Are you watching the “Bloodline” drama series on Netflix? Yes? Have you noticed the main character…how utterly intoxicating she can be? That would be Islamorada, of course, part of the Florida Keys, a chain of islands that dangles off Florida’s mainland like a loose pearl necklace and which, even for us Miami locals, tugs at us when we hear paradise calling.
Two weekends ago, I heeded that call and made my way—about a 2-hour drive from Miami—to Islamorada to check out the newly renovated Amara Cay Resort, which falls under the Isla Morada Resort Company umbrella. If you’re expecting high drama like in “Bloodline,” you’ll be booking the wrong place—the only drama here plays out in the spectacular landscape. It’s a landscape that’s dotted with get-away-from-it-all resorts such as Amara Cay Resort, an upscale, boutique property that underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation and whose redesign was conceived as a contemporary re-imagination of the classic seaside cottage. Sitting at Mile Marker 88 along the Overseas Highway, which cuts through the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West, this intimate resort, with 110 guestrooms—88 standard rooms and 22 suites—is a charmer.
The resort’s minimal, yet carefully chosen decor is the first thing that strikes you when you enter the open lobby as well as when you plant your bags down in the accommodations. This is not Hemingway’s Florida Keys—it’s fresh, updated, cool and a delight, and it’s truly all in the details. Take, for example, the “do not disturb” sign guests hang from their accommodations’ doorknobs—it says “indulging in a little me time” when guests want some privacy and “out crafting our story” when they are enjoying Islamorada’s great outdoors. We also loved cozying up on the hanging chairs that greet guests when they enter the resort; taking selfies with the old time keys that act as a decorative item in the lobby; and trying to figure out which fish keeps an eye on the liquor bottles at the Oltremare Bar—it’s actually a “Square Grouper” light feature.
In the guestrooms, it’s the outdoors that plays center stage, with furnishings in muted colors, incorporating natural elements such as wood, rattan and dark tile. The clean design extends to the walls, which are completely bare, except for a large photo of a pier (in our suite), although the pier that really caught my gaze was staring at me from outside my oceanfront accommodations. For clients who want ample space, this room category is ideal with two bathrooms, a separate living and bedroom area, and a wet bar and drink chiller. And those balconies—that’s where I spent my early mornings looking out at the seemingly infinite Atlantic Ocean…that’s the view you want to book for your clients (there are 18 oceanfront rooms).
Public spaces include the 60-seat Oltremare restaurant offering a coastal Italian-inspired menu with fresh homemade pasta, locally caught seafood and farm-grown produce; and Sparrows Rum Bar, with lounge chairs and hammocks on the palm-lined sandy beach area fronting the Atlantic Ocean, or in the heated freshwater pool and hot tub spa.
Amenities include the onsite full-service watersports facility, where clients can book a snorkeling excursion (this is a top recommendation!), go kayaking, or hop on a wave runner or paddleboard. For those feeling a bit more laid-back, there are oceanfront lounge chairs and a small pool. Additionally, the resort’s Mercedes van shuttles guests within a 4-mile radius, including to the resort’s sister properties on Islamorada. Starting rates are $169 during low season.