A calming, minimalist antidote to the kitsch of the Keys, bayside boutique hotel Casa Morada sits serene in a pocket of lush tropicalia: poolside palms hung with hammocks, a kaleidoscope of Floridian fauna, and the balmy waters of the Gulf of Mexico just a saunter from your suite.
Every suite is simply decorated with Mexican antiques, but only Sea View Suites have picture-perfect views of the bay, and a private terrace that is perfect for watching the spectacular sunsets. Opt for the Iguana, the largest suite, which overlooks the bay and includes a private outdoor deck and a Jacuzzi. The Manatee also overlooks the Florida Bay, and has an especially large tub with a rain showerhead in the bathroom.
Set apart from the hotel by a footbridge, the heated freshwater pool is carved into a small sandy island in the bay, alongside a snack cabana, gazebo and hammocks.
Bring a waterproof camera to snap the manatees as they float by. And fret not about forgetting sunscreen and bug spray: the hotel has a small supply for sale by reception.
There are no bad views here, but the tables nearest to the water get the best breezes.
You’re dining poolside, so anything goes. Cover up the swimsuits with a kaftan to shield your skin from the high noon sun.
There is no dedicated restaurant, so guests should make plans to explore Islamorada each night for dinner. By day, the open-air café is simply decorated, with native flowers and orchids on some tables. Breakfast, which is served at the Seaview Terrace, includes fruit, cereal, granola, pastries and egg sandwiches; lunch at the Gazebo is salad, cheese plates, soup and panini.
The hotel has a small bar that serves wine, beer, sake and champagne; drinks are also served poolside.
Snacks are generally available at the Gazebo until sunset.
Continental breakfast can be delivered from 7am until 11am daily. After that, panini, salads and light bites can be brought to you until 9pm.
Casa Morada is in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys.
The nearest airport is Miami International, about 90 miles away; you can fly direct from London Heathrow and New York. Our Smith24 team can book your flights for you and arrange transfers to the hotel.
Since Miami is a 90-minute drive, guests are best off renting a car to explore the Florida Keys and leave the neighbourhood each night for dinner. The hotel offers free parking. If you don't plan on getting a car, catch the Florida Keys Shuttle (approximately $80 a person) to the city centre.
Mariners can arrive by boat: the hotel has slipways.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hit the island in time for free hour-long yoga sessions, offered on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9am. Active guests have plenty of options, including nearby tennis courts, bocce on the grounds, and bicycles for anyone who wants to explore Islamorada. Otherwise, the most fun is out on the water. The hotel provides kayaks, paddle boards and snorkelling equipment, and can set up sailing trips or guided tours of the Everglades. Need a trophy for the mantelpiece? The Florida Keys are the sport-fishing capital of the world.World Wide Sportsman stocks all the gear you’ll need to catch your big fish. Take a day trip to Key West to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home – which still houses descendants of the author’s six-toed cats – and stroll down Duval Street, which is the Bourbon Street of Key West. While there, take a ferry to the Dry Tortugas, where you can see shipwrecks and sea creatures through the clear water.
A mile from the hotel, Morada Bay Beach Café is a laid-back beachy spot for a dinner with sunset views. The menu includes local fish crudo, coconut rice and conch salad. If your visit coincides with the full moon, stop by for the restaurant’s wild parties, which are set around bonfires with live music. Near the Beach Café, more formal colonial-style restaurant Pierre’s serves French-Caribbean dishes, including smoked hogfish chowder and cornmeal-dusted grouper cheeks.
Around mile marker 80, the brightly coloured Midway Café sells smoothies, omelettes, pastries and tangy key lime pie to takeaway or eat on the shady back patio.
At sunset, the waterfront bar at Lorelei, a half-mile south of the hotel, fills with people sipping minty mojitos and frozen piña coladas, and admiring perfect sunset views to the beat of island music.
Every hotel is visited personally by members of our team and given the Smith seal of approval. As soon as our anonymous reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in the Florida Keys and unpacked their sarongs and conch shells, a full account of their beach escape will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Casa Morada in Islamorada…
Like the orchids that grow in the wild Everglades, Casa Morada is a special find among its surroundings. Except in this case, that find is a serene adults-only haven in a busy tourist destination known for fried fish and family-friendliness. Palms and tropical gardens surround the 16 suites of this secluded space on the Gulf of Mexico. In the mornings, guests can practise sun salutations by the bay at yoga classes, or sip Florida orange juice by the pool. Come evening, cocktails are served as guests watch the sinking sun cut orange streaks across the horizon. But the best action happens on the water, where guests can snorkel in search of manatees, kayak the Gulf or cast a line in pursuit of the biggest fish.
The white bedrooms are exquisite places to sleep at the end of the day. Each is decorated with Mexican antiques, simple furniture and crisp linens, with large windows out, and a private terrace, many of which are set by the sea. Fittingly, there are also orchids in the room. Perhaps they’re meant as a reminder of just how rare and special Casa Morada is.