5 Reasons Why the Florida Keys Are the Ultimate Spring Break Escape

Spring break is right around the corner, and no matter how you define a “dream vacation”—from whiling away the hours sipping margaritas in the sun to exploring everything there is to see and do—the Florida Keys offer something for literally everyone. Here are five reasons why they’re a must-visit escape from the dreary days of winter this year.

  1. They’re a watery wonderland. An archipelago forming the southernmost portion of the U.S. and home to the country’s only living-coral barrier reef, the Florida Keys are an unrivaled destination for all kinds of aquatic adventures, from swimming to diving to boating and literally everything in between. And don’t even get us started on the incredible fishing. Islamorada is officially known as the sportfishing capital of the world because the Gulfstream, Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and Gulf of Mexico converge here, making it an ideal habitat for over 500 types of fish.
  1. The cuisine can’t be beat. Foodies of all ages will love the scrumptious fare they’ll find throughout the Keys. From local specialties like stone crabs, cracked conch, pink shrimp, and irresistible Key lime pie, to restaurants that span a range of international flavors, you’ll be spoiled for choice from Key Largo and Islamorada all the way to Key West.
  1. Their colorful history is waiting to be explored. Besides enjoying long days of fun in the sun, visitors have plenty of options to immerse themselves in the Keys’ fascinating history and singular environment. In Islamorada, the History of Diving Museum tells the story of one of the Keys’ favorite past-times, while Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park provides a glimpse into Florida’s history going back two centuries.
  1. There’s lots of fun stuff for kids. The whole family, especially little ones, will love feeding tarpon by hand at Robbie’s Marina, or swimming with dolphins and sea lions at the Theater of the Sea marine mammal park in Islamorada. Kids and young teens can even enroll in day camps and educational programs at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key to learn all about these friendly sea-dwellers.
  1. They’re a romantic getaway for couples. Whether you’re honeymooners or empty-nesters, the Florida Keys offer couples countless opportunities for making lifetime memories: taking a romantic boat ride for two, driving across the world-famous Seven Mile Bridge in a convertible, or spending a luxurious day at the world-class, 6000-square-foot spa at Cheeca Lodge, to name just a few. And there may be no better place on earth for watching the sunset over cocktails.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year as a legendary beachside getaway, Cheeca Lodge & Spa is a laid-back escape perfect for exploring all that the Keys have in store for couples, multigenerational families, and groups alike. Our 1,100-foot private beach, two heated swimming pools, nine-hole golf course, wide range of watersports, three delectable dining options, and family-friendly activities like a daily kids’ camp and weekly movies under the stars offer a relaxing and rejuvenating “Keys” experience for every visitor on beautiful Islamorada.

This spring, discover your paradise at Cheeca with these special three-night and five-night promotions. We can’t wait to see you at Cheeca Lodge & Spa this Spring!

A Family Affair: Family Fun In Islamorada

Everyone loves a good comedy. But when it comes to family vacations, you don’t really want yours to resemble something out of “National Lampoon’s.”

There’s plenty for families to enjoy together at Cheeca, from snorkeling to kayak excursions arranged by our watersports team. And there’s lots of kid-friendly fun for when the adults need a little alone time; sign them up for Camp Cheeca, our day camp for mini nature lovers that is full of beach exploration, scavenger hunts and arts & crafts. (For a look at everything that the resort offers for families, head here.)

But we know that you may want to spend some time exploring the rest of beautiful Islamorada too. So if you’re rounding up the troops to head out and about, here are three family-friend ways to spend your day.

Swim with dolphins at Theater of the Sea

You’ve been dreaming of this ever since your days watching “Flipper.” And your kids — well, they’ve never heard of “Flipper.” (“Look on YouTube,” sighs dad.) But they love dolphins, and the idea of spending a day splashing and swimming at Theater of the Sea. Family-owned since 1946, it’s one of the oldest marine facilities in the world. And now it’s your family’s turn to get up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins, sea lions, stingrays — and even sharks! (Nurse sharks. The kind you won’t see in “Jaws.”) Don’t be nervous; there are plenty of experienced trainers who will join you for the dip — and even a staff photographer to capture photos perfect for the family album. (Or Facebook update. It is 2015, after all.)

I’d rather keep a little distance from the cute creatures, there’s still plenty to experience. Check out daily shows with dolphins, sea lions, and parrots, take a bottomless boat ride, or visit exhibits of everything from endangered sea turtles to crocodiles and colorful tropical reef fish. You can even catch some ray and go snorkeling at Theater of the Sea’s guests-only Lagoon Beach.

Hit the seas with Family Fun Boat Tours

You don’t need a yacht to enjoy the ocean waters on a private cruise. Just look up the folks at Family Fun Tours, which offers a selection of excursions around Florida Bay that accommodate up to six swashbucklers. What to do? That’s up to you. You can snorkel in the pristine waters at North America’s only living coral reef, and it’s safe for kids: The boat has a safety line to hold on to for any younger paddlers who are still earning their sea legs. You can take a ride out to Islamorada’s famous sand bar, found about a half-mile from shore, and kick back with a picnic lunch on what feels like your own small private island. Educational eco-tours will familiarize the family on all the fascinating flora and fauna of the Florida Keys, and sunset cruises are a spectacular way end a fantastic day with family.

Immerse yourself in the History of Diving Museum

Sure, it sounds dry. (Dry! Get it?) But trust us: the Diving History Museum is an amazing place to soak up fascinating information on the equipment, technology, and watershed moments involved in our explorations of the deep You’ll also discover the unique role that South Florida has in this history. The museum has one of the largest collections of diving-related relics and artifacts in the world, from antique helmets to air pumps, and its Bauer Diving History Research Library — named for the museum’s founders, SCUBA experts Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer — holds over 2500 rare volumes of works related to diving that attract international notice. Talks from diving experts and other special events are held regularly, and a visit here is an experience that’s educational and exciting for all ages. Dive in.

Walk This Way: Third Thursday ArtWalks

The Florida Keys has earned a reputation as an art-centric region where painters, writers, sculptors, and creative minds in every medium find endless inspiration in our radiant sun and soothing surf. But while plenty of people are aware with Key West’s vibrant art scene, many visitors are less familiar with all that Islamorada has to offer. Trust us, culture vultures: At Cheeca, you’re just steps away from many opportunities to view fantastic pieces produced by some of the Sunshine State’s most talented artists — and maybe even bring something home that’s fit to frame.

And one of the best ways to explore the local art scene is through Third Thursday ArtWalks. Every month, Islamorada art galleries simultaneously open their doors to guests, inviting art lovers to take a leisurely crawl along the Arts District. The experience is equal parts indoor art fair and outdoor street festival. Many artists without galleries set up colorful booths specifically for the occasion, live musicians take the opportunity to strut their stuff, and many restaurants that line the Old Highway and adjacent streets get in on the fun too. (No reason an art crawl can’t double as a food crawl too.) ArtWalk dates through the rest of the year are: September 17, October 15, November 19 and December 17.

Want to get walking? First, get clicking. More details on Third Thursday ArtWalks are at moradaway.org.  

Brewing Something Special at Islamorada Beer Company

With those warm breezes and killer sunsets, Florida Keys weather usually comes with a 50% chance of fruity cocktails. (The better to grow your mini-umbrella collection.)

But the other half of the time, it’s a cold beer we crave to slake our thirst. Don’t turn up your nose: We’re not talking about those watery, mass-market suds that give “beer” a bad name. Craft brewers around the country are leading a malts- and hops-fueled renaissance that highlights how excellent (and varied) well-made beer really is. And at Cheeca, we’re lucky enough to have one of the best craft brewers as a neighbor: Islamorada Beer Company.

Islamorada Beer Company’s brewery and tasting room is less than one mile away from the resort, so it’s a popular destination for guests who want to learn about how beer is made — and, more importantly, sample the fruits of the brewery’s labor. (For scientific research purposes, of course.) But because we love to support our local producers — and we happen to love great beer — Cheeca also keeps our bars stocked with Islamorada Beer Company brews too. In fact, we thought we’d offer this handy guide to some of the brewery’s signature styles, alongside food pairing ideas from Cheeca restaurants that will help you get maximum enjoyment out of every sip.

SANDBAR SUNDAY

This signature wheat ale (named for a famous nearby boozing spot) is a local legend, and you’ll find most like to garnish it with a slice of Key lime. (You know, the way you’d drop in a lemon to a Corona.) It’s an amber beer, light and crisp with only slight spice and a hint of citrus. It’s refreshing and very easy to drink. Ahem, very. Pair it with: Sandbar Sunday goes great with fresh, light seafood, so sip some while noshing on a pound of Key West Peel & Eat Shrimp at our oceanfront Tiki Bar.

ISLAMORADA ALE

The hops and citrus flavor get kicked up a notch with the Islamorada Ale, a blonde that skews a little sweet. The natural citrus notes make this a must-drink on especially hot days. It’s a sweat-saver. Pair it with: The slight sweetness nicely complements spicier foods, like the stuffed taz sashimi (salmon and spicy scallops with pickled red onion and jalapeno masago) at Cheeca’s Nikai Sushi Bar. (If you’re not already sipping from our sake selection, that is.)

CHANNEL MARKER IPA SUNDAY

India Pale Ales can be intimidating to beer drinks that aren’t used to hoppy styles, but Islamorada’s Channel Marker will be a pretty good entry point to IPAs. The malts and hops are well balanced and not overpowering, simple and straightforward with a faint herbal quality. It’s complex but pleasant. Pair it with: This deserves something with equally thoughtful, refined flavor. We vote for the local snapper a la plancha (with sweet plantain puree and a citrus coriander sauce) in Cheeca’s picturesque Atlantic’s Edge restaurant.

NO WAKE ZONE

For something with a bit of body, Islamorada’s No Wake Zone is where you want to land. This brown ale has bold malt and flavors of roasted caramel. It’s smooth — not too heavy — but definitely for beer lovers who don’t balk at a fuller style. Pair it with: Hearty and meat-driven dishes go well, like the filleto (seared beef tenderloin with salsa olivas) at Cheeca’s family-style Italian restaurant, Limoncello.

How Do You #SAYCHEECA?

We hope you packed your selfie stick. It could earn you a free stay at Cheeca.

This summer we launched #SayCheeca, an Instagram contest that encourages guests to share with the world their spectacular photos from the resort. In return, you could win a return two-night stay to build even more memories — and fill up your scrapbook (or at least your iPhone) all over again.

Here’s how it works: Post your favorite photos from your Cheeca getaway on Instagram using the hashtag #SayCheeca. (That’s, like, really important.) Each month, the Cheeca team will post one winner to receive a two-night stay. Yes, that’s it. It’s really that simple.

Want to improve your chances? There’s no hard and fast way to guarantee that your photo will be the best. We’ll simply know our favorite when we see it! But here are a few tips to keep in mind that might help you capture the most eye-catching moment.

  • Choose your filter wisely, young grasshopper. A little Lo-Fi never hurt anybody. But don’t go wild! Filters are great for accentuating the natural beauty of Cheeca and the Florida Keys, but we know we look pretty gorgeous as is. (#wokeuplikedis) Bring out our best side, but don’t turn your photo into a cartoon. That’s just goofy.
  • Show a smile! We know, we know. Sultry beach photos are a hit on Tinder, and capturing your pensive gaze at the crashing waves makes for a fantastic Facebook default. But you’re on vacation — don’t forget to smile! We want to see your pearly whites enjoying our clear blue waters.
  • Think outside the box. We’re not talking about frames. (Those are swell!) Rather, one way to stand out is to capture an aspect of the resort that others haven’t yet shown the world. Our famous dock could make for a great image, but so could something more unique and personal: a tropical cocktail you’re enjoying at the bar, a pair of flips flops placed just-so by the pool, a post-spa selfie that captures the glow of a fabulous facial. It’s your Cheeca experience – no one else’s!
  • Hashtag, you’re it. Of course, the most important hashtag to include is #SayCheeca. But feel free to include some others to show off your Insta-wit. Who knows? Maybe you’ll inadvertently invent the next viral trend. But to do that, you’ll need to get creative — #nofilter allowed.

For the full set of rules and more info on the #SayCheeca contest, head here.

Ladies, Take a Look: Your #GirlfriendGetaway Has Arrived

It’s a busy world, and busy women have precious little time to spend with even their closest girlfriends. Maybe that’s why more and more of us are finding opportunities to gather our nearest and dearest on group getaways. From family to colleagues to that old college roommates you love like a sister (even if she did spill wine on your favorite pair of jeans), you deserve to spend some quality time reconnecting and having fun with your favorite ladies.

Which is exactly why we’ve created the Cheeca’s Chicas Girlfriend Getaway, a package specially designed for women who want to hit the Florida Keys with their BFFs. We know that traveling in groups can be tough. (We’ve been to some pretty tragic bachelorette parties. Not cute.) But between our pristine beach, soothing massages at our premiere spa, fabulous dining options and array of exciting watersports, Cheeca offers something for everyone in your squad of favorite females.

(Yes, even her. We know, we know. She’s difficult, but you love her anyway.)

Here’s how it works: Gather your girls and book 3 or more nights in your choice of Golf, Resort, or Lagoon View rooms. You’ll receive a suite of special amenities just for your crew, including a “Survival Kit” stocked with wine and snacks, a private mixology lesson where you’ll learn how to whip up your own fabulous and fruity tropical cocktails, a $200 spa credit, $150 watersports credit — and even Girlfriend Getaway t-shirts that’ll serve as a great souvenir of your group vacay. (Plus they’ll help you spot one another at each morning’s full breakfast buffet on our oceanfront terrace #CantSeeBeforeCaffeine.)

Oh, and for those nights after dinner when you want a good, old-fashioned slumber party? You’ll even have access to a special library of Cheeca’s favorite “Chick Flicks” for your in-room viewing pleasure — because every girl’s-only vacation is better with 100% more Julia Roberts.

So go ahead. Eat. Pray. Love.

Better yet, let’s just hit the beach.

Ready to book? Head here.

“BLOODLINE” Fans: Here’s Your Guide to Fantastic Filming Locations to Visit

Are you ready for your close-up, Florida Keys?

In case you’ve been living under a rock — or more likely, a fishing dock — the Netflix thriller “Bloodline” is one of the hottest new series on (Internet) TV. And we’re not just talking about the balmy Florida weather that serves as the show’s backdrop (you can practically feel those warm tropical breezes through the screen.) “Bloodline” is a sensation, and its setting in the Upper Keys has offered viewers around the world a front-row seat to see the gorgeous landscape that our nook of the Sunshine State has to offer.

So it’s not surprising that some of our most recent guests — and “Bloodline” fans — are hoping to see some of the locations that have been featured on the show. Well, ask and ye shall receive. Until Netflix starts offering “Star Tours” of filming locations, here is a handy guide to a few “Bloodline” related spots worth a visit.

Cheeca Lodge and Spa: Yes, it’s true! If you’re staying with us, you’re staying at one of the filming locations for “Bloodline.” Oscar-winning star Sissy Spacek dined on fine cuisine at our restaurant Atlantic’s Edge during a May episode — and this isn’t the first time Cheeca has been a hit on the small screen. Wedding planners may want to note that Cheeca was spotlighted in the show “Platinum Weddings,” chronicling lavish and gorgeous celebrations. (Guess they heard about our reputation for impeccable wedding services.)

Alabama Jack’s: In the first episode of “Bloodline,” John’s brother Danny (actor Ben Mendelsohn) is dining at a casual waterfront seafood spot. Spoiler: It’s actually Alabama Jack’s in Key Largo. And though Danny is seen downing fish tacos, the eatery is actually most famous for its conch fritters.

Anne’s Beach: Named for Florida environmentalist Anne Eaton, this Islamorada beach is a must-visit because its shallow waters ensure a warm, wave-free setting for swimming and sunning. (It’s also good training ground for novice kiteboarders.)

Caribbean Club: This throwback bar is where many of the characters in “Bloodline” are seen tossing back beers and playing billiards. It’s a classic Keys joint for stiff cocktails and fun nightlife, and it most famously served as inspiration (and exterior shots) for the 1948 Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film “Key Largo.” (Don’t miss the back deck with its killer sunset views.)

Long Key State Park: If you’re not yet caught up on the series, we won’t spoil what important scene takes place here. But the 965-acre mangrove- and mahogany- filled park is an absolute must-visit for TV fans and nature lovers alike. Bring a picnic and do some wildlife spotting on the nature trails. Then snorkel, swim, or canoe, whether you’re spending an afternoon or pitching a tent for a full overnight.

The Moorings Village and Spa: In reality, it’s a two-story plantation house and hotel. On “Bloodline,” it’s the Rayburn House, a family-owned inn that features much of the show’s action. And guess what — they’re our neighbors! We totally understand if you want to grab lunch at their seaside Beach Café before coming home (sweet home!) to our lush gardens and swimming pools. Hey, we’re “Bloodline” fans too!

Robbie’s of Islamorada: If you’re looking to book a boat rental, take a snorkeling or Jet ski, excursion or even hit the high seas on a chartered island tour or sunset cruise, visit Robbie’s. This unique, multi-service destination has seen its boats and docks featured in “Bloodline.” And while you’re scoping the scene, you can also chow down at its on-site eatery, Hungry Tarpon Restaurant. (Afterwards, turn the tables and hand-feed a tarpon yourself!)