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_Blue is Green_2

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.

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.

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.