Relax the day away in a beachside hammock at Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada — Photo courtesy of Amara Cay Resort
Rising from the bare bones of a fading Hampton Inn in Islamorada comes Amara Cay Resort, a sleek, new boutique hotel located in the heart of the Florida Keys.
The minute you walk through the doors, it’s apparent that the multi-million-dollar renovation has given birth to a luxury getaway.
The open lobby is a designer’s dream, done in rustic textures and reclaimed wood and capturing a beach essence without falling into a kitschy seaside motif.
Swinging basket chairs immediately put you in vacation mode, while a hanging “chandelier” above, made from mason jars, adds whimsy to the space.
Not surprisingly, the hotel was named the winner of the 2015 Sandi Design Award for "Design Excellence Hospitality" by the International Interior Design Association.
Swinging chairs in the lobby of Amara Cay Resort evoke the whimsy of vacation — Photo courtesy of Amara Cay Resort
Papasan chairs and other lounge seating lend a sense of unhurried comfort, inviting guests to sit a spell (and perhaps take a selfie).
This area seamlessly leads to a long classy bar with a prominent light feature of a fish – a square grouper, in fact. This insider’s joke is a nod to the Miami Vice days when a different kind of fishing was going on in the Keys.
Try the bar's famed Blood Lime cocktail (named after Netflix’s Bloodline, filmed in Islamorada) made with Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka, Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic and Key lime juice.
Locals have fallen in love with their weekly specials like Martinis and Meatballs. Each Monday, they pair five martinis with five meatball-inspired dishes at $8 per item.
The bar at Oltremare features a nod to local lore with the square grouper light — Photo courtesy of Amara Cay Resort
The bar flanks the 60-seat Oltremare Ristorante, where Chef Dario Olivera serves up an authentic coastal Italian menu. You simply won’t find another restaurant like it in the Keys.
Grilled octopus is the must-have entree, and there's not a conch fritter in sight. Using homemade pasta prepared daily and local seafood, stand-out dishes include Cracked Conch Française and Cedar Key Clams Tagliatelle.
Save room for desserts like zeppoli – balls of dough fried to puffy perfection and served with Nutella cream.
Enjoy views of the sparkling pool and swaying palms out the floor-to-ceiling windows.
For more casual fare, head out to Sparrows Rum Bar next to the pool. The menu features Caribbean-inspired classic American dishes like fish sandwiches, hamburgers and a variety of salads.
Unwind with their signature Prickly Pear Mojito, as light ocean breezes reconnect you with the sea. Just steps away, you can while away your afternoon by swinging in a hammock or lounging on the chairs lined up along the sandy beach.
You’re destined to get the perfect tan, making you the envy of your coworkers back home.
At Oltremare Ristorante, Chef Dario Olivera serves up an authentic coastal Italian cuisine — Photo courtesy of Oltremare Ristorante
Amara Cay has 88 standard rooms and 22 suites that are open and airy. The low-key decor evokes the feeling of a classic seaside cottage. Simple, clean lines and furnishings incorporate natural elements such as wood, rattan and dark tile.
Enjoy your morning coffee with the sunrise on the newly extended balconies, and take in their sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean.
The spacious suites include a comfy living room, mini-kitchenette, one and a half baths and two balconies.
Well-appointed suites include mini-kitchens and extended balconies — Photo courtesy of Amara Cay Resort
Blending relaxation with recreation, the property has an on-site dive shop, Seamonkey’s, where you can rent a kayak to ply the calm, shallow waters. Grab a mask and take a quick dip for a closer look at the rays, tropical fish, octopus and manatees.
Have a need for speed? Check out their guided wave runner eco-tours. The Florida Keys island chain is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States, and the best way to explore it is by boat.
Whether snorkeling or diving, you’ll have a personalized experience, since Seamonkey's takes just six passengers at a time. You’ll marvel at the bright corals, surrounded by large angelfish, hogfish, snapper and schools of bait fish. Watch for horseshoe crabs, stingrays and nurse sharks resting on the sandy bottom.
Islamorada is known as the "Sportfishing Capital of the World," and it’s easy to catch Amara Cay’s shuttle over to Postcard Inn (a sister property) for a fishing charter. Their complimentary Mercedes van drives guests within a 4-mile radius, stopping at local attractions like the Morada Way Art District, World Wide Sportsman and the Hurricane Memorial.
Whether you spend your day soaking up the sun, exploring the reef, fishing or shopping in leisure, Amara Cay Resort allows you to sample all Islamorada has to offer.
For more information, visit the hotel's website.