
See this photo of Blue Heaven in Key West? This is how people dress in the Florida Keys.

What to Wear in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are as casual as it comes. Even fine dining restaurants in Key West or Key Largo have a casual dress code. Nobody is going to look down on you for not dressing up enough!

Most locals in the Florida Keys tend to wear tank tops and jean shorts with flip flops, a baseball cap, and a pair of cheap sunglasses. They often have a bathing suit on underneath. That’s the Keys uniform!

So where does that leave you, as a visitor to the Florida Keys? Most of the time you’ll be comfortable in a short-sleeved shirt or tank top, a pair of shorts or a skirt, and sandals or sneakers.

For cooler days and nights, it’s nice to have a pair of jeans and a light jacket or hoodie.

If it’s in the winter months, you might want to pack a slightly warmer jacket, like my trusty Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket, which is incredibly versatile and you’ll use on lots more trips than just this one.

But the important thing? Don’t stress about what to wear. Chances are you’ll fit in just fine.

Kate holding a bottle of mead at Keys's Meads, in front of a chalkboard listing the latest flavors.
Me in a tank top, denim cutoffs, and sunglasses — pure Keys!

Florida Keys Packing List




Items to Pack

Camera Gear and Tech Gear


People walking out on a dock in Florida, where a sign reads "Do not feed manatee"

Don’t forget — you can do laundry in the Florida Keys!

One of my favorite tips for packing light anywhere is that YOU CAN DO LAUNDRY ANYTIME YOU WANT. Visiting Florida for 10 days? Bring five or six days’ worth of clothing and do laundry halfway through your visit.

You’ll find plenty of public laundromats throughout the Florida Keys, including in Key West, Key Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon. Another option is to book accommodation that has laundry on-site.

But I definitely recommend bringing laundry detergent sheets with you because I feel like half the time accommodation will provide a laundry machine but no detergent.

While many hotels offer laundry service, they often charge through the nose — think $3 per pair of underwear — so I recommend avoiding them. (If they price it by weight, however, that can sometimes be a good deal.)

Kate standing in front of the southernmost point buoy in Key West, wearing a retro-style blue dress.
I was a bit overdressed in Key West in this dress.

What NOT to Bring to the Florida Keys

Dressy clothing and shoes. The Florida Keys are one of the most casual destinations I’ve ever visited. People live in tank tops and cut-offs 98% of the time.

Don’t even pack something special for “just in case.” That just in case is probably not going to happen.

The one exception — if you’re visiting during Fantasy Fest, the crazy 10 days of costume parties leading up to Halloween, this is the time when styling is the default!

Fancy shoes. Leave them at home. You’re in flip-flop territory! There is zero reason to bring any other kind of shoes besides sandals, sneakers, and water shoes.

Snorkel gear. For most travelers, it’s unnecessary to bring your own. Snorkeling tours and boat trips almost always provide snorkeling gear.

But if you’re a hardcore snorkeler who prefers their own gear and wants to snorkel on their own, independently, go ahead and bring your own gear.

More on the Florida Keys:

More on Florida:

What do you recommend bringing to the Florida Keys?

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