Insider’s Guide to Islamorada

Nestled toward the top of the Florida Keys lies Islamorada, a sport-fishing hotspot with a lot to offer in and out of the water. Named “purple isle” by its first inhabitants, Islamorada is undeniably captivating. A narrow spit of land surrounded by turquoise waters teeming with marine life, this key embraces the harmony between man & nature. Let us be your guide to properly embrace the island lifestyle that Islamorada has to offer.

Where to Stay

Setting the standard for luxury amongst Islamorada hotels, Cheeca Lodge offers endless relaxation and embraces the laid-back lifestyle of the surrounding area. With 27 lush tropical acres, Tahitian-style lagoon and waterfall, private 1,100-foot palm-fringed beach, 525-foot classic wooden fishing pier, beachfront Tiki bar, two pools, a 9-hole golf course, and a full line of land-based and watersports, Cheeca Lodge and Spa is the dream destination for your Islamorada vacation.

What to Do

Located in the Sportfishing Capital of the World, Cheeca Lodge is a premier destination for serious anglers. Charter a boat and find over 500 species of fish within minutes from shore. A host of other activities can be found at our Islamorada luxury resort, including snorkeling, sea kayaking, bicycling, and scuba diving.

Where to Eat Known for its upscale dining in a laid-back island setting, Chef Michael’s is a hit among the locals of Islamorada. Try Chef Michael’s delectable hogfish or the signature catch of the day. Looking for a beachfront setting to enjoy your meal? The Morada Beach Café offers light Mediterranean fare featuring an island-inspired menu of seafood and craft cocktails. Or opt for the best sushi and Japanese cuisine that Islamorada has to offer at Nikai Sushi Bar & Restaurant.  

Cheeca Goes Green: Discover Our Eco-Friendly Florida Keys Resort

The Florida Keys are one of the most pristine and environmentally sensitive regions in the world. The tropical climate, living coral reefs and vast array of marine life are precisely the reasons why tourism is the biggest industry in the Keys.

Cheeca Lodge is dedicated to becoming the eco-friendliest resort in the Keys. As a steward of our environment, we have launched a number of programs to make our resort more environmentally sound:

  • Cardboard: Cheeca recycles 100% of its cardboard, which has reduced garbage disposal costs. According to our recycling company, Cheeca produces and recycles the most cardboard in Islamorada.
  • Glass: Cheeca also recycles its glass.
  • Water: Cheeca’s wastewater treatment plant recycles 31,000 gallons of water each day through a water reuse plant. This grey water is used for irrigation of the gardens and golf course. When the new lodge was built, water cisterns were added under the lodge to collect rain water from the main lodge tower roof and the air-conditioning drain lines. This water is pumped into the irrigation lake.
  • Scrap Materials. Scrap metal, wood pallets, golf cart and car batteries are recycled. Fluorescent light bulbs, small batteries, old paint and chemicals are taken to the Monroe County Landfill for recycling.
  • Cheeca Lodge does not allow jet-skis and other thrill craft in the waters surrounding the resort. They destroy sea grasses and endanger marine life. They are also a source of noise pollution.
  • Cards in rooms encourage guests to save water and detergent by giving them the option of how often they would like their sheets changed and their towels replaced.
  • Our Camp Cheeca Environmental Awareness Program for children ages 5-12 teaches campers about the fragile Florida Keys environment with a wide variety of entertaining and engaging activities.

cheeca_camp-cheeca_2

  • A sign at the end of the resort’s trademark fishing pier encourages “catch and release” fishing, discourages discarding fishing line and garbage into the water, explains proper fishing etiquette and instructions on who to call if an injured bird or other sea life is spotted.
  • Cheeca uses biodegradable and low-phosphate cleaning products whenever possible.
  • Our restaurants limit the use of disposable items like Styrofoam cups and plastic utensils whenever possible.
  • Cheeca Lodge supports numerous local, regional and national environmental conservation groups like the Turtle Hospital and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, among others.

turtle

  • The resort dims and limits the use of outside lights on the beach during turtle nesting season.
  • Cheeca is changing all lighting throughout the property to LED which consumes up to 90% less power than incandescent bulbs.

In our next post, we will highlight some ways you can help protect the Florida Keys’ ecosystem and wildlife on your next visit to paradise!

Spiny Lobster Sport Season Is the Perfect Opportunity to Visit Cheeca

It’s almost that time of year again for a favorite Florida Keys tradition: spiny lobster sport season! The annual event, which begins at 12:01am on Wednesday, July 27 and ends at midnight on July 28, attracts a wide array of visitors from far and wide to the Keys, where they try their hand at scooping up their fair share of these tasty ocean dwellers.

Spiny lobsters are just one of seafood specialties that the Florida Keys are famous for. Many gourmets recommend simply grilling them with butter to showcase their delicate and unique flavor—and spiny lobster sport season gives seafood enthusiasts the opportunity to take home enough lobsters for a fun-filled party for friends and family.

If you’re planning to participate in this year’s festivities, why not build a vacation around it with a stay at Cheeca Lodge & Spa? Seafood lovers can find no better getaway destination than beautiful Islamorada, which is often called the “sportfishing capital of the world” as it’s where the Gulfstream, Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay, and Gulf of Mexico converge, making it home to over 500 varieties of fish including hogfish, grouper, and cobia. If you bring back a fresh catch after a day fishing the isle’s clear blue waters, the chef at Cheeca’s celebrated seaside restaurant, Atlantic’s Edge, will prepare it in any way you like. You can even ask the chef for his recommendation on how to prepare your spiny lobster catch should you decide to join in this year’s popular event. And Cheeca is offering a range of specials that make this summer an ideal time to visit our iconic island paradise.

In Monroe County, where Cheeca is located, the bag limit for spiny lobsters is six per person per day, and a recreational saltwater license and a crawfish permit are needed for harvest. For more lobster harvesting regulations for Monroe County, you can call the Marathon Law Enforcement office at (305) 289-2320.

Every Day Is Like Earth Day at Cheeca

Cheeca’s celebration of Earth Day last month was another resounding success—and while we look forward every year to that annual party, we strive to think “green” every day at the resort. We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to conserve natural resources and protect our idyllic surroundings in the gorgeous Florida Keys. Here’s a list of some of our current eco-friendly initiatives, as well as some we have in the works:

  • WATER: Using reclaimed water for non-potable uses saves potable water for drinking. Here at Cheeca Lodge & Spa, we reuse an average of 80% of all water we purchase thanks to our own wastewater treatment plant, which processes an average of 31,000 gallons of wastewater each day—one of six reclaim facilities here in the Florida Keys. When the new lodge building was built in 2009, water cisterns were added beneath it to collect rain water from the main lodge tower roof and the air-conditioning drain lines, which is then discharged into a pond and used to irrigate the landscaping. We lobbied aggressively to keep our wastewater reclamation plant when the Village of Islamorada wanted us to use drinking water for landscape purposes—and just this past February, we were granted the right by the FDEP to keep our system. We’re also initiating programs to reduce single-use plastic water bottles—which each take approximately 450 years to decompose in the environment—by installing water bottle filling stations on property and selling reusable water bottles at our signature store. Just 20 water stations save 288,000 bottles of water, 48,000 pounds of CO2, 16,000 pounds of petroleum and 10,000 gallons of oil annually.

 

  • RECYCLING: Beyond recycling 100% of our cardboard and glass used on-site, Cheeca also recycles scrap metal along with golf cart and car batteries. Wood pallets are donated to the local community and are often used for art including frames. Fluorescent light bulbs, old paint and chemicals are taken to the Monroe County Landfill for special handling and recycling.

 

  • ENERGY: Cheeca is investing in converting to all LED lighting throughout our beautiful 27-acre property. LEDs are extremely energy-efficient and consume up to 90% less power than incandescent bulbs.

 

  • AMENITIES: Cheeca will feature the American-made Float Collection amenities by William Roam, some of the most environmentally sensitive products in the world that celebrate the U.S.A. through their use of American fruits, grains and other key ingredients. Its products are free of dangerous preservatives like parabens and petroleum derivatives, and its paper products are made at a plant that uses only 7% new energy. The company is also member of 1% for the Planet, a non-profit organization whose members pledge 1% of top-line revenue to environmental causes.

 

Cheeca’s eco-initiatives don’t stop there: we’re also working to earn prestigious LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and plan to provide guests with unlimited access to over 5,000 newspapers online in lieu of distributing a daily paper to every room. Watch this space for more updates!

5 Things to Do in Islamorada for a Fun Family Getaway

Islamorada is widely known as the “Sportfishing capital of the world,” but it’s also one of the most family-friendly vacation spots in the country. From one-of-a-kind parks and museums to secluded beaches, it offers something for everyone and embodies the unique, laid-back spirit of the Florida Keys.

Below are five of our favorite local attractions sure to please kids of all ages:

  • At Robbie’s Marina, you can purchase buckets of bait and feed tarpon (be prepared—they’re big!) right from the dock. State park tours or fishing and snorkeling excursions can be booked at this Islamorada institution as well, including trips to Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, accessible only by boat.
  • A trip to Theater of the Sea promises fun for the whole family. One of the oldest marine mammal facilities in the world, its lagoons and tropical gardens are home to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, sea turtles, tropical and game fish, sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, alligators, marine invertebrates, and birds. Twelve million gallons of ocean water are pumped in daily to supply water to the three-acre natural salt-water lagoons. You can choose from a variety of animal interaction activities, including swimming with dolphins, painting sea lions, or a parrot show.
  • Who doesn’t love a day at the park? Islamorada Founders Park offers forty acres of family-friendly activities with a distinct Florida flavor, including an Olympic-size pool, shallow water beach, water sports rentals, fishing jetty, a new shaded outdoor fitness park, and a new pickleball court.
  • Learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about a favorite local pastime at the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, where you’ll view one of the world’s largest collections of historic dive equipment, including dive helmets from 25 countries.
  • Often voted one of the prettiest beaches in the Keys, Anne’s Beach is a relaxing place to while away an afternoon in the sun with a picnic lunch. Lined with mangroves, the beach has picnic tables, bathroom facilities, and best of all, warm, shallow, calm waters all year round that are perfect for young children.

There’s no better place from which to explore all that Islamorada has in store than Cheeca Lodge & Spa—and our new Family Fun Package is yet another reason to come visit! Book this special offer and receive a free Children’s menu entrée with the purchase of an Adult entrée at the same meal, along with buy-one-get-one-free admission to Camp Cheeca, where kids ages 5-12 will learn about the unique natural environment of the Keys while enjoying activities including scavenger hunts and fishing off the resort’s iconic pier. We look forward to welcoming you to our island paradise soon!

Cheeca Lodge Celebrates Earth Day

Earth Day is just around the corner— and Cheeca Lodge & Spa is gearing up for a celebration of the environmental treasures that are the Florida Keys on Sunday, April 24th from 11am-4pm.

The holiday is all about appreciating nature’s bounty and preserving the wonders of the natural world—wonders like the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and National Key Deer Refuge, which are vital parts of the natural fabric of the Keys. This year, Cheeca will again kick off the festivities with the creation of a giant sand sculpture that will spell out the 2016 Earth Day slogan, “SAVE EARTH.” Teams of 8-10 from local schools and businesses will each sponsor a letter, which includes custom-designed “Cheeca Earth Day 2016” t-shirts along with food & beverage tickets for every team member. The team that designs the most eye-catching letter will be presented with a starfish-themed “Best Letter” plaque that afternoon.

Sculpting an inspiring message on the sands at Cheeca Lodge & Spa is at the center of Earth Day festivities.
Sculpting an inspiring message on the sands at Cheeca Lodge & Spa is at the center of Earth Day festivities.

There are plenty of other events on tap at Cheeca on Earth Day, which this year will highlight environmental education. Speakers from local institutions including the Dolphin Research Center, Sea Turtle Hospital, Sea Camp, Mote Marine Laboratory, and the History of Diving Museum will be on-hand to present to guests throughout the day, and will bring along interactive exhibits including touch tanks full of live animal friends.

And that’s not all: besides the sand art and touch tanks, kids will have the chance to play in their very own sandbox, where they’ll dig for Cheeca-themed treasures, and can also take fishing and casting lessons on Cheeca’s iconic pier. A live steel-drum band will set the laid-back island mood as guests enjoy a family-friendly beach BBQ menu including Cheeca’s very first custom brew, created especially for Earth Day, from the team at Florida Keys Brewing.

As the party winds down at 4pm, guests and locals alike will be invited to hang around for drink specials at the Tiki Bar—one of Cheeca’s favorite gathering spots—and a well-priced “Before 6” prix fixe menu at our flagship restaurant, Atlantic’s Edge.

If you’d like to join us for Earth Day or another getaway this spring, Cheeca is offering a range of specials, including a nightly $70 resort credit on select suites in honor of the resort’s 70th anniversary this year. We look forward to celebrating this important day with our valued guests and local residents!

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.

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.

CHEECA #TBT: In the Beginning

Every week, social media’s #TBT brings us reminders of the people and places — and more importantly, hairstyles — that have defined our past.

But while you’re searching through old vacation photos to post on Facebook, it probably hasn’t occurred to you that your favorite vacation destination has a pretty interesting history of its own.

Allow us to share: While Cheeca prides itself on offering the finest in amenities and hospitality expected by the modern traveler, we also have a rich history as a landmark property in the Florida Keys. So we decided that we’d highlight some of our own favorite memories, famous visitors, and throwback photographs — to bring you closer than ever to Cheeca’s legacy. (But please, don’t judge our hair.)

Image by www,KeysHistory.org

It’s best to start at the start, of course. So this month’s #TBT takes us all the way back to 1919. What you’re looking at above is the Matecumbe Club — otherwise known as the “Millionaire’s Club” — an exclusive property that once stood right by the current Cheeca Lodge. You see, during the 1800s the Keys hardy early pioneers (known as the “Conchs”) constructed the very first buildings of Islamorada right on the beach where Cheeca is now. Among them was an old church and schoolhouse; there was even a small pioneer cemetery, now a designated historic site that Cheeca helps protect. (You can still visit it today.)

Today, the contemporary Florida Keys Overseas Highway follows the historic railroad's route through the Keys. Photo courtesy of the Monroe County Library

In 1905, the building of the Overseas Railway linked the Keys to Miami and beyond, and the islands slowly began to build their reputation as a sportsman’s paradise. (That literary legends like Ernest Hemingway waxed romantic about us didn’t exactly hurt.) In these earliest days of Keys tourism, a handful of 11 businessmen from the New York Cotton Exchange built the Matecumbe Club, designed as an exclusive and discreet getaway for the wealthy. One of its more prominent members was Lunsford Richardson and his brother Smith, who founded the Vick Chemical Company. The Richardsons would take a private rail car from their native Greensboro, North Carolina, all the way down to Flagler’s railroad, which took them on to the Islamorada Rail Station. (And you thought your flight was long?)

The Florida Keys Memorial is located next to Cheeca. Photo courtesy of US National Archives

The Matecumbe Club, like many of Islamorada’s most historic buildings, was destroyed in the infamous Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 — a Category 5 storm that is still considered the most intense hurricane to ever hit the US, based on atmospheric pressure. But its building marked an important moment in the island’s history: It was a spark that helped to fire up the Keys’ tourism reputation, one that has only grown stronger and more exciting over the years. (Not many of us can say that after looking at our #TBT photos!)

That’s just a quick glimpse at some of the fascinating history associated with Cheeca Lodge and Islamorada. Check back soon for another #TBT photo as we surf along the Cheeca timeline.

Have a #TBT photo of your own Cheeca getaway? Share it with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

#CheecaTBT #SayCheeca

Leader of the Quarter – Kerry Millhiser

We are proud to present Kerry Millhiser as our very first, Leader of the Quarter! Kerry has been at Cheeca for less than a year and has already shown her shining abilities as a leader which has given her the opportunity for not just one promotion, but three in this brief period of time. She started with us June of last year as a Front Desk Agent. In just 5 months she moved into the Front Desk Supervisor role. In no time at all, we heard many good rumblings about Kerry in this role and saw her put action to the tasks at hand to create a great experience for each guest!

With the creation of our new Guest Adventures department, Kerry was quickly chosen as a key candidate for the new Leader of this area. Much work needed to be done and we knew she was up for the task. So, on February 7th, Kerry began her new role and hit the ground running! The amazing strides she’s made in the Guest Adventures department in these short two months, put her ahead of the pack again in consideration for the new Front Office Manager position. It was easy to see that Kerry was ready for the new leadership role she will be taking on in the coming weeks.

Kerry is a great leader and consummate professional.  She has the ability to mentor and develop staff in a manner that promotes group cohesion and personal development.  She brings out excitement and creativity in team members which translates to superior guest service for our guests.  As Guest Adventures manager she started a department devoted to providing fun activities to our guests and it has thrived as a direct result of her hard work and passion for guest service.  For these reasons and more, Kerry deserves to be out Leader of the Quarter!

Congratulations Kerry on a job WELL done!