3 Hidden Gems on Islamorada

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The quaint town of Islamorada is full of hidden gems worth checking out. Here are our top picks for fun activities, where to find trinkets, and the best places to explore.


Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina

The hottest restaurant in town…for fish! The Tarpon, a medium-sized fish native to the Atlantic, usually stops at Robbie’s Marina for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Hordes of these fish linger near the marina for hours, knowing that tourists and locals alike are sure to feed them. A spectacle to behold, and well worth the $4 for a bucket of feeding fish, head here throughout the day for instant entertainment and fun.

Kayak to Indian Key

The Florida Keys are dotted with little green islands, separated from the mainland by translucent turquoise water. Most of the islands are reachable by boat, but the real adventurers hop in a kayak and paddle out to Indian Key, a historical site that’s part of the Florida State Park system. The shallow water between Islamorada and Indian Key is perfect for kayaking in an area where the island’s many hidden historical secrets and treasures allow you to explore the day away.

Morada Way Arts and Cultural District

Nestled on the small island of Islamorada is a vibrant and growing arts and culture scene. The Morada district is known for its galleries, studio spaces, boutiques, and creative restaurants, making it one of the most exciting neighborhoods in the Florida Keys. The art galleries combine lush island themes and the presence of the surrounding and engulfing Atlantic Ocean, giving way to some truly unique pieces that are adept at communicating stories of the American islands diaspora.

The Cheeca Guide to Florida Keys Cuisine

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While the Florida Keys have gifted us with the delicious summertime favorite of the Key Lime Pie, that’s not all they’re known for. Here are a few special dishes to watch out for when you stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

Key Lime Pie

Of course, we had to mention the Florida Keys staple. This tart and sweet crème pie uses key limes, which are smaller than conventional limes. The pie is said to have originated in Key West during the early 20th century. It was a staple of fishermen and Key West dwellers because the key ingredient, condensed milk, did not need to be refrigerated. To find the best slice on Islamorada, head to slightly north to Blond Giraffe, known locally as the Key Lime pie factory. This famed spot is one of the most well-known spots to grab a freshly-chilled pie in the Keys.

Key West Pink Shrimp

Harvested from the crystal clear waters of Dry Tortugas, this Florida Keys specialty is notable for their seasonality and their mildly sweet flavor. Deriving their pink color from their living environment in the coral sand off the west coast of Florida, you’ll find this type of shrimp in most restaurants on Islamorada. Usually served in cocktail sauce, or grilled and seared, hit up Twisted Shrimp, Chef Michael’s, or Lazy Days Restaurant to try this Keys specialty.

Spiny lobster

One of the many lobster varieties, this warm water lobster differs from its Northern cousin by forgoing the claws for a subtler taste. Because of its milder flavor, you’ll find this lobster meat mainly in stews or flavorful rice dishes. The Hungry Tarpon in Islamorada pairs its fresh catches of the day with Caribbean-inspired cuisines. Try the broiled Spiny Lobster tail with tropical rice and charred asparagus for its vibrant island flavors.

10 Fun Facts About the Florida Keys

Don’t let the palm trees and sunshine fool you: The Florida Keys are more than just a great vacation destination. This beloved archipelago offers a rich history, beautiful biodiversity, and more than a few quirky characteristics.

 

Here are 10 of our favorite fun facts about the Florida Keys:

 

  1. There’s plenty to explore: The Florida Keys include over 800 islands, many of which can be accessed via a network of 42 bridges.

 

  1. There’s even more to uncover below the surface. The expansive Florida Reef is the only living coral reef in North America and the third largest coral reef in the world.

 

  1. The Sunshine State is also home to the largest nesting sea turtle population in the country. The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL is dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles.

 

  1. The diverse marine life—along with some spectacular shipwrecks—has earned the Keys the title of Diving Capital of the World.

 

  1. And that’s not all: Our island chain is also considered by many to be the Sportfishing Capital of the World. (Learn about Cheeca’s fishing charters and tournaments here.)

 

  1. The queen conch is a protected marine species; shell collectors should steer clear of picking up these massive mollusks.

 

  1. If you’re looking to escape the cold, this is the place to be: The Florida Keys boast the highest average temperature in the country.

 

  1. Despite the beachy climate, you might be surprised to learn that much (but not all) of the sand you’ll find on our islands has been imported from the Bahamas.

 

  1. Fortunately, cats seem to love the heat. The Hemingway House is Key West is home to dozens of polydactyl cats.

 

  1. Known as the southernmost point in the country, Key West is actually closer to Cuba than Miami, FL.

Discover the Keys and enjoy luxury accommodations when you stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.

The Last Straw: A New Initiative at Cheeca Lodge & Spa

Although not a new issue, the consumption of single-use plastics has been a hot topic in 2018. According to a recent article by Business Insider, estimates have tallied the total plastic consumption worldwide at roughly 300 million metric tonnes. In an effort to address this issue, Cheeca is proud to introduce our latest eco-friendly initiative: the Last Straw, a commitment to remove all plastic straws from our property.

 

Here in Islamorada, we are particularly sensitive to the impact disposable plastics can have on the environment. The waters surrounding the Florida Keys are home to vibrant and diverse marine life populations—including the only living coral barrier reef in North America—and we’ve seen first-hand the adverse effects that plastics can have on this fragile ecosystem. The Last Straw is just one way we can act as a catalyst for positive change in our island community.

 

Beyond the Last Straw initiative, Cheeca will continue to champion a number of ongoing eco-friendly programs that encourage sustainable tourism. These additional efforts include cardboard and glass recycling; wastewater treatment; on-site thrill craft restrictions; a Camp Cheeca environmental awareness program for children; support of local conservation groups; and much more.

 

When you stay at Cheeca, you can enjoy beautiful island accommodations and amenities, without leaving a large environmental footprint. Reserve your eco-friendly vacation in the Florida Keys today!

 

Plan a Corporate Retreat in the Florida Keys

Back to school season isn’t just for kids: For many adults, the beginning of fall marks a return to the daily 9-to-5 grind. However, the end of Summer Fridays doesn’t need to signal the end of fresh air and sunshine. Plan a corporate retreat in the Florida Keys and enjoy an inspiring work experience outside the office.

 

Business meets paradise at Cheeca, where we offer 4,600 square feet of versatile conference space. Our elegant venues can accommodate a wide range of events, from small business meetings to large company outings. We also invite guests to go beyond the boardroom with a range of on-site amenities and activities, from thrilling water sports to island-inspired dining and relaxing spa treatments.

 

This season, we’re making it easier than ever to plan your next business retreat with our exclusive Free Falling offer. Available on select midweek dates from September 30 to December 20, 2018, this stress-free meeting package includes a free 45-minute welcome reception, a free general session meeting room, and discounts on our daily resort fee.

 

To qualify for the Free Falling offer, you must reserve a minimum of 15 rooms for stays of two nights or longer, with a catered food and beverage minimum of $75 per room, per night. Contact Cheeca Group Sales at (305) 664-4651 for additional details and availability, and book your group today!

 

Our Favorite Florida Keys Beaches

Offering some of the best opportunities for fishing, diving, and other aquatic activities, the Florida Keys are a top destination for outdoor adventurers. But sometimes you just want to relax—and that’s when our beaches come in. Whether you’re looking for a stretch of soft sand or a place to bring your pup, there are a variety of unique spots to choose from.

Here are some of our favorite beaches in the Upper Keys:

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – 27 miles

This 25-mile state park offers three designated swimming areas along the Largo Sound. These relatively small beaches feature calm waters that are perfect for children and practicing your snorkeling skills. Picnic tables and barbecue grills throughout the park make it easy to enjoy lunch during your visit.

Note: There may be limited park activities due to Hurricane Irma-related repairs. Call the park for daily updates.

Coco Plum Beach – 28 miles

Located in Marathon, this dog-friendly beach is a great option for long walks with your four-legged friends. It offers plenty of soft sand (note: many local beaches tend to be more rocky) which makes it ideal for sunbathers. Depending on when you visit, you can also observe the nesting sea turtles—just remember to give them plenty of space.

Sombrero Beach – 34 miles

This Florida Keys favorite is also located in Marathon and offers a picnic area, a children’s playground, a volleyball court, and more. Popular among locals and visitors alike, this beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Animal lovers will want to check out the nearby Turtle Hospital, a local non-profit organization.

Note: The west end of the beach is currently open; the rest of the beach is expected to open by December 1, 2018. The park area will remain closed to repair hurricane damage.

Bahia Honda State Park – 45 miles

Those willing travel a bit further will appreciate the many activities at this 500+ acre state park. In addition to kayaking, cycling, and fishing, visitors at Bahia Honda can also enjoy swimming in both the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay. Meanwhile, the on-site concession stand serves sandwiches, ice cream, and more.

Note: As the park continues to recover from the hurricane, some amenities may not be available.

Right here in Islamorada, Anne’s Beach remains closed for repairs. However, there are plenty of local parks to enjoy, including Plantation Tropical Preserve, Key Tree Cactus Preserve, and Green Turtle Hammock Nature Preserve.

Stay in the luxury Islamorada accommodations at Cheeca Lodge & Spa and enjoy access to some of the best Florida Keys beaches.

The Beginner’s Guide to SCUBA Diving

For SCUBA diving beginners, there’s perhaps no better place to take the first plunge than the Florida Keys, home to the only living coral barrier reef in North America. Our 120-mile island chain offers access to some of the most renowned diving sites in the world with diverse marine life, awe-inspiring shipwrecks, and other ocean oddities.

Practice makes perfect: Before embarking on your first dive, sign up for an introductory pool course with a certified instructor. It takes time and patience to get used to breathing through a regulator and wearing the necessary gear. Cheeca offers hour-long SCUBA classes on Friday and Saturday mornings; check our Calendar of Events for more information. Once you’ve completed the course, it’s time to take to the open water!

Many popular dive sites can be found right off the coast of Islamorada. Located close to shore, Cheeca Rocks is great for novice divers and an ideal option for family outings in particular. Davis Reef is another easy-to-navigate site, complete with a photogenic underwater buddha. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, you can head to Alligator Reef Lighthouse and say hello to the locals (e.g., spiny lobsters, barracuda, et al.). Meanwhile, shipwrecks like the Eagle or El Capitan tend to attract more experienced divers.

If you want to ease your way into the world of underwater exploration, we recommend snorkeling. You’ll still be able to admire our beautiful reefs—but a bit closer to the water’s surface. Cheeca offers daily two-hour excursions with snorkel gear, wetsuits, and nonalcoholic beverages included.

Learn more about the watersports and aquatic activities offered at Cheeca Lodge & Spa.