A Travel Price Comparison for Florida Key West vs. Marathon for Nightlife, Resorts, Beaches, and Families

Should you visit Key West or Marathon?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Key West or Marathon? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Key West

Key West is a quaint, laid-back, and quirky town. With fun activities and sights, this is a small town worth visiting. This is also a very beautiful destination which attracts plenty of visitors. Since it has a quaint atmosphere, you'll want to spend time soaking it all in. Other reasons to visit include beaches, nightlife, and food.

Marathon

Marathon is a relaxing, quaint, and beautiful island. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. And you can't forget about the nightlife, food, and scuba diving and snorkeling.

Key West and Marathon: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Scenic old town
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Good for students
  • Impressive beauty
  • Quaint atmosphere
Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Impressive beauty


Is there more to do in Key West or Marathon?

Travelers will usually find more to do in Key West. Although Key West and Marathon are popular destinations, Key West has more sights and attractions for tourists. Key West is more touristy than Marathon and is popular for its festive nightlife, quirky town center, colorful personality, adrenaline-filled watersports, stunning beaches, turquoise water, and location at the southernmost point of the continental U.S. It is also well known for Duval Street. Marathon is famous for its Loggerhead sea turtles, the Dolphin Research Center, Sombrero Beach, and its many places to scuba dive and snorkel.

How is Key West different from Marathon?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Marathon and Key West. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is the Food Better in Key West or Marathon? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Key West
Marathon

There are opportunities to sample the local cuisine at nice restaurants in both Key West and Marathon.

Visitors will find a budding food and restaurant scene in Key West. Head to town for local restaurants with quirky atmospheres. There are many local dishes to sample, be the town is most known for its stone crabs, conch fritters, and Mahi Mahi sandwiches. You'll also find cold drinks and waterfront dining areas.

Marathon is becoming an appealing option for foodies. There are restaurants with waterfront terraces, raw bars, and other seafood eateries where you can enjoy fresh caught fish for a reasonable price.


Is Key West or Marathon Better for Nightlife?

Key West
Marathon

Key West is great for nightlife. Also, Marathon is not as popular, but is still a nice island for nightlife and partying.

Many people head to Key West for the nightlife scene. This area has some of the most lively nightlife in the Florida Keys. There are quirky bars and fun hangouts where you can spend the evening. The party starts at Mallory Square around sunset and many bars stay open well into the early hours. You can also enjoy sunset cruises or pass your time at one of the many tiki bars.

There's a variety of activities in the evening in Marathon. Popular nightlife venues include JJ’s Dog House & Sports Bar, Brass Monkey, and Cabana Club.

Is Key West or Marathon Better for Resorts?

Key West
Marathon

Key West and Marathon offer a relatively similar set of very good luxury resort options.

Key West is known as a popular and fun resort destination. There are a number of high end resorts around the island, many with recognizable names such as the Hyatt and Hilton. Prices can be high, but these resorts often come with reliable luxury.

Vacationers can choose from a number of terrific resorts in Marathon. Popular resorts include Isla Bella Beach Resort and Tranquility Bay Resort.

Is Key West or Marathon Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Key West
Marathon

There's nice scuba diving or snorkeling available in both Key West and Marathon.

Key West has a few good snorkeling spots. There are a number of dive shops and snorkeling excursions that leave from Key West. Like many tourist areas these days, the coral shows its damage from the crowds, but you'll likely see some barracuda or a Grouper.

It's worth going snorkeling or scuba diving in Marathon. There are many dive shops around Marathon and the area has dive spots that are great for every level. Some of the best sites are Sombrero Reef, Coffins Patch, and Thunderbolt wreck. There are also many snorkeling trips that head out to Sombrero Reef.


Is Key West or Marathon Better for Beaches?

Key West
Marathon

For a relaxing beach holiday, both Key West and Marathon are very good choices.

Key West is considered a top beach destination. One of the best beaches in the area is Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. The beach has soft sand and stunning turquoise water. As is typical in the Keys, the water stays shallow for great distances.

Marathon is a very popular place to visit for its beaches. Sombrero Beach is a popular spot for picnics, swimming and seeing the Loggerhead Turtles from April through October.

Is Key West or Marathon Better for its Old Town?

Key West
Marathon

Key West is great for its historic old town. However, Marathon does not have a historic old town.

Many visitors go to Key West to see the historical old town. The town has the most charming Old Town areas in the Florida Keys. Head to Mallory Square for the sunset street performers and explore the historic streets around Duval Street.

Marathon does not have a historic old town.

Is the Shopping Better in Key West or Marathon?

Key West
Marathon

Key West is adequate for shopping. However, Marathon is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Key West is a good destination for shopping. While it definitely has its share of gimmicky souvenir shops and t-shirt stores, there are still a number of art galleries and local shops around Key West where you can enjoy shopping.

Marathon is not a noteworthy shopping destination.


Is Key West or Marathon Better for Families?

Key West
Marathon

Kids will enjoy a visit to either Key West or Marathon.

Key West is a very kid-friendly town. Families that enjoy snorkeling, aquariums, water sports, and exploring new places will enjoy visiting this part of the Florida Keys. There are many ways to get out on the water from kayaking and snorkeling to glass bottom boat tours and sunset cruises. There are also many kid-friendly beaches in the area. The town can have a party atmosphere, but it's not hard to find a more family-friendly area where everyone can have fun.

You'll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in Marathon. Kids will enjoy getting face-to-face with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center. Families can also explore Pigeon Key or play in the water at Sombrero Beach. Families will find no shortage of activities on the island.

Is Key West or Marathon Better for Couples?

Key West
Marathon

With fun activities for couples, both Key West and Marathon make for a very good place to visit.

Key West is a very popular place to visit for couples. From Mallory Square to the beautiful nearby parks, Key West makes a wonderful, romantic destination. Whether it's your honeymoon, an anniversary, or simply a couples' retreat, Key West is a great option. You can sip wine on a sunset cruise or dine at one of the many character-filled restaurants in town. If you are looking for a party, it's not hard to find, but if you want a more laid back holiday, that's also possible.

Marathon makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. With beautiful views, 7 Mile Bridge, and plenty of activities, this area makes a romantic destination for couples. There are beaches and waterfront spots that offer a romantic setting for couples.

Is Key West or Marathon Better for Students?

Key West
Marathon

Key West is great for its student-friendly activities. However, Marathon is not popular with students.

Key West is a great town to visit as a student. It's a great spring break destination with a quirky personality and many great activities.

Marathon is not popular with students.


Is Key West or Marathon Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Key West
Marathon

Neither Key West or Marathon offer decent public transit.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Key West. Public transportation in Key West is limited to a few buses.

Public transit is quite limited in Marathon. There's no real public transportation in town. A car is essential.

Is Key West or Marathon a more walkable city?

Key West
Marathon

Key West is a nice place to visit for its walkability. However, Marathon is not a good destination for its high level of walkability.

Key West is somewhat walkable. The town is the most walkable part of the Florida Keys. The area around Mallory Square and Duval Street is the most pedestrian friendly.

Marathon is generally not very walkable. Shops and restaurants and spread out along a central road, making walking difficult to impossible.

For even more information, also check out Is Key West Worth Visiting? and Is Marathon Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Marathon or Key West?

How long in Key West or Marathon?

Both Key West and Marathon have a number of activities to choose from. In our opinion, Key West has more to see and do, so we recommend that you spend more time in Key West than Marathon. In general, 5-7 days is a good amount of time for Key West, and 3-7 days is enough time in Marathon.

Families should spend more time in Key West than Marathon. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Key West, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Key West than Marathon. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Key West that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Key West than Marathon if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Key West.


  • How many days in Key West or Marathon? Ideal Length of Stay
    Key West 5-7 
    Marathon 3-7

One day in Key West or Marathon?

The beautiful town of Key West offers nightlife and food. Exploring the old town is a popular activity. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

The beautiful island of Marathon offers nightlife and food. Most people come for the beaches. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.


A weekend in Key West or Marathon?

Key West is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Marathon is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

Five days in Key West or Marathon?

Key West is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Key West, five days is sufficent for most. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Marathon is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Marathon, five days is sufficent for most. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Key West or Marathon?

Key West is a great place to explore. It is common to spend one week here. Visiting the old town is also a must. One week is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Key West has to offer. This town offers something for everyone.

Marathon is a great place to explore. It is common to spend one week here. It's also a great beach destination, too. One week is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Marathon has to offer. This island offers something for everyone.


For some great organized tour ideas, see The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from Los Angeles, The Best One-Week (7-Day) Tours from New York City, The Best 2-Week Tours from New York City, and The Best 2-Week Tours from Anchorage.


Which place is cheaper, Marathon or Key West?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Key West is $551, while the average daily cost in Marathon is $158. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Key West and Marathon in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Key West $132
    Marathon $76
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Key West $264
    Marathon $152
Compare Hotels in Key West and Marathon

Looking for a hotel in Key West or Marathon? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Key West


Hotels in Marathon


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Key West Hotel Prices and Marathon Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Key West $51
    Marathon $47
Typical Local Transportation Prices in Key West

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for transportation costs in Key West:


  • Rental Car for One Day
    $38

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Key West

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Key West:

  • Private Arrival Transfer from Key West Airport EYW: $144
  • Key West Airport (EYW) to Key West - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $131
  • Marathon/ Key Largo to Fort Lauderdale Airport(FLL) - Departure Private Transfer: $111
  • Key West Int Airport (EYW) to Key West - Arrival Private Transfer: $65
  • Key West to Key West Airport (EYW) - Departure Private Transfer: $65
  • Key West Int Airport EYW to Key West Hotels Arrival Transfer: $65
  • Key West hotels to Key West Int Airport (EYW) Departure Transfer: $65
  • Key West Cruise Port to Key West Airport (EYW) Private Transfer: $39
  • Private Transfer from Key West Int Airport to Key West Port: $39
  • Private Transfer from Key West Cruise Port to Key West hotels: $39

Is it cheaper to fly into Key West or Marathon?

Prices for flights to both Marathon and Key West change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Key West $385
    Marathon $51

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Key West

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Key West.

  • Sunset Dinner Cruise with Open Bar & Live Music: $81
  • Key West Sunset Cruise: Dinner and Drinks Included: $93
  • Southernmost Food & Cultural Walking Tour by Key West Food Tours: $93
  • Historic Seaport Food & Walking Tour by Key West Food Tours: $93
  • Old Town Secret Food Tour: $109
  • Sunset Sail Full Bar, Live Music & Dinner & Early Morning Snorkeling: $160
  • Snorkeling, Sunset Dinner Cruise & Open Bar: $200

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Key West $33
    Marathon $27

Tours and Activities in Key West

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Key West are as follows:

  • Private E-Pedicab 1 Hour Sightseeing Ride of Old Town Key West: $100
  • Southernmost Ghosts Tour: $33
  • 1 Hour Key West Jet Ski Freestyle Adventure: $155
  • 2-Hour Live Music Guided Tour in Key West: $35
  • A Self-Guided Tour of Key West's Legends and Sights: $24
  • Adults only Sunset Cruise from Key West with Champagne: $81
  • Bahama Village Walking Tour: $30
  • Best of Key West Walking Tour with Glass Bottom Boat Cruise: $229
  • Best of Key West with Glass Bottom Boat Cruise: $294
  • Champagne Sunset Catamaran Cruise in Key West with Cocktails!: $60
  • Dark Corners of Key West – Walking Tour: $358
  • Dark Corners of Key West Walking Tour: $183

Tours and Activities in Marathon

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Marathon.

  • Snorkel Adventure at Sombrero Key Light Reef: $80
  • Florida: Sunset Champagne Cruise on the Marathon Mermaid: $82

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Key West $16
    Marathon $24

Sample the Local Flavors in Key West

Also in Key West, these are the prices for nightlife and alcohol related activities from various tour providers:

  • Key West Haunted Pub Crawl Walking Tour: $30
  • Haunted Pub Crawl Walking Tour: $30
  • Key West Haunted Pub Crawl and Ghost Tour with Free T-Shirt: $32
  • Bone Island Haunted Pub Crawl: $32
  • 2.5-Hour Duval Street Pub Crawl: $43


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Key West and Marathon, we can see that Key West is more expensive. And not only is Marathon much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Marathon would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Marathon and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Key West would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Key West than you might in Marathon.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Key West Expensive? and Is Marathon Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Key West or Marathon?

Key West has a larger population, and is about 2 times larger than the population of Marathon. When comparing the sizes of Key West and Marathon, keep in mind that a larger population does not always imply the destination has more attractions or better activities. So, always research the type of place that you want to visit along with the activities and attractions that interest you.


When is the best time to visit Key West or Marathon?

Both places have a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. As both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Key West or Marathon in the Summer?

The summer brings many poeple to Key West as well as Marathon. Many travelers come to Key West for the beaches, snorkeling, the small town charm, and the family-friendly experiences. Additionally, many visitors come to Marathon in the summer for the beaches, snorkeling, and the family-friendly experiences.

In July, Key West is generally around the same temperature as Marathon. Daily temperatures in Key West average around 84°F (29°C), and Marathon fluctuates around 84°F (29°C).

The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Marathon. People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Key West this time of the year. In the summer, Key West often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Marathon. Key West gets 328 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Marathon receives 328 hours of full sun.

Key West usually gets around the same amount of rain in July as Marathon. Key West gets 3.3 inches (83 mm) of rain, while Marathon receives 3.3 inches (83 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Key West 84°F (29°C) 
    Marathon 84°F (29°C)

Should I visit Key West or Marathon in the Autumn?

Both Marathon and Key West are popular destinations to visit in the autumn with plenty of activities. Many visitors come to Key West in the autumn for the shopping scene, the small town atmosphere, and the natural beauty of the area. Also, most visitors come to Marathon for the natural beauty of the area during these months.

Key West is around the same temperature as Marathon in the autumn. The daily temperature in Key West averages around 80°F (27°C) in October, and Marathon fluctuates around 80°F (27°C).

It's quite sunny in Marathon. The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Key West. Key West usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Marathon during autumn. Key West gets 258 hours of sunny skies, while Marathon receives 258 hours of full sun in the autumn.

It rains a lot this time of the year in Marathon. It's quite rainy in Key West. In October, Key West usually receives around the same amount of rain as Marathon. Key West gets 5.1 inches (129 mm) of rain, while Marathon receives 5.1 inches (129 mm) of rain each month for the autumn. The hurricane season in Key West is June to November.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Key West 80°F (27°C) 
    Marathon 80°F (27°C)

Should I visit Key West or Marathon in the Winter?

Both Marathon and Key West during the winter are popular places to visit. Most visitors come to Key West for the shopping scene and the cuisine during these months. Also, the winter months attract visitors to Marathon because of the cuisine.

In the winter, Key West is around the same temperature as Marathon. Typically, the winter temperatures in Key West in January average around 70°F (21°C), and Marathon averages at about 70°F (21°C).

In Marathon, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Key West. In the winter, Key West often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Marathon. Key West gets 252 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Marathon receives 252 hours of full sun.

Key West usually gets around the same amount of rain in January as Marathon. Key West gets 1.7 inches (43 mm) of rain, while Marathon receives 1.7 inches (43 mm) of rain this time of the year.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Key West 70°F (21°C) 
    Marathon 70°F (21°C)

Should I visit Key West or Marathon in the Spring?

The spring attracts plenty of travelers to both Key West and Marathon. The spring months attract visitors to Key West because of the beaches, the small town charm, and the natural beauty. Also, the beaches and the natural beauty are the main draw to Marathon this time of year.

In April, Key West is generally around the same temperature as Marathon. Daily temperatures in Key West average around 77°F (25°C), and Marathon fluctuates around 77°F (25°C).

People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Marathon this time of the year. In Key West, it's very sunny this time of the year. Key West usually receives around the same amount of sunshine as Marathon during spring. Key West gets 326 hours of sunny skies, while Marathon receives 326 hours of full sun in the spring.

In April, Key West usually receives around the same amount of rain as Marathon. Key West gets 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain, while Marathon receives 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain each month for the spring. June to November is the hurricane season in Key West.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Key West 77°F (25°C) 
    Marathon 77°F (25°C)

Typical Weather for Marathon and Key West

Key West Marathon
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 70°F (21°C) 1.7 inches (43 mm) 70°F (21°C) 1.7 inches (43 mm)
Feb 71°F (21°C) 1.4 inches (36 mm) 71°F (21°C) 1.4 inches (36 mm)
Mar 74°F (23°C) 1.7 inches (42 mm) 74°F (23°C) 1.7 inches (42 mm)
Apr 77°F (25°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm) 77°F (25°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm)
May 81°F (27°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 81°F (27°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm)
Jun 83°F (28°C) 4.5 inches (114 mm) 83°F (28°C) 4.5 inches (114 mm)
Jul 84°F (29°C) 3.3 inches (83 mm) 84°F (29°C) 3.3 inches (83 mm)
Aug 84°F (29°C) 3.9 inches (98 mm) 84°F (29°C) 3.9 inches (98 mm)
Sep 83°F (29°C) 5.7 inches (144 mm) 83°F (29°C) 5.7 inches (144 mm)
Oct 80°F (27°C) 5.1 inches (129 mm) 80°F (27°C) 5.1 inches (129 mm)
Nov 76°F (24°C) 2 inches (50 mm) 76°F (24°C) 2 inches (50 mm)
Dec 72°F (22°C) 1.4 inches (35 mm) 72°F (22°C) 1.4 inches (35 mm)