The Top 5 Things to Do in Islamorada—in a Day

The tropical islands of the Florida Keys stretch for about 120 miles, offering limitless attractions and activities. And within this greater archipelago, the village of Islamorada features its fair share of things to see and do. It can all be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ve put together a suggested itinerary for enjoying some of the best things to do in Islamorada—in a single day.

Tip: Take advantage of the shuttle service provided by Cheeca Lodge & Spa, which provides transportation to attractions within a 2-mile radius.

8am – Breakfast at Atlantic’s Edge

Start your day of exploration with a fresh and satisfying breakfast spread from Cheeca’s flagship restaurant, Atlantic’s Edge. Take your pick from our Island Continental Buffet or choose from delicious hot dishes, such as buttermilk pancakes, three-egg omelets, and more.

10am – Tour the History of Diving Museum

After breakfast, you can head to the History of Diving Museum to learn about the evolution of deep sea exploration. Open daily from 10am to 5pm, this small-but-mighty museum offers a fun, hands-on educational experience, including both permanent and featured exhibitions. Don’t miss the helmet photo op in the Aquarium.

12pm – Visit Betsy the Lobster

Next, meet Betsy, a top contender for largest lobster in the world. Paying a visit to this eye-catching roadside attraction is one of the more unique things to do in Islamorada. As a representative of native wildlife, this massive spiny lobster is difficult to miss as she stands guard outside The Rain Barrel Artisan Village. Seeking souvenirs? Be sure to check out the village shops.

1pm – Lunch at Islamorada Shrimp Shack

Take a break from sightseeing and enjoy a casual lunch at Islamorada’s Shrimp Shack. This family-owned local hangout serves a menu of fried seafood staples alongside some more adventurous selections, like gator and conch.  

2pm – Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina

After lunch, drive down to Robbie’s Marina and marvel at a school of more than 100 tarpons that stop by the dock on a daily basis.These air-breathing silver giants are truly a sight to behold—plus, you can take it a step further and feed them. Admission to the dock is just $2, while a bucket of fish is $3.

4pm – Sample Beers at Florida Keys Brewing Company

Wind down the afternoon with a stop at the Florida Keys Brewing Company, known as the first Upper Keys microbrewery. Open daily, this quirky tasting room features local artwork and pours year-round and seasonal beers by the pint, flight, or growler. (Note: If you happen to be traveling with your four-legged friend, this dog-friendly brewery is a great option.)

6pm – Dinner at Nikai

At the end of the day, head back to Cheeca and enjoy dinner at Nikai, offering the freshest sushi in Islamorada right at the resort. Indulge in over 20 different rolls and sashimis, and over 35 different types of hot and cold sake to complement your meal. Plus, take in the breathtaking views of the ocean at night from the rooftop deck.

Of course, these are just a few of our favorite things to do in Islamorada. See them all, or chart your own course. Looking for more? Check out some of the resort activities offered at Cheeca, including golf and tennis.

The Legend Lives On: Stories from Our Team

Following the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the team at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada was faced with the difficult task of rebuilding our beloved Florida Keys resort. And each individual—some facing their own, more personal devastations as a result of the Category 4 storm—rose to the challenge. Under the expert guidance of General Manager Bob LaCasse, our staff has spent the last several weeks restoring and upgrading this legendary resort, and all with an admirably positive attitude. From taking on new roles at the property, to helping neighbors in the community, the team has worked together to reopen one of the best resorts in the Florida Keys.

Here are just a few of our stories:

 

“When we got back on site, the first thing we needed to accomplish was cleanup and safety for first responders and team members that would need to get into the resort soon. We also helped locals clear the streets . . . there was a real community-based focus. We enjoyed cooking for the first responders and hearing their stories in the evenings.

I am out in the community a lot and the attitude is very positive—everyone believes in Keys Strong. They are really excited about Cheeca reopening, too, because we bring in so many guests to the area that do business with them as well. I’m really proud of the team and it has made me realize how much we can really do when we band together.”

Nishant Chaudhary, Director of Food & Beverage

Nishant Chaudhary has been with Cheeca for two years and has over 20 years of food and beverage experience. Chaudhary and Bob LaCasse were the first to return to the property following the hurricane.

 

 

“On my first day back at the resort, I couldn’t believe the devastation. I was walking in with one of my coworkers and we were walking slowly, looking around, and we were crying. Then Bob [LaCasse] drove up on a golf cart and stopped to pick us up—he told us don’t worry, it’s all going to be ok, we’re in this together, cry if you need to, but we’re coming back strong.

I couldn’t believe that our general manager took the time to personally comfort us like that. It stays with me to this day.”

Yolanda Aguiar, Laundry Supervisor

Yolanda Aguiar has been with Cheeca for two years. Since the hurricane, she has helped with inspecting rooms, counting inventory, and more. When she’s not at Cheeca, she can be found volunteering at her church.

 

 

“I’ve been doing special projects, cleanup, pressure washing, painting, working on safety, whatever I can do to help move the reopening along. Now that we’re getting closer to reopening, I will help the Director of F&B prepare the banquet team to start welcoming our groups back!

It’s so nice to see people from all different departments coming together to maintain the resort.  It’s wonderful that everyone is willing to do any project, whatever it takes . . . It’s going to be a good year.”

Ismael Sandoval, Banquet Supervisor

Known by many team members and guests as “Smiley” due to his warm smile and sunny disposition, Ismael Sandoval has been with Cheeca for 13 years and has over 25 years of hospitality experience.

 

 

“I have been really impressed, not just with how everyone is working together every day, but how caring everyone was after the storm. Everyone was looking after each other and making sure everyone was ok on a personal level . . . I lived in employee housing on property and although I didn’t really lose any personal belongings, I lost my home. Thankfully, the resort provided me with a room and I feel very fortunate.

It’s been a ride, and we’re so proud of the community, but we’re all ready to get back to our ‘normal.’ Bring it on 2018!”

Taryn Brown, Lead Reservations Agent

Taryn Brown, the “Booking Queen,” has been with Cheeca for almost 10 years. Although this is her first luxury hospitality position, she has spent many years previously in guest services and call centers.

 

Thanks in no small part to the dedication of these and other team members, Cheeca Lodge & Spa is set to reopen on March 30, 2018. Reserve your stay today and look forward to the return of a legend!

Bob LaCasse, General Manager, on Recovery and the Return of a Legend

When Bob LaCasse was appointed General Manager of Cheeca Lodge & Spa in 2016, he could not have foreseen Hurricane Irma. Although Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, there have been none in recent memory quite like Irma, the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in the state in over a decade. The September 2017 impact was felt in communities throughout the Florida Keys, including the village of Islamorada, and as a result of this historic hurricane, Cheeca was forced to temporarily close its doors. However, LaCasse was quick to take the lead at the resort, and has since played an indispensable role in guiding our team through recovery efforts. “Change affects everyone, and it’s made more difficult when it’s something out of your control,” he says. “Being a true leader means being understanding, exercising patience, and motivating your team to focus on the positives that the future holds.”

As the largest employer in Islamorada, Cheeca is more than an beloved icon—our historic resort is also a key driver of the local economy, bringing in thousands of visitors every year. “All the local businesses, from restaurants to stores to fishing captains, have felt the effects of Cheeca’s closure,” LaCasse explains. With a deep appreciation of the role this resort plays within the community, LaCasse has taken an upbeat, hands-on approach to management in the aftermath of Irma, while maintaining an inspirational and inclusive environment for his team. “Everyone has a seat at the table,” he says. “No single person has all the answers, so I rely on my team and involve them in most of the decision-making processes.” In addition to his dedicated staff, LaCasse also credits the resiliency and camaraderie of neighbors—from first responders to business owners—for the progress made toward recovery.

Looking forward to the highly anticipated reopening of Cheeca on March 30, 2018, LaCasse is excited on behalf of the entire team to finally reveal the results of weeks of hard work and daily commitment. Going above and beyond general maintenance needs, the recent property upgrades include room renovations and enhancements to public spaces, as well as the addition of new amenities and services that will delight our guests. “Despite the challenges the hurricane brought for many, we look at this as a truly unique opportunity to reopen bigger, better, and more brilliant than ever,” LaCasse says. “Cheeca really is a legend, and that legend lives on in 2018—we can’t wait to invite our guests and neighbors back, so they can start creating their own stories again.”

Rediscover the Perfect Family Caribbean Resort Vacation—Right Here in Florida

Cheeca Pool

The Legend Returns for a New Year

No storm lasts forever. In our 70-year history, we’ve been veterans of more than we can count, and long before landfall, we knew there would be work to be done. Shutting down dozens of our neighbors’ businesses, Hurricane Irma battered our homes and livelihoods in one of the year’s most dangerous weather events. Through it all, we’ve remained committed to our community and our guests. That’s why we’re so proud to welcome you back to Cheeca for 2018, to enjoy the feel of a family Caribbean resort vacation within reach of the mainland.

Inside Our #FloridaStrong Efforts

The changes you’ll find when you return to our tropical paradise will add new meaning to your memories. An all-hands initiative from our incredible team has already seen our historic pier fixed, water features cleaned, and damaged plant life replenished. Here are some of the biggest highlights from our restoration to date.

Our front entrance, before and after:

Our staff chipping in to make big things happen:

A massive undertaking for one of the most beautiful trees on our property:

 

As we get closer to opening day 2018, expect to see many more details of all that we’re doing to make Cheeca even more extraordinary than you remember.

Welcome Back to More of What You Love

In addition to repairing damage from the storm, we remain committed to being one of the best Caribbean-style resorts with limitless on-site activities for every traveler. No other resort in the Keys offers vacation specials like ours. When you join us, your adventures can include:

  • Fishing, in waters home to some of the most impressive big game fish in the world,
  • Boating and sailing in the pristine cerulean sea,
  • Snorkeling, an incredible chance to swim with some of the world’s most beautiful tropical creatures,
  • Golfing and tennis, with an award-winning Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and six tennis courts overlooking our exotic island home,
  • Pure relaxation on the white sand beaches, and simply enjoying the breeze in the palm trees and the gentle sounds of sea birds.

Join us once again, and continue to be a part of Cheeca’s incomparable legacy.

Cheeca Lodge Donates to Guides Trust Foundation

Fish the 2017 Hurricane Cup and Help our Florida Keys Guides

Hurricane Irma significantly impacted the entire Florida Keys. Our island community has proven to be the resilient, and we are grateful for all of the help and support we have received from so many.

Cheeca’s 6th Annual All-American Backcountry Fishing Tournament was cancelled this year due to Irma. Typically held over Veterans Day weekend, the tournament was set to host two war heroes, with proceeds benefitting the Guides Trust Foundation (GTF), a locally-based nonprofit supporting Florida Keys fishing guides in need. Since the tournament cancellation further affected local fishing guides, Cheeca and its owners, Northwood investors, are donating $10,000 to the Guides Trust Foundation to help Florida Keys guides and their families who were most impacted by Hurricane Irma.

We are excited to report that several tournament sponsors have also pledged to donate to the GTF. More information on the GTF, including the ability to make your own donation to help Florida Keys guides in need, can be found at GuidesTrustFoundation.org. We encourage people to give whatever they can. Another way to show your support is to fish the 2017 Hurricane Cup on October 28 from 7am-3pm. All proceeds from this tournament will go to the GTF. See the tournament Facebook page more details.

We look forward to continuing the rebuilding process. It has been remarkable to see the island spirit at work, and we know we will come back stronger than ever thanks to the kindness of others.

Florida Keys Family Vacation Planning 101

Planning an unforgettable Florida Keys family vacation—one that will delight all ages—is easier than you may think. It all hinges on finding that just-right combination of family-friendly, kid-friendly, and adult-friendly activities. At Cheeca, we make it easy to plan your stay by offering spacious guest accommodations, three dining options, and plenty of experiences to satisfy everyone in your family.

Learn more about the abundance of on- and off-site offerings at our Florida Keys resort below.

  • Fun for Everyone: From snorkeling tours to Hobie Cat sailing to fishing excursions, the whole family can embark on a variety of outdoor adventures in Islamorada, also known as the Sportfishing Capital of the World. Beach cruiser, paddle board, and sea kayak rentals are also available at the resort. For a more low-key, relaxing afternoon, unwind by our two heated swimming pools and saltwater lagoon, or set up camp along our beautiful, 1,100-foot palm-lined beach.

  • Just for Kids: Our environmentally-focused Camp Cheeca offers a rotating daily schedule of activities that are both fun and educational. Available for children ages 5 to 12, this on-site program is offered Monday through Saturday, with both full-day and half-day options. Plus, a special four-hour Kids Night Out is offered on Friday and Saturday (great for date night). In addition to our camp, kids will also enjoy our game room, Xbox arcade, DVD rental library, and “Take One, Share One” book collection.

  • Especially for Parents: While the kids are at camp, adults are free to enjoy a little R&R at Cheeca Spa. As the premier Florida Keys spa, this tranquil oasis provides indulgent treatments, a fitness center, a heated lap pool with butler service, and more. Adults can also head to our sea-side, Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course for a challenging round of golf, or grab a tropical cocktail and unwind at our open air Tiki Bar.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your time at our family resort in the Florida Keys, we recommend planning early. With our exclusive Paradise on Sale offer, you can enjoy up to 15% off when you book your Islamorada vacation at least 7 days in advance.