Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Romancing the Keys: Escape From Miami at Hilton Key Largo Resort

hilton-key-largo
No, it's not the Caribbean. But pretty damn close. Thank heaven for that.

In my never-ending search for Miami getaways -- folks, that means I want to get away from Miami, not tourists coming to Miami -- I discovered the Hilton Key Largo Resort.  It all happened while I was organizing the annual unconference SxSe, aka South by Southeast. Mind you, that was a social media tweetup with a bunch of local geeks, yet I couldn’t help but notice how darn romantic this property was, nestled on the west side of a very narrow strip of key.

And because I was so impressed, I'm including it in my Romancing the Keys series -- so jot it down for possible quick, one-hour escapes from Miami to the north Florida Keys.

Talk about getting away. For me, Florida Bay views outdo the Atlantic. Yes, the ocean is to be revered, but it gets washed out in certain lighting conditions and has no structure. There’s something about the turquoise and teal waters of the bay, outlined by green mangrove islands, that provides relief for eyes tired of so much urban concrete congestion.

Having fished and explored most of Miami's coastline, I can absolutely assure you there is no place in Miami-Dade with the same, expansive view.

A Florida hammock surrounds the resort, which was, again, so easy on the eyes. The manicured wilderness brought me closer to nature while enjoying creature comforts and I never had to worry about my ass being chased by an alligator. (Yes, I've actually had to worry about that in the past.) If you're squeamish about hardcore Florida backcountry experiences, this locale provides just the right 101 introductory and most elegant course for you.

The 12.5 acre forest features a trail with a ScoutAbout activity that's mainly designed for kids, but it's also a hoot (please excuse the pun) if you are a tree hugger nerd like me. And it's just plain pretty.

The resort’s beach is shallow, but very calm since it’s not highly affected by the pounding waves of the Atlantic on the other side of the key. One word: relaxing. Actually, two words: absolutely relaxing.  Pull up a lounge chair, plunk it in the water and laze to your heart’s content while sipping a cocktail from the tiki bar. If you're sun-phobic like me, there's still plenty of shade under the old-growth trees to enjoy the outdoors without risk of sunburn. (Sunburn doesn't make for good sexual intimacy. Trust me.)

I won’t be the one to tell you to frolic in the private saltwater beach at night (and if you do go for a moonlight dip, keep it to yourselves), but for insatiable water babies there’s also two pools and a giant jacuzzi on the south side of the resort.

hilton-key-largo
The potential for a snooze is high here. Be forewarned.

The resort is family-friendly, but it all shuts down early enough at night for those who prefer quiet romance. My room faced the small beach, which had easy access to the water and a long dock where I sat under the stars conversing with my sweetheart in comfortable lounge chairs. Our plush king-size bed was just a stroll away.  I won't tell you what happened next.

If “sex with a view” is on your list, then do book a room a couple of stories higher – it’s absolutely breathtaking and peaceful.

hilton-key-largo
Room with a view. Of course, when I see this, I think about what fish I could catch, not necessarily nooky.

The upstairs restaurant also boasts the same sweeping view of Florida Bay, a body of water that is important to the state’s natural ecosystem. Paraglide from above, paddleboard on the flats or take a nature tour with the hotel’s outdoor activity concessionaire, Caribbean Watersports, and see it with your own eyes.

On Friday nights, enjoy live acoustic music making your own s’mores over a bonfire on the beach. If you think s’mores are the camping treats of young scouts, try kissing your beloved while chomping on a yummy graham cracker laden with gooey chocolate and marshmallow. Just make sure the kids aren’t looking if the kisses are naughty.  Tip: there’s plenty of room in the nature path for a quick smooching escapade.

My sweetheart actually won a trophy for most creative s'more.  Go ahead, try it.  Be goofy and have fun.

Local bar and dining options outside the property include the laid-back Pilot House, which serves fresh seafood daily, with a rockin' spicy conch chowder -- seriously, I still salivate thinking about it and I'm a huge stickler about conch, it's an aphrodisiac, after all!  Also, their reasonable happy hour food and drink specials bring shame to any price-gouging waterfront Miami Beach establishment.

Hilton Key Largo Resort is definitely on my list of “wish I was there and not in Miami” Florida Keys spots. We traveled there in late September and the weather was absolutely perfect, but I hope I don’t have to wait until then to return.

ANNOYING BUT REQUIRED FTC DISCLOSURE

I paid for all my expenses but I did get a media rate for my room and free wi-fi. All opinions, as always, are my own.

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Blogger Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz said...

A romantic trip to the Keys with no kids is what I need right now. The Hilton Key Largo sounds like my kind of place, beautiful and realaxing.

8:03 PM  

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