Hotel with an Island View: At Casa Marina in Key West

To say that I love Key West is just a little bit of an understatement. The first time I set foot on this gorgeous tropical Florida isle – when I was 14 – I fell for its quirky, but undeniable charms right away. Flash forward some years and the Island Runaways duo (a.k.a. Zickie and me) were spending our honeymoon in this southernmost American key. It seems like over time, one island I simply can't resist is...Key West! This most recent trip, the two of us returned with our littlest Island Runaway, our 10 year old daughter.

(Looking at the sea from Casa Marina. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)

Usually, we stay in one of the many bed and breakfasts in Old Town, with their pastel clapboard siding and adorable gingerbread trim. This last trip, however, our digs were a little different: Casa Marina became our temporary home. Instead of wood-frame Victorian details, Casa Marina presides over the sea like an elegant, Jazz Age grande dame.

(The street-facing exterior of Casa Marina. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)

This hotel was dreamt up by Henry Flagler, the mogul who brought the railroad down through Florida and linked the Keys for the first time with a series of bridges. Flagler wanted to develop a swanky place for railroad passengers to stay, the kind of spot that would become popular with movie stars and millionaires – which is exactly what happened when it opened in 1920.

When we pulled up in the drive, I couldn’t wait to see what Casa Marina was like. The lobby immediately makes an impression with its high ceilings and beautiful woodwork. (Don’t be surprised if you want to put on some fancy satin shoes and start dancing the Charleston.)

(The spacious Casa Marina lobby. Photo (c) Laura Albritton.)

After check-in, we ventured outside to the grounds: Royal Palms, pools, and spectacular views. So far, so good. Our room was in the modern wing, not the historic core, and for once we didn’t have a sea view. (Although summer can be somewhat quiet in Key West, we just happened to be staying during Lobster mini-season, so the hotel and the town were brimming with people.)

Our room looked neat and tidy, with a cool, tropical décor. Nice little touches included bathrobes and an Italian single-cup coffee machine. We unpacked, and then got out to explore Casa Marina.

(Bedroom at Casa Marina. Photo by Nygarmento, TA.)

The pools were very inviting, but I had to check out the pier on the edge of the beach. Sand beaches are fairly unusual in the Florida Keys, because these islands were formed of ancient coral reef, and sand remains at a premium. In the photo below, you can see the sand along with the limestone formations in the water.

The visual effect? Stunning. Now I understand why brides and grooms frequently choose Casa Marina for their weddings. This setting would be hard to top!

(View from the Pier. Photo (c) Zickie Allgrove.)

Our daughter begged to hop into the pool, and so we obliged by getting into bathing suits and heading down to the lounge chairs. Casa Marina has two pools, one with a poolside bar. The bartender concocted excellent cocktails and was very friendly -- most definitely a plus in Zickie's books. We settled back to enjoy the view and started to relax. Over the next three days, we three made the most of Casa Marina's gracious outdoor spaces.

I’d been a bit concerned that Casa Marina was “away from the action,” that is, far from the tourist attractions of Mallory Square and some of the shops and restaurants on the other end of Duval Street. Since we bought Key West Trolley tickets, however, this turned out not to present a problem. The trolley stopped literally just in front of Casa Marina's entrance. Talk about convenient transportation. One night we ventured out for dinner and walked home; the next night we took a taxi back, which was quite reasonable. The fact of the matter is that Old Town is very compact, so you can get to favorite watering holes like Captain Tony's or the Green Parrot Bar without a lot of hassle. Another plus? You'll find restaurants in the immediate neighborhood for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our latest find? Frenchie's Cafe, a tiny place with authentically French home-baked croissants and a slew of other treats!

Speaking of rates, as a Waldorf Astoria resort, Casa Marina ranks among the luxury hotels on Key West. Yet if you stay in the low season as we did, particularly in summertime, you can find good deals for Casa Marina. Rooms over major holidays and high season will inevitably be pricier, but Zickie and I were pleasantly surprised by off-season specials that became available. Would we stay at Casa Marina again, when we visit one of our favorite islands of all time? Without a doubt!

Do you love Key West, too? If so, we hope you'll share your tips on our Guest Island Experts page!


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