The 214-room Cheeca Lodge & Spa is a luxury resort set on extensive, lush grounds in Islamorada, offering plenty of on-site features, including a nine-hole golf course, a pretty beach with a long fishing pier, a full-service spa, six tennis courts, and two pools (one for adults only). Three restaurants serve tasty seafood, sushi, and Italian fare, but they're pricey, and there's a fun tiki bar on the beach. An environmentally-focused kids' club offers all sorts of activities, but it's not free. Spacious guest rooms with elegant tropical decor have private furnished balconies (some with outdoor jetted tubs), while suites add separate living rooms and some have full kitchens. The steep resort fee covers a lot, such as green fees, and use of bikes, kayaks, and fishing gear. Travelers looking for a more intimate experience might prefer nearby Casa Morada, an upscale, adult-only boutique hotel, but it lacks a full-service restaurant.
Luxury beachfront resort set on gorgeous, lush grounds
Set on 27 acres of lush grounds, this beachfront resort draws mainly vacationing couples and families -- with enough space to cater to both, including a separate adult-only pool -- as well as fishing aficionados here to savor the charms of the "Sportfishing Capital of the World." One of the original luxury properties on Islamorada, the resort dates back to 1946 and has earned plenty of celebrity cachet over the years -- high-profile guests have included George W. Bush. There are some black-and-white photos in the hallways depicting the resort's history and some of its past guests. The resort has gone through several renovations, including being rebuilt after a 2009 fire gutted its main building.
Wreathed in lush greenery, the grounds are a picturesque tangle of tall palm trees and tropical plants, with paths meandering past the pretty freeform lagoon pools. Wooden jetties on the interior lagoon area (distinct from the saltwater lagoon by the beach) are particularly charming, lined with padded loungers and umbrellas, and lit up by fiery tiki torches at night. Inside the cream-colored buildings, the style is an elegant sort of tropical-chic, a classic Keys' look that's subtly beachy. Wooden wall panelling and plantation-shutter details are paired with bamboo chairs, while tasteful, tropically-infused paintings add a bit of color to the beige and brown palette. The dining spaces adhere to the same type of style, with the Atlantic's Edge providing a fine-dining experience in an elegant setting complete with crisp white tablecloths and chandeliers, while the other two restaurants have a more casual vibe.
Beachfront location in Islamorada, between Key Largo and Marathon on the Florida Keys
Cheeca Lodge is located on the Atlantic side of Islamorada, just off of the Overseas Highway, making it a convenient base for exploring the area. There is less to do here than on neighboring islands, but there are still several small restaurants nearby and plenty of attractions within driving distance. A small grocery store is a three-minute walk away, and there are a couple of shops in the area, including World Wide Sportsman, for fishing and outdoor enthusiasts. Water sports enthusiasts will find plenty to keep them occupied: there's kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, and windsurfing, not to mention sport fishing -- Islamorada advertises itself as the "sport fishing capital of the world."
Eight-minute walk to the Keys History and Discovery Center
Five-minute drive to the Whale harbor Marina
Five-minute drive to the Theater of the Sea marine life observatory
26-minutes to snorkeling at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
27-minute drive to swimming with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center
Spacious rooms have private furnished balconies (some with jetted tubs) and large bathrooms; suites add living rooms and in some cases full kitchens.
Rooms are spacious and feature elegant contemporary decor that mixes traditional furnishings with a hint of sophisticated beachy style. Beige carpets and cream-colored walls provide the backdrop to dark wooden furniture and subtle tropical accents like elegant palm tree illustrations on the walls and lamps with pineapple or palm details. Some rooms have large tropical paintings that are a reprieve from the neutral color palette, splashing a dose of vibrancy onto the walls.
Rooms are divided into three categories based on the type of view they have, with options of resort, lagoon, or oceanfront vistas. All have private balconies furnished with seating, while some add outdoor soaking tubs. Suites have separate living rooms with pullout sofas, and some also have full kitchens equipped with fridges, microwaves, stoves, and dishwashers. The Beach Bungalow has a staircase that leads directly to a private beach area. Standard amenities include flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers (suites have espresso machines), mini-fridges, electronic safes, irons/ironing boards, and free Wi-Fi. Elegant bathrooms are equipped with walk-in rainfall showers, magnifying mirrors, fluffy robes, and toiletries. Many also add separate soaking tubs.
Extensive grounds include a beach with long fishing pier, two pools, a golf course, full spa, and three restaurants, plus freebies like bike, kayak, and fishing gear rentals -- but there's a steep resort fee.
The resort's lush, garden-filled grounds offer plenty of relaxing areas to lounge in, be it on the beautiful stretch of palm-dotted beach where loungers line the sandy shore, or around one of the two outdoor pools. The adult-only lap pool is part of the spa area and includes butler service as well as cabanas available for rent, but it gets little shade and some guests complain that the water can get hot. The freeform family pool has views of the beach.
Islamorada is a prime spot for fishermen, and the resort caters to those wishing to fish with a 525-foot wooden pier (160 meters) on the beach, as well as unlimited use of fishing equipment. Guests can also book various fishing excursions and charter boats. Other water activities include snorkeling, sea kayaking, and scuba diving. The snorkeling tour to the reef, available for a fee, is a popular excursion.
The hotel's full-service spa offers an extensive menu of treatments with seven treatment rooms, as well as a wet room with a Vichy shower, a steam room, and showers. The fitness center offers a handful of cardio machines, a strength-training machine, and free weights. Other fitness features include six lighted tennis courts, and the grounds are also home to a Jack Nicklaus-designed nine-hole par-3 golf course.
The hotel offers over 4,600 square feet of event space, and is often host to weddings and other functions. Families traveling with children are catered to with Camp Cheeca, an environmental kids' club that offers all sorts of activities, though it costs a fee. Other amenities include a game room, a Xbox arcade, a DVD rental library, free Wi-Fi throughout, and free rentals of bikes, paddleboards, and kayaks. Note that there is a steep daily resort fee.
Three on-site restaurants offer varied dining options, including fresh seafood at the Atlantic’s Edge, Italian fare at family-friendly Limoncello, and sushi at Nikai Sushi Bar. All three restaurants have both indoor and outdoor seating. There's also a tiki bar that serves up cocktails, beers, and burgers right on the beach. The resort also has a coffee bar that's open in the mornings, as well as an elegant lobby bar serving drinks and light plates.
There are also off-site eateries worth investigating, such as Lorelei, a popular spot for sunset with a small private beach and live music.
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