Considering how much I love fresh seafood and coladas and anything tropical, it’s kind of surprising I’d never made my way to Key West before recently. Somehow the Florida Keys had almost completely escaped our radar (save for the Key Largo shout out in the Beach Boys song) until the brand-new The Gates Hotel invited us to come check it out.
To get there, we flew into Miami and drove down, down, down the beautiful scenic highway connecting the archipelago. The very last island is Key West. Honestly, the Beach Boys were on to something. Between the beach, cocktails by the pool, jet skiing, snorkeling, ocean views, wild roosters (camera-shy but everywhere!) and scrumptious Cuban food, Key West is right up there with the Caribbean in terms of quintessential vacation spots. And really, that makes a lot of sense considering Key West is even closer to Cuba than it is to Miami.
As a backdrop to the days’ activities, The Gates was a great home base. On the one hand, the atmosphere is part party — the cabana bar “Rum Row” sits next to the pool and on some nights, you’ll hear live entertainment while taking a dip. On the other hand, the hotel’s airy, organic vibe makes it super relaxing, too.
Here are a few shots from the hotel and some highlights from the rest of the trip, plus a mini “best of Key West” guide below:
Should you find yourself in the area, here were our most noteworthy Key West restos and happenings:
- Hogfish Bar & Grill: Laid-back, Tikki-type setting that serves the fresh, lightly fried hogfish tacos of your dreams. The key lime pie is also delish.
- Danger Charters: Fantastic boating, kayaking and snorkeling and not actually dangerous, just the way I like it. A more mom-and-pop option with a young, hip but knowledgeable crew who we have to thank for our barracuda, eel and rare bird and crab sightings.
- Frita’s Cuban Burgers: A little gem right off the touristy Duval Street with customizable arepas and fresh fruit slushees. We sampled the mango. The arepas are made of corn, so good for any gluten-free friends.
- Cayo Mexican Cantina: Food truck with the freshest seafood (the shrimp was so yummy!) and ample portions.
- Grinnell Street: The cutest tree-lined street with the works, as far as residential neighborhoods go — impressive old homes with white picket fences and lush foliage. The only (understandable) drawback is sharing the street with train tours.
- El Siboney Restaurant: Generous portions of yummy Cuban food, recommended by locals! The setting is unpretentious and family-style. It was busy when we went but we were still seated within 10 or 15 minutes.
- Fury Jet Ski Tour: Cruising out on the open sea all the way until you can spot Cuba…this was already a blast but admittedly even better because a fellow rider was a bad mamma jamma older grandmother who was such a speed demon she rode first behind the instructor.
**This post is sponsored by The Gates Hotel. Thanks for supporting our supporters.**