‘Get lost’ is the proud motto of Little Palm Island Resort & Spa – with no offence intended, this is your invitation to switch off, escape and revel in restful days, idled by the pool, on the beach or at your luxuriously appointed suite (which for most includes a private strip of beach). Up the tempo with memorable forays into the Florida Keys, to paddle the mangroves, dive its reefs, or enjoy a sunset sail aboard the island’s motor cruiser. You’ll also want to dip into tranquil downtime at the spa.
Noon. Earliest check-in, 4pm. If you arrive earlier, you’re welcome to stow your luggage and make use of the resort until your room is ready.
Double rooms from £2696.03 ($3,405), including tax at 26.563 per cent.
Rates are room-only (unless you've booked the 'culinary package'), but you can buy breakfast, à la carte, at the hotel, and your resort fee includes a welcome cocktail, valet parking, motor yacht transfers, watersport amenities, and staff gratuities.
The resort’s Island Premier Suites are both ADA compliant, with widened doorways, lowered switches, lamps with pull chains, adapted bathrooms, ramp access and an elevator to the upstairs suite. For hearing impaired guests there’s a kit of visual aids, including a door knocker, doorbell, a bed-shaker alarm clock, telephone signaller, telephone amplifier, and Portaview telephone keyboard/text viewer.
You’ll need to let the hotel know your arrival plans, so they can arrange your transfers. And you’re advised to book treatments by phone directly with the spa ahead of your arrival.
At the hotel
Watersports centre with SUP, kayaking, Hobie Cats, and Boston Whalers, as well as a resort boat for snorkeling and Scuba excursions; seaplane and boat jetties; communal lounge (the Great Room); private beach; gardens; concierge; boutique; and free WiFi. In rooms: air-conditioning, ceiling fans, free minibar (alcohol is priced separately), coffee machine, free bottled water, umbrellas, binoculars, bathrobes, and custom bath products.
Our favourite rooms
With a generous footprint indoors and out, all suites are utterly private and dressed to impress with travertine flooring, heirloom rugs, antique furniture, a rich colour palette and woven details, creating a polished Caribbean-meets-colonial feel. Opt for an Island Romance Suite, Island Grand Suite or Island Premier Suite for an outdoor copper tub, and a day-bed on the deck, plus a private strip of beach with a fire pit. Most luxurious of all are the two Island Premier Suites, with expansive living space and two bathrooms.
Between sunrise and sunset, you can set up camp on a cushioned day-bed beside the heated, saltwater pool – curvaceous and palm-shaded – that’s only steps from the beach. It has both step and ladder entry, and pool service from the thatched Palapa Bar cancels out any need to stray for sustenance. The resort also has a private beach, with parasol-shaded cushioned loungers lined up on the sand, and there’s food and drink here, too.
Even if you have no intention of indulging in spa therapies or using the relaxation areas, mani/pedi stations, or hair and make-up services at SpaTerre, it’s worth heading there to check out this eyecatching thatch-roofed two-story complex set around an open courtyard with a reflection pond at its heart. Five treatment rooms are available for CBD therapies, four-hands massages, facials and more, which use luxurious ingredients such as seaweed, macadamia-nut oil and organic vanilla. The spa’s open from 9am until 6pm, and the hotel recommends booking treatments in advance of your arrival. The Fitness Center stays open until 9pm and is home to ellipticals, Peloton bikes, rowing machines, free weights and benches with the option to arrange personal training. The Center has a dry sauna on the first floor, and if you want to book yoga or meditation sessions, the spa’s outdoor tiki is available.
Castaway chic – with an emphasis on swimwear, cover-ups and smart threads that meet the restaurant dress code for balmy island evenings.
Although a resort since the 1980s, Little Palm Island was decimated by Hurricane Irma in 2017, then rebuilt. Its lively past includes spells as a cocaine-smuggling post, a movie set, and a private retreat for guests, including President Truman.
An idyll for couples, this private-island stay is for over-18s only.
When your island stay is in a delicate ecosystem in the Florida Keys, conserving its fragile beauty is an obvious priority. Little Palm Island Resort & Spa partners with a number of conservation groups locally, involved in reef and mangrove restoration, as well as beach and sea cleans. The hotel has banished single-use plastic, refills full-size bath products, uses LED lights, and has installed a high-efficiency HVAC system to reduce its energy consumption.
A candle-lit private dinner is the height of romance, and we’re drawn to the palm-framed ocean views from the Atlantic Deck. Pre-dinner drinks at the Monkey Hut are an alluring start to any evening on Little Palm.
The brief is ‘island casual’ by day, with sundresses suggested for Mrs Smiths. By evening, Mr Smiths will need collared shirts, and longs or tailored shorts; Mrs Smiths may want to up the glamour, and all Smiths should avoid jeans or beachwear.
At the resort’s restaurant, the Dining Room, chef Brendan Mica changes the menu daily, but his cuisine is best described as fine dining with an emphasis on seafood. Breakfast, available in-room or at the restaurant, is an exhaustive selection of buffet options and à la carte plates. It’s where and how you dine that bring the most variety to any stay at Little Palm Island. Woven chairs and wallcoverings, ceiling fans and tropical-print upholstery give the main dining room an upscale colonial look, with floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto the deck. The covered deck itself has tables and cushioned bench seating with palm-framed ocean views. If that’s still not alfresco enough for you, reserve a table at the shoreline, toes in sand: this is where tailored private dining in your preferred spot can be arranged. Sunday brunch is an extravagance worth checking in for, featuring loaded flatbreads, bison empañadas, crab rillettes, shakshuka, eggs Benedict, soups, and salads. And on certain nights of the week, the hotel runs exclusive chef’s table events, and wine-maker evenings with guided tastings and food pairing.
The poolside Palapa Bar takes care of daytime refreshments, which can be served to your day-bed. The Monkey Hut is an open-sided lounge bar, where you can dine at counter seating facing either the bar or ocean, but it’s as an elegant space for drinks that it comes into its own, with a gleaming grand piano in residence, and ocean views. At either establishment, you can revisit your welcome drink – the island’s signature cocktail, a rum-laced Gumby Slumber – or try pink tipple the Rosie Spoonbill. The Monkey Hut also hosts live music on select evenings.
Breakfast hours are 8am to 10.30am; for Sunday brunch, it’s 11am until 1pm. Lunch is served from 11.30am until 2.30pm, and for dinner, it’s 6pm to 10pm.
The Dining Room’s menu can be ordered to your room between 8am and 2.30pm, and 6pm to 9pm.
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is a private-island stay south of Little Torch Key in the Florida Keys.
Key West and Miami International are the nearest airports, respectively 45 minutes or just under three hours away by road. And onward transfers can be arranged (see below). And smaller Marathon Airport is a 40-minute drive away for private charters.
The island itself is car-free, but there’s free valet parking at the resort’s Shore Station, which is just off the Overseas Highway on Little Torch Key.
The resort has a Shore Station on Little Torch Key for transfers by motor-boat (free). Alternatively, the resort can arrange boat transfers directly from Key West (price on application). And seaplanes from nearby cities can land directly on the hotel's dock.
Worth getting out of bed for
Succumbing to Little Palm Island Resort & Spa’s fly-and-flop charms feels inevitable, but it’s worth climbing out of your hammock to explore the natural beauty of the Keys. The resort can arrange snorkeling or Scuba trips to Looe Key Reef; use of the resident watersports kit – SUPs, kayaks, Hobie Cats and Boston Whalers (motorboats) – is included with your stay; or take a guided kayak tour of the mangroves for a duck’s-eye view of this vital habitat. Fishing comes in many forms, here: silently poling through backcountry flats for fly or spin fishing; off-shore game fishing for mahi mahi, sailfish or kingfish, or casting above the reef or wrecks for snapper and grouper, and spearfishing is also available. Little Palm Island has an abundance of wildlife that’s not on the menu, too, so use the guide and binoculars in your suite to spy some of its 200 local bird species, including great blue herons, or book an eco-themed tour. Thrillseekers can book a tandem sky dive with archipelago views; or wakeboard, wakesurf or waterski at Grassy Key’s saltwater cable park. The award for most memorable day out goes to a seaplane excursion to visit the Dry Tortugas, starring hexagonal brick-walled bastion, Fort Jefferson. To get even more away from it all, sign up for a backcountry adventure to a remote sandbar for a spot of snorkelling. And sunset sails are a memorable way to experience the Keys’ golden hour.
The reality of any stay at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is that you’re not going to need or want to venture offshore for dinner, with the Dining Room more than able to sate your appetite, with the option of private dining, toes in sand, as well as chef’s table and wine-maker events.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this legendary island stay in the United States and unpacked their board shorts and binoculars, a full account of their adults-only beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys…
Little Palm Island Resort & Spa has a big reputation: its 20th-century-spanning past includes stints as an exclusive retreat for sunseeking notables including President Truman, as a movie set in 1962 (which brought electricity to its shores), and (very briefly) as a staging post for cocaine smugglers in the 1980s, before it became a resort. (You can pick up a copy of the island’s biography in the resort’s boutique.) In 2017, Hurricane Irma’s trail of destruction prompted a major facelift, with the sumptuous retreat of 30 suites you see today reopened in 2020. Despite its stalwart status in these parts, this adults-only escape is not one to flaunt its credentials. There’s a low-key modesty to its barefoot-luxury trappings: nobody’s forcing you to leave the confines of your expansive suite, which includes a sweeping deck and (in most cases) your very own strip of waterfront beach with a fire pit. But live music at the Monkey Hut, fine dining by chef Brendan Mica, and a day-bed-bordered pool with full service are your cues to be a little sociable. Days that don’t revolve around downtime on the beach or at the spa may involve on-the-water adventures out in the Keys, with stellar Scuba, fishing and birdwatching all on your doorstep.
You’ll also find Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in: