Top ten beaches in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys offer visitors an array of cultural and historical attractions, such as the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and the Key West Art & History Museum; however, the real reason vacationers come to this destination is its stunning beaches. The group of coral islands is lined with smooth white sands nestled up against the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic to the east, and the year-round subtropical climate makes for a serene warm-weather retreat. On your next visit to the Sunshine State, take a trip one of the top ten Florida Keys beaches.

1. Sombrero Beach

One of the best beaches in the Florida Keys is Sombrero. It's popular among tourists and residents thanks to its array of amenities—you'll find barbecue stations, a pier and public showers, and the beach is wheelchair-accessible. Visitors can take exhilarating rides along the paved bike path before cooling off with a dip in the calm waters that are roped off for optimal safety. There's also a shaded picnic area that looks out over the ocean and an expanse of lush land filled with coconut palms.

2. Anne's Beach

Make your way to Lower Matecumbe Key for an afternoon at Anne's Beach, which is named after local environmentalist Anne Eaton. Guests can enjoy a gorgeous sunset on the pristine sand flat or take a water adventure like windsurfing or snorkeling. A highlight of this locale is the boardwalk: It's an elevated, wooden path that takes you through a half-mile of natural wetlands. If you're looking for seclusion, visit on a weekday, since Miami tourists flood the beach during the weekends.

3. Sandspur Beach

Head to the southeast corner of the island to find the Sandspur Beach, which is known as an unspoilt paradise. What it lacks in amenities it makes up for in unscathed nature. Visitors can enjoy the powdery sands and clear green waters. Snorkelers, especially, will love this beach for its beautiful underwater views of rock formation ridges.

4. Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is a favorite among families because it's the safest place to swim in Key West, though you may want to wear water shoes to protect your feet from the rocky sea bottom. There's also a picnic area, public grills, snorkel gear rentals, and a quaint cafe.

5. Higgs Beach

For a more urban appeal to your oceanfront experience, visit Higgs Beach. The typically crowded spot attracts people with features like West Martello Tower, kayak rentals, and the Astro City Playground. Another highlight here is the African burial ground exhibit, which commemorates the nearly 300 slaves who died in 1860 after being rescued from slave ships bound for South America.

6. Smathers Beach

Located off South Roosevelt Boulevard, Smathers Beach is a unique seafront filled with beautiful white imported sands. As the longest beach in Key West, it spans nearly one mile and is speckled with waving coconut palm trees. Spring-breakers often flock to this beach for its multiple volleyball courts, picnic areas, and raft rentals, not to mention its watersport-ideal waves—paddle boarding, parasailing, and wind surfing are big here.

7. Calusa Beach

Calusa is the smallest of the three beaches located in the Bahia Honda State Park, but it's the most popular for its excellent swimming conditions. There are also plenty of on-land activities for visitors to take advantage of: explore the beauty of the nature center, shop for rare treasures at the souvenir shop, and grab a bite to eat at one of the many concession stands. While you're here, be sure to get your picture taken in front of the unique bridge—the old and new halves converge over the water and are an icon of the area.

8. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

This park has one of the most accessible beaches in the region, and it's the prime spot for snorkeling and diving. Take a look underwater to find more than 75 square miles of sea grasses and coral reefs. Visitors can take glass-bottom-boat rides or sign up for the "Christ of the Deep" tour, which lets you see a 2-ton statue of Jesus located on the seafloor.

9. Dog Beach

The Florida Keys Dog Beach is quite small, but it's the only one within Key West that lets your furry friend roam around unleashed. It's not ideal for sunbathing (the sand is mixed with small rocks), but it is a great place to take a relaxing stroll along the water or throw the ball around with your pooch.

10. C.B. Harvey Memorial Rest Beach

Named for former commissioner and mayor of Key West, Cornelius Bradford Harvey, this beach is one of the less popular ones, but it offers gorgeous natural beauty coupled with peace and quiet. It has delicate sands, vegetation, and the White Street Pier, where you can take in a relaxing afternoon of fishing. Other features include nightly yoga classes on the deck and a new beachfront park complete with picnic areas.