If you ever wondered what the southernmost point in the USA is, here’s your answer: Key West is the most southern point in the continental United States, and Ka Lae on the Big Island of Hawaii is the southernmost point in the entire United States.
I’ve had the pleasure of visiting both of these locations on previous trips to Florida and Hawaii, and wanted to do a quick writeup to help clear up any confusion.
Key West: The Continental USA’s Southernmost Point
Key West, Florida, is the southernmost point in the continental United States.
“Continental United States” means the 48 states on the North American continent, which does not include Alaska, Hawaii, or any US non-state territories.
Key West is located about 90 miles north of Cuba and displays the famous Southernmost Point Buoy, a colorful landmark that marks the spot as the southernmost point in the contiguous 48 states.
Many visitors flock to this site to snap a photo with the iconic buoy and to say they’ve been to the southernmost point in the continental US.
Random heads up: It’s not uncommon to see roosters around this area, as Key West is home to thousands of wild roosters that roam the streets. It’s kinda funny once you get used to it!
Hawaii: The True Southernmost Point in the US
While Key West holds the title for the southernmost point in the continental United States, the true southernmost point in the US is actually located in Hawaii.
Ka Lae (aka “South Point”), on the Big Island of Hawaii, holds this honor. Located on the southern tip of the Big Island, it’s much farther south than any point in Key West.
It’s worth noting that South Point is very close to the famous Papakōlea beach green sand beach — so if you’re going to visit one location, plan to visit both. There are only 4 green sand beaches in the world which makes it a must-see.
The bottom line is that South Point on Hawaii is the true southernmost point in the US, as it is much further south than Key West.
Comparing The Southernmost Points on Key West and Hawaii
Key West’s Southernmost Point Buoy is an iconic landmark and a popular photo opportunity.
The actual southernmost point in the US, Ka Lae in Hawaii, is more of a rugged and off-the-beaten-path experience with a different vibe.
In short, the Key West spot feels more like a tourist attraction with lots of people posing for pictures, whereas Ka Lae is more of a nature spot, looking out over rocks to the beautiful Hawaiian ocean.
Both locations are worth visiting, depending on your travel preferences and interests. It’s always cool to say you’ve been!
Is Hawaii further south than Florida?
Yes, Hawaii is much further south than any point in Florida, including Key West.
What is the southernmost point of the world?
The southernmost point of the world is the South Pole, located in Antarctica. It is much colder there than Hawaii or Key West, and much more difficult to access. Even most of the tour groups to Antarctica never go to the actual true South Pole, as it requires a long expedition.
Is Key West tropical?
Key West has a tropical climate, but it’s not necessarily a “beach town” in the same way you would picture Miami or the Caribbean islands. There are some beaches, but Key West is known more for its chill vibes and snorkel spots vs any big sand beaches.
Can you see Cuba from Key West?
You cannot see Cuba from Key West. Cuba is located approximately 90 miles south of Key West, which is too far to see with the naked eye due to the Earth’s curvature.
Is Key West closer to Florida or Cuba?
Believe it or not, Key West is closer to Cuba than to mainland Florida.
The distance from Key West and the nearest point in Cuba is approximately 90 miles, while the distance to drive from Key West back to the Florida peninsula via overwater highway is roughly 129 miles.