The toughest part of planning a trip to the Florida Keys may be deciding where to stay. There's a wide range of accommodations, from large chain hotels, like Marriott, Hilton and Days Inn, to small, locally owned Mom and Pop properties, boutique hotels and dive centers. Most hotels are located in the major towns of Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine and Key West.
The Cheeca Lodge and Spa in Islamorada has hosted a number of well-known guests, including Paul Newman, Jack Nicklaus and President George H. W. Bush. Following a fire in late 2008, the main lodge was completely rebuilt and now includes an open-air lobby overlooking the ocean. Check into one of the deluxe suites, opened in 2010, and you'll have 840 square feet of space and floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Atlantic. Amenities include a 1,100-foot private beach, spa, fishing pier, fitness club, golf course, tennis courts, pool, and kids' programs. If you really want to get away from it all, hop on the private boat to Little Palm Island Resort and Spa. The private 5 1/2-acre island has 30 suites and bungalows set under palm trees with surrounding ocean views. Rooms have king canopy beds draped in gauze-y netting, with private indoor and outdoor showers and verandas, and no phones or TVs. The tropical resort, crisscrossed with crushed seashell paths, has a full-service spa, restaurant, lounges, marina, guided fishing charters, and dive shop.
Amy Slate's Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo is a member of the National Geographic and PADI dive programs. Guests can walk out their door and walk to the resort's 45-foot catamaran for guided diving excursions to coral reefs and wrecks. The resort offers several diving courses. Rooms in the bungalow-style hotel have basic furnishings and air conditioning; larger, one-bedroom units have full kitchens. Guests at the Looe Key Reef Resort and Dive Center at Mile Marker 27.5 in Ramrod can take scuba lessons and join guided dives in natural and artificial reefs. Rooms are simple with bright-colored walls, tile floors and modest furnishings.
The Big Chains
Families may like the Doubletree Grand Key resort in Key West with a zero-entry pool. Resort rooms sport a bright, nautical decor, with yellow walls and white furnishings and blue accents. An added convenience is the free shuttle to the beach, Duval Street and the airport. The Key West Marriott sits on seven acres overlooking the water and a private beach. The AAA four-diamond property has 91 rooms and 129 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. White walls and dark woods lend a traditional look to the rooms; all have full kitchens with granite counters and marble baths.
The Little Boutiques
Azure del Mar, named as one of Travel & Leisure's world's greatest hotels, is an adults-only oasis on the water in Key Largo. The former Art Deco villa has six contemporary suites, with mini kitchenettes and private lounging areas. Guests are welcome to stroll the lawns and gardens that stretch to a small, private beach and dock. You'll find upscale, luxury-laden suites at the Casa Morada, tucked on a quiet, residential street in Islamorada. The 16 suites, with private terraces and gardens, have clean white walls, linens and furnishings, accented with Mexican antiques; some have outdoor, Euro-style soaking tubs and outdoor whirlpools. The property includes gardens, grottoes and outdoor sculptures.
- Palm tree and bench image by Julie Balderston from Fotolia.com