Sunseeker: Florida Keys

Now that's what I call a sundowner
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The Independent Travel

Why go now?

Why go now?

Key West and the Florida Keys are currently enjoying daytime temperatures of around 25C and visitors can swim, snorkel or scuba dive in waters reaching 23C. The Keys have a tropical climate but now is the best time to soak up the sun. The rain peaks in mid-September and can last until November, although it is hot all year and rain will rarely spoil the day.

Any other reason?

To catch Key West's Old Island Days Festival, which runs until May and is a celebration of America's southernmost city's creative and architectural highlights. Now in its 44th year, the festival was established by the Old Island Restoration Foundation to promote the preservation of local buildings. Events include tours of houses and gardens, museum exhibitions, music, theatrical premieres and a conch shell blowing competition.

Where should I stay?

Little Palm Island (00 1 305 872 2524; www.littlepalmisland.com) is a hidden treasure in the Florida Keys, accessible only by boat or seaplane. The resort offers private bungalows looking out across the sea, endless sporting adventures - above and below the water - and a world-class spa. The resort also offers fine dining, whether on the beach or by candlelight in the sand shallows just offshore. Bungalows start from £600 per night.

Cheeca Lodge & Spa (00 1 305 664 4651; www.cheeca.com) is one of the finest luxury ocean-front resorts in the Florida Keys. It is located in Islamorada, which boasts of being the "Sport Fishing Capital of the World". Cheeca has 201 beautifully decorated rooms, a private white sand beach, a spa and two swimming pools. It also offers holidaymakers a full range of water sports. Ocean-front double rooms start at £205 per night.

Hawk's Cay Resort (00 1 305 743 7000; www.hawkscay.com) is situated on Duck Key, an archipelago of five islands connected by bridges. Hawk's Cay has an elegant 177-room inn with a distinct Caribbean flavour. The resort also includes the Indies Spa, which features a variety of packages, such as the opportunity to play with dolphins. There is also an extensive water sports programme that includes fishing, diving and sailing. Double rooms start at £145 per night.

What shouldn't I miss?

Sunset at Key West - it's justifiably renowned for being one of the destination's most spectacular sights. Join the crowds who collect every night for the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square to see out the day. There's a carnival atmosphere, with buskers, jugglers and other street performers. You can also drop in to Hemingway House to see where the hard-drinking author of A Farewell to Arms and The Old Man and the Sea lived, worked and played. Try your hand at scuba-diving at Spiegel Grove, where you can swim in the ruins of the largest ship in the world ever to be intentionally sunk (it now forms part of an artificial reef). Or you can go snorkelling on North America's only living coral barrier reef at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Don't miss swimming with the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Centre. And if you're looking for the best Caribbean-style food with a Keys twist, eat at Mangoes, 700 Duval St, Key West (001 305 292 4606, www.mangoeskeywest.com) for about £30 a head.

Who should I call?

Elegant Resorts (01244 897222; www.elegantresorts.co.uk) offers a seven-night, room-only break at Little Palm Island from £5,265 per person, based on two sharing. This includes return flights from Heathrow with British Airways and private car transfers.

What if I can't afford that?

Travelpack (0870-121 2010; www.travelpack-usa.com) offers a seven-night, room-only break at the three-star Days Inn Key West from £626 per person, based on two sharing, including flights with KLM from Heathrow or Gatwick and car hire.

Where can I find out more?

Contact The Florida Keys & Key West (01564 794555; www.fla-keys.com).

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