By Kara Franker
Take advice from some of the locals and “splurge on a room with a view,” said Claudia Miller, freelance travel writer for USATODAY’s 10Best.com and blogger at keysclaudia.com. “There's nothing better than throwing open the curtains and soaking up those wide swaths of blue ocean.”
Think of this as your intro to some of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys. Whether you’re looking to lounge, adventure, eat or drink, these hotels are a great place to start.
Luxury access to water wonderland
The facilities at Baker's Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton include the Greenhouse Salon and Spa, as well as two waterfall pools and hammocks on the private beach. The restaurant Calusa serves Creole-Caribbean cuisine with views of Florida Bay. The hideaway cove bar Dry Rocks serves beachside dishes accompanied by live music. Those are some of the luxuries available to guests onsite. Look east and west and the ocean is calling. Water activities include diving, parasailing, catamaran sailing, and deep sea fishing. 97000 Overseas Highway, 305-852-5553, Reservations
Stay and swim with the dolphins.
Dolphin Point Villas features six stand-alone island homes and it’s located next door to Dolphins Plus, where you can jump in and swim with dolphins. Planning a trip for your extended family? The property’s Nautilus House estate sleeps up to 16, features five bedrooms and five baths, has its own private pool, and you’ll love the spacious wrap-around porch. 101910 Overseas Highway, MM 99, 304-451-0315, dolphinpointvillas.com
Explore a lush botanic garden and art gallery.
Featuring a sophisticated art gallery with internationally known artists as well as a tropical botanic garden, Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens is truly an island paradise. There’s even a full-time ethnobotanist at this boutique-style property who offers tours for guests. 97802 Overseas Highway, MM 97.8, 305-852-7200, konakairesort.com
Kick back on a picture-perfect white sand beach.
Playa Largo Resort and Spa has all the ingredients for a family vacation to remember. This 14-acre waterfront property features a marina, multiple bars and restaurants, a full-service spa and lots of activities. There’s also a private beach house for special events and weddings. 97450 Overseas Highway, MM 97, 305-853-1001 playalargoresort.com
Experience history and luxury under one fabulous roof.
Marvel at this oceanfront enclave that was the brainchild of Florida railroad tycoon Henry Flagler. Nestled just steps from the Southernmost Point, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, is a landmark property that welcomed its first well-heeled guests on New Year’s Eve in 1920. Still attracting the who’s who of society, the Casa Marina remains a glamorous escape on Key West’s largest private beach. 1500 Reynolds St., 305-296-3535, casamarinaresort.com
Claim the best spot on the island for sunset.
If prime location is what you’re after, then Ocean Key Resort & Spa truly has it all. Not only does the resort boast the distinction of being able to claim Zero Duval Street as it’s address, it’s also home to the iconic Sunset Pier with its daily sunset celebration. Adjacent to Mallory Square in historic Old Town Key West, this property puts you in the center of the entertainment and action. 0 Duval St., 305-296-7701, oceankey.com
Hang out where Jimmy Buffett got his start.
Situated directly on lively Duval Street and within walking distance to all those salty watering holes with nightly live music, Pier House Resort & Spa is a legendary location. The hotel’s historic Chart Room Bar is the birthplace of Jimmy Buffett’s career. Pull up a chair, order a cold one and listen to the barkeep recount tales and folklore from days gone by. 1 Duval St., 305-296-4600, pierhouse.com
Check out a food trucker’s paradise.
You can’t get to Key West without first checking out The Gates Hotel Key West. If you love locally inspired eats and festive cocktails, then this millennial-style getaway is calling your name. Order a tropical libation at the energetic Rum Row outdoor bar and nosh on a “Flapper in a Wrapper” (aka chicken wrap) at the resident food truck, The Blind Pig. 3824 N Roosevelt Blvd., 305-320-0930, gateshotelkeywest.com
Hang out at a world-famous tiki bar.
If you’re a fan of retro chic style, or you simply like a good cocktail with a view, then look no further than the oceanfront Postcard Inn Beach Resort and Marina at Holiday Isle (or PCI for short). The hotel went through a major renovation and the beloved Tiki Bar is better than ever. Home to the original Rum Runner cocktail, it’s a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. 84001 Overseas Hwy, MM 84, 305-664-2321, holidayisle.com
Reel in a big one then opt for a little R&R.
Serious anglers love Cheeca Lodge & Spa because not only is it located in the Sportfishing Capital of the World, it’s also home to some of the top fishing tournaments in the country. The rest of the family will get hooked on the resorts fine dining restaurants, luxury spa, Jack Nicklaus-designed 9-hole golf course and Camp Cheeca environmental program for kids. 81801 Overseas Highway, MM 82, 305-664-4651, cheeca.com
Stay where the TV show Bloodline was filmed.
You’ll recognize this 18-acre former coconut plantation from the hit Netflix drama, “Bloodline.” The Moorings is all about four-star luxury and picturesque sunset views over the water. Both the Morada Bay Beach Café and its fine-dining sister restaurant, Pierre’s also happen to be a favorite hangout for locals. 123 Beach Rd., MM 81.6, 305-664-4708, themooringsvillage.com
Take a dip $1 million pool with $1 million views.
After undergoing a complete, sand-to-sky transformation, Amara Cay Resort and its waterfront pool deck offer deep blue water views that go for miles and miles. But you’ll fall in love with more than the seaside location. Swing in one of the playful hanging basket chairs in the lobby and nosh on fresh-from-the-sea Italian fare at Oltremare Ristorante. 80001 Overseas Highway, MM 80, 305-664-0073, amaracayresort.com
Explore a family-friendly paradise on Duck Key.
Nestled on the island of Duck Key, Hawks Cay Resort is the ultimate destination for families because there’s so much to do. For the kids, there’s a pirate-themed splash and play park, activities and adventure center, and lots of sporting opportunities like kickball, volleyball, kiteboarding, kayaking, fishing and snorkeling. Plus, you can swim with the resident dolphins. 61 Hawks Cay Boulevard, MM 61, 305-743-7000, hawkscay.com
Dock your boat and stay in style.
Skipjack Resort & Marina (formerly Sombrero Resort & Marina), offers the perfect spot to park your boat. After a $6 million renovation, there are updated rooms and suites. The 54-slip marina can accommodate vessels up to 60 feet. 19 Sombrero Blvd., MM 50, 305-289-7662, skipjackresortmarathon.com
Escape to a tranquil place and get away from it all.
At Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort, it’s all about seclusion and relaxation. The property features two- and three-bedroom beach villas with gourmet kitchens and Southern-style verandas that overlook the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. You’ll never want to leave this idyllic oasis. 2600 Overseas Highway, MM 48.5, 305-289-0888, tranquilitybay.com
LITTLE TORCH KEY
Discover one of Florida’s most luxurious getaways.
Think tiki-style thatched roofs, private whirlpools for two, lavish suites with Champagne on ice and a fine-dining restaurant that specializes in that “wow” factor. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, and nestled on its own private slice of paradise, the luxurious Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is one of those rare bucket list destinations. Looking to propose or plan a memorable anniversary celebration? Little Palm Island is dripping with romance. 28500 Overseas Highway, MM 28.5, 305-872-2524, littlepalmisland.com
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