We decided to make a last minute trip to the Florida keys for a 2 night weekend getaway. Like most people, we have cabin fever pretty bad but we are still trying to socially distance and be responsible, so I had pretty specific criteria about where to stay. We wanted a small, boutique hotel and preferred something where the rooms would be stand-alone bungalows or cottages so we would be distanced from other guests for the most part. We also wanted something where we would spend most of our time outdoors, including for meals. Little Palm Island Resort checked all of these boxes for us with only 30 cottage rooms and a remote location on a private island, accessible only by boat.
We left Friday around lunchtime to start the 3.5 hour drive down the Florida keys. The keys are all connected via Highway One and a series of bridges, including the famous 7 mile Bridge after Marathon. You get lots of ocean views along the way of the shallow waters. If you make this drive, watch out for speed traps because they are everywhere!!! I have never seen so many cops gunning people and giving speeding tickets (we saw about a dozen on Islamorada Key alone).
We made a brief stop in Key Largo for a quick lunch at an outdoor restaurant. Everyone was socially distancing, we wore masks inside (took them off at the outdoor table), everything was being sanitized, servers wore masks and there were lots of additional precautions (tables were seated every other one, no condiments on the table, throw away menus, etc..). Overall, we felt safe and comfortable this entire trip.
The reception area for Little Palm Island Resort is located on Little Torch Key, which is about 30 miles north of Key West. You pull into a marina area and they have a lovely welcome area where they check you in and you wait to take their boat over to the resort.
Of course, we were also given a delicious fruity cocktail made with rum, pineapple juice, grenadine and coconut shavings called a Gumby Slumber. The boat leaves every hour and it’s about a 15-20 minute ride to the resort. We loved the decor of the resort. It was very Tommy Bahama meets Ernest Hemingway.
After we arrived, we were given a quick tour of the resort, which has a bar/lounge area, main restaurant, pool, outdoor beach dining and a new spa. The resort was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and was closed for 2 years for a complete renovation. The new restaurant and spa are gorgeous and the rooms have received updates as well.
One thing to note about the resort and the majority of the Florida keys is that the beaches are not very good. The keys are rocky little coral islands and most of the beaches here are man-made. The water around most of the keys is very shallow and is often rocky or filled with slimy sea grass. It’s fine to go kayaking or paddle boarding but not great for swimming. We spent all of our time at the pool but the views from the beaches are lovely.
We stayed in their smallest accommodation, the Island Escape Suite. All rooms are individual cottages so even the smallest room is still quite large with a private wood deck, beach area with loungers, living room, large bathroom with separate tub and shower and an outdoor shower and bedroom. Again, the decor was gorgeous and the A/C units worked so well, which was badly needed because it was HUMID during our stay. You may notice that in all my pictures, the windows are all fogged and condensed over because of the humidity outside. Honestly, this was about the same humidity we experienced in Tahiti. You sweat just sitting around outside but the good news is that there was a nice ocean breeze every day.
They did do a turn down service each evening and closed up all the shutters so we did get a very comfortable night’s sleep in a dark, cool room.
Pool and Restaurant
We ate at their main restaurant for lunch and dinner and did room service breakfast one morning. They are doing limited service and menu for social distancing purposes so I will say that if we had stayed longer than 3 nights, I would have been tired of their menu already. However, everything we had was very well prepared and delicious but service at dinner was particularly slow due to limited staff. The staff here was extremely friendly and sweet, though.
My favorite area was their bar lounge called The Monkey Hut that overlooked the beach and ocean. Their bartender was fantastic and made wonderful cocktails, including my favorite, a Hemingway daiquiri. Everything was open air and thatched roofed so you really felt like you were on a Caribbean island. They had a piano player in the evenings as well.
As the beaches aren’t good for swimming, we lounged by the pool on Saturday. There is a nice ocean breeze in this spot so it wasn’t too hot. Servers stop by periodically to bring bottled water or drinks but generally leave you alone. Steve and I were the first people at the pool on Saturday as we got there around 10am. It’s a late rising resort and most guests seem to hang on their private patios until around lunchtime. I spent the day reading by the pool and having a light salad for lunch. Also, this hotel is adults only – no one under the age of 18 is permitted so it’s very quiet and relaxing.
It was extremely windy on Saturday which was great for keeping the bugs away but it also meant it wasn’t a good day for kayaking, paddle boarding or other water sports. The resort does offer complimentary water sports, including a Hobie Cat. For an extra cost, they also have some small motor boats and will take guests out snorkeling, fishing or to an even more remote key for a private lunch.
Drive back and restaurants along the way
After our 2 nights, we opted to skip breakfast and take the 10am boat back to reception and hit the road as it’s almost a 4 hour drive back to West Palm Beach. It was nice and sunny so the water was extra blue and there were tons of people fishing from the highway bridges. We stopped at a casual seafood shack called Castaways on Marathon Key and had a great lunch (again, outdoor seating and socially distanced and sanitized, etc…). We had some amazing beer steamed shrimp and I tried a tuna dog, which was unusual but delicious! Basically, it was a hot dog topped with everything you would find in a spicy tuna roll. I loved it! The restaurant sits on a marina and there is usually a large family of manatees that hang around but they didn’t make an appearance this time.
We also stopped at Skippers Bayside on Key Largo during the drive down and shared some appetizers, including steamed shrimp and conch fritters.
Overall, we had a great weekend getaway that met all my criteria. I will say that Little Palm Island is, in my opinion, overpriced for what you get. Rooms generally start around $1200 a night and the taxes and resort fees push that even higher. So, while we loved getting a respite from staying home all the time and we loved the road trip and scenic drive, I probably wouldn’t stay here again at that price. Steve and I both agreed that we would do the keys again but would drive the extra 30-45 minutes to Key West and rent a house instead as that would be more cost effective and there is more to do and see on Key West.