A favorite Florida Keys escape: the Key Largo Hilton

This week our Florida Keys getaway started off in Islamorada, and finished up in Key Largo. Today we're saying good-bye (for now) to the Upper Keys and heading north to home base in the Miami area. But as we're reluctantly hitting the road to return to "real life," Zickie and I had to share some photos of one of our favorite island hotels: the Key Largo Hilton.

(In the water looking towards the beach. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

Although as travel bloggers we're supposed to always be in search of something new, let me confess something: this was our THIRD stay here! And, may I add, possibly our best stay although obviously the last two were great (which is why we've come back). So, you may ask, what's so special about this Hilton in Key Largo? Well, let me explain. First of all, unlike some Key Largo lodging, the Key Largo Hilton is set back from Overseas Highway, amid tropical hammock (that's tropical hardwood forest) so you genuinely feel like you're getting away! You will also find the tropical forest preserved along the hotel side fronting Florida Bay. (In case you're puzzled why we're so excited about tropical hammock, it's simply because this hardy forest used to cover much of south Florida, and kept the coastline from eroding! Now very little of it remains. It's pretty amazing that the Hilton retains this natural feature when so many properties would just buzz the trees on down. You know what I mean?)

(Bedroom with balcony. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

Of course, the rooms are important. Rooms are decorated in soothing neutral colors. Beds feel comfortable and the down pillows are fantastic. Each time we've been fortunate enough to have a room facing the water. (Some rooms face the forested area and parking lot.) Once we stayed on the first floor, which was actually nice because you could hear the bay lapping at the sand. Another time, we stayed on the second floor and our view was partially obscured by the trees (but we did not mind this at all.) This trip the Hilton gave us Room 351. Wow! What a fantastic view we had from the balcony!

(The view from the balcony of Room 351. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

The vibe here is very laid-back, mellow, and family friendly. This is not where you'll find the heavy party-hardy crowd, but that doesn't mean people aren't having a blast. There's a terrific little beach bar with killer frozen margaritas (and virgin margaritas too). You can get a bite of lunch from the outside grill. Play ping pong! And of course, swim in the delicious ocean water. This time of year (early July), the water's bathtub temperature, which this Florida native absolutely loves. It's worth your time getting out on the bay. Fortunately, Caribbean Watersports makes it home at the Hilton; you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis and Hobie Cats. From the Hilton you can also embark on snorkeling trips and other cruises -- including an Everglades eco-tour that I'm dying to do one day.

(Kayaks at Caribbean Watersports. Photo by Laura Albritton.)

On the other side of the hotel, you'll find two pools, one for adults only and one for families, along with a whirlpool. And a pool bar, of course! Zickie and I also like this Hilton because they have two well-maintained tennis courts, so we can get in a little exercise before eating a big dinner. Not into tennis? You can use the gym instead, with lots of light and good quality equipment. Boaters may appreciate their 21 slip dock, while non-boaters flock to the dock at dusk to watch the simply spectacular Key Largo sunset. It just gets more and more gorgeous until the sun disappears.

(Sunsets in Key Largo are an event. Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

Despite its view, a hotel is only as good as its management and staff. And the three times we've stayed here all the staff we've encountered have been warm, friendly, very helpful, and completely professional. From our Jamaican server this morning at breakfast to the cheerful bartender slinging drinks for a thirsty crowd, everybody working here seems to have been hired for their good attitudes and hard-working nature. That goes for housekeeping, too. In fact, at check-out today Zickie took the time to tell the folks at reception that their staff is truly an asset.

(A favorite Key Largo hotel! Photo by Island Runaways/Z.A.)

If you do stay at this hotel, be sure to have one meal at Treetops, their third floor restaurant with incredible views over Florida Bay. (There is a lot to say about this restaurant and bar, and maybe we'll have to do a blog post dedicated solely to Treetops.)

The fact is, I believe there's an ideal Florida Keys hotel or resort for just about every kind of traveler. The Key Largo Hilton is not for every visitor; as mentioned, some folks won't appreciate the tropical forest and would prefer a wide, open expanse of beach. Some tourists may want louder, rowdier evening entertainment. (The Hilton does hold beach-side marshmallow roasts!) And that's fine. To each, his or her own. Hotels have personalities just like we do. And while sometimes I love a small boutique inn, or a bed & breakfast, this particular Hilton in Key Largo has grown on me over three visits. And you can be certain that there's going to be a fourth one!

So, we're wrapping up our Upper Keys island runaway today. Later this summer we'll be heading down to Key West and we may just fit in some other Florida islands in July and August. Stayed tuned! If you have a special island tip you want to share, just head over to our Guest Island Experts page. Cheers, fellow island lovers!


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