Key West, Florida, is not only the southernmost city in the United States, it also boasts the country's only barrier reef and a reputation as a laid-back historic town. The former playground of author Ernest Hemingway and a favorite of singer Jimmy Buffet, Key West is long on tropical charm, with its colorful 19th century clapboard houses and its pirate-themed museums. But it's possible to be both barefoot and elegant in Key West, which boasts numerous luxury resorts, hotels, restaurants and shops.
The Gardens Hotel
Once called the "prettiest hotel in Key West" in "The New York Times," The Gardens Hotel has racked up a long list of awards and honors, including being named to the 2009 "Travel & Leisure Magazine" list of best 21 beach-side hotels. Its beauty is undeniable: The estate, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, features some of the oldest and most important tropical gardens in Florida. (Be sure to see the stunning collection of Hawaiian and Japanese orchids.) A concierge is on hand to help guests arrange water sports such as parasailing and diving or to make reservations at nearby restaurants. (Complimentary breakfast is the only meal served at The Gardens.) Though the overall style is reminiscent of elegant Bahamas' plantations, The Gardens' 17 luxury suites are all different. Some are located in the original mansion, while others are in diverse standalone structures around the grounds. Each features a private entrance, a marble bathroom with Jacuzzi tub, wine service, a fridge, furnishings of yew and mahogany, ceiling fans, coffeemaker and cable TV.
Ocean Key Resort & Spa
The Ocean Key Resort & Spa is located between Key West Harbor and Mallory Square, gateway to Duval Street and the rest of the city's popular Old Town. The 100-room property, which also has full conference facilities, also includes an atmospheric waterfront restaurant called Hot Tin Roof, where the fresh seafood is prepared in a style the chef describes as "conch-fusion." Another highlight is Noble House hotels' trademark Spa Terre and fitness center, where guests can experience cross-cultural treatments. The rooms, which feature island-style art and bright-colored, hand-painted furniture, boast oversize bathrooms with pedestal sinks and whirlpool baths. Guests can arrange fishing trips from the resort's marina and, at the end of the day, walk down to the water for the traditional sunset celebration with the locals and other visitors.
Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa
The 118-room, old-world-style Hyatt Key West Resort & Spa is right on the waterfront in Key West near attractions such as Hemingway's House and the Shipwreck Treasure Museum. Guests at the resort also can enjoy the beach, the heated outdoor pool and deck area, and close access to parasailing and diving. At sunset, guests can celebrate with a view from the resort's private sailboat. Rooms, newly refurbished in 2010, have private balconies, flat-screen TVs, iHome stereos with iPod docking and comfortable seating areas. The resort also offers the full-service Jala Spa, concierge service and a full-service business center. The Hyatt boasts two on-site restaurants: SHOR American Seafood Grill, where seafood is brought daily from the boat to the restaurant, and the more casual Blue Mojito Pool Bar & Grille. In-room dining also is available.
Casa Marina Resort
For visitors who prefer to stay in a slightly quieter locale, Casa Marina Resort, a Mediterranean-style Hilton Hotels property, is a good option. Just a few miles from Key West's Old Town and short walk to the Key West Aquarium, Casa Marina boasts the city's largest private beach surrounded by lush green foliage. The Casa Marina, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has private balconies, Wi-Fi, two pools and a full-service massage studio. Guests can rent sports equipment for fishing, diving and windsurfing, as well as bikes, which are the most popular mode of travel in the tropical city. They can find fresh seafood at the resort's Sun-Sun Beach Bar & Grill and enjoy a drink in the Lobby Bar.
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