With but a few days left before I board a plane for the mainland, assuming said plane does not get shot down by a Best Korean missile or I get thrown off, I thought I’d wrap this series up with a few last opinions and review of some of the things I covered regarding Maui and Key West. Again, remember I only spent 8 months on Maui so far compared to 8 years in Key West, but, I saw enough out here to get a good idea what life is like should one want to make a move. So, if you are thinking about one or the other island for a future landing place other than a couple weeks vacation, go back and read the entire series over the past few months, and hopefully you’ll get some questions answered.
Maui and Key West have a lot of similar traits but there are differences, minor though they may be, differences nonetheless.
Weather. While both have mild to sub tropical climates, I have to give the edge to Maui. Maybe it’s because of the part of the island where I lived, which is the lee or dry side, but the weather was fantastic the whole time I was here. Rain was rare, it never got below 60, and even with temps in the high 80’s, the humidity was not bad at all. I never felt a need for using air conditioning and only when the occasional front came through, did I need a light rain jacket. Now on other parts of the island it rains more, up country on the mountain side it gets colder, and the winds blow a lot. But where I was it was near perfect weather everyday.
Key West on the other hand, has some more extreme temps. It gets way more hotter there and with the humidity it’s near impossible to get by without air conditioning in the summer. The fronts in winter can drop the temps into the low 50’s and rain storms come with lots of lightning and thunder, something rarely seen here on Maui. Key West weather is still far superior to anything else I have experienced on the mainland, but it’s still not as good as Maui.
Rent. Again, Maui gets the slight edge. The biggest reason rents are cheaper in Maui is because there are more of them. Key West is very limited in affordable rentals and it’s not likely to change anytime soon. I check the ads out here all the time and see places for rent well below the $800 I currently pay. Rents get even more cheaper if one were to go to the Big Island but it’s also a lot more rural there. Honolulu has a lot of lower rents if you want to live in a big city.
Food. Key West takes the lead here at least in terms of cost of food. Being much closer to land it’s way more easier to stay within a budget when shopping at the local grocerterias. I knew Maui would be expensive when it came to food but even still, it’s been a shock to the food budget. One trick to saving money out here is to buy in bulk. All the stores gear their pricing to make it more better to buy a lot of something. It’s a bit tough for someone like me who can’t haul a cart full of groceries back home. When I return I will need to rethink my cunning plans regarding food procurement.
As for eating out, both islands have plenty of restaurants including national chains and local places. They are all expensive. I rarely eat out anymore simply because the $20 I would blow on a fish sandwich would buy a day or twos worth of food at the store. I’m not big on restaurant eating to begin with but if you are, be prepared for sticker shock. Hint: hit places earlier in the day when the lunch menu is still going on or during happy hours.
In terms of local cuisine, it’s a bit of a tossup. I got to be a big fan of poke’ and lau lau while I was here. I haven’t really had a chance to fully indulge in more local cooking, mainly due to costs, but what I have had has been very tasty.
Maui has a lot of local produce since there is a lot of farming on the island. You can find farmer’s markets all over the place and sometimes you can find a bargain or two. The local beef and pork is quite tasty and with some shopping around you can find a good deal on smaller cuts of meat. I’ve yet to have any decent chicken on the island but after living in the southeast for 40 years, chicken anywhere else is second rate. One thing out here, veganism is a big thing. A lot of people are not meat eaters, something I could never get into. If you are one such who does not eat other critters, you’ll find more to eat out here than in the Keys.
Key West has little or no local produce. The closest farms are just south of Miami and though there is the occasional farmers market down there, getting anything locally grown is about impossible.
As for seafood, I give slight edge to Key West. The shrimp, stone crab, lobster, mahi mahi, and grouper are the best. Maui has pretty good seafood here but not quite up to speed with what I have had in the Keys.
The water. This is a tough one. The Pacific out here in Hawaii is beautiful. There are a ton of water activities going on all the time. Lots of surfing, paddling, diving, whale watching, and hanging out on the beaches. However, there is something about the waters around Key West and the Keys I love. It’s shallow so you can see more stuff. It’s warm, and usually pretty clear. Lots of paddling, diving, sailing, and boating to be had. But it’s really cool to just go out and explore all the little islands, the grass flats, the mangrove trails, and the many wrecks in the area. You won’t find any buried treasure but you might find the occasional cat, looking for a sea serpent to love. I just find the Keys waters somewhat more inviting for some reason. Maybe it’s because it seems a bit more intimate than going out on the Pacific and seeing nothing off to the horizon. Hopefully when I return I will get to spend some more time out on said Pacific, doing whatever, and get a more better feel for the water out here. It’s really what ever one prefers. Both islands have their good points when it comes to getting wet.
The people. Hands down, Maui takes this one. For the most part, I’ve found the locals to be friendly, polite, and genuinely nice people. Every place I did business with, including the DMV, I was met with friendly faces, no attitudes, and a general feeling of being welcome. Not everyone is like this out here though. Some of the native locals resent the fact so many from the mainland have come here and there are some places and people you will want to avoid. But for the most part, Maui is every bit as friendly as advertised.
As for Key West, well, it’s Key West. Everyone is there for the party. Lot’s of drinking, carrying on, and trouble making. I encountered a lot of attitude in Key West. Dealing with businesses became a test of patience. The DMV had to keep an armed guard in the waiting room. And everyone, not just in Key West, but all of Florida all seemed to be running a scam of some kind. As much as I love it there, it gets on my nerves now and then.
Transportation. Both Maui and Key West have excellent public transportation. The bus systems are efficient, even by island standards, and cheap. Key West is more cheap simply because of the shorter distances, but both are good deals for getting around.
Bicycles make sense for both islands. There seems to be a push, particularly, and finally, on Key West to promote a car free island, and out here in Maui, I see tons of bikes riding around everyday. There are dedicated bike lanes, trails, and plenty of room to ride.
While a vehicle is essentially worthless in Key West, I can see where having a vehicle on Maui makes some sense. Even more so on the Big Island. The distances are more distancey and if you live back in the tropical forests or out beyond the volcano, getting supplies becomes much easier with a vehicle. Just remember gas is more expensive out here and pedestrians always have the right of way. Something Florida drivers need to learn.
Living aboard. If living on a boat is what you are looking for, forget Maui and Hawaii in general. Live aboards are few and far between out here with virtually no dock space. And from what little I have heard, generally not welcome. Most of the marinas and mooring fields are for the those with lots of money or brave enough to cross the Pacific. Key West still has a live aboard community with plenty of room in a very affordable mooring field, for now anyways.
Crime. Don’t worry. No matter which island you pick, you can bet there will be plenty of crime to go around. Drugs, theft, murder, and generally stupidity abound both in Maui and Key West. Urban outdoorsmen are everywhere although out here in Hawaii, the state is a lot less tolerant of them. Be careful where you go, keep your stuff locked up and safe, and you should be ok.
Death. In Key West, the local cemetery is an actual tourist attraction. I’ve only seen two old cemeteries on Maui, neither of which looked like they had been used in years. I also have never seen a funeral home nor a hearse out here. Either everyone gets buried at sea, or other than the tourists who fall off cliffs or get eaten by sharks, nobody out here dies. Not sure, but it seems a bit odd.
Sunsets. Finally, there are the sunsets. While Maui sunsets have been beautiful, and given I have had a ringside seat being next to the ocean, nothing beats a Key West sunset at Mallory Square. The entertainers, the crowd, the entire scene is something everyone needs to experience at least once in their life.
So, which island is more better? Maui or Key West. Neither, or both. It really depends on what you are looking for. I have found desirable traits, and not so desirable traits on both islands. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay out here on Maui these past 8 months as much as I had enjoyed the 8 years I spent in Key West. If I can find a way, I will still try to stick to my original plan to spend part of the year out here and part of the year in Key West. It may work out, it may not. As for a personal recommendation, I would say, do the same thing. Spend some time on both islands and see what you can find. No paradise is perfect but these two islands, both life long dreams of mine, have lived up to my expectations. I’m glad I have been able to experience both and look forward to spending more time on either one. It has been well worth the adventure.
I will try to squeeze one more post in before I head back to the mainland next week. It will probably take me a few days to adjust back to eastern time. Not looking forward to jet lag nor 14 hours in planes and airports. Hopefully things will go smoothly with the flights and if all goes well, I will be back here in Maui come Sept. Not sure what I will be doing all summer but there is always the chance I may sneak down to Key West for a quick trip, depending on how things go. If I do, you’ll be hearing about it for sure.