Last year prompted us to be creative and to do a lot of things differently. In 2020 instead of welcoming around 75 close friends and family members into my home on Christmas Eve for an evening of fellowship and celebration, I found myself in a quiet location soaking up the Southern Florida sun. It was neither better nor worse, just different. It broke a decades-long tradition that my family and I have held since, well, as long as I’ve been alive.
Before you cry for me (insert chuckle) let me tell you why I’m grateful for the forced break in tradition. I got to spend the holiday with two of my favorite people – my mom and adopted sister – in a breathtaking location. I spent the week being served instead of serving others, relaxing in lieu of hosting and entertaining. And last but certainly not least, I exchanged the chilling temps of Christmas in the Northeast with the tropical climate of the southern part of the Sunshine State.
Since 2021 is looking a lot like 2020 as far as travel restrictions, let me share with you five reasons why I recommend Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, Florida as an option for your holiday travels.
1. The Safety Protocols
As a travel professional, I have read and heard about the horror stories of resorts and hotels having lax protocols and safety measures during the pandemic. Having experienced it first-hand, I can say with full integrity that Cheeca did an excellent job of making its guests feel safe. From the signage indicating mask requirements in public spaces to the hand sanitizer stations located conveniently throughout the resort to the multiple outdoor dining options with heating lamps, Cheeca did its part. They also allowed you to elect not to receive housekeeping services to minimize exposure to your room.
2. The Views
Islamorada, one of the lesser-known Keys is a small village town located between Miami and Key West. Positioned between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, it boasts incredible clear turquoise water and amazing sunrises. My recommendation, splurge a little bit on the oceanfront suite. These generous accommodations offer a front-row seat to the gloriousness of the morning sun inching up over the horizon.
3. The Accommodations
As someone who prefers smaller, boutique resorts to larger, more sprawling properties, Cheeca was perfect, especially during the pandemic. And while the resort itself is more compact, the accommodations were generous on space. The oceanfront suite offered two queen double beds and a large pull-out sofa, perfect for three women. The suite also boasted a large balcony and outdoor jacuzzi bathing tub. I also loved the luxury en suite bathroom with a large walk-in rain shower. The wet bar in the entryway was a nice touch as well.
The simple elegance and style of the public spaces of the resort impressed me as well. It gave me a modern luxury home away from home experience that I greatly appreciated.
4. The Dining
A testament to our Cheeca dining experience was that throughout our five-day stay, we did not leave the resort once to eat. Considering my love for trying new restaurants and exploring the most of what a destination has to offer, trust me this is saying something! From room service breakfast to beachfront lunch to the four-course pre-fixe dinner experience, we took full advantage of the three first-class restaurants at the resort. Each meal lived up to its first-class designation.
5. The Service
Finally, let’s get to that one thing that can make or break a travel experience – the service. From the time we pulled into the resort we were made to feel like queens. From the helpfulness of the bellboy to the check-in staff and concierge to the restaurant staff, we received a level of service that luxury five-star designated hotels would offer. When something was not right, which was on a rare occasion, the staff promptly worked to correct the issue and make us feel comfortable and valued in the meantime. I have certainly been a patron of establishments that did not handle issues with this level of care so I appreciated how Cheeca rose to the occasion.
Here are a few other things to know before visiting Cheeca and Islamorada:
- Most of the beaches are manmade here. While beautiful to look at and optimal for sunbathing and boating, the man-made beaches are not ideal for swimming. The sand at the “beach” at our resort was separated from the water by a large rock formation. If you like to wade in beach water, this likely will not be an ideal location for you. However, I did enjoy the fact that the outdoor pool at our resort was heated.
- It can be cool in the evenings (and sometimes during the day) during the winter months. We were grateful for sun-bathing weather during the day, despite temperatures dropping into the low 60s at night. It’s best to bring layers.
- While there are some attractions like sports-fishing and dolphin encounters, Islamorada is more of a relaxed, laid-back beach town. If you’re looking for a nice, serene getaway destination where you can relax, this is your place. If you’re more of an adventurous type of traveler who wants to fill their days with activities, you may want to look at Key West or further north in Miami as your travel destination.