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Hotel review: Little Palm Island, Florida Keys (USA)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

Today (February 4, 2015): Hotel review: Little Palm Island, Florida Keys (USA).

Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is amongst the best Florida resorts, providing luxury and elegance for total relaxation on a private island. This piece of paradise is discreetly located a 3 hour drive from Miami, off the fabled Florida Keys coastline, so remote it’s only accessible by sea-plane or boat. Beloved by US presidents and celebrities, the secluded resort guarantees an escape from daily life, with no phones, no TVs and no shortage of fun and romance.

Little Palm Island features in my top 10 lists of the world’s most exclusive private island resorts and the best luxury hotels in the USA.

In this review (more info and photos below the slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • The resort enjoys a privileged location on its own private island, offering seclusion, peacefulness and romance.
  • Little Palm Island is Florida’s most unusual resort. This is a close as the Unites States, and Florida in particular, can come to a Caribbean island. It is an excellent alternative for the Americanized (mega-)resorts that are omnipresent in the Sunshine Coast.
  • The complimentary transfer on the stylish wooden boat is a sightseeing trip on itself, and will start off your stay in an excellent manner. The water shuttle between the land side base and the resort departs the land side on the half-our and departs the resort on the hour. The trip takes about 15 minutes.
  • The lush resort landscape, with hundreds of palm trees, is gorgeous. Hammocks and chairs are tucked away around the property, and provide a nice place to relax or read in private. The entire island is very clean and well maintained.
  • The golden sand beach is small (a narrow strip of sand about 20 feet wide), but is very pretty and has one row of loungers. Keep in mind that the beaches in the Keys are not very large anyway. The beach faces the south and enjoys sunshine until sunset.
  • There are many complimentary watersports on offer at the beach: kayaks, paddleboards and small motor boats are available for use at no additional charge.
  • The lagoon-style pool is small, but perfect and charming.
  • The island never feels crowded: it only has 30 rooms that come in 3 categories: Bungalow, Premium Bungalow and Island Grand Suites. All suites are housed in thatched roof bungalows, with custom-made beds with romantic mosquito netting, a private terrace, outdoor showers, and all the requisite luxe amenities.
  • With no phones or television, the soundtrack at this Floridian sanctuary is the lapping of waves and the rustle of leaves.
  • Food is excellent and one of the resort’s highlights.  Breakfast is served in the room (you just order what you want). Dinner serves French and Pan-Latin cuisine, and the dining setting is gorgeous and accommodates all your needs: outdoors on the sand with full view of the sunset (with wooden pallets under the table and chairs to avoid getting sandy), in an open air balcony, or indoor in the stylish dining room.
  • There is free WiFi throughout the resort and in the rooms.
  • The natural gas fire pit is a nice spot for after dinner drinks and to mix with other guests.
  • The resort has a great spa, with several different locations to have massages done, which is very cool.
  • There is a lot of wildlife surrounding the island: small sharks, sting ray, pelicans, dolphins can be observed in the ocean. Every now and then, you will also see miniature Key Deer which have free reign of the island; they swim over from other islands and are very tame. It just adds to the charm of the place.
  • Service is top-notch. I did not encounter any service problem during our stay.
  • It is an adult only resort: kids under 16 are not allowed.
  • While the expensive room rates set high expectations for the resort’s clientele, the resort also welcomes day-trippers to use the dining and spa facilities.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Little Palm Island is without any doubt Florida’s best luxury resort, and one of the most luxurious destination hotels within the continental USA. While highly enjoyable and memorable, the experience is not perfect and there are some things you need to know:

  • The resort is very expensive, yes. But it is also a very special place, and you are paying a premium price for that.
  • Unfortunately, the rooms are not up to par with the 1000+ USD dollar a night price tag and need a little refreshing. While the suites are spacious and the beds super comfortable, the furniture as well as bathrooms are a little dated. Especially the bath tubs in certain rooms seem to come straight from the eighties, looking old and scratched.
  • While the small island is generally quiet, suites located near the active work/maintenance/receiving facilities may experience higher than expected noise levels.
  • The no cell phone policy in public places is awesome although not always enforced (same with no shorts in the dining room).
  • There are no TV’s in the rooms. But I actually applaud the management for not getting any TV’s in the suites as you don’t need them on a romantic island resort like this. There is one TV in the library if you you can’t miss your favorite shows.
  • As mentioned above, the beach is very small and does not have soft white sand (but rather rough, golden coloured sand). It is pretty nevertheless, because of the lush palm tree background. And the Florida Keys are not known for their beaches anyway.
  • The beds are quite high: the top of the mattress is about 3.5 feet off the floor, necessitating the use of the provided steps in order to facilitate ingress and egress. This may be problematic for elderly people.
  • Swimming in the sea is not possible. While the waters surrounding Little Palm Island look picture perfect at high tide, at low tide, the sea bed feels and look like a large mud swamp.
  • If you are used to luxury resorts like the one on the Seychelles, the Maldives, Mauritius or French Polynesia to name a few, the resort may not be very appealing to you since at those destinations for the same price you get more in terms of room and beach quality. Nevertheless, this is the only lodge on the mainland USA that comes close to being an exotic island resort and is perfect for a romantic getaway.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 9/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Rooms: 7/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Service: 8/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,2/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • An all-inclusive meal plan is the way to go.
  • Request a room away from the active work/maintenance/receiving facilities in order to avoid noise disturbance.
  • The Island Grand Suites are your best choice if you want to experience the full island effect: they are right on the water and have a good view. The other suites have blocked views, and are more in the foliage than on the waterfront.
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury resort like Little Palm Island (and receive many free perks).
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Florida’ dry seasons and peak travel period lasts from December to March, with dry, sunny days and cooler nights. nights. However, the best time to visit the Florida and its Keys are April and May, a sweet spot featuring lower prices and fewer crowds. The weather is pleasant year-round with average highs that hover in the 80s, but the Keys do experience a rainy season (peaking from September to November), and the threat of hurricanes lingers from June to November (highest chance in September and October).


HOW TO GET THERE

Little Palm Island is so remote it’s only accessible by sea-plane or boat.

The drive from Miami to Little Palm Island’s Welcome Station on Little Torch Key takes around 3 hours. You will register at the Welcome Station and wait for the next complimentary motor yacht shuttle to the Island. The resort’s motor yacht departs the Welcome Station on an hourly basis on the bottom of the hour from 9:30 am – 9:30 pm.

You can also fly to Key West International Airport, from where it is a 30 minute drive to the Welcome Station. Check the Wikipedia page of Key West International Airport for tan updated list of airlines that have direct flights to Key West.


ISLAND OVERVIEW

ISLAND OVERVIEW

BOAT TRIP TO LITTLE PALM ISLAND: VIEWS

BOAT TRIP TO LITTLE PALM ISLAND: VIEWS

BOAT TRIP TO LITTLE PALM ISLAND: VIEWS

BOAT TRIP TO LITTLE PALM ISLAND: VIEWS

BOAT DOCK

BOAT DOCK

BOAT DECK

BOAT DECK

BOAT DOCK

BOAT DOCK

BOAT DOCK

VIEW FROM BOAT DOCK TOWARDS BEACH

BEACH AT HIGH TIDE

BEACH AT HIGH TIDE

BEACH AT HIGH TIDE

BEACH AT HIGH TIDE

BEACH AT HIGH TIDE

BEACH AT HIGH TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

BEACH AT LOW TIDE

SWIMMING POOL

SWIMMING POOL

VIEW OF RESORT FROM WATER

VIEW OF RESORT FROM WATER

VIEW OF RESORT FROM WATER

VIEW OF RESORT FROM WATER

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

RESORT LANDSCAPE

BUNGALOW SUITE

BUNGALOW SUITE

BUNGALOW SUITE: LIVING AREA

BUNGALOW SUITE: LIVING AREA

BUNGALOW SUITE: KING-SIZED BED

BUNGALOW SUITE: KING-SIZED BED

SUNSET

SUNSET

BUNGALOW SUITE: TERRACE

BUNGALOW SUITE: BREAKFAST AT TERRACE

FIRE PIT ON THE BEACH

FIRE PIT ON THE BEACH

DINING ON THE BEACH

DINING ON THE BEACH

DINING ON THE BEACH

DINING ON THE BEACH

KEY DEER

KEY DEER

KEY DEER

KEY DEER

SUNSET

SUNSET

SUNSET

SUNSET

BOAT DECK AT TWILIGHT

BOAT DECK AT TWILIGHT

BOAT DECK AT TWILIGHT

BOAT DECK AT TWILIGHT

BEACH AT DUSK

BEACH AT DUSK

FIRE PIT ON THE BEACH

FIRE PIT ON THE BEACH


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