Sun up! The spectacular sparkle of sunrise over Key West

Sunsets in Key West bring on a nightly celebration, with revelers and street performers closing the day in high spirits. What’s less celebrated, though, is an unexpected advantage Key West has over some other vacation destinations: It’s a perfect place for sunrises, too. Because of the island's geography, nothing impedes the view in either direction, so the sunrise view is just as spectacular as the sunset. The difference? Sunrises are quieter.

Best sunrise viewing time in every season

Late sleepers will enjoy getting up for the sunrise a little more in fall and winter. Beginning in August, the sun rises in Key West between 6:55 and 7:15 a.m. and by the end of October, it’s coming up as late as 7:30 a.m. November sees a jump backwards to 6:30 a.m. when the clocks are turned back, but by December it’s 7:00 again, and by January it’s 7:15.

The sun rises a little earlier every day after that, but just as it’s getting to about 6:30 a.m. in March, daylight savings time ends, and it’s back to a comfortable 7:30 a.m. As the summer months approach, the days get longer, with earlier sunrises and later sunsets, and by the end of May, sun-gazers are once again having to set their alarms for 6:30 a.m. if they want to catch the sunrise. It stays that way through June, but by the middle of July, it has moved back to about 6:45 a.m., heading toward those later fall times. The best news? Fall and winter may be the best time to take sunrise photos, too.

Weather and the rising sun

One of the reasons sunrises in tropical areas are so notable is that the air is clean, so nothing obstructs the light. Key West has very little air pollution, so smog won’t make the sunrise hazy. Another factor, though, is humidity. Florida is very humid, and lower humidity often makes for better sunsets, so it would only make sense that the seasons with lower humidity – fall and winter – make for better viewing.

In general, Florida tends to have a variety of clouds that make the sky dramatic no matter what the time or weather. Of course, rain or an overcast sky doesn’t make for good sunrise photos. However, getting out in front of a storm, or after one has just ended, can provide some of the best views of the sunrise. Even when the view is not as dramatic, a peaceful morning at the beach at sunrise can't be beat.

Where to watch the sunrise

Several hotels have access to beachfront on the eastern side of Key West, so guests have the perfect view from the property. There are other places to watch, however, that don’t require booking a hotel room. Smathers Beach is one such location. Higgs Beach, and specifically Higgs Beach Pier, are also great for sunrise meditation or photo ops. Near Higgs Beach is also the Edward B. Knight Pier, which has the added perk of being dog-friendly.

Before the tourists hit the streets of Key West and the temperatures climb, take a few moments at the beginning of day to savor the beauty of the island.