Even though we’re just now getting back into the work swing after a long holiday break, our minds already have moved on to spring break. And while places like Jamaica and Mexico always sound appealing, we love colorful Key West for the resiliency it’s displayed since 2017’s Hurricane Irma and the opportunities it brings for a change of peaceful pace stateside.
And on top of all that, it doesn’t hurt that forecasters generally call for pleasant 78-degree days in March and April — ideal conditions for the Conch Shell Blowing Contest (March 2), the Key West Yoga & Wellness Fest (April 4 to 7) and Conch Republic Days (April 19 to 28).
The only area where we’ve had a little difficulty is in deciding where to lay our head — The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort or its neighboring sister property, Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. We ultimately couldn’t decide between the two, so we elected to make the most of both resorts that are separated by an easy 10-minute walk. Read on to see how you can enjoy them this season as well.
Casa Marina’s Rooms
We’ll get to the elegant design touches in a bit, but let’s start with gushing over the views. Reserve an Oceanview Loft Suite and you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous vista onto the lush courtyard and lavish pool area. Peer between the palms a little further and you’ll see nothing but the Atlantic’s blue waters.
The first-floor oceanview room in the Historic Flagler Building doesn’t deliver unobstructed looks to the sea, but it does provide easy access to the pool via a pathway from your furnished patio. Be cognizant when you open your sliding door because resident chickens could be loitering nearby. But that’s nothing to worry about; the friendly fowls can be found under bushes, on top of canopies and nearly everywhere else in Key West.
Of course, if you’d rather stay inside, we’d understand that, too. In general, Casa Marina has a breezy, clean overall aesthetic — cream walls, polished woods and big, bright windows — that carries over to the individual units. But while we were more than pleased with our room’s airy flow, island-inspired furnishings and glass-enclosed shower, we quietly coveted the suite’s 900 square feet of absolute ambiance.
The Reach’s Restaurant
When morning rolls around, you’ll probably make a beeline for HMF Café, Casa Marina’s one-stop coffee shop that also makes amazing muffins and smoothies. Sun Sun cooks up salads, sandwiches and sides with a side of sunshine from its open-air pavilion.
If we’re talking dinner, though, the first reservation should be made at The Reach’s signature restaurant, Spencer’s by the Sea. Taking its name literally, Spencer’s places tables on the veranda so close to the water that your waiter may ask you to repeat your drink order because of her difficulty hearing you over the crashing waves.
Luckily, Spencer’s by the Sea’s mission is loud and clear: dish out fresh catches and classic American fare in comfortable surroundings. So, on any given evening, you’ll find a local wahoo and jumbo sea scallops next to an eight-ounce filet mignon and 16-ounce ribeye. The kitchen hops between fish shack and steakhouse with such ease that we’re almost underselling the experience.
Complement those dishes with an impressive vino menu and inventive cocktails — wait, is the bartender really mixing Godiva liqueur and vanilla vodka with Cocoa Puffs cereal milk?
Monthly wine dinners and catch-your-own-meal fishing excursions with the chef give the restaurant even more opportunities to show off.
Both Properties’ Amenities
No matter which address you check into for your Key West vacation, you’ll have access to both resorts’ perks, which means Casa Marina’s beach (the largest in the Keys), The Reach’s sands (Key West’s only natural private stretch), three total pools, two fitness centers, one world-class spa and much more.
On your way to your cabana or kayaking, ornately detailed sand castles erected by Casa Marina’s resident sand sculptor will stop you in your tracks. If you’d like to do more than snap a few pictures of the creations, sign up for one of the property’s exclusive workshops to build your own masterpiece.
However you choose to spend your day, just be sure to be at Casa Marina’s pier a half hour before your sunset harbor cruise with Barefoot Billy’s. While we’re certain you can find other companies that can promise close-ups of the Keys’ famous sunset and complimentary champagne, we’re not so sure any of them have better customer service.
On our particular excursion, a passenger in her 20s had a situation where her stomach didn’t agree with the mix of bubbly and the boat’s buoyancy. The onboard staff went beyond hollow “Are you okay?” gestures by making sure transportation was ready to take the woman to a nearby clinic the moment the boat docked. The young lady ultimately waved off the help, but we have to hand it to the crew for its quick reactions.