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Florida Keys vs Hawaii – What’s a Better Place to Visit?

This is an aerial view of Waikiki Beach in Oahu, Hawaii.

Both the Florida Keys and Hawaii have plenty to offer people looking for their next summer vacation. While both areas have stunning beaches and swimming, the type of adventure will be different between the two regions. Hawaii has loads of hiking, volcanoes, and wildlife native to the Pacific region, while the Florida Keys boast white-sand beaches, tropical waters, and endemic animals native to the Atlantic Ocean.

Florida Keys vs Hawaii

Choosing between the Florida Keys and Hawaii is a tough decision, and much of it will depend on your likes, as well as your location in relation to each. Getting to the Florida Keys often requires flying to Miami and then driving south. Getting to Hawaii can be a little more complex, with many people choosing to fly to Los Angeles and then taking another long flight to this tiny island.

Still, both areas offer plenty to see and do, with many local hot spots boasting beautiful beaches and plenty of nightlife. Below, let’s take a closer look at the highlights around each of these areas so you can determine which vacation spot is best for you. 

Where Has Better Beaches?

This is a close look at a footbridge at Key West Beach.

When it comes to exploring the beaches, both the Florida Keys and Hawaii have loads to offer. Florida is known for its beaches, and there are many famous beaches accessible from the Florida Keys region. At the southernmost point, Key West is a popular trip for people traveling to the Keys.

This area features stunning white sand beaches and calm and clear waters. Key Largo has great beaches that are popular tourist attractions for both scuba diving and snorkeling to the north. Both beaches have warm and calm water. 

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Comparatively, Hawaii has some of the most diverse beaches in the world. Made up of several smaller islands, Hawaii has plenty to offer between the various regions. For calm and warm water that is crystal clear, tourists travel to Maui, located just north of the Big Island.

For amazing waves with some of the best surfing in the world, travelers will frequent the northern beaches in Oahu, near Honolulu, the second island away from the Big Island. 

Where Has Better Nightlife? 

A nighttime view of Sloppy Joes Bar in Key West.

For some, a vacation means being able to go out and explore and enjoy excellent bars and restaurants. When comparing Hawaii to the Florida Keys, these two areas offer equally good nightlife. In the Florida Keys, expect to find several bars and restaurants with an intense nightlife scene.

There is a very lively and frenetic feel throughout the area, and there are plenty of opportunities to stay out enjoying all this region has to offer. 

When it comes to nightlife, you simply need to know where to look in Hawaii. Places like Maui will be quiet and have a low-key vibe, but areas closer to Honolulu or on the Big Island will have an urban feel with plenty of nightlife. Unlike the Florida Keys, Hawaii has a global cultural diversity that is hard to compare to anywhere else in the world.

Areas close to Honolulu will have varied cuisine available in bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. 

Where Has Better Outdoor Adventure?

This is an aerial view of the Napali Coast in Hawaii.

Traveling to the Florida Keys is really about the beaches. While at the beach, there are plenty of opportunities to snorkel, scuba dive, fish, boat, or partake in various water sports. Outside of exploring some small towns and going to a beach, the outdoor adventure is rather limited. Much of the outdoor activities revolve around being at the beach or being in the water.

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Hawaii has an edge on the Florida Keys when it comes to outdoor activity. Of course, Hawaii has loads of beautiful beaches filled with soft white, red, or black sand and features calm water and huge waves. Choose to relax at the ocean or go surfing on the north side of Oahu.

Aside from water adventure, though, Hawaii is filled with volcanoes. Explore hiking through the wilderness and get views of the region from 10,000 feet high. If hiking isn’t your idea of fun, the region has several farms, wineries, and distilleries that you can visit and sample. Compared to the Florida Keys, Hawaii has much better opportunities for outdoor adventure. 

Which Has Better Wildlife?

This is a close look at a manatee swimming in the river of Florida.

Visiting either the Florida Keys or Hawaii will be sure to give you plenty of wildlife. In Florida, expect to see a range of marine animals, including dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and even the elusive manatee. This area is a wonderful place to snorkel, and the areas around Key Largo are famous for the large and beautiful coral reef.

Plus, this area of the world has many migratory birds that pass through and will stay through the winter months. Many wildlife lovers will enjoy a day trip to the Dry Tortugas to catch a glimpse at some rare and beautiful animals.

When it comes to wildlife, though, Hawaii wins the competition, hands down. Not only does this area have plenty of coral reefs, fish, and birds, but during certain times of the year, it is possible to see humpback whales migrating. The whales can be seen from Maui, and many people will plan their Hawaii vacation around the migration.

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Hiking through Hawaii will also allow nature enthusiasts to see rare vegetation and flowers that are not found anywhere else in the entire world. Hawaii is tropical, beautiful, and full of life, making it the perfect place for wildlife adventurers to explore.

Where Gives Better Options and Variety?

A view of Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas.

Although there is certainly plenty to do in either Hawaii or the Florida Keys, it is important to have options for a day trip to further your exploration. The Florida Keys are close to several popular areas that are easily accessible by boat or plane. Consider taking a day trip to the Dry Tortugas.

This area is a protected nature preserve that requires a day pass to visit. On the preserve, you can explore an old lighthouse and have the chance to view protected fish and animal species native to this area. Further, the Florida Keys are close to the Caribbean Islands.

It’s possible to charter a private boat or short plane ride to visit the Caribbean Islands for an overnight trip. Be aware, though, that traveling to a Caribbean Island may require a passport for entry. 

Hawaii certainly has plenty to offer, but much of the exploration must be between the several islands that make up Hawaii. Many people choose to fly to the Big Island or Honolulu and explore the area from there. To travel between islands you simply need to take a plane.

It is about a 45-minute plane ride to get from one island to the next. Unfortunately, though, outside of exploring what Hawaii offers, this area is rather remote and doesn’t give the same amount of options outside of the immediate area.

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Choosing your next vacation location can be difficult, especially with two amazing Florida Keys and Hawaii locations. However, some stark differences set these two beach options apart. Below, let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions about both of these locations to help you choose the right vacation for you and your family. 

What part of Florida is most like Hawaii?

Although much of Florida is exceptionally diverse, there are parts of Florida that are similar to Hawaii. For the most part, the Florida Keys will be able to offer the closest comparison. This area of Florida features white and sandy beaches and calm and warm ocean waters.

Like Hawaii, the Florida Keys also have some fantastic coral reefs and opportunities for diving and snorkeling. 

How big is Hawaii compared to Florida?

Hawaii is one of the smaller states in the United States and has much less landmass than Florida. Looking at the overall size, Hawaii is about eight times smaller than all of Florida. 

Which is further south, the Hawaiian islands or the Florida Keys?

Technically speaking, Hawaii is further south than the Florida Keys. Although, parts of the Florida Keys, like the wildlife refuge, fall far further from the actual monument denoting the end of the Florida Keys. 

Which beaches are better, Florida or Hawaii?

Choosing the better beaches between Florida and Hawaii really depends on what you are looking for on your summer vacation. If you enjoy a white sandy beach with warm and calm waters, then the Florida Keys may be a better option for you. Many of the beaches in the Florida Keys are very similar to the beaches in the Caribbean Islands.

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However, if you are interested in rougher oceans that are a little cooler and feature some opportunities for water sports, then Hawaii may be a better choice for you.

When it comes to snorkeling and diving, both Florida and Hawaii have some pretty amazing sights to see. Florida will feature more tropical fish and corals, while Hawaii will feature species-specific to the Pacific. Expect to see more bio-diversity and varied wildlife in Hawaii, with brighter and more vivid colors.

Boating is possible in both locations, but the surfing and water sport adventures will be better in Hawaii.