Swaying hammocks at Ibis Bay — Photo courtesy of Ibis Bay Beach Resort
There’s no doubt that Key West is changing with the times, and so much of the 1950s era and Cuban influence is being lost. Ibis Bay Resort is working overtime to maintain the spirit of “old Key West” without sacrificing modern amenities. Set just outside the main hub of Old Town on a picturesque bay, the waterfront hotel is a joint effort by two creative families who have reinvested every penny over the past three years.
From the fish and stone crab caught for the restaurant to the architectural design work, it is very much a family operation. Everything at Ibis Bay has a story behind it, giving the resort something that brings visitors to Key West to begin with: character.
At the lobby entrance, guests are greeted by a parrot with a friendly personality before they visit the reservation desk, constructed from an old wooden ship called “The Last Lady.” The owners dug the sunken vessel out of the bay and thought “we can do something with this!” The second part of the ship serves as the activity desk for jet ski tours, kayaking, bike and scooter rentals and illuminated night paddleboarding – a relaxing new activity that the resort has pioneered.
Beachfront room at Ibis Bay Beach resort — Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan
Guest rooms are lined with hammocks strung up between palm trees, while hammocks along the beach grant serene views of the bay and a glimpse of the sunset. Little ones will love the giant tortoises, which – as the story goes – were barter for past due rent that was “paid in turtles.” Other random items are sprinkled around the property – like boat engines that have been turned into water fountains, a strange bicycle roulette wheel, and an over-sized pink tennis shoe that was part of a benefit to raise money for cancer treatment – one of the many community efforts Ibis Bay participates in.
Three types of room categories are available that are decorated with bright colors, tropical themes and throwbacks to the 1950s. Each room is a little different: Pan American airline posters and local artwork line the walls in some, while others have actual postcards from visitors to the Keys that tell about their journey. One even proclaims, “It took seven days to get here from Fort Lauderdale” – a drive that normally takes four hours.
Beachfront rooms spill out into the sand, and although several water activities take place on the bay, the water is too shallow to swim. The outdoor pool and lounge area offers an opportunity to cool down, and on Wednesday evenings narrated “dive-in” movies under the stars are featured on the big screen.
Kayaking on the crystal clear water of Ibis Bay — Photo courtesy of Ibis Bay Beach resort
Adjacent to the pool area is “The Stoned Crab,” a four-star seafood restaurant that serves stone crab year round as well as lobster and other fresh, local fish. Each year a little more is added to the property, like the Key Lime garden and a new shuttle service. When completed, a funky 1963 Toyota Land Cruiser will whisk guests away to Duval Street. Most of the additions to the property are based on visitor feedback, so as the Ibis Bay story continues to evolve, guests can join in the fun and help to write it.