Most of The Keys' 72,000 residents are noticeably like-minded, lured here for sunny views and the region's independent spirit. They're also often more than willing to engage in conversation with a stranger. (That would be you.)

The South's Slice of Paradise
Hogfish Bar and Grill owner Michelle Mongelli enjoys a cool drink at her Florida Keys restaurant.
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto
  • Michelle Mongelli
  • Resident since: Birth
  • Where you'll find her: At Hogfish Bar and Grill, which she owns with her husband, Bobby. 6810 Front Street, Stock Island; or 305/293-4021
  • Tells visitors not to miss: The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, home of treasure found on sunken ships. Located at the corner of Whitehead and Green streets. $12.50 adults, $6.25 children.
  • Captain Richard Stanczyk
  • Resident since: 1978
  • Where you'll find him: At Bud N' Mary's Marina, the oldest fishing fleet in The Keys. (He's the owner.) 79851 Overseas Highway, Islamorada; or 305/664-2461
  • Tells visitors not to miss: A full-day fishing expedition in the sportfishing capital of the world (Islamorada). And it's not just for the guys: Bud N' Mary's arranges special fishing clinics for women and kids.
  • Mike Forster
  • Resident since: 1984
  • Where you'll find him: At Mangrove Mike's Cafe, the best breakfast spot in The Keys (try the crab eggs Benedict). 82200 Overseas Highway, Islamorada; or 305/664-8022
  • Tells visitors not to miss: The Hurricane Memorial (Mile Marker 81.5), which honors those lost in the hurricane of 1935 and the devastation of The Keys as a whole. "The monument speaks to the spirit of The Keys. We're hardy people."
  • Will Soto
  • Resident since: 1976
  • Where you'll find him: At the nightly Sunset Celebration (he cofounded) in Key West's Mallory Square, where Will juggles and walks a tightrope. The street fair attracts visitors from all over the world for the gorgeous sunsets. Just west of Wall Street, Key West; or 305/923-9196
  • Tells visitors not to miss: A day trip to the 19th-century Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, accessible by boat and seaplane.