Where: Key West, Florida
Why you should visit: It’s the quintessential Key West experience, with gorgeous sunsets, a dive bar, views of the Gulf, and plenty of good food – all on property.
People flock to Key West for its quirky charm, but at the end of the day, it’s sure nice to have a peaceful retreat for escaping the town’s high-energy level. With its enviable location of Duval Street on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, Pier House Resort & Spa offers the proverbial best of both worlds.
It’s also got that rarity in Key West: an actual sandy beach and palm trees (because you can’t come to Florida without a bit of that). Add in a dive bar on property, full-service spa, and views for miles to complete the picture, and we agree after a recent visit that Pier House is an ideal home base for exploring Key West.
As part of its claim to fame, Key West is the southernmost city in the U.S., closer to Cuba than Miami. Part irreverent cultural mecca, tropical destination for snorkeling, a darn good place for a daiquiri, and the spot for some major people-watching, Key West draws folks for a lot of reasons.
If you like history, the Little White House populated by Harry Truman is an ideal place to explore, a few blocks from the hotel. Ready for a sunset cruise? The on-site concierge can set you up on a boat. Since Key West is only four miles long and two miles wide, it’s easy to explore with a bike or a pair of good walking shoes.
Pier House began life as a small 50-room hotel in 1967, but it’s expanded over the years to 143 guest rooms and suites, two restaurants, a spa and lush landscaped property surrounding it all. The oceanside suites have unparalleled views and the most up-to-date interior design, with a coastal vibe (think rattan furnishings and a blue-and-white color scheme), although the cozy spa rooms are charming, too, tucked into the palm trees as a value option.
Speaking of the spa, theirs is the only full-service one intown, and is a must-do for any relaxing getaway. After a massage or facial, dedicate another hour to relaxing in the whirlpool al fresco.
Food and beverage options on the resort cover a lot of ground, even with just three destinations. The resort’s signature restaurant, One Duval, does day-long service as the place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its menus range from hearty omelets to start the day on up to sophisticated seafood and steak options at night, all with the option to sit outside at the tables located above the ocean.
The Beachside Bar is the sort of laid-back spot by the beach and pool that people dream about while they’re stuck in an office. With plenty of beers, lunch treats like fish tacos or calamari, and often a local minstrel playing Yacht Rock tunes, the Beachside Bar is usually hopping all day long.
Tucked into a spot near the lobby, the Chart Room Bar channels Old Key West, with its memorabilia stuck on every corner of the walls and ceiling, and its legends of locals such as Jimmy Buffett and Mel Fisher stopping by. With its complimentary peanuts and hot dogs available alongside specialty cocktails, this funky bar can entertain guests for hours.
Key West is a three-hour drive from Miami, but these days, several airlines offer direct flights. The small airport is only a 10-15 minute rideshare journey to Pier House, and once you’re there, it’s easy to get around by walking or taxi. The small-but-in-a-good-way size of Key West makes it an easy getaway when you’re in the mood for a Margaritaville-type of weekend.
– Lisa Mowry