I have spent some 38 years in Florida and about 8 of said years in the Florida Keys, including Key West. I have now been living in Hawaii on the island of Maui for 6 months. So, with said experience, and my ability to fling bovine fecal matter with the best of them, I am starting a little series called, “A Tale Of Two Islands”. Basically, I’m going to do some comparison shopping between Key West and Maui. I’ll be writing about a variety of subjects from weather to food, to housing, and whatever else comes to mind. I’ll compare the good, the not so good, and throw in some personal opinions now and then.
There are a lot of similarities between these two islands, and some big differences. Hopefully, for any of you who are looking to do as I have, and relocate, perhaps this information might help. And while I have certain subjects in mind for future entries, if any of you have anything you would like to learn a bit more about, drop me a comment and let me know what it is. If I can help, I’ll do what I can. If I don’t know, I’ll lie. So, let’s get started on this adventure with some of the island basics:
Key West and the Florida Keys are an island chain stretching about 150 miles or so off the southern tip of Florida. The islands are pretty small with Key Largo being the largest stretching out at 33 miles long and less than a mile wide. Key West itself is about 2 miles north to south and 4 miles long east to west.
The Hawaiian Islands sit in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and encompasses almost 1500 miles of area with the main 8 islands in a smaller group. Maui itself is almost 40 miles long at it’s longest point and about 8 miles at it’s most narrow.
Key West and the Keys are made up of dead coral. The Keys were once at the bottom of the ocean and if climate change is not averted, will be again in the not too distant future, a rant for another time. The nickname for Key West is Cayo Hueso or, Island of Bones, because from a distance, back before the island was settled, the white coral looked like bones bleaching in the sun. In some places where the coral has been cut away for canals and such you can see hundreds of fossils of coral heads and other sea life which used to live there.
The Hawaiian islands are made of lava from long ago volcanic eruptions. The lava flowed out, settled on the ocean bed and built up to what the islands look like now. On Maui, there are two dormant (we all hope) volcanoes while on the Big Island, things are still a bit active. You can see evidence of past eruptions and lava flows all over the place, especially along the beaches. If you are a bit of geologist you’ll love Hawaii.
Being as the Keys used to be sea bottom, the islands are extremely flat. The highest natural point in Key West is just 18 feet at Solares Hill in the Old Town area. With sea levels rising, many of the lower areas of the island are frequently flooded when the tides come up higher than usual. It’s only going to get worse as time gets on but for now, most of the island is still dry.
Maui however sits up pretty high. Haleakala tops out at 10,000 feet about sea level while the volcanoes on the Big Island go even higher. The valley in between the two mountains on Maui sits much lower at about 20 0r 30 feet but tides rarely get high enough to do more than maybe flood the roads running along the coastline. Nevertheless, the islands have warning sirens in the event of a tidal wave or tsunami coming in. Better safe than sorry.
Key West sits just south of Latitude 25. It’s climate is subtropical and it never freezes there.
Maui sits at the 20th parallel, roughly in line with Cuba. It also has subtropical weather but because of the mountains, there is more variety. I’ll cover weather in more detail in another post.
In terms of population, the Florida Keys has about 70,000 permanent residents of which 25,000 live in Key West.
The Hawaiian islands have a population of 1.4 million with about 150,000 living on Maui.
Key West and the Keys can be accessed by driving down US 1 along the Overseas Highway, ranked as one of the best drives in the world, unless you have to drive it every damn day. It takes about 3 hours to get from the southern tip of Florida to Key West. The Keys are also accessible by air with Key West International featuring flights to many spots on the mainland. By boat one can sail down the east coast and follow the Intercoastal Waterway all the way into Key West. From the West coast of Florida it’s about 100 miles of sailing on the Gulf of Mexico.
If you can drive to Hawaii, let us know how, because it would be real interesting to hear the story. Hawaii is the most remote island chain in the world being a couple thousand miles from everywhere. There are tons of regular flights into Honolulu, Maui, and the Big Island. Right now, depending on where you are flying from, rates are not too bad. I managed to come out from Miami for under $500 one way.
Cruise ships come to Hawaii also from California and other points along the west coast. Not sure how long the voyage is but I suspect it’s not too long. Cruise ships hit Key West all the time as a regular stop.
As for which island, Key West or Maui is more better, well, it depends on what you want out of your island paradise. As I said earlier, there are a lot of similarities between the two as well as differences. So, for now, I will keep this post mercifully short, and move on to a new aspect in the next Tale of Two Islands post. Keep checking back, for more.