This onsite review originally appeared in the April 2011 issue. It has been edited for the web.
It’s clear on the scenic drive down U.S. Highway 1 from Miami that the Florida Keys has got the laid-back island lifestyle down pat. Mom-and-pop shops and restaurants line the side of the road—it’s just one main drag from the first Key all the way south to Key West—locals lazily fish off the piers, pelicans glide along the turquoise waters—what could possibly be more relaxing than this? Well, on a recent trip to the Florida Keys to check out two Noble House Hotels & Resorts properties, we would soon find out that this little cluster of islands at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula offers a couple of different degrees of relaxation.
Upon entering Little Torch Key and making a left turn onto Pirates Road, we arrived at an off-white, thatched-roof building that houses the Welcome Station of our first stop—Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, a luxury private island located a 15-minute boat ride off the mainland and where we would be spending our next 24 hours. Here, we were checked in by the very attentive staff, and a couple of tropical rum punches later—the resort’s signature welcome drink—were whisked away aboard a private motor yacht.
At first sight, Little Palm Island can only be described as a little piece of paradise. And with no other form of “civilization” for miles, it almost feels as if you alone just discovered this slice of heaven.
the suite life Little Palm Island Resort offers just 30 oceanfront suites in thatched-roof villas, each measuring 550 sq. ft. (there are also two Island Grand Suites measuring 1,000 sq. ft.). The bungalows are discreetly nestled throughout the island amid hundreds of Jamaican coconut palm trees, each with their own perfectly placed hammock, sundeck and personalized nameplate on the bungalow door.
Inside, each suite features a living area and bedroom with king-size bed draped with curtains, a separate dressing area and bath, complete with a claw-footed porcelain tub and bamboo-fenced private outdoor shower. Book your clients in one of the property’s Premium suites and they’ll receive a welcome bottle of champagne and fruit platter, watersport amenities, mini-bar beverages and guaranteed beach dining (weather permitting). There are no alarm clocks, TVs or phones in the bungalows. In fact, the use of cell phones is highly discouraged throughout the island, except in the privacy of guestrooms.
around the island Without the distractions of everyday routines, Little Palm Island is the ideal place to do…well, absolutely nothing. Guests here can choose to take a dip in the lagoon-style heated pool—we recommend having lunch here, too, as the shrimp quesadillas are to die for—sunbathe at the beach or in one of the many lounge chairs dotted around the perimeter of the island, cozy up in a hammock with a great book, or stroll around the waterside path in hopes of catching a glimpse of a key deer or Spencer, the resort’s resident blue heron who’s called the island home for over 10 years. In fact, guests are given binoculars as well as a bird guidebook for birdwatching enthusiasts.
Those looking for a little adventure can enjoy complimentary use of Hobie cats, water bikes, stand-up paddleboards, beach floats, snorkel gear and fishing gear. Recommend guests explore the outskirts of the island on a kayak where they’re sure to see plenty of fish and maybe even a nurse shark or two.
Arrangements can also be made for scuba diving, snorkeling and fishing cruises, as well as sunset catamaran sails and guided nature tours by canoe or sailboat.
After exploring the island’s many outdoor offerings, guests can relax at SpaTerre, an Indonesian-themed spa featuring four treatment rooms and a menu of indulgent Balinese spa treatments and Thai body rituals such as the Javanese Royal Treatment (includes a yogurt massage and bath in scented oils) and the Bali Spice Body Mask. The spa is also popular for its Key Lime Margarita Pedicure, which incorporates local key limes and begins with the resort’s signature key lime margarita for guests to sip on. SpaTerre is also where you will find the resort’s fitness room. Meanwhile, the island’s library offers a retreat of its own filled with plenty of books, board games and the only TV on property, while the Zen Garden is the perfect spot for meditating.