Last updated on June 28th, 2020 at 10:57 am

florida keys fishing with masks
On fishing charters, customers are being asked not to share fishing rods and gear. Masks are required on board, and temperature checks required before boarding.

Florida Keys are open. Checkpoints have been removed from the Overseas Highway. Airports, hotels, retail shops, bars and restaurants are back in business.

But it won’t be the same.

Facial coverings over the nose and mouth are mandatory, even outdoors where social distancing isn’t possible, through June of 2021, and violators face a $500 fine. There will be temperature checks at the entrance to restaurants and many other businesses.

Airline passengers at Key West Airport are being screened on arrival, and passengers arriving from coronavirus hot spots can expect to face a 14-day quarantine.

Monroe County and Key West have tightened restrictions on facial coverings and implemented a $500 civil fine for violations, even requiring masks outdoors where social distancing isn’t possible. Penalties apply to not only customers of businesses but also to businesses that don’t enforce the new law.


Take me along for the ride! Florida Keys Mile-Marker Guide


Lodging, campgrounds: 50% capacity “encouraged”

The latest directive “encourages” hotels, motels, vacation rentals, campgrounds, RV parks and timeshares host guests at 50% capacity.

Guests and employees must follow CDC guidelines, and face-to-face interactions will be limited. Hotels and motels will have hand-washing stations in place throughout their properties.

Some smaller guest houses are initially not expected to reopen, according to the Miami Herald.

Short-term reservations are open to visitors from areas with COVID-19 case rates less than 700 cases per 100 thousand residents. International travelers are restricted from making lodging reservations. Even if they do, they’ll be turned away at the airport.

Campgrounds at Bahia Honda State Park, Curry Hammock State Park and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park have reopened but all three are booked well into summer. The campground at Long Key State Park is closed. Only a handful of primitive tent sites are open, but they, too, are booked.


Places to Stay (Booking.com)

From these links, you’ll find photos, descriptions, and reviews of each property.

Key Largo (65 properties)

Islamorada (35 properties)

Marathon (174 properties)

Big Pine Key (12 properties)

Sugarloaf Key and the Lower Keys (37 properties)

Key West and Stock Island (270 properties)


Bars and Restaurants: 50% capacity inside, unlimited outside (with social distancing)

florida keys sunset grille masks
Socially distant diners at the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar in Marathon.

Restaurants are now operating at 50% capacity indoors. Outdoor seating is not limited, as long as tables are 6 feet apart and seated parties are groups of 10 or less. 

Bars and pubs have reopened to full capacity outdoors with social distancing, and at 50 percent capacity indoors, with bar-top seating and seated service only (no standing room). Masks must be worn except while eating.

Restaurants have new safety protocols in place. The city of Key West is requiring restaurants to take diners’ temperatures before being seated.

Disposable paper menus are being offered, and servers will sanitize wine lists after each customer. Salad bars and buffet tables are not permitted. 

Guests must wear masks or face coverings that cover the mouth and nose except when eating. Social distancing in restaurants is a priority.


Airport Arrivals

At both Key West International and Marathon International airports, health screenings are discontinued, except for passengers traveling on nonstop flights from designated COVID-19 hotspot states.

Those who are screened are required to isolate or quarantine for 14 days or the duration of that person’s stay, whichever is shorter.


Key West

Social distancing and masks are the rule, including Mallory Square. The city continues to ban large groups (10 or more), festivals and events in public places.

The city is requiring restaurants and many other businesses to take the temperature of customers before they are allowed to enter the business.

The Hemingway Home has reopened, and reservations are not required. The historic house will be open from 9 am until 5 pm every day, and tickets may be purchased at the entrance.

The Key West Conch Tour Train and Old Town Trolley hop-on hop-off tour have resumed service.


Fishing and Dive Charters

Boats with a capacity of 10 or fewer will be able to operate without passenger limits. Larger vessels will be limited to 50% capacity, but the reduction will be waived to allow at least 10.

Passenger decks and docks will be marked for social distancing, keeping passengers six feet apart on board.

All trips are reservation only. No walk-ups will be permitted under the new rules. Temperature checks will be made on crew and customers.

Frequently touched items, such as magazines, brochures and decor, are banned and have been removed from vessels.

Captains, crews and passengers are required to wear face coverings, and social distancing on board and on docks is being enforced. Hand sanitizer must be conveniently placed for passengers and crew.

On fishing boats, customers will be asked not to share fishing rods and gear. Only one person at a time will be allowed at bait stations, which must be sanitized after each trip.


Boat Rentals

Jet skis, kayaks, canoes and paddle boards are limited to single riders (or 1 adult and 1 immediate family child).

Reservations only, no walk-ups, and payments should be touchless. Vessels must be sanitized between customers.

Customers will be required to submit to temperature checks before the rentals are allowed.


Beaches and parks

Most beaches and parks in the Keys have already re-opened with social distancing rules in place. 

Key West has opened its beaches and parks with few restrictions, and sunbathing is allowed in addition to exercise. While masks are not required at the beach, beachgoers must maintain social distancing.

County-owned parks and beaches are open throughout the Keys with social distancing enforced. Playgrounds are being sanitized twice daily, except in Key West, where they remain closed.

Municipal beaches are closed in Marathon and Islamorada.

The Reynolds Street Pier at Higgs Beach is open until 6 p.m. nightly. The fitness trail, playgrounds and dog park at Higgs Beach are also open.

State parks with beaches in the Keys have reopened with restrictions.


What else to expect

Retail establishments are limited to 50% of a building’s capacity, and social-distancing markings must be in place near entrances and checkout counters. When possible, businesses with multiple entrances will be required to make them one way, in or out. Hand sanitizers must be readily available to staff and customers and disinfectant wipes available at all entrances.

Disinfecting and social distancing guidelines will apply across the board in every aspect of the community.

“Should the Florida Keys experience an increase in cases … restrictions may be heightened and/or amenities may again be closed,” Monroe County said in a statement.

On June 17, Monroe County and the City of Key West tightened restrictions on facial coverings and implemented a maximum $500 civil fine for violations. Penalties not only apply to customers, but also to operators of businesses that allow violations.


Plan ahead for your visit to the Keys

Plan ahead and come prepared.

Visitors should bring your own facial coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer, reef-safe sunscreen and personal essential medicines. If you’re feeling unwell, county tourism officials are asking that you stay home.

“You have the personal responsibility to protect yourself and others,” tourism officials said.

“Anyone who’s sick with symptoms of a viral illness that could be consistent with COVID-19 should stay home, call their physician and get advice,” said Dr. Mark Whiteside, medical director of the Florida Department of Health in Monroe County.


Sources: Monroe County government, City of Key West, City of Marathon, City of Islamorada, Miami Herald, Key West Citizen, Keynoter and the Florida Keys and Key West tourism bureau.


Resources

For more information, here’s the official directive: Monroe-County COVID-19

Book snorkeling, kayak tours and other watersports on TripAdvisor

Book a room in the Florida Keys with Hotels.com


Read More

Florida Keys Overseas Highway Mile-Marker Guide

Letter from the Keys during quarantine

Hidden Florida Keys: 5 abandoned islands in paradise

Florida Rambler‘s archive of stories about the Florida Keys


2 Comments

  1. You are wrong about the 50 occupancy for campgrounds. Monroe county now just advises’ it. Changed their stance last week you need to issue an update. Campgrounds can be 100% occupied

    • Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I just reread the official Monroe County directives again this morning (Monday), and the only change I see is the county “encourages” (instead of requires) hotels, vacation rentals, RV parks and campgrounds operate at 50% capacity for the first few weeks after reopening. Obviously, that offers a lot of leeway. I’ve changed the wording in the story to more accurately reflect the county’s guidance. Thank you! 🙂

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