Why Stay in the Upper Keys Resorts
The Florida Keys are like ice cream. All of them are good, but you might like some more than others. While there are some great Key West resorts, you certainly shouldn’t ignore the resorts found in the rest of the Keys. There are tons of great all inclusive and beachfront Florida Keys resorts.
The Upper Keys tend to be quieter than raucous Key West. Plus, they’re a couple of hours closer to Miami than the Lower Keys. So if you’re flying into Miami International, staying in the Upper Keys means you’ll spend less time in the car and more time enjoying the beach.
If you’re more into nature than nightlife, the Upper Florida Keys resorts are the place for you. So without further ado, these are the best and brightest in Florida’s Upper Keys.
Mariner’s Resort Villas & Marina – Key Largo
Live like royalty in this gated beachfront Florida Keys resort at the southern edge of John Pennekamp State Park. The resort is known for having the largest pool in the Florida Keys. Encircled by palm trees, bougainvillea and mangroves, the 7,800-square-foot oceanfront pool has dual zero-entries from the surrounding powdery white sands. The perfect spot to pretend you’re one of those Instagram yoga travel models who spend their days sipping Frappuccinos in various tropical locations.
You can stay in one of the gorgeous villas while leaving your yacht parked at the first-class marina with direct access to the Atlantic. The resort is within walking distance of restaurants, attractions and, most importantly, the beach. It’s a great spot to stay while enjoying all the fun of Key Largo.
Photo courtesy Booking.com
- A second, more secluded pool (still gorgeous, but not quite as over-the-top)
- Jacuzzi grotto designed to replicate the coral views of an underwater snorkeling trip
- Adventure Concierge that can arrange fun activities such as diving and eco tours
- State-of-the-art fitness center
- Championship tennis courts
- Water sports rentals
Playa Largo Resort & Spa – Key Largo
Situated on 14 lush, tropical acres, Playa Largo Resort is known as “The Pearl of the Florida Keys.” Probably because it was handmade by oysters. Or because it’s owned by Pearl Jam. Or none of those things. Anyway, the resort has luxurious rooms, suites and bungalows, plus a private beach house available for rent.
The best part about this Florida Keys resort is the large beachfront area with clear, shallow waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. There are plenty of lounge chairs, and you can get beach service just by putting your flag up. More Pina Coladas, please!
Photo courtesy Playa Largo Resort & Spa
- Beachfront pool, private cabanas and fire pits
- Ocean Spa with full service salon and fitness activities
- Four on-site restaurants with amazing food
- Private marina
- Water sports activities including paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling and boat excursions
- Bocce, volleyball, basketball and tennis courts
Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Garden – Key Largo
Come for the botanical garden tours led by the resort’s staff ethnobotanist (that’s how you know a resort is legit). Stay for the pool and beach overlooking the bay. This resort is the perfect place for relaxing and watching the sunset amidst the swaying palm trees. It’s so peaceful that guests have been known to melt into a puddle of pure relaxation as soon as they enter the resort grounds.
Kona Kai is a tiny hideaway resort, an ideal spot for avoiding the crowds while still enjoying the amenities of a formal Florida Keys resort. It’s adults-only and has been a “Fodor’s Choice” selection since 2009.
Photo courtesy Kona Kai Resort
- Private white sand beach with comfy chaise loungers and hammocks
- Temperature controlled, waterfront pool and jacuzzi
- Beachfront massage and private yoga
- Tennis and shuffleboard courts
- International gallery with original art
- Complimentary kayaks and waterboards
Cheeca Lodge & Spa – Islamorada
Want to hobnob with celebrities? This Florida Keys resort is where the cool kids stay. Back in the day, famous guests included Bing Crosby, Paul Newman and President Truman. Now, the historic site plays host to stars like Kevin Costner, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez and plenty of others.
With 27 acres of verdant gardens and 114 bright, spacious rooms, Cheeca Lodge is a tropical paradise. They have their own private beach and the longest pier in the Florida Keys. Add that to your bucket list!
Photo courtesy Cheeca Lodge & Spa
- Two heated swimming pools and full-service cabanas
- Stunning tiki-torch-lit tropical gardens
- Fully equipped spa and fitness studio
- Water sports including snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing and boat tours
- 9-hole par 3 golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus
- Tennis, basketball and pickleball courts
- Three first-class on-site restaurants
Pelican Cove Resort and Marina – Islamorada
This classic, beachfront Florida Keys resort has a tropical, sun-splashed private beach for all your Baywatch-style slow-motion running needs. Plenty of palm trees, a laid-back atmosphere, renovated rooms and uber-friendly staff make it the total package.
With tons of outdoor games and activities, plus a myriad of water sports, this resort is perfect for families. Yet it still maintains a calm, quiet feel. Check out the original art by local artists and the Cabana Bar & Cafe for delicious tropical drinks with the requisite tiny umbrellas.
Photo courtesy Booking.com
- Temperature controlled pool
- Saltwater lagoon
- On-site art and yoga classes
- Continental breakfast served beachside
- Food made with local produce and drinks made from fresh juice
- Water sports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and water trampoline
Amara Cay Resort – Islamorada
2017 Conde Nast Readers’ Choice Award winner, Amara Cay is the quintessential Florida Keys resort. Swaying palm trees and relaxing hammocks dot the shoreline for the perfect laid-back beach vibe.
Nights at Amara Cay are even more magical with bonfires and fantastic lighting. They’ve also got huge, recently renovated rooms, a cute boutique and a cool, bohemian atmosphere. Premium bedding and plush bathrobes make the resort extra swanky.
Photo courtesy Amara Cay Resort
- Shimmering beachfront pool
- Complimentary shuttle to local attractions
- Kayaks, paddle boards and bicycles
- Lawn games including ping pong and corn hole
- Top of the line fitness center
- Award-winning interior design
Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort – Marathon
You want a luxury beach house complete with gourmet kitchen and a huge, waterfront porch? Then this is the resort for you.
Perfectly manicured grounds plus award-winning dining at the on-site Butterfly Cafe make this a truly luxurious Florida Keys resort. If relaxing in the lap of luxury isn’t your thing, they’ve also got an Adventure Concierge, eco tours and classes on kite boarding and scuba diving.
Photo courtesy Tranquility Bay Beach House Resort
- Three swimming pools, including one for adults only
- Nicklaus Design putting green
- Private 2.5-acre white sand beach
- Water sports including kayaking, sailing and snorkeling
- In-room spa services
- 12 acres of stunning gardens
Hawk’s Cay Resort – Duck Key
Located just south of Marathon, Hawk’s Cay has a myriad of activities like movie nights, trivia, tennis tournaments, yoga, cooking demos, paddle board races and more. There’s no reason to leave the resort because everything you could want is right at your fingertips.
If you need more activities, check out their pirate theme games, children’s show or live music nights at Angler & Ale. They’ve even got an environmental education program where kids get to play with touch tanks, learn about constellations and feed Tarpon. Someone needs to make this for adults.
Photos courtesy Booking.com
- Private tropical beach/lagoon area
- Water sports like kite boarding, kayaking, jet skiing and diving
- First-class spa and fitness center
- Tennis court, beach volleyball and game room
- On-site dolphin research facility where you can interact with bottlenose dolphins
- Seven world class restaurants
- Five pools including an adults-only pool and a pirate ship pool for the kids
How to Choose the Best Florida Keys Resort
They’re all good, but how do you pick the best flavor? You’ve got to try them all! Just try not to get a stomachache from all that relaxing. Here’s to champagne dreams and caviar wishes!