|The view from one of the rooftop terraces at The Reach. Simply divine.|
“Been there, done that, but in a good way.” That’s what I often say of many destinations I keep going back to, picking only favorite restaurants, bars and beaches to visit while I’m there. Key West is like that for me and although I love trying new things, it’s a small island and I’ve gotten to know folks there, so sometimes, I feel like a Miami expat local.
Mandatory stops usually include The Rum Bar to say hello to bartender and rum expert Bahama Bob and sip on one of his legendary cocktails; Café Solé to catch up with Chef Correa and indulge in fragrant soups, conch carpaccio and his signature fresh-caught hogfish; or groove to some live music at The Green Parrot and greet owner John.
And no trip to Key West is complete without a picnic at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach.
So, when I was invited on a press trip to visit Waldorf Astoria brand The Reach and Casa Marina resorts, I figured I’d be wandering off property a bit – they even gave us complimentary taxi passes – but folks, I never left each property. That’s how good it was. You couldn’t have pried my big Cuban butt out of there with a crane even if you wanted to and I never even set foot on Duval Street.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty to do in Key West, but if what you want is to really, truly get away from it all and focus on each other, these two hotels totally fit that bill and then some.
My room at the The Reach was a spacious suite with a luscious king size bed, which unfortunately didn’t afford a view of the ocean that was available from the balcony, but was placed in a lovely separate room, ideal for nooky after a day in the sun.
The beach here has soft sand and if you don’t absolutely melt in relaxation after hanging around under the palm trees or the numerous lookout terraces, then you definitely need to call your doctor for a tranquilizer.
FOOD AS FOREPLAY
|Eat this but save room for the decadent chocolate cake as well.|
But more importantly: food at The Strip House. Yes, it’s implied: tender beef and photos of half-naked women all in one sentence and quite a mouthful. This is quite possibly the most erotic yet tasteful place I’ve ever eaten at (besides my own home, of course, where I might be found cooking wearing nothing more than a simple apron). Red leather pullmans and classy black-and-white backlit vintage photos of women photographed during the 1900s at the Manasse studio in Vienna, some even showing a peek of boob, grace the restaurant, where the food was ridiculously good.
My fellow travel writers and I were practically stabbing each other with forks to see who could eat more of the twice-baked potatoes, served with a cut of beef slathered in a creamy Béarnaise sauce redolent of tarragon. Don’t even get me started on the creamy lobster bisque -- I’d take it intravenously!
And if you don’t become randy after trying the half-ton chocolate cake with a quaff of port -- seriously, if I were a man it would be instant Viagra -- then again, please consult your physician.
|The breakfast buffet was served in the plush lounge area at The Strip House. Enjoy bacon with a visual hint of boob.|
It was with great regret I left The Reach to go to Casa Marina, but I was surprised with yet another heavenly king size bed and this time, a view of the ocean from the bed. So yeah, sex with a view is available at many of the rooms in this classic hotel -– Henry Flagler’s last property, which has been renovated, but still has that old Florida resort feel without coming across as snobby or pretentious, even if you do pay top dollar for your Tommy Bahama flip flops in the gift shop.
|After spent with passion, prop your head up on the plush pillows and you'll see most of this. Not too shabby and utterly romantic.|
The beach here is a bit rockier than the one at The Reach, but folks, before you even dip your toes in the water, there are two secluded tiki huts, festooned with orchids, where couples can enjoy aromatherapy massages while listening to the waves softly lap up on the shore.
|It really doesn't get better than this.|
I’m not kidding you; this massage experience will change your life. I’ve had hundreds of massages and this one was definitely on my top 5 list. Ask for Judith at Spa Al Maré and the specially blended organic massage oil aptly called Joy, which includes exotic ylang-ylang, one of my favorite scents and a known aphrodisiac. Dudes, if you think that’s too girly, pick a muskier scent like sandalwood or opt for citrus. Breathe in the salty ocean air mixed with these organic oils and you’ll be thanking me.
The massage is a holistic healing experience and while it’s not intended to make you frisky, it’s hard to imagine someone not walking away completely calm yet revived. Relaxing before romping sounds like a good idea to me. And guess what? You get to keep the oil blend, so you can create your own happy endings later on your own.
BUILD CASTLES IN THE SAND, NOT THE AIR
As you all know, I usually try to sneak in a fishing trip, but that didn’t happen this time. I did, however, build a sandcastle!
|A professional sand scultpure by Sandisles at the Reach. You can see mine here, which was created at Casa Marina.|
Try this experience like a kind of spiritual foreplay in which you work on creating something together. It’s meditative in many ways, but also a kind of tantric teamwork and relationship building exercise. I picked a sandcastle because that’s the traditional form and at one point we even called it “The Ron Jeremy meets Rapunzel House of Pleasure” because of its cylindrical, phallic shape. But that just was yours truly cracking pervy jokes while multi-tasking -- you know, shoveling sand and drinking cool gin and tonics with fresh squeezed limes.
You, however, can create any form you want. The whole process takes about two and a half hours.
The sand comes from quarries near Hialeah – yeah, I know, the jokes were flying “I come to Key West and I’m talking about Hialeah? Coño!” -- but it was so soft and comforting to the touch, very malleable. And because it’s crushed rock mixed with water, it provides a very hands-on sensual experience using natural material. It has to get hard yet stay moist while you pound it down before you gently create shapes. Rather yin and yang, male and female qualities in the whole process. You get my drift.
It's probably obvious by now why I was glued to the resorts and never set foot on Duval Street during this trip. A sunset dinner at Casa Marina was yet another reason why. Although it was bit windy during our stay and the food got a bit cold during service, nothing could deter me from devouring the spicy conch chowder you’ll find on the regular menu at Toes in the Sand, a kind of pop-up dining experience, because yes, you’ll be eating lobster tails with your toes in the sand and playing footsies under the table in this very romantic outdoor dining setting. Ideally, book your meal during the full moon.
Now, far be it from me to tell you how awesome it would be to “enjoy” the hammocks strung between palm trees after the sun goes down and the moon rises. There’s nothing like a good, discreet smooch on the beach to kindle passion. Wink, wink.
|A couple enjoying a sunrise on the pier with the tempting hammocks in the foreground.|
I think I left a little bit of my heart in this section of Key West, as evidenced by my drive back to Miami, where I absolutely had to stop at Morada Bay in Islamorada for a late lunch. You see, traveling to the Keys is like scuba diving. You need to decompress before you reach the surface. So, I just happened to be sitting next to the owner of some very famous South Beach nightclubs – A French guy, o la la! -- and we struck up a conversation. What are the odds? It was rather surreal and while talking to him, I felt the rough edges of Miami Beach creeping into my mind in my now eroding state of bliss as I was approaching Miami-Dade County. And it made me think: Folks come to Miami Beach for vacation. Miamians go to the Keys for vacation. Or they end up moving there, eventually!
I love the Florida Keys. And so should you. Can’t wait to go back.
ANNOYING FTC DISCLOSURE
I didn’t pay a dime for this trip except for gas in my car and my lunch at Morada Bay, plus a sandwich I picked up at Porky’s BBQ in Marathon. But I made sure to check that every morsel of sponsored food and every room I enjoyed was available to you, my dear audience, in the same exact condition. Just ask the PR reps how much I pestered them with fact-checking. All suggestions and opinions here are my own. I aint gonna lie and I never do. Feel free to contact me any time for South Florida travel questions @vicequeenmaria.