Live life like a ‘conch’ through an extended stay at a Historic Key West Vacation Rentals home

queen conch

Behold the queen conch — a species of large predatory sea snails that can be found along our shallow waters. This marine gastropod has become a symbol of the Florida Keys, particularly in Key West, with those born on the island referring to themselves as “conchs.” (Anglo-Bahamians started this tradition because the large molluscs were such a prominent part of their diet.) 

Pronounced with a hard K (as in “I want to conk out on my sunbed”), a conch can grow up to 11 pounds! And if you visit Key West and stay long enough, you may be called a “freshwater conch” by some of the locals! (We’re not going to comment on how large you may grow during your extended stay!)

The point is, Historic Key West Vacation Rentals offers quite a few homes where you can stow your bags far back in the closet, stay a month or more and really soak up life as a local.

When you think about Key West, you may think about famed author Ernest Hemingway, drinking your way down Duval Street, snapping photos of free-roaming chickens or grabbing a selfie at the southernmost point in the United States. But there is so much more to discover when you venture off the beaten path. 

Toward that end, we’ve assembled a list of things you can do to live more like a local on Key West:

  • Stay in local neighborhoods: Choose accommodations more off the beaten path in residential areas such as Bahama Village or Casa Marina. This will provide you with a more sedate and authentic experience. HKWVR offers several properties in each of those neighborhoods, along with many more in the more vibrant hot spots.
  • Eat where the locals eat: Opt for local favorites such as El Siboney for Cuban cuisine, Blue Heaven for breakfast, Fisherman's Cafe for seafood and Southernmost Beach Café for the best location (right on the beach, with sugary sand often covering the floor).
  • Go further afield: Make a reservation at the Hogfish Bar & Grill, a funky locals hideaway on Stock Island just off Key West. Sit outdoors and enjoy a drink at a picnic table overlooking boats moored at the dock (try the smoked-fish dip and fresh hogfish!). After eating, stroll down the dock and discover offbeat sculptures by local artists who live in the dockside lofts.
  • Explore local markets: Visit the Key West Farmers Market or the Eaton Street Seafood Market to pick up fresh local produce and seafood. There’s nothing like bringing home a few fresh lobsters, fresh bread and a bottle of something nice — and share an island meal in your rental.
  • Use local transportation: Rent a bicycle or use the local bus service (the Key West Transit) to get around. This is how many locals travel, and it helps you avoid the crowded tourist trolleys and trains. And traveling off the beaten path almost always leads to an adventure!
  • Hop on a bike: It’s fun to explore the island on two wheels. Eaton Bikes and Key West Bicycles are both great local businesses to support. If biking isn’t your thing, the Duval Loop Bus runs daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the schedule and more details here.
  • Enjoy the natural side: Spend time at less crowded beaches such as Fort Zachary Taylor State Park or Smathers Beach, and explore the lesser-known side streets and hidden gems around the island. Basically, if you see a group of tourists heading one way, try the other!
  • Engage with the arts: Visit local art galleries, such as the Studios of Key West, and attend performances at the Key West Theater or Tropic Cinema for a taste of the local culture.
  • Shop at local boutiques: Avoid tourist shops and instead browse local boutiques and art shops for unique souvenirs and gifts. We like to recommend The Green Pineapple because it’s not your average clothing boutique. It’s also the home of an organic cafe, and there is a yoga studio in the back!

By following these tips, you'll be able to immerse yourself in the authentic local culture of Key West and enjoy the island like a true conch! And to find out more about Historic Key West Vacation Rentals, visit our website here and peruse our diverse inventory of homes.