For most pl aces in the U.S., the harsh chill of winter is making its final push, embracing the dramatic seasonal changes of springtime. Nature reawakens, flowers bloom, and the birds and the bees get busy again. Daylight hours increase and some people head for the snowy mountains to catch the last of the spring skiing. But others are just plain ‘over the cold’ and set their sites for the sunshine. What better place to warm the body and renew the spirit than Key West in the springtime?
As spring eases in with March and April and spills into May, there is a gradual increase in temperature from sub-tropical wintertime 60’s and 70’s Fahrenheit to springtime mid 80’s Fahrenheit. It’s before the ‘official’ rainy season that starts in June, and not sweltering hot outside like the summer months can be. It’s ideal weather for walking and biking around the island, and the turquoise sea water warms up to the perfect temperature.
Key West is subtropical, and most people don’t think of it as having a seasonal change at springtime. It’s typical to read that there are two seasons on the island; the ‘dry season’ in the winter and spring; and the ‘wet season’ in the summer and fall. Since the seasonal changes are not as dramatic as northern climes, it’s easy to take this axiom for granted. But changing seasons, regardless of how subtle, have a profound effect on plant and animal life everywhere. Spring is the time of renewal and if you take the time to notice you’ll witness new wonders of nature in the Key West.
A Key West garden is a great place to observe the transition to spring as stunning blooms pop out to put on an amazing show of color. Favorites for me are the sensual red ‘anthurium’ plants, elegant pink and white ‘orchid trees,’ red fuzzy looking ‘shaving brush trees,’ and the glowing lavender ‘queens wreath vine.’ My neighbor has one of these vines, and since I had my childhood in the north, it reminds me of some kind of exotic tropical lilac blossom.
In the animal world of the Key West botanical kingdom, tiny ‘brown male anole lizards’ run around the coral rocks and the tree trunks, and puff out their orange throat frills to attract the females. When I see this, I imagine I’m observing a modern miniature dinosaur mating ritual. Spring brings some annoyances too. We always seem to have an invasion of ‘sugar ants’ that find their way into the house, but we’re always prepared with ‘ant hotels’ to capture the little pests. Insects and reptiles are part of life in the tropical world, and you just have to get used to that.
Then there are the migratory birds that use the island as a pit-stop. There’s a list of rare birds that come through in spring including the ‘Least Tern’ and ‘Antillean Nighthawk.’ Key West is a rare bird watching destination with roots tied to John James Audubon whose house is now a museum. The approximate 13 acre Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden on Stock Island is a wonderful place to visit to learn more about the wonders of tropical gardens in the spring. The brainchild of some incredibly dedicated people, it also an important landing spot for many of the migratory birds that pass through Key West.
Beyond botanicals, Key West is an island surrounded by clear turquoise water teeming with marine life, and the spring season brings new life to the coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean and on the Gulf of Mexico. Springtime is juvenile fish season, and the water temperature makes it ideal time for scuba divers and snorkelers to search for adorable little teenage fish! Some fish, like the Kingfish are migrating back to the north, and others like Spotted Seatrout, Bluefish and Cobia are spawning.
Key West in the spring is a wonderful time to discover the subtle seasonal changes on both land and sea, and just relax. There’s plenty to do without getting into the downtown party scene. The best way to do this is to plan to stay on the island in a private vacation rental home, off the beaten path, for minimum a week and ideally a month. Spend some relaxing time in the tropical gardens, bike and bike around the less traveled lanes, and take a snorkel or scuba dive trip out to a reef. You’ll come away with a whole new appreciation for springtime in Key West.