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

Should you visit Key West or Panama City?

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

Should I visit Key West or Panama City? 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 eclectic, bustling, and active town. Don't miss this spot, as it's a charming small town with plenty of activities. The beauty of this spot is also one of the main reasons why visitors come. With a quaint atmosphere, it also offers a unique feeling. And you can't forget about the scuba diving and snorkeling, beaches, and nightlife.

Panama City

Panama City is a active, cosmopolitan, and fun-filled beach town. It's a beautiful place to visit, too. And you can't forget about the food, beaches, and shopping.

Key West and Panama City: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Scenic old town
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Very walkable
  • Impressive beauty
  • Quaint atmosphere
Pros
  • Active nightlife
  • Good music scene
  • Popular beach
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
Things to Consider
  • Less walkable


Is there more to do in Key West or Panama City?

Visitors will usually find more to do in Key West than Panama City, as it offers more sights, attractions, and activities. Key West is better known for its resorts, scuba diving & snorkeling, historical sights, small town charm, impressive beauty, and quaint atmosphere, while Panama City is more popular for its music and shopping. Key West is well known 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. Also, Key West is famous for Duval Street. Panama City is well known for its watersports, sandy beaches, and year-round beach weather.

How is Key West different from Panama City?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Panama City 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 Panama City? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Key West
Panama City

There are opportunities to sample the local cuisine at notable restaurants in both Key West and Panama City.

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.

Panama City is becoming an appealing option for foodies. There are many waterfront restaurants that serve freshly caught seafood. Head to town for a charming atmosphere or grab a bite at a casual eatery. Fried seafood is popular when eating out but you'll also find plenty of options for land-lovers. Most restaurants also have kid-friendly menus.


Is Key West or Panama City Better for Nightlife?

Key West
Panama City

Evening events are very good in both Key West and Panama City.

Key West has plenty to do after the sun goes down. 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.

Panama City has a lively atmosphere and nightlife is popular here. The nightlife is particular crazy during spring break, when the town fills with students. Head to the famous Club La Vela or Spinnaker for music and fun at night.

Is Key West or Panama City Better for Music?

Key West
Panama City

Panama City is a popular place for its live music scene. However, Key West is not a live music destination.

The music scene in Panama City is active and vibrant. A popular way to enjoy music in the area is to find a restaurant with a lounge where local musicians perform.

Key West is not a live music destination.

Is Key West or Panama City Better for Resorts?

Key West
Panama City

Key West is a great destination for its resorts. Also, Panama City is still popular, but not quite as popular for its luxury resorts.

Key West is a popular resort destination that attracts visitors from everywhere. 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.

Panama City has a few great resort options. Most people stay in condos that are VRBO's or Airbnbs, but there are resorts in the area as well.


Is Key West or Panama City Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

Key West
Panama City

Key West is a nice place to visit for its diving and snorkeling. However, Panama City is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Key West has a few areas where visitors often go scuba diving or snorkeling. 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.

Panama City is not a scuba or snorkeling destination.

Is Key West or Panama City Better for Beaches?

Key West
Panama City

For a relaxing beach holiday, both Key West and Panama City 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.

Panama City is a very popular place to visit for its beaches. With miles of long white sandy beaches and crystal blue waters, this area's beaches offer a beautiful escape. Head to the area's state parks for the most natural experience. These include St. Andrews State Park and Camp Helen State Park. A day trip to Shell Island is also popular.

Is Key West or Panama City Better for its Old Town?

Key West
Panama City

Key West is a great destination for its old town. However, Panama City 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.

Panama City does not have a historic old town.


Is the Shopping Better in Key West or Panama City?

Key West
Panama City

Panama City is a popular place for its shopping opportunities. However, Key West is a mediocre town for its shopping areas.

Panama City offers some nice shopping areas. There are a number of malls and shopping centers in the area.

Key West has some good spots for those that want to go 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.

Is Key West or Panama City Better for Families?

Key West
Panama City

Panama City is renowned for its family-friendly activities. Also, Key West is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its kid-friendly activities.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Panama City is a very family-friendly destination. This area has large sandy beaches, waterparks, amusement parks, and marine parks. Kids will enjoy playing around at WonderWorks, cooling off at Shipwreck Island Waterpark, and learning about marine life at Gulf World Marine Park. There are also many watersports and water activities that are fun for the whole family.

You'll find plenty of family-friendly things to do in Key West. 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.

Is Key West or Panama City Better for Couples?

Key West
Panama City

With fun activities for couples, both Key West and Panama City 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.

Panama City makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. The beautiful beaches and romantic restaurants make for a great romantic getaway. This is the perfect place to take sunset walks along the beach and sample freshly caught local seafood.


Is Key West or Panama City Better for Students?

Key West
Panama City

Key West and Panama City are both very good destinations for students and younger travelers.

Key West is a very popular town for students and younger travelers. It's a great spring break destination with a quirky personality and many great activities.

Panama City is very popular with students. It's not the spring break destination that it once was, but you'll still find students hanging out around the spring holidays.

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

Key West
Panama City

Panama City is a moderate beach town for its public transit. However, Key West is a mediocre town for times when you don't have a car.

Public transit is generally limited in Panama City. Most people need a car in Panama City but there is a trolley service that connects major tourist areas.

Public transit is quite limited in Key West. Public transportation in Key West is limited to a few buses.

Is Key West or Panama City a more walkable city?

Key West
Panama City

Key West is a nice place to visit for its high level of walkability. However, Panama City is a beach town with minimal options for its ease of walking around.

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

Panama City is not a very walkable town. There's often construction and the streets aren't designed for pedestrians.


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

Should I spend more time in Panama City or Key West?

How long in Key West or Panama City?

Both Key West and Panama City 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 Panama City. In general, 5-7 days is a good amount of time for Key West, and 3-7 days is enough time in Panama City.

Couples should spend more time in Key West than Panama City. 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 Panama City 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 Panama City? Ideal Length of Stay
    Key West 5-7 
    Panama City 3-7

One day in Key West or Panama City?

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the active town of Key West. You can also relax and pamper yourself at one of the resorts. One day is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

The beach town of Panama City offers live music 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 Panama City?

Visitors enjoy the food and scuba diving and snorkeling when visiting the quirky destination of Key West. Exploring the old town is a popular activity. This town offers something for everyone. Since there is so much to do in the area, a weekend is probably not enough for all of it.

Panama City is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. 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 Panama City?

Visitors enjoy the scuba diving and snorkeling and nightlife when visiting the lively town of Key West. People enjoy relaxing at one of the resorts. Many people spend five days here.If you enjoy all that's offered here, then five days is just the right amount of time to spend here. The length of your trip often depends on your style of travel.

Panama City is a popular choice for travelers. Five days here is typical. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Panama City, 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 Panama City?

Visitors enjoy the nightlife and food when visiting the quaint destination of Key West. Anyone can find something fun to do here. This is a popular place to visit for one week. Travelers enjoy the resorts in the area as well. In one week, you should have a good grasp of this town.

Panama City 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 Panama City has to offer. This beach town offers something for everyone.


Which place is cheaper, Panama City 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 Panama City is $224. 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 Panama City in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Key West $132
    Panama City $128
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Key West $264
    Panama City $256
Compare Hotels in Key West and Panama City

Looking for a hotel in Key West or Panama City? 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 Panama City


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 Panama City Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Key West $51
    Panama City $48
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:

  • Key West Airport (EYW) to Key West - Round-Trip Private Transfer: $114
  • Key West Cruise Port to Key West Airport (EYW) Private Transfer: $38
  • Key West Int Airport (EYW) to Key West - Arrival Private Transfer: $57
  • Key West Int Airport (EYW) to Key West hotels Round-Trip Transfer: $88
  • Key West Int Airport EYW to Key West Hotels Arrival Transfer: $44
  • Key West Private Transfer (UP TO 14 PASSENGERS): $275
  • Key West hotels to Key West Int Airport (EYW) Departure Transfer: $44
  • Key West to Key West Airport (EYW) - Departure Private Transfer: $57
  • Marathon/ Key Largo to Fort Lauderdale Airport(FLL) - Departure Private Transfer: $110
  • Private Arrival Transfer from Key West Airport EYW: $144
  • Private Transfer from Key West Cruise Port to Key West hotels: $38
  • Private Transfer from Key West Int Airport to Key West Port: $38

Is it cheaper to fly into Key West or Panama City?

Prices for flights to both Panama City 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
    Panama City $66

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Key West

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

  • Sunset Cruise with Buffet Dinner and Open Bar: $90
  • Key West Sunset Dinner Cruise with Tropical Buffet Dinner: $93
  • Historic Seaport Food & Walking Tour by Key West Food Tours: $93
  • Southernmost Food & Cultural Walking Tour by Key West Food Tours: $93
  • Craft Cocktail Crawl by Key West Food Tours: $94
  • Key West Walking Food Tour With Secret Food Tours: $97
  • Key West Sunset Buffet Dinner Cruise with open bar and Live Music : $110
  • Old Town Secret Food Tour: $112
  • Sunset Sail Full Bar, Live Music & Dinner & Early Morning Snorkeling: $160
  • The Hemingway Experience by Key West Food Tours: $178
  • Dolphin Watching & Snorkeling in Key West with Sunset Dinner Cruise and Open Bar: $190
  • Snorkeling, Sunset Dinner Cruise & Open Bar: $200

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Key West $33
    Panama City $19

Tours and Activities in Key West

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

  • Key West's Self Guided Ghost Walking Tours Smartphone Navigated on WalknTours: $6.50
  • Self-guided old town treasures walking tour: $6.99
  • Key West Sunset Bite, Sip & Stroll Audio Tour: $9.99
  • Florida Key West Self-Guided Walking Audio Tour: $9.99
  • Audio Tours to Walk, Bike, or Drive in Key West: $9.99
  • Florida Keys: Self-Guided Walking Tour: $9.99
  • Cruise Through Key West's Black History Audio Tour: $11
  • Easy Stroll (or Bike) Through Downtown Key West Audio Tour: $11
  • Bike Key West Beaches and Back Roads Audio Tour: $11
  • Road Trip through the Lower Keys Audio Tour: $11
  • Key West’s Old Town Treasures: A Self-Guided Audio Tour: $15
  • Florida: Key West Overseas Highway Self-Driving Tour: $17

Tours and Activities in Panama City

Here are a few actual costs in Panama City for available activities, ticket prices, and tours:

  • Panama City Beach: SkyWheel Ticket and Mini Golf Combo: $19
  • Panama City Beach: SkyWheel Ticket with Sunset Option: $19
  • Self-Guided Bike Tour: Pedal At Your Pace: $23
  • Panama City Beach Bike Tour - Alligators, Pier, & State Park: $28
  • Panama City Beach: Gulf World Marine Park Entry Ticket: $28
  • Sunset Dolphin Cruise in St. Andrews Bay: $29
  • Dolphin Sightseeing Tour on The Footloose Catamaran from Panama City Beach: $35
  • Shell Island & Dolphin Watch Sailing Cruise : $39
  • Panama City Beach Dolphin Sightseeing Sail: $40
  • Sunset & Dolphin Catamaran Cruise with Island Time: $42
  • Shell Island Snorkel and Dolphin Catamaran Cruise with Island Time : $52
  • 90 min Cruise at Lower Grand Lagoon : $54

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Key West $16
    Panama City $56

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: $32
  • Bone Island Haunted Pub Crawl: $32
  • Original Key West Pub Crawl: $43
  • 2.5-Hour Duval Street Pub Crawl: $43


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Key West and Panama City, we can see that Key West is more expensive. And not only is Panama City much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Panama City would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Panama City 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 Panama City.

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 Panama City Expensive?.


Which is Bigger, Key West or Panama City?

Panama City has a larger population, and is about 53% larger than the population of Key West. When comparing the sizes of Key West and Panama City, 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 Panama City?

Both destinations experience a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. And since both cities are in the northern hemisphere, summer is in July and winter is in January.

Should I visit Key West or Panama City in the Summer?

The summer attracts plenty of travelers to both Key West and Panama City. Many travelers come to Key West for the beaches, snorkeling, the small town charm, and the family-friendly experiences. Also, many visitors come to Panama City in the summer for the beaches, the music scene, and the family-friendly experiences.

Key West is around the same temperature as Panama City in the summer. The daily temperature in Key West averages around 84°F (29°C) in July, and Panama City fluctuates around 82°F (28°C).

People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Panama City this time of the year. In Key West, it's very sunny this time of the year. Key West usually receives more sunshine than Panama City during summer. Key West gets 328 hours of sunny skies, while Panama City receives 283 hours of full sun in the summer.

Panama City receives a lot of rain in the summer. In July, Key West usually receives less rain than Panama City. Key West gets 3.3 inches (83 mm) of rain, while Panama City receives 7.3 inches (184 mm) of rain each month for the summer.


  • Summer Average Temperatures July
    Key West 84°F (29°C) 
    Panama City 82°F (28°C)

Should I visit Key West or Panama City in the Autumn?

The autumn brings many poeple to Key West as well as Panama City. 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 Panama City for the shopping scene, the music scene, and the natural beauty of the area during these months.

In the autumn, Key West is a little warmer than Panama City. Typically, the autumn temperatures in Key West in October average around 80°F (27°C), and Panama City averages at about 71°F (22°C).

The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Panama City. People are often attracted to the plentiful sunshine in Key West this time of the year. In the autumn, Key West often gets around the same amount of sunshine as Panama City. Key West gets 258 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Panama City receives 256 hours of full sun.

Key West receives a lot of rain in the autumn. Key West usually gets more rain in October than Panama City. Key West gets 5.1 inches (129 mm) of rain, while Panama City receives 3.4 inches (86 mm) of rain this time of the year. Also, the hurricane season in Key West is June to November.


  • Autumn Average Temperatures October
    Key West 80°F (27°C) 
    Panama City 71°F (22°C)

Should I visit Key West or Panama City in the Winter?

Both Panama City and Key West are popular destinations to visit in the winter with plenty of activities. Most visitors come to Key West for the shopping scene and the cuisine during these months. Also, the winter months attract visitors to Panama City because of the shopping scene and the cuisine.

In January, Key West is generally much warmer than Panama City. Daily temperatures in Key West average around 70°F (21°C), and Panama City fluctuates around 52°F (11°C).

The sun comes out a lot this time of the year in Key West. Key West usually receives more sunshine than Panama City during winter. Key West gets 252 hours of sunny skies, while Panama City receives 185 hours of full sun in the winter.

In January, Key West usually receives less rain than Panama City. Key West gets 1.7 inches (43 mm) of rain, while Panama City receives 3.9 inches (99 mm) of rain each month for the winter.


  • Winter Average Temperatures January
    Key West 70°F (21°C) 
    Panama City 52°F (11°C)

Should I visit Key West or Panama City in the Spring?

Both Panama City and Key West during the spring are popular places to visit. The spring months attract visitors to Key West because of the beaches, the small town charm, and the natural beauty. Furthermore, the beaches and the natural beauty are the main draw to Panama City this time of year.

Key West is a little warmer than Panama City in the spring. The daily temperature in Key West averages around 77°F (25°C) in April, and Panama City fluctuates around 68°F (20°C).

In Panama City, it's very sunny this time of the year. It's quite sunny in Key West. In the spring, Key West often gets more sunshine than Panama City. Key West gets 326 hours of sunny skies this time of year, while Panama City receives 295 hours of full sun.

Key West usually gets less rain in April than Panama City. Key West gets 0.8 inches (21 mm) of rain, while Panama City receives 2.7 inches (69 mm) of rain this time of the year. Keep in mind that June to November is the hurricane season in Key West.


  • Spring Average Temperatures April
    Key West 77°F (25°C) 
    Panama City 68°F (20°C)

Typical Weather for Panama City and Key West

Key West Panama City
Temp (°C) Rain (mm) Temp (°C) Rain (mm)
Jan 70°F (21°C) 1.7 inches (43 mm) 52°F (11°C) 3.9 inches (99 mm)
Feb 71°F (21°C) 1.4 inches (36 mm) 55°F (13°C) 3.8 inches (96 mm)
Mar 74°F (23°C) 1.7 inches (42 mm) 61°F (16°C) 4.3 inches (108 mm)
Apr 77°F (25°C) 0.8 inches (21 mm) 68°F (20°C) 2.7 inches (69 mm)
May 81°F (27°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm) 74°F (24°C) 2.7 inches (68 mm)
Jun 83°F (28°C) 4.5 inches (114 mm) 80°F (27°C) 4.6 inches (116 mm)
Jul 84°F (29°C) 3.3 inches (83 mm) 82°F (28°C) 7.3 inches (184 mm)
Aug 84°F (29°C) 3.9 inches (98 mm) 82°F (28°C) 7.5 inches (191 mm)
Sep 83°F (29°C) 5.7 inches (144 mm) 79°F (26°C) 7.5 inches (192 mm)
Oct 80°F (27°C) 5.1 inches (129 mm) 71°F (22°C) 3.4 inches (86 mm)
Nov 76°F (24°C) 2 inches (50 mm) 63°F (17°C) 3.2 inches (81 mm)
Dec 72°F (22°C) 1.4 inches (35 mm) 56°F (13°C) 4.1 inches (104 mm)