Island Vibes: What's New in the Florida Keys

For those seeking a luxurious, off-the-beaten-path, eco-friendly vacation with an island vibe, the Florida Keys might just be the ticket. We’ve gathered up the latest on what’s happening at Florida Keys hotels and resorts, as well as a bevy of new eco-activities and dining options.

Key West Hotel News

Built in the 1920s, the 311-room Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton has just unveiled its grand renovation with new vibrant décor.

Over the decades, this iconic hotel has served as a home to presidents and a playground for Hollywood stars. Today, it remains a tropical retreat just minutes from vibrant Duval Street in Key West. But it also sports all-new guestrooms, including 63 suites, many with oceanfront balconies and walkout beachside lanais.

Casa Marina’s guests can have a drink at the new lobby Canary Bar and enjoy other enhanced food and beverage options, too. In addition, the hotel is debuting a new 5,000-square-foot oceanfront event lawn (wedding or vow renewals, anyone?) and two fully renovated outdoor piers for watersports.

Opened in 1926, the La Concha Key West hotel is a grande dame hotel that once welcomed Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. This hotel is currently undergoing a $35 million revitalization and changeover to a Marriott Autograph Collection property—called Autograph La Concha. The expected completion time frame is by the end of 2024.

Guests can expect to find both a warm tropical vibe, a refreshed, sophisticated look and 160 freshly renovated rooms and 14 suites. One tidbit? We simply can’t wait to see the hotel’s new rooftop suites, more details to come soon, according to hotel executives. Travelers will also discover a revamped lobby, bar, restaurant, pool and fitness center. New food and beverage offerings will include Tropicado’s classic crafted cocktails, Cuban cuisine at Perla and the El Dom Coffee Shop.

 Florida Keys Overseas Highway.
Sunsets look gorgeous from the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. (The Florida Keys and Key West)

In other hotel news, the 75-room Capitana, an Opal Collection boutique waterfront hotel in Key West, is now sporting three new six-person beachside cabanas; they’re available for daily reservations. Cabanas are nicely outfitted with a 43-inch TV, mini-refrigerator filled with complimentary soft drinks and water, and options to order food and beverages delivered directly to the cabana.

Separately, the Key West Historic Inns Collection, a portfolio of five historic, reimagined boutique properties in Old Town Key West, is now under new management with Pivot, part of Davidson Hospitality Group. The inns include Winslow’s Bungalows, Lighthouse Hotel, Ridley House, Ella’s Cottages and Fitch Lodge.

Prefer a bit more remote spot near Key West to stay? Best described as a private two-bedroom, one-bath floating “conch cottage,” The Outpost welcomes up to four guests for an off-the-grid experience in Key West’s backcountry waters. The cottage has front and back decks; a rear sitting room/game room; and a fully equipped kitchen and topside seating area. It’s also equipped with paddleboards and snorkel gear.

Islamorada and Beyond

On Islamorada, Luxury Travel Advisor suggests luxury travelers consider a pampering stay at one of Cheeca Lodge & Spa’s 43 newly unveiled, luxurious oceanfront suites. Each encompasses nearly 700 square feet of space and offers either a king bed or double-queen bed configuration. Inside, pops of color highlight a soothing, neutral color palette; outside, guests can peer close-up with the Atlantic Ocean via floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto their private patio—complete with a private whirlpool.

For those seeking an island destination wedding venue, the good news is that the lodge also recently opened its new 10,000-square-foot Islamorada Ballroom, the largest in the Upper Keys. 

This year, the Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, near Marathon’s 1950s-era lighthouse, will transform into the Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, Curio Collection by Hilton. Look for this newly enhanced property to include an all-new spa and fitness center, one- and two-story bungalows, a new multi-level pool deck with bar and infinity pool, two-story poolside cabanas and more.

For “impactful indulgence” in a robust way, we’d check out the luxurious Little Palm Island Resort & Spa’s three-night resort buy-out package for up to 60 guests. Recently extended, it’s a fantastic way to have the resort entirely for yourself and your guests. Rates for the recently extended package start at $300,000, and of that, a $5,000 nightly donation goes to MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, a Florida-based independent, nonprofit marine research institution.

Guests will head out on a half-day excursion with a MOTE scientist to plant coral (named for the primary guest) to help with reef restoration; plus, they’ll receive an annual video update about that coral’s growth. To reach the resort, guests can fly in by seaplane or head for the resort’s welcome center at 28,500 Overseas Highway (MM 28.5), Little Torch Key, which provides boat transfers.

The Cheeca Lodge & Spa
The Cheeca Lodge & Spa has unveiled 43 new oceanfront suites. (The Cheeca Lodge & Spa)

Permission to Wander

The Florida Keys Eco-Experience Trail Pass has just been introduced by the Florida Keys tourism council and technology company Bandwango. The free digital pass includes details on 50 geotagged, bookable activities that encourage travelers to engage with the Keys’ environment and sustainability initiatives.

From Key Largo to Key West, these activities include parks, nature tours, wildlife centers, wildlife refuges, coral restoration opportunities, eco-adventures, and fishing, diving and snorkeling tours in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Travelers sign up for the pass exclusively via their mobile device. Using the pass, they can also check in at area businesses, earn points while exploring the Keys ecosystem, and then exchange those points for Keys-focused prizes. Visit

Certainly, many Florida Keys travelers prioritize a visit to the 2,400-square-mile Everglades National Park, the continental U.S.’ third largest national park. Newly renovated, the pink Guy Bradley Visitor Center, open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., offers interactive nature and art exhibits, a bookstore and Florida Bay views. Recently opened inside the park is the 24-unit Flamingo Lodge and Restaurant with new studio and one- and two-bedroom suites with kitchenettes and balconies overlooking the bay, plus a new 75-seat, standalone casual restaurant.

In progress now at Marathon’s 63.5-acre Crane Point Museum & Nature Trails is what’s expected to be an all-new home for the Marathon Wild Bird Center.

In Islamorada, the Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder rescue group will open its Protect Center Whale & Dolphin Hospital this spring. It will include a 3,000-square-foot marine-wildlife, conservation-themed museum.

The Cheeca Lodge & Spa
At the Cheeca Lodge & Spa, each suite offers nearly 700 square feet and Atlantic Ocean views via floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto private patios. (The Cheeca Lodge & Spa )

Dining Update

In Marathon, the 24-acre,199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort has unveiled the 55-seat Sushi Cabana, an al fresco sushi restaurant. Travelers can pop in for traditional sushi and sashimi offerings, including Hamachi, king crab, chirashi rice bowls, handcrafted sushi, and seaweed and cucumber salad. Separately, a new 80-seat oceanfront eatery, The Rhum House at Grassy Flats Resort & Beach Club serves local seafood, steaks, shareable small plates, craft cocktails, wine and beer.

Cayo Hueso Brewing, a new brewery and tasting room, has opened on Stock Island, just behind Roostica Wood-Fire Pizzeria. Twelve beers are on tap and the brewery’s mural walls—created by local artists—depict Ernest Hemingway and Key West roosters. Tasting room hours are 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday/Thursday and 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday/Saturday. 

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