When early explorers discovered the beach now known as Key West littered with skeletons of the Indians who once lived there, they named it Cayo Hueso -- Bone Island in Spanish. Today tourists flock to Key West for its annual Halloween celebration called Fantasy Fest and for its all-year-long laid-back vibe. Lodgings on this four-mile-long island are numerous, but a few come highly recommended by the experts.
Marriott Key West Beachside Hotel
Accommodations at the Marriott Key West Beachside Hotel include king rooms and suites with sweeping ocean views. The decorative use of vibrant lemon colors and a racy zebra print add excitement to the white linens and traditional rich-colored wood furnishings. Suites have balconies, beach and pool access, deluxe kitchens with stainless steel appliances, and luxurious marble bathrooms with spa tubs. Frommers.com says that in spite of the resort’s convenient location on the bustling Roosevelt Boulevard, you’ll feel transported to "another world" once inside the seven-acre property. The hotel has a fitness center, spa and two restaurants headed by esteemed chef Norman Van Aken. The Key West Welcome Center, located across the street from the hotel, offers free tourist information.
The Gardens Hotel
According to the New York Times, the Gardens Hotel stands out among the Key West boutique offerings for its impeccable accommodations and convenient, yet quiet, location. The hotel -- recommended in the 2010 book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” -- has four buildings and a West Indian plantation house built in the 1870s, which house 17 guest quarters. Some rooms have marble whirlpool baths and furnished balconies. The property’s main attraction is the botanical garden, painstakingly created nearly 40 years ago by the home’s original owner. A swimming pool sits among statues, fountains and garden pools. Key lime beignets and other breakfast delicacies are served on the open-air brick porch. A short stroll around the corner leads to the Wyland and Island Style galleries and famous Duval Street, lined with retailers, bars and restaurants.
The Marquesa Hotel
“Travel + Leisure” magazine declared the Marquesa Hotel on Fleming Street “hands down the best place to stay in Key West.” A statuesque 1884-era conch house was transformed into a small luxury hotel with a garden and two swimming pools. Guest lodgings include rooms and junior suites, some facing the pool and gardens. The adjoining Café Marquesa has the AAA Four-Diamond designation and serves casual American fare with regional favorites like conch soup and blue crab cakes. The Marquesa is situated a block from Duval Street and four blocks from Mallory Square, the plaza overlooking the gulf where locals and visitors hold a nightly sunset celebration.
Ocean Key Resort
The cheery rooms at the Ocean Key Resort and Spa on Duval Street are decorated with a tropical color palette dominated by key lime and sea blue tones. Private balconies overlook Mallory Square and the ocean. The hotel was one of the 500 best hotels of 2004 featured in Travel + Leisure magazine. Hot Tin Roof, the resort’s on-site restaurant, serves “conch fusion” blending regional specialties with flavors of the world. It earned the Wine Spectator award of excellence in 2010. SpaTerre offers Balinese and Thai treatments. The outdoor pool and whirlpool overlook the gulf and picturesque sunsets. The resort is within walking distance of the Key West Shipwreck and Art and History museums.
- Key West image by Schlegel RenÃ© from Fotolia.com