It’s a great time of year to go on a Staycation to the Florida Keys – much less traffic, off season hotel rates, and no problem getting a reservation at choice spots. This year it’s even better with everything from new hotels Key West including a luxury all inclusive, the Keys’ first; more excursions and attractions by land and sea; and places to grab a beer or mojito and enjoy the sunsets. And get this, a new Hemingway Literary Day Trip to Havana from Key West International Airport. Here’s the scoop:
New Places to Stay
In Key Largo, the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo, a 12-acre 135-unit property billing itself as “luxury inclusive,” is targeting an opening this fall as the first all-inclusive resort in the Florida Keys. The palm-lined bungalow resort is under development by Johnson Resort Properties Inc., who also developed Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada.Most rooms are to average about 800 square feet and include private outdoor plunge pools or tubs. The resort is to offer two in-ground pools, five indoor and outdoor restaurants, four bars, 1,000 feet of shoreline, three piers to accommodate boats up to 40 feet long, and a “Florida Keys chic” design.. The resort is located at 99010 Overseas Highway at mile marker 99 bayside. Visit BungalowsKeyLargo.com or call 866-801-0195.
This fall, Curio Collection by Hilton is set to unveil Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo upon completion of a multimillion-dollar reimagination. The 13-acre, 200-room resort will feature 2 swimming pools with a waterfall grotto, winding nature trail lined with hidden beaches, boat dock and beachside taco and tequila spot. Baker’s Cay Resort is located at 97000 Overseas Highway at mile marker 97 bayside. Visit bakerscayresort.com or call 305-852-5553.
New Places to Go by Land and Sea
On Big Pine Key, a new 1,840-square-foot Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center, currently under construction near mile marker 30.5, is to open this fall showcasing the Keys’ four national wildlife refuges. The center also is to include a “friends group” nature and book store, outdoor public restrooms and an accessible ramp. Future expansion plans are to include new indoor and outdoor exhibits and a nature trail boardwalk. “The Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Nature Center is located at 30587 Overseas Highway. Visit fws.gov/refuge/National_Key_Deer_Refuge/ or call 305-872-0774.
The Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower recently restored and enhanced its free-admission outdoor attraction that offers a peaceful respite for visitors. The gardens at West Martello Tower, a historic site dating back to 1864 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, were previously shaded but now are primarily sun-filled. A colorful restored butterfly garden offers a diversity of plants that attract caterpillars and butterflies including monarchs, malachites, zebra long wings and skippers. A white perfume garden filled with fragrant jasmine, gardenias, sweet almond and Chinese perfume plants offers a scenic contrast against the fort’s historic red bricks. Also newly added is a “Jurassic dinosaur” garden with sculptural cycads and hardy dioon plants. The ADA-accessible Key West Garden Club is located at West Martello Tower at 1100 Atlantic Blvd., adjacent to Higgs Beach. It’s open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit keywestgardenclub.com or call 305-294-3210.
Air Key West, in collaboration with OurKeyWest Concierge, is offering a Hemingway Literary Day Trip to Havana from Key West International Airport. The experience is offered each Monday and Friday, priced from $995 per person with valid passport. In Key West, passengers have a 7 a.m. check-in for a 50-minute flight to Havana. The trips include airfare and visas, ground transportation and local guide in Havana, all taxes, entry fees and lunch. Passengers return to Havana’s airport at 5 p.m. and arrive back in Key West by 7 p.m. Flights are aboard a nine-passenger Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander twin-engine turboprop aircraft. A 48-hour advance booking is required. Visit OurKeyWest.com, email Havana@OurKeyWest.com or call 305-290-3563.
In Islamorada, Robbie’s Marina recently welcomed Blue Catamaran, which offers two daily snorkel excursions and sunset cruises on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Trips depart at 10 a.m., returning to the marina at 12:30; and at 1:30 p.m., returning at 4 p.m. Sunset cruises depart about 90 minutes before sunset and return 90 minutes to two hours after sunset. Built in South Florida and purpose-designed for Keys excursions, Blue features a catamaran hull providing a fast, stable platform ideal for snorkeling, two outdoor showers and full-sized restroom. Designed for groups, it can accommodate small intimate trips or groups of up to 124 people. Robbie’s is located bayside at mile marker 77.5. Visit robbies.com or sundancewatersports.com or call 305-664-8070 or 305-664-9510.
The Florida Keys Wildlife Society, a group supporting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges, now is offering two-hour Full Moon Kayak excursions. The tours are sponsored by Bill Keogh, owner of Big Pine Kayak Adventures, and depart from its location on Big Pine Key’s Bogey Road. Tours traverse Big Pine’s National Key Deer Refuge, one of four wildlife refuges in the Keys and home to the endangered Key deer, found only in the Keys. Tours are $25 per person and scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29; Friday, April 27; Sunday, May 27; and Tuesday, June 26. Visit floridakeyswildlifesociety.org or call 305-872-7474.
In Key West, Danger Charters is offering the “Sommelier Series — a fine wine tasting at sea,” with a weekly sailing on Tuesdays from 3-5 p.m., through mid-May aboard a Danger 65-foot schooner. The experience includes samplings of six wines. The series launched in February with an “Into the Heart of NAPA Wine Experience” sail with six California wines. The new sailings also include an onboard sommelier and appetizers. Danger Charters is headquartered at the Margaritaville Marina’s Waterfront Shoppes at 255 Front St. Visit DangerCharters.com or call 305-304-7999.
New Imbibing Options
In Islamorada, Florida Keys Brewing Co. has opened a new 1,100-square-foot tap room with two brewing systems, each showcasing and dispensing 10 brews. It also has a beer garden. The brewery infuses its brews with flavors from Key limes, citrus and local honey, Draft beers include names such as Iguana Bait Honey and Hibiscus Kolsch. It also serves mead from Keys’ Meads, the Keys’ only meadery based in Key Largo, and draft kombucha. Florida Keys Brewing Co. is located at 81611 Overseas Highway. Visit floridakeysbrewingco.com or call 305-916-5206.
The Key West First Legal Rum Distillery offers complimentary mojito-making classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 4:30 p.m. Distillery owner Paul Menta recently sailed aboard the schooner Wolf — the flagship of the Florida Keys’ Conch Republic — to Cuba to explore secrets of an authentic mojito while visiting Havana. Private classes can be booked for five or more people. Key West Legal Rum, which ages rum in salt-cured barrels, is located at 105 Simonton St. Visit keywestlegalrum.com or call 305-294-1441.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS