Jet skis, or Personal Watercraft (PWCs) as they are called, are a great way to see Key West. But the fragile marine ecosystems around the island mean that there are strict rules riders must follow when visiting the island.
By far, the best way to see Key West by jet ski is to join a tour. There are quite a few options on the island, and cruising around at over 40 mph on the water is a great way to get some sun, feel the wind in your hair, and have some fun on the water. Guides will ensure you see the best stuff and keep out of trouble.
Why Can’t I Find a Jet Ski Rental in Key West?
Tours are generally the best and only way to rent jet skis in Key West. A few exceptions exist if you want a jet ski rental Key West–no tour. But the companies that offer an unguided jet ski rental in Key West, Florida, do so in a small, confined areas, generally near resorts.
You can’t rent a jet ski and take it into the backcountry or around the island on your own. But if you want a quick, cheap jet ski rental Key West has a few operators who will rent by the hour and let you cruise around the beach.
Things You’ll See on a Key West Jetski Tour
The most popular excursion is the Key West jet ski island tour. It lasts about 90 minutes and circles the entire island of Key West. Along the way, your guide will point out the sights and probably share some of the local history. You’ll see the beaches, Key West Harbor, Civil War-era Fort Zachary Taylor, the lighthouse, Southernmost Point, and many other historical areas from the water.
The guides usually stop at a few points along the way to talk about the history of the place and explain where you are.
Every tour is a little different, and conditions depend on the weather. But it’s not uncommon to also see bottlenose dolphins playing or a sea turtle swimming along.
Another popular option is the Key West jetski mangrove tour. These trips take you into the Florida Keys backcountry–all those mangrove islands you can see off in the distance as you drive down Highway 1.
The backcountry is full of winding creeks, mangrove tree tunnels, and shallow
sandbars. Most tours will stop for a few minutes at the gorgeous sandbars, otherwise known as Key West’s best beaches.
Mangrove trips are perfect for beachcombers and nature lovers. But on hot summer afternoons and holidays, a few sandbars host rocking parties in the water.
Since the backcountry is a little farther from the island, these tours usually last a little longer. If you’re looking for an all day jetski rental, Key West can provide that too. Combine all these options and see the whole island, some of the backcountry, and then stop at a sandbar to cool off.
Another fun all-day option is to combine trips with other adventures. Spend a few hours tooling around on a jet ski, then hop aboard a catamaran for snorkeling or sandbar hopping. Wrap it up with para-sailing or maybe even a half-day fishing charter.
What You Need to Know About a Jet Ski Rental Key West Florida
Here’s a few things to know that most folks don’t think about before they book a jet ski excursion.
Why You Need to Go On a Tour
The waters around Key West are protected as part of several National Marine Sanctuaries, including Florida Keys, Key West, and Great White Heron NWSs. There are tons of delicate coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves. They are home to tons of wildlife, including nesting sea turtles and vulnerable bird rookeries.
Plus, the waters are shallow and treacherous if you are unfamiliar, and the fines are steep if you damage any underwater habitats. In fact, jet skis are banned in some of the Marine Sanctuaries to protect the habitats.
That’s why it’s much more enjoyable to go with one of the best Key West jet ski rental operators. They’ll know where to go, so you can focus on having fun and enjoying your time exploring this paradise.
How Fast and How Far
Tour operators in Key West are using new jet skis that offer a great ride and superb performance. Most can hold three people for a total of around 450 to 500 pounds while cruising at an impressive 45 miles per hour.
Most tours circumnavigate the island. It’s a small island, but you cover a lot of ground in an hour and a half! So you’ll probably wind up traveling about 30 miles.
Like most states, Florida has a few legal requirements regarding who can operate a jet ski. Additionally, age requirements may vary slightly from one company to another due to their insurance coverage.
Generally, kids up to 13 years old cannot drive the jet ski and will need to ride with someone 18 or older. Teens 14 or 15 years old can drive or be a passenger just as long as someone 18 or over is onboard. 16 or 17-year-olds can drive their own jet ski with parent permission (parent waiver needed) and if they have a state Boater Safety License. Anyone 18 or over can drive a jet ski as long as they have the Safe Boater License (more below).
Safe Boater Course
To operate a vessel in Florida–even to drive a jet ski–everyone born in 1988 or later must pass a boater safety course. So to participate in a jet ski tour in Key West, Florida, you’ll need to bring your boater safety card.
If you haven’t completed a state-approved course like this, you can complete it online at boat-ed.com before you come. But you will have to show proof of completion to be allowed to drive on the day of your tour.
In addition, you’ll have to show a government-issued photo ID to verify your age, and most companies will need to have a credit card on file.
What to Wear and What to Bring on a Key West Jetski Tour
Jet ski companies will provide you with a lifevest (Personal Floatation Device) to wear on the day of your trip. But plan on getting wet, so a swimsuit is a must.
Reef-safe sunscreen is another important item. The living coral reefs surrounding the Florida Keys are a delicate ecosystem, and several studies have proven that the chemicals commonly used in sunblocks damage them. Reef-safe alternatives are just as effective and can be found at shops around the island.
It’s also a good idea to bring some water and a beach towel to dry off after your trip.
Best Jetski Tour Key West
Here are a few of the best jet ski rental Key West offers:
Key West Jetskis FAQs
Can I rent a jetski without a tour in Key West?
– No, rentals of jetskis are not allowed in the Keys due to the delicate marine habitat
and shallow waters. Jet ski guided tours are widely available on the island, however.
Tours vary in length and the places you’ll go. Some tours specialize in mangroves and
wildlife spotting, while others tour the island’s highlights or the best sandbars.