Nothing says “staycation” like abandoned the routine of home, without the cost of traveling too far. On the following pages find a list of three resorts from each geographical area of the Keys. They range from the big, luxury type resorts — with many amenities for day trippers — to small and mom-and-pop places that offer total tranquility.
Island Bay Resort: In 2014 they were rated #12 in TripAdvisor’s Best “Small Hotels in the US” and rated #15 on TripAdvisor for Best “Hotels for Romance in the US.” Be prepared to soak in the hot tub with your lover, or your “lovah” as per the romantically charged SNL skit starring Will Ferrell quotes.
With their website having a live feed of the sunset and a perfectly placed “You Should Be Here” sign, this resort hosts a private beach and dock in addition to a series of accommodations that range from one-room efficiencies to two-bedroom cottages. Come dive, fish, snorkel, or go on an eco tour offered by the hotel to explore the old Florida Keys. Rates are determined by the season and in January run from $200 for an efficiency to $400 during September for a two bedroom.
Casa Morada: Located bayside at Channel Marker 82, and commanding GPS coordinates of 24.5613 North – 80.3638 West, the Casa Morada offers the seclusion of a private island with it’s mere 16-suite hotel. Featured on NBC’s Today Show, The Travel Channel, Fine Living, and Conde Nast Traveler this adults-only hotel has its own bay, pool, private boat, and quaint bar with a spectacular view of the water. As a local, I enjoy coming here on the boat with my friends for a quiet night and some delicious champagne. The service is excellent, and there’s never a crowd. Rates range from $299 to $499 until October 31st. Casa Morada also provides breakfast, use of kayaks, bikes, snorkel equipment, and on the weekends they have complimentary yoga classes so guests can get their “om” on.
Kona Kai Resort and Botanic Garden: Consistent winners of “Excellence” from both Fodor’s and TripAdvisor, Kona Kai is a Key Largo boutique hideaway adorned with gardens that will truly take your breath away (sans any allergy jokes). Kona Kai is the only botanic garden in the world that allows an overnight stay and a 24/7 viewing of the gardens. Tour guides are available, but if you’re a lover of adventure, you can also embark on a solo viewing.
The facility is known for giving back to the community with its Upper Keys Fairchild Challenge. It’s an inschool environmental education program offered to 900 students keyswide that teaches them to be good stewards of the Earth.
Kona Kai is also an adults-only resort — no children under 16, so serenity is a guarantee. Their pool overlooking Everglades National Park is chilled in the summer, and warm and cozy in the winter. The resort was revamped in 2013, so it is up to par with the latest amenities if you’re looking for a quick get away, wedding, or business meeting. Guest rooms range from $200 and two-bedroom suites are $500 plus (rates subject to season).
Hawks Cay Resort: This Middle Keys luxury resort features both 177 hotel rooms and 250 villas and an attention to detail that rivals a top-notch resort anywhere in the world. Plus it has all the amenities — restaurants, coffee shop (the only place to get Starbucks in a 40-mile radius), pools, fishing, diving, tennis and watersports such as kiteboarding. Oh, and dolphin encounters, too. It’s a popular spot for destination weddings. The resort makes the most of its waterfront location in the “American Caribbean” with a large saltwater lagoon and numerous pools scattered around the property — one is adults only while another one, for kids, features a huge pirate’s climb-on pirate ship. The resort is located on Duck Key, about a 20-minute drive north of Marathon or south of Islamorda.
Holiday Inn Express: Chamber of Commerce members celebrated when this chain hotel opened in the Middle Keys, the only one of its kind, because it offers the security of a known brand for first-time visitors to the Keys who may not know what to expect. The Holiday Inn Express was constructed four years ago and the 134 rooms are neat and clean with modern furnishings. It’s within walking distance of a handful of great restaurants (Tarpon Creek Bar and Grill is onsite), plus it has watersport amenities, too.
Gulf View Waterfront Resort: This 11-unit mom-and-pop vintage hotel has consistently good reviews from repeat guests who rave about owners Mike and Stephanie’s warm welcome. Accommodations range from plain hotel rooms to efficiencies to three-bedroom units. The bigger units have a kitchen, but all guests have access to a barbecue. It has turtles, exotic birds including the “I love you!” cockatiel, and a large, elevated pool with an openwater view of the gulf. The dock can accommodate about a 20-foot boat and is also a launching place for kayakers to tour the mangrove island “trails” and hidden harbors nearby. By far, though, the star of the show is the palm tree grove that features hammocks, wild iguanas and a tiki hut where the owners put out coffee first thing in the morning.
Little Palm Island Resort and Spa This exclusive resort is located on a private, five-acre island, just off Little Torch Key. The resort is a boutique style operation with only 30 rooms and a West Indies-Caribbean feel, according to staff and reviews. Get prepared for deep relaxation because there are no televisions, telephones or alarm clocks. The cuisine wins awards, the wine cellar is top-notch and private dining with a table for two in the sand is incredibly romantic. The spa offers packages ranging from wellness to beauty to life coaching and acupuncture. Trips to the resort include watersports such as fishing, diving, snorkeling and even kiteboard lessons. Take a break from reality at Little Palm Island Resort and Spa.
Ocean Key Resort and Spa The environment at Ocean Key Resort and Spa is scenic, colorful and lively. Nestled between Mallory Square and the harbor, guests can experience the ambiance of the luxury resort while being just steps from downtown. The décor features a modern tropical vibe and many of the rooms have a view of channel and the varied vessels passing by. Many locals frequent SpaTerre for massages, facials and sweet-smelling body wraps. The food, of course, at Hot Tin Roof is delectable but an afternoon at the Liquid Lounge is just as enjoyable
Pier House Pier house is an ideal resort to stay because it is in Old Town and only steps away from the entertainment and the nightlife of the city. The location by the water provides a romantic atmosphere that allows vacationers to step away from their daily routines with relaxing afternoons around the pool. It also caters to adventurous people by having nearly every kind of watersport rental steps away from the hotel. At their location they have three fine dining restaunts frequented by visitors and locals. The Chart Room Bar, Harbourview Café and Beach Bar and Grill are a must try in you live in town.