Key West: Tips on Choosing a Hotel

by  Jim Sherman | Feb 1, 2010
Ocean Key Resort
Ocean Key Resort / Photo courtesy of the property

When choosing a hotel in any city, coming to a conclusion you (and your wallet) are comfortable with isn’t always easy.  In the pre-Internet old days, travelers had to rely on guidebooks, travel agents, or word of mouth to find the best place to stay each night.  Today, a plethora of online resources exist to help you choose the ideal hotel; in fact, there are so many sites that it’s sometimes hard to know where the truth lies. At ShermansTravel, we combine our own professional opinion with expert points of view, consumer reviews, and a unique hotel rating system to ensure you get the right advice on where to stay.

On a trip to Key West this past New Year’s, I used our resources at ShermansTravel to zero in on the ideal hotel -- choosing between three main options: charming B&B’s or Inns, restored Motels, and larger Resort properties. 

A smart splurge B&B is The Gardens Hotel (pictured), a charming, upscale property well-located just off Duval Street and set amidst lush gardens (as its name suggests).  Upon entering, you’ll be greeted with a warm, touch-of-the-tropics feeling that evokes the essence of Key West. Plus, the lovely pool makes The Gardens a perfect place to both rest and relax.

Another good B&B choice is the Marquesa Hotel.  Though it’s more formal than the Gardens (a bit too New England Colonial, for me), it’s still a solid pick.  As for an all around great value, the Orchid Key Inn is the spot.  A renovated motel perfectly located on Duval Street’s quieter side, its bare bone structure may lack the charm of a more traditional Key West B&B, but the rooms and pool area are excellent. 

In terms of resorts, I go back and forth as to whether staying at a larger property in intimate Key West makes much sense. If you’d rather hunker down at your hotel than spend your days out and about, then The Ocean Key Resort is a terrific option. The rooms are beautiful and the location is perfect for soaking in the gorgeous Key West sunset (a town tradition to watch each night).  With a large pool area, outdoor restaurant, and numerous hotel services, it’s got a less-intimate feel than the homier B&B’s, but more on the menu, so to speak.   

Another resort option is the Casa Marina. Great for beach bums, it's just steps from Key West’s prime sand spots (like Higg’s, Fort Zachary Taylor, and Smathers beaches) where you can spend hours lounging by the sea or biking along the Atlantic Road shoreline.
Finally, right on Duval Street is La Concha Hotel, one of the largest properties on the island and once the place to stay in town.  It needs some improvements, but is a good spot for the right price.  Hop up to the rooftop at dusk for another excellent place to watch the sun sink beneath the waves.
So, my advice when picking a place to stay in Key West is to consider four factors: location, property type, design, and price. Although it’s easy to walk or bike to pretty much everything on the island, decide beforehand whether you’d prefer a more secluded area or want to be in the midst of the Duval Street action. Second, think about which property type best suits your interests. Personally, I like cozier B&B’s…especially in a place like Key West, which is known for them. But families may favor the bigger hotels or resorts, which typically offer more amenities and space. Lastly, what kind of decor makes you comfortable? (For me, modern is too stark – I prefer hotels with a contemporary design that are warm, not stuffy).  Finally, review the price options.  Everyone wants to get a good deal, but your chances of knowing that you did will correspond to how much you enjoyed your overall experience.  So don’t rush your decisions when deciding where to stay on your next vacation – use ShermansTravel’s resources to pick the best place for you!

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