Jamaica vs. Key West

Jamaica and Key West are two tropical destinations that have a lot to offer visitors. From amazing beaches and excellent snorkeling and scuba diving, to fun nightlife and rich culture, to great weather year-round, Jamaica and Key West should be on everyone’s travel list.

If you’re trying to decide between these two for your next trip, this comparison of Jamaica vs. KeyWest will help.

Our Jamaica vs. Key West Quick Picks

  • Jamaica vs. Key West Cost: Jamaica
  • Jamaica vs. Key West Snorkeling: Jamaica
  • Jamaica vs. Key West Safety: Key West

Jamaica vs. Key West: Overview

If you’re looking for beautiful white sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and plenty of romantic activities, Jamaica is the ideal location. Additional perks are the friendly people, stunning sunsets, great food, and of course drinking many rum punches on the beach!

The tourist regions of Jamaica cater to all tastes. If you want miles of white sand beach, Negril is ideal. If you want to hop off your plane and be on the beach in 30 minutes, consider Montego Bay. If you want to have a destination wedding and honeymoon in the same place and plan to invite a lot of guests, look at Ocho Rios.  

Jamaica also offers a diverse range of accommodations; from luxury all-inclusive hotels (some featuring romantic overwater bungalows) to beachside family resorts to private villas to budget-friendly options. 

Plus, Jamaica has a ton of activities available. You can go bamboo rafting on the Rio Grande or the Martha Brae, have incredible dinners in seaside caves, do adventure sports like ziplining and ATV tours, go snorkeling and scuba diving, explore historic sites and local towns, and enjoy sunset catamaran cruises. 

If you want a Caribbean-style vacation without needing a passport, however, choose Key West. This tropical paradise has a fascinating history, charming architecture, easily walkable streets, beautiful beaches, gloriously clear water, and delicious food–plus a lively nightlife

Key West has something for everyone. It’s a top honeymoon and couples’ trip destination, and equally popular with groups and singles who like to party. It’s also a great destination for family trips, with plenty of interesting historical sites and activities. And of course, it’s a top spot for those who like to snorkel, scuba dive, or fish. However, Key West is fairly small and you won’t find a lush mountainous interior like you will in Jamaica. 

Jamaica vs. Key West: Beaches

One of the biggest draws for both Jamaica and Key West is the beaches. Both areas have great beach areas for rest and relaxation or water sports and activities. However, the beaches in Jamaica are far more plentiful and beautiful.

Jamaica Beaches

Jamaica is known for its beaches. The northwest coast has dozens of resorts along the many breathtaking beaches. While some stretches are private, there are also plenty of public beach areas so you can easily beach hop on your vacation.

One of the most famous beaches in Jamaica is the iconic Seven Mile Beach. This long stretch of white sand and clear water is lined by some of the most luxurious resorts on the island. Plus, there’s plenty of beachside dining and tons of watersports. You’ll never be bored.

Key West Beaches

Key West has several nice beaches that offer activities as well as peace and quiet. Most visitors enjoy the beaches on the southern side of Key West. Here you’ll find both Smathers Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Beach.

Smathers is one of the largest beaches in Key West. Not only is it a half-mile long, but it’s also centrally located so you’re close to all the action. You can find everything here, including pick-up volleyball games. Just know this beach can draw large crowds for evening beach parties.

Another great option is Fort Zachary Taylor. This is one of the best beaches for snorkeling because it has such deep waters. But if you don’t want to experience life beneath the waves, you’ll find plenty of shaded spots for picnics.

Jamaica River

Jamaica vs. Key West: Cost

There can be quite a difference in the cost of visiting Jamaica vs. KeyWest. While you might expect the domestic destination to be cheaper, Key West is quite expensive. How you get here and when you visit will affect your trip cost. 

The cost of a trip to Jamaica can vary greatly from inexpensive to pricey. You can get deals and discounts to make your trip affordable, especially if you travel during the offseason. There are budget, mid-range, and luxury resorts to choose from, and restaurants range from cheap local spots to gourmet fine dining. Activities can be free, such as hanging out on the beach or swimming, or quite expensive like scuba diving excursions.

All-inclusive resorts in Jamaica can cost between $200 to several thousand per person per night, but will include all your meals and most activities. In addition to that, you’ll have the cost of flights, which will vary depending on your departure city and when you travel.

Key West is one of the most expensive destinations in the U.S., but it is possible to visit on a budget if you go during the offseason. There are not many inexpensive accommodations options, but there are a range of inns, vacation rentals, and resorts. Beachfront accommodations can cost around $1,200 – $2000 or more per person for a week, but they will not be all-inclusive. There is a variety of restaurants and activities here as well.

How you get to Key West will make a big difference. Flying into Key West can be quite expensive so some people choose to fly into Miami, rent a car, and drive down. If you’re lucky enough to live close enough to drive your own car, that will save you quite a bit.

Jamaica vs. Key West: Weather

Although they offer amazing weather most of the time and warm temperatures year-round, tropical destinations like Key West and Jamaica can pose some weather concerns. Both can have significant rainfall, dampening vacation plans. Plus, there is the threat of hurricanes during the season, which is June to November.

Jamaica Weather

Jamaica is a wonderful “anytime” destination, as the weather is warm year-round. However, there are definitely better times to visit. The best time to visit Jamaica is the dry season, which runs from mid-December to mid-April. There is little rainfall, tons of sun, and warm temperatures. 

Jamaica’s rainy season is between May and November. If you don’t mind frequent rain showers, then this isn’t a bad time to visit either. In fact, the island is at its greenest during these months, so it’s a great time to experience another side of Jamaica.

You do have to consider hurricane season when booking your travels. While hurricanes in Jamaica are rare, they do still occur. August, September, and October are when Jamaica is at its highest threat of hurricane-developing storms, so if you are making plans during those months be aware of changing weather conditions and make sure you get travel insurance.

Key West Weather

Winter is peak season for Key West, and prices will reflect that. Temperatures range from mid-60s to the low-to-mid 70s.

Spring and fall are excellent times to visit Key West, as temperatures are mild, humidity is lower, crowds are less, and prices are lower. December through April is the dry season, and June through October is the rainy season.

In the summer the heat and humidity can be stifling, but there’s usually a breeze and an afternoon thunderstorm to cool things down. Plenty of families come on vacation so it still can be crowded, but prices are lower than winter. June, July, and August are the cheapest times to visit Key West. The months of June to November are hurricane season.

Jamaica vs. Key West: Resorts

Both Jamaica and Key West have amazing resort options. You can find everything from charming inns to boutique hotels to all-inclusive resorts. It’s all about the style, feel, and budget of your stay. Below are some top choices for resorts.

Jamaica Resorts

Sandals Resorts

There are 7 adults-only all-inclusive Sandals resorts in Jamaica: Sandals Dunn’s River, Sandals Royal Plantation, Sandals Negril, Sandals Montego Bay, Sandals Royal Caribbean, Sandals South Coast, and Sandals Ochi. 

Each of these luxurious resorts is set on a stunning beach and thoughtfully designed for the ultimate in romantic honeymoons or couples’ escapes. They feature a huge variety of complimentary watersports including snorkeling and scuba diving; land activities such as tennis and golf; multiple amazing pools; a fitness center and a spa; and a wide range of restaurants and bars. 

You’ll also find an extraordinary array of amazing accommodations, many of which feature upscale amenities like oversized soaking tubs for two, private plunge pools, and butler service. Honeymooners love the dreamy overwater bungalows. To help you choose the best one, check out our article on the best Sandals resorts in Jamaica.

Half Moon Resort

This elegant resort near Jamaica’s famous Montego Bay hosts celebrities, royalty, and everyone else on its breathtaking stretch of the Caribbean. A family-run hotel, Half Moon Resort features something for everyone, especially couples.

Foodies will love the fresh, locally sourced ingredients, used to create traditional Jamaican food and other delicious offerings at 4 restaurants. The romantic Sugar Mill Restaurant is one of the top restaurants on the island.

Choose from rooms, suites, or large villas with private pools and butler service. Enjoy 5 bars, multiple pools, watersports, golf, tennis, horseback riding, a fitness center, a playground, and a spa.

Key West Resorts

Pier House Resort & Spa

The iconic Pier House Resort & Spa is conveniently located close to the action but along the waterfront with a private white sand beach. It features posh accommodations and a swanky full-service spa as well as a pool, a fitness center, and 3 restaurants and bars.

Ocean View Suites have separate living rooms with sofa beds plus excellent water views from private furnished balconies. The unique Dockside Suite has incredible sunset views from the expanded infinity balcony. 

The Gardens Hotel

For a B&B feel, The Gardens Hotel is an adults-only spot that offers rooms and suites in a historic home plus cottages with private pools on the lushly landscaped grounds. Luxurious and charming accommodations feature private decks or balconies, marble bathrooms (most with whirlpool tubs), minifridges, Keurig coffee makers, luxe linens, and robes. 

This boutique hotel often features live jazz in the gardens and has two heated pools, a pool bar, complimentary breakfast, and Wifi, and a self-serve wine gallery,

Jamaica vs. Key West: Things to Do

Both Jamaica and Key West have plenty of activities to offer, but depending on what you’re looking for, one island may be a better fit than the other.

Jamaica Activities

Many people spend a lot of their time in Jamaica on the beach. This is a great way to pass the time, but it’s not all just sunbathing and relaxing. Water sports are popular due to the stunningly clear and calm waters.

You can go kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing. There are a number of companies that offer parasailing, jet skiing, and banana boat rides. You can also take a glass-bottom boat tour to get a glimpse of the vibrant marine life.

Snorkeling and scuba diving are excellent here. You can snorkel right off the beach in Montego Bay along thriving coral reefs that are just offshore. Or visit the Montego Bay Marine Park, which allows snorkeling and scuba diving in its protected waters that are home to a wide variety of marine life.

You can also go swimming with horses in Jamaica. You can book a tour that takes you first on a horseback trail ride, then to the beach where you’ll enjoy a 15-minute swim in the sea while on your horse.

Jamaica also offers a variety of jungle safari tours that take you deep into the lush rainforests, where you’ll get to see some of the island’s abundant wildlife. You can also go ziplining through the rainforest.

There are also historic sites to tour and local towns to explore. In the evening, there is plenty of vibrant nightlife to enjoy, especially in Montego Bay.

Key West Activities

While you can definitely have a good time in this “party capital,” Key West has a lot more to offer. It’s fun just to wander the streets and admire the colorful architecture and funky vibe.

Some of the most popular Key West activities include visiting the Southernmost Point in the United States for a picture next to the giant buoy, touring the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and climbing to the top of the Key West Lighthouse.

You can also get an overview of the area by taking the Conch Train Tour, an open-air “train” that guides you past more than 100 top sites over an hour and a half. There are all sorts of museums and historic sites in Key West that you can then go explore.

Scuba diving and snorkeling are very popular here due to the offshore reefs and wrecks. You can even snorkel off the shore at the Key West Marine Park, on the southern side.

Most visitors will spend at least a few hours walking the main drag of Duval Street, which is home to some of the most famous bars in the U.S. While they may be touristy, they are still worth a stop. Sloppy Joe’s is the most iconic. 

Jamaica vs. Key West: Safety

Recently, many countries have issued new travel advisories and warnings for people traveling to Jamaica. There has been an increase in violent crime across the island, which can make travel there more dangerous. Both the U.S. and Canada have issued “reconsider” travel warnings for those planning on taking trips to Jamaica. 

For more information, check out our article “Is Jamaica Safe?”

Key West, on the other hand, is considered a safe destination for travelers. Overall, the crime rate in Key West is very low. However, visitors should still take common-sense precautions. 

The Verdict: Which is Better, Jamaica or Key West?

So, which is better, Jamaica or Key West? Both offer a tropical getaway with plenty of sand, sun, and adventures. The final choice really comes down to what type of trip you’re looking for. 

Now that you’ve read our comparison of Jamaica vs. KeyWest, which one would you choose? Feel free to reach out to our expert travel advisors if you’d like help planning your trip!

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