Take a look at the top bargain resorts and inns in Islamorada, the so-called “fishing capital of the world.”
Amara Cay Resort is an oceanfront hotel with lots of amenities and value. Though it doesn't have a traditional beach (there are actually very few beaches in the Middle Keys), there is a man-made stretch of sand encased by a seawall, and the hotel has its own boat dock and dive shop with water-sports rentals. Other features include a heated pool, a burger spot, and a tiki bar. A major renovation in 2014 and 2015 left the entire resort with a beachy-chic look that's especially prominent in the 110 rooms and suites, which feature private balconies, coffeemakers, and flat-screen HDTVs.
This "Old Keys" resort has manicured grounds with aromatic gardenia, colorful bougainvillea, and coconut palms, which offer shade to the heated waterfront pool area and the man-made beach (for boat launching and docking, not swimming). The 18 rooms are spread throughout low-rise pastel-painted buildings, and include air-conditioning, flat-screen TVs, coffeemakers, and free Wi-Fi. Some have full kitchens, private balconies or patios, and ocean views. But while Amara Cay's rooms and common areas are fresh from a 2014-2015 renovation, Drop Anchor's overall look is pretty dated. Nonetheless, it's a popular place for laid-back couples, families, and serious fishers.
Coral Bay Resort is a humble seaside resort for families and boaters. The waters surrounding the Coral Bay are excellent for fishing and snorkeling, and many guests park their boats right at the hotel for free. The 17 rooms are clean and spacious and come with flat-screen TVs and microwaves, but the style is simple and dated -- expect to see tropical floral prints and faded wall art. Sunset views are great, and the atmosphere is laid-back, but the low(ish) rates here mean few frills. In all, it's a similar experience to the one at Drop Anchor, and in fact, the rates are a wee bit cheaper here.
Sands of Islamorada is a charming throwback to Old Florida, with its white-trimmed candy-pink buildings, thatched-roof patios, and sandy pathways lined with tropical plants. Couples and families can unwind by the waterfront pool and hot tub, grill and picnic on the beach, or post up on the fishing pier (a great spot to watch the incredible sunrises). The nine rooms are basic with tile floors and dated floral-print bedspreads; all have fridges and microwaves, and some have full kitchens and wraparound porches with hammocks. There's no restaurant nor breakfast service, though there are good options within a five-minute drive.
Set on a beach shaded by palm trees, Pines and Palms Resort is a mid-range resort made up of 23 bungalows that range from Budget Efficiencies to Three-Bedroom Cottages and villas. All of the bright and airy units have kitchens, and most have private patios or balconies plus daily housekeeping (a rarity in self-catered apartment hotels). The five-acre resort has its own beach with fishing and swimming piers (and free boat dockage) as well as a heated oceanfront pool with a bar.