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Wednesday, 13 March 2013 11:51

Bask in the Florida Keys & Enjoy Luxurious Hotels

Written by  Roberta Sotonoff

Travel Florida’s Overseas Highway Route 1 to Key West and be dazzled by the scenery. Grab hold of a fin and ride a dolphin. Kayak through mangrove-lined channels. Sail on the boat featured in the classic Hollywood film, The African Queen. All of these one-of-a-kind attractions dot the scenic Overseas Highway Route 1 on the road to Key West, Florida.

 A combination of the Caribbean and New Orleans awaits visitors to Key West. The former stomping grounds of Ernest Hemmingway and President Harry Truman also boast watersports and partying like Mallory Square’s nightly “Sunset Celebration.” Unless you are a college kid on spring break, you’ll want to seek a good night’s rest and some pampering at one of the Key’s luxury hotels.


At Cheeca Lodge & Spa ( the inviting lobby beckons travelers with a complimentary glass of champagne, an ocean breeze and photographs of famous former guests like Edward R. Murrow and Paul Newman. Surrounded by tropical gardens, lagoons, a par-three nine hole golf course and a sandy beach bordered with palm trees, this 27-acre estate oozes charm. The 525-foot wooden pier is the perfect spot to test the water or go fishing. West Indies-styled accommodations offer marble tubs, two-person rain showers, suites with kitchens and private screened balconies. Couples-only beachfront bungalows boast a spiral staircase and private garden. 

A limestone grotto amid lush tropical gardens, trees and grasses encircle Casa Morada (www.casamo
, a renovated 1950s hotel. Each distinctive, Asian-accented room is sleek and has a private patio or screened balcony that overlooks the gardens and the bay. Find a freshwater pool and secluded cabana at the hotel’s “steps away” private island. Continental breakfast, snacks, bottled water, bicycles, kayaks, snorkeling gear and yoga on the weekends are complimentary. The concierge can arrange in-suite massages and deep sea fishing. No pets or children under 16 at this tranquil retreat.



In the 1950s, Casa Marina was the “in” destination. Celebrities such as Gregory Peck and Rita Hayworth flocked there. The truly unique, seaside Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort ( is Old Key West at its best. Where else will you find a Fish Concierge? He will fillet and cook your catch to order. Today, the resort continues to offer large, luxurious accommodations, a spa and excellent in-house dining border a 1,100-ft private, white sand beach and pools. Being under Waldorf Astoria umbrella assures guests of a “True Waldorf Experience.” A personal concierge tends to individuals’ requests even before they arrive. He checks in guests and organizes their sightseeing, reservations, and activities. At departure time, the personal concierge can arrange packing services, transportation and even home luggage delivery. He even bestows a parting gift and follows up upon their return home. 

The Reach (, Casa Marina’s nearby sister hotel, also offers many of the same amenities including “True Waldorf Experience.” Completely renovated in 2008, accommodations are posh and all rooms face the Atlantic, the hotel pool and its roof-topped pier. Prime steaks and seafood is the fare at The Strip House restaurant. Decorated with red and gold flocked wallpaper, it resembles a turn-of-the 20th-century bar room.

The Pier House & Caribbean Spa, ( a Key West icon, is a rambling complex of buildings at the end of Duval Street, and has been around for almost 40 years. A raucous display of flowers and palm trees fill its courtyard. Six of its 116, comfortable rooms sport sunset views and extend over the Gulf of Mexico. Amenities include a full service spa with nail and hair services (the only one on the island), gym, waterfront dining, a small, private beach with a “top optional” sunning area and the best perk, no resort fees. 

The Gardens Hotel ( was named “The Prettiest Hotel in Key West” by The New York Times List and featured in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. This 17-room, romantic inn sits amid one of Florida’s oldest tropical gardens. Elegant, plantation-styled rooms have private verandas, separate entrances and luxurious bathrooms with marble tubs and Jacuzzis. Each one is different. The hotel’s D’Vine Wine Gallery offers flights, food pairings or full glasses from over 35 local and international wines. Find “Live Jazz in the Gardens” on Sundays from 5 - 7:30 and piano music in the Cabaret on Fridays and Saturdays. 

A block from Duval Street, The Marquesa Hotel ( is a complex of four, 1884 restored buildings which comprise the 27-room hotel. The lobby, accented with early Key West photos, resembles a turn-of-the-20th-century parlor. Surrounded by a courtyard, stylish rooms contain antiques and reproductions, marble baths and outdoor relaxing areas. Find rock waterfalls, and lush, flowering gardens around the two swimming pools. Amenities include wine at check-in, free Wi-Fi, complimentary drinks at the pool, free parking, concierge service and twice daily maid service. 

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