“Hit the hammock island-style at this laid-back hideaway, tucked into a secluded cove of the Florida Keys”
Set in the mangroves of Upper Key's Islamorada, the most scenic part of the island chain with a distinct village vibe, this 16-suite beach house-cum-boutique hotel is comfy, romantic, tranquil and refreshingly un-styled. Its many nooks and crannies (a hidden pond here, a lovers' bench there, a lone hammock at the end of the pier) make it utterly charming. After a swim in the pool and a snorkel off the island, followed by a striking sunset over Florida Bay, we jump on the free bikes and head over to the harbour for some seafood and live music. By the time we get back, the balmy sea breeze has morphed into a full-blown tropical storm. From the sheltered daybed on our veranda, we sip nightcaps and watch the spectacular lightning display, before retreating to a peaceful sleep lulled by fading thunder. And we awake to another perfect day. Bliss.
- Stunningly beautiful, peaceful waterfront location amidst lush landscaping, with docks out front; watersports to try
- Airy, spacious suites with Mexican antiques and private outdoor spaces, some with jacuzzis
- Exceptionally efficient and friendly staff; mimosas (aka Bucks Fizz), champagne, beer or wine offered on arrival
- Private sandy island with pool, cabana, loungers and champagne bar (serving a range of drinks), accessed by a wooden bridge; a great place to hang out all day
- Rates include the use of snorkelling equipment, kayaks and bikes, and WiFi
- 'Eco/Green initiative' including recycling and water conservation, still a rarity in the US
- Simple Casa breakfast, and a light lunch menu only; you'll have to eat out for dinner, but there is a good range of choices nearby
- The furnishings and amenities in some rooms are slightly mismatched and tired, but we really liked the un-styled, comfy feel overall
- You might feel, on arrival, that your room is a bit overpriced for what it offers; but by the time you leave, and the place has worked its magic, you'll know why
- Fake grass on the breakfast veranda
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Resort
- Breakfast, light lunch and snacks only, restaurants nearby
- Over 16s welcome
- Open all year
- Heated Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Concierge Service
- Bicycles Available
- Bocce Court
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.
- Air conditioning
- Cd player
- Coffee/tea making (on request)
- Dvd player
- Extra beds
- Internet access
- Ipod dock
- Safe box
- Satellite tv
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.
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- Laze all day by the pool, sipping a steady supply of lemon zingers, then enjoy the stunning sunset over Florida Bay
- Indulge in a heavenly massage in your suite, or have a spa treatment; there is a beauty salon with spa services across the road and a full spa at Cheeca Lodge 3/4 mile away
- Enjoy a relaxing complimentary yoga class, offered at 9am on Saturday and Sunday mornings
- Kayak through the dense mangroves to look for elusive manatees, go snorkelling, bike to nearby beach bars, or play a game of Bocce ball; all equipment is free to borrow
- Experience the serenity and beauty of the Everglades plus great birding, only a 1.5-hour boat ride away
- Never "Gone fishing"? This is the self-proclaimed sports fishing capital of the world. If you'd rather just watch the fish, take a glass-bottom boat tour
- Swim with the dolphins, sea lions or rays at the Theater of the Sea in Islamorada, or go diving - there are plenty of great spots; windsurfing is available in Islamorada
- Head out to wacky Key West to see Hemingway House and the pretty pastel wooden houses and art galleries that line the town’s lanes, with friendly locals greeting you from their porches
- Tennis courts are nearby, lessons available
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Plantlife / flora
- Private guided tours
- Scuba diving
- Scuba diving courses
- Shopping / markets
- Tennis coaching
- Well being