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  • POPULATION 25,000
  • SIZE 5 square miles

Closer to Havana than Miami, Key West has always been the place to abscond to when things get too much up north. In the late 1940s, President Truman ran the country from here when the stress of Washington got to his head; Hemingway wrote his war novels here in peace under the Caribbean sun (in the company of a six-toed cat called Snow White) and thousands of American students flock here annually to let off steam at the close of the spring term.

Key West, U.S.A.
Key West, U.S.A.

Approaching via US Route 1 – the solitary highway that spans blue shallows all the way from mainland Florida – Key West s escapist appeal is soon evident: handsome townhouses with creaking shutters and shady verandas, boho boutiques and palm-lined promenades. Make for Mallory Square (on the main island, just behind Sunset Key, pictured in the foreground): this seafront open space —busy with acrobats, fire-eaters and other street entertainers—is the place to get the pulse of Key West life.

  • GETTING THERE – Fly to Miami from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur on Turkish Airlines (one stop in Istanbul). The island is a 3 1/2-hour drive away.

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