The Florida Keys are one of the most unique vacation destinations in the continental United States. Colorful and quirky, tropical and welcoming, these pretty islands leave a lasting imprint on everyone who visits. Countless travelers come to the Florida Keys for their culture, history, and eccentric charm, but many people are not as familiar with its abundant beaches. Here are the top 10 beaches in the Florida Keys to help you plan your ideal vacation.

Sandspur Beach

Best For: Families with little kids
Book a Rental: On Big Pine Key

Sandspur Beach is a full mile of gorgeous beach and great swimming in the heart of Bahia Honda State Park, and some consider it one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Florida. The offshore reefs keep the water shallow and calm, perfect for the toddlers to splash and play. You can also rent kayaks in the park for another fun family activity. There are picnic areas, public washrooms, lots of bike paths and a snack bar that sells pizza and ice cream.

Smather's Beach

Best For: People watchers
Book a Rental: On Key West

Smather's Beach has virtually everything you could want on a beach, except lifeguards. Smather's is Key West's biggest public beach, and it's brimming with activity. The beach is right next to Roosevelt Boulevard, with a wide sidewalk packed with bikers, roller bladers and people out for a stroll. On the water you can windsurf, kite surf, kayak or jet ski, and if you want to stay on the beach you can play volleyball or just people watch, because when it's busy it's full of beautiful people. Vendors up and down the beach rent beach chairs, umbrellas and any type of activity equipment you need. The soft sand and shady coconut trees at Smather's give it an island paradise feeling, the food trucks will keep you fed, and there are plenty of bathrooms.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Best For: Anyone seeking fewer crowds and more beach
Book a Rental: On Key West

Desiring something more quiet and secluded? You can only get to the Dry Tortugas National Park by taking a two-hour catamaran ride from Key West. The trek is well-worth it, as the waters around the seven islands of the Dry Tortugas are full of loggerhead and leatherback sea turtles, shipwrecks, stunning reefs and lovely shoals. Bring an underwater camera so you can get pictures of all the great sea life you see while you are snorkeling or scuba diving. When you get out you will relish the serenity of drying off on the soft, white sand of a beach you have practically all to yourself.

Sombrero Beach

Best For: Good swimmers
Book a Rental: Near Marathon in the Central Florida Keys

Right in the heart of Marathon, the water at Sombrero Beach is a little deeper than at most beaches in the Florida Keys, so it is best for strong swimmers. Keep in mind that there are no lifeguards, but the conditions are generally good. There are also washrooms and a nice playground.

Zachary Taylor State Park Beach

Best For: Everyone
Book a Rental: On Key West

The popularity of Zachary Taylor State Park Beach is what makes it one of the top 10 beaches in the Florida Keys. It’s also the southernmost beach in the entire United States. Fully equipped with bathrooms, a snack bar, picnic areas, barbecue grills, and places to rent beach equipment, Zachary Taylor Beach has all the facilities you need to plan a full beach day. Additionally, it is very convenient, as you can even bike there from downtown Key West. If you want a little break from the sand and water, or would like a little culture, you can stop at historic Fort Zachary Taylor for fascinating look at the history of the Keys.

Higgs Beach

Best For: Anyone who wants an active day on the beach
Book a Rental: On Key West

Higgs Beach is the go-to beach when Smathers Beach gets too crowded, but it's also a great choice if you brought your dog on vacation. Higgs is very popular because of the variety of activities you can do there. The beach has a children's playground, beach volleyball and tennis courts, lots of room for swimming and snorkeling, and a bike path along the beach. Tropical Water Sports will rent kayaks and paddleboards to those that want to get on the water, and chairs and umbrellas for those that want to relax.

There is a restaurant right on the beach, appropriately named Salute! on the Beach. The restaurant's view can't be beat, and the mussels and other seafood are excellent, but be sure to save room for their famous Key Lime Pie. Your canine buddy will love Higgs Beach Dog Park. It has separate places for small and large dogs, and there are drinking fountains throughout to keep your pup hydrated.

Rest Beach

Best For: Early Risers
Book a Rental: On Key West

Just next door to Higgs Beach, Rest Beach is one of the nicest places to come watch the sunrise on Key West. It has a nice yoga deck where yoga classes are offered every evening, so you enjoy the backdrop of a gorgeous sunset as you execute your poses. Rest is a great spot for snorkeling, and a pretty nice surf break. Separating Higgs and Rest Beach is the pretty White Street Pier. The pier is a perfect spot for a stroll, and it is popular with fishermen, who come to fish off the pier for snook and redfish.

Anne's Beach

Best For: Nudists
Book a Rental: On Islamorada

If you prefer to lounge sans clothing, Anne’s Beach is a gorgeous stretch of sand surrounded by mangrove trees and a pleasant boardwalk. No need to be shy, as Anne’s Beach is known as a local nudist beach, so feel free to swim in the buff. There are many private coves, and the crowds tend to stay away. There are also several nice picnic tables, so bring a picnic lunch and a cooler.

Calusa Beach

Best For: Family picnics
Book a Rental: On Big Pine Key

Calusa Beach is on the Gulf side of the Bahia Honda State Park, between Big Pine Key and Marathon. It’s one of the top 10 beaches in the Florida Keys for a picnic because it is sheltered, calm, tremendously pretty, and has a covered picnic area and lots of parking. Calusa is a great beach for families with young children, because the water is very calm, but the shore does slope off quickly just past the beach, so keep an eye on young swimmers. It has excellent snorkeling because there are tons of fish in the water and a reef close to shore. There is also a nature center for those that want to learn about the local plants and animals.

Key West Dog Beach

Best For: Dog owners and their furry friends
Book a Rental: On Key West

Key West Dog Beach, at the corner of Vernon and Waddell, is a pet-owners' favorite on Key West. It's just about a half dozen blocks from Higgs Beach Dog Park, and dogs are more than welcome to run, splash and fetch to their heart’s content. When they’re all tired out, you can head next door to Louie’s Backyard, a restaurant that not only serves excellent food and cold drinks, but also welcomes your pet with open arms. Their conch chowder is a great starter, and you can't go wrong with their shrimp and grits, pork chops, lamb ribs or fresh catch of the day.

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