If you’re planning a getaway to the Florida Keys this summer, it won’t take long to realize that high prices at popular luxury hotels can put a damper on the fun.
Fortunately, many neighboring resorts and hotels are nearly as nice, for half the price. Whether you’re seeking a luxe adults-only retreat or an upscale boutique experience, here’s a short list of accommodations offering a nice level of pampering for a lot less green.
Adults-only properties often charge premium rates; after all, they know how much parents are willing to spend to enjoy a little alone time away from the kids!
Splurge: La Mer Hotel and Dewey House, Key West
The 19-room La Mer Hotel and Dewey House is an upscale, adults-only property built at the turn of the century on South Beach. With its breezy yet elegant style, beachfront dining terrace and access to a sister hotel’s pools, spa and three bars, this property offers the features of a resort with a bed-and-breakfast atmosphere.
Guest rooms are beautifully decorated in a classic style and have flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges and coffeemakers; some open to balconies. The property serves free breakfast, along with occasional treats like chocolate-covered strawberries, but there’s a pesky resort fee, minimum stays are occasionally required and summer rates are generally over $400 per night. 506 South St., Key West, 305-296-6577, www.southernmostresorts.com.
Save: The Mermaid & The Alligator, Key West
This adults-only bed-and-breakfast, with just nine rooms, is also a four-pearl property — but rates are less than half the price of those at La Mer Hotel. Sure, it lacks La Mer’s direct beach access, but The Mermaid & The Alligator is just three blocks from popular Duval Street. Plus, it serves a lovely breakfast as well as free wine hours, and it’s home to a lush garden with a hammock and plunge pool. 729 Truman Ave., Key West, 305-294-1894, www.kwmermaid.com.
Splurge: Sunset Key Guest Cottages, Key West
This 40-room resort caters to upscale families with luxurious cottages, a white-sand beach and a large pool.
Yet while its Sunset Key location (the hotel provides a free ferry to Key West, which takes less than 10 minutes) adds to the air of exclusivity, it can actually be more of a pain; in fact, many of the amenities (such as the fitness center and majority of the restaurants) are located at the sister property, The Westin Key West Resort, where $350 per night rates offer a major discount compared to Sunset Key’s $675 per night rates. 245 Front St., Key West, 305-292-5300, www.sunsetkeycottages.com.
Save: The Westin Key West Resort & Marina, Key West
Rooms here aren’t nearly as nice as those at the Sunset Key property; bathrooms are small and decor is quite simple.
But this 178-room waterfront hotel in Old Town Key West is a real resort, with dozens of features, including boat rentals, shops, a fitness center and a marina. All this, for about half the cost of a stay at the Sunset Key Guest Cottages. 245 Front St., Key West, 305-294-4000, www.westinkeywestresort.com.
Due largely to the fact that they’re smaller properties (and therefore lack a slew of amenities), both of these inns fall into the upper-mid-range category. However, they still offer boutique, elegant stays — one far cheaper than the other.
Splurge: Almond Tree Inn, Key West
The Almond Tree Inn offers 22 stylish rooms decorated in yellow, green and white tropical decor. Property features include a serene pool courtyard with waterfalls and lush landscaping, and the location is in the heart of Old Town Key West, within walking distance of Duval Street.
With both free breakfast and a free happy hour, it’s a pretty solid value — except when compared to The Weatherstation Inn, where a night’s stay is generally more than $100 cheaper. 512 Truman Ave., Key West, 305-296-5415, www.almondtreeinn.com.
Save: The Weatherstation Inn, Key West
Housed in a simple historic building on a quiet street in Old Town Key West, this eight-room property doesn’t look like much from the outside. But each of its rooms has a distinct character and charming decor — picture four-poster beds and antique touches — as well as relaxing views of the well-tended grounds.
Rates are low perhaps due to the fact that there are very few amenities (just a tiny pool), but great freebies include Wi-Fi, parking and a breakfast basket delivered each morning. 57 Front St., Key West, 305-294-7277, www.weatherstationinn.com.
Your private island
Splurge: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, Little Palm Island
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is one of the most lavish properties in the Keys. Reachable only by boat or seaplane, it sits on a private island where wild Key deer roam.
Thirty luxurious suites, many with private oceanfront verandas, dot the 5-acre property, and it’s a popular getaway for celebrities seeking seclusion. Top-notch amenities include a luxe spa, tranquil pool and fine-dining restaurant with sunset views.
But potential guests should take note: No children under 16 are allowed, rooms (purposefully) lack TVs, cellphones are not permitted in public areas, and summer rates are nearly $1,000 per night. 28500 Overseas Highway, Little Torch Key, 305-872-2524, www.littlepalmisland.com.
Save: Casa Morada, Islamorada
Casa Morada may not sit on its own private island, but it does have a small private island, accessed by a footbridge and featuring a freshwater pool and secluded cabana with panoramic views of the Florida Bay. For rates that are generally less than one-third of those at Little Palm Island, we’ll take it!
Inspired by a laidback Caribbean lifestyle, this upscale 16-suite boutique hotel is perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway, whether for a honeymoon or just because. Situated right next to the ocean in the middle of the Florida Keys on Islamorada, the hotel provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere with hanging hammocks and lots of fun and free activities like yoga classes, kayaking, and bicycle rentals
136 Madeira Road, Islamorada, 305-664-0044, www.casamorada.com.