“Hit the hammock island-style at this laid-back hideaway, tucked into a secluded cove of the Florida Keys”
In line with the relaxed tropical vibe of Casa Morada, the 16 spacious (35+ sqm), individually decorated suites are intimate, comfy and breezy, with Mexican antiques, Terrazzo floors and contemporary touches. Refreshingly, they lack any attempt to appear overly sleek or stylish.
Private indoor and outdoor spaces create an effortless flow and add to the laid-back ambiance. The emphasis is on personal touches, such as little welcome notes and relevant tips referring to something I mentioned when I booked my stay, along with beautiful white orchids and complimentary treats on arrival, including your choice of a glass of champagne, wine, mimosa or beer.
Set in Garden and Sea View Houses, the suites feature queen or kingsize beds, separate sitting areas, air con, yoga mats, books, board games and a thoughtfully stocked minibar (non-alcoholic drinks are free).
The more expensive Garden Suites have Jacuzzis or an outdoor shower on their terrace. If possible though, treat yourself to a Seaview Suite. The sweeping panoramic views across Florida Bay intensify the holiday feel and you really want to be front row for those surreal sunsets.
Bathrooms are simple but well-designed, with either a shower over bath, or separate showers and jacuzzi baths or soaking tubs, and come with robes, hairdryers and heavenly Malin & Goetz toiletries.
We stayed in the ground-floor Manatee Seaview Suite and loved its airy open-plan layout. Our favourite feature was the daybed on the veranda, from which the views over the tiny private island with the pool and bar were breathtaking. And we could hop straight into the water for a round of snorkelling.
A complimentary extended continental buffet breakfast is offered on the covered white wooden veranda, with its stunning views over Florida Bay. While basic, the fresh juices, pastries, fruit bowls, yoghurts and cereals were all we needed before heading out to explore the area. Full English breakfast junkies, however, might have to order a breakfast panini at an additional charge.
Snacks (hummus dip, fruit platter, salad, soup, pizza, panini and ice cream) can be ordered to your room, poolside gazebo or poolside throughout the day and evening. A private chef is available for groups taking over the entire hotel. The champagne bar on the island offers a fabulous range of sundowners, many made with sake. Make sure you indulge in sundowners in the hammock for that tropical island holiday feel.
Outside the hotel, try these diverse but equally cool Florida Keys eateries. A stone’s throw away in the little marina, Lorelei, Islamorada’s landmark sunset spot, serves basic no-frills seafood dishes, accompanied by live music. It's borderline tacky, and redneck diners stream in from the nearby mobile home parks, without whom the whole Florida Keys experience would only be half the fun.
A short bike ride away, hip Morada Bay is a casual beach bar with a great atmosphere, serving island classics. After watching the sunset morph into a pink and purple sky while downing a delicious-but-blindingly-strong margarita, we opted for the traditional hearty seafood chowder, followed by a scrumptious Key Lime pie.
Tired of burgers and breaded shrimps? For fine dining in a historic plantation mansion, head to French-fusion Pierre's, widely acclaimed as one of the finest restaurants in the Keys.
Our personal favourite, however, took a bit of venturing out to Key West where Louie’s Backyard, highly recommend by reception, simply bowled us over. Set in an elegant villa with a breezy wooden sundeck overlooking the calm turquoise waters, we had the best meal of our entire trip: Snapper sandwich with rémoulade followed by (yet another) delicious Key Lime pie.