Saturday, October 16, 2021

Worth the Trip: Amara Cay

I recall the days when a trip to Islamorada meant your first beer was at Alabama Jack’s and your second was after you scored a very inexpensive mom-and-pop motel within a three–mile radius of the Lorelei, where you would have your third beer. In those days, it was a simpler weekend getaway of fish sandwiches, boiled shrimp, maybe fishing out of Bud and Mary’s and a Key Lime pie from Manny and Isa’s.

These days, in a combination of post-Irma redevelopment and a growing affluence among  homeowners and visitors, Islamorada has come on up, as the Jeffersons might have said, with the next generation of getaway lodging: island-y chic, top-notch amenities and a cool contemporary vibe. Not quite luxury, but very close—and night and day from the quirky island motels we used to frequent.

Amara Cay Resort’s tropical lobby

Amara Cay is a prime example. This 110-room boutique resort on the ocean side has both  style and content, with a beautiful freeform pool, a lobby that evokes the South Pacific (complete with living air plant wall, suspended rattan chairs, tropical greenery) and an open vista to the beach and turquoise seas beyond. There is a tiki bar, thatched huts and hammocks on a white sand beach (rare in the Keys) and a seaside dock/sunbathing deck. An outdoor game lawn has jumbo Jenga, foosball and ping-pong, and at night the fire pits are lit so guests can relax in Adirondack chairs with a nightcap in the soft ocean breezes.

Dining at Amara is breakfast and lunch at the Reelburger just off the lobby and lunch  outdoors, at the tiki bar. It’s not gourmet dining but it’s good—and perfect when you just want to stay put. Our retired food critic, who lives in Key Largo, thinks dining in the Keys has gone by the wayside, but we think you can still get a great dinner at Ziggie and Mad  Dog’s, Pierre’s and Kaiyo. More casual spots are M.E.A.T. Eatery & Taproom and Ciao Hound at the Postcard Inn (a sister property of Amara Cay) or Lazy Sands, which has a great waterside view.

Come nighttime, cozy up at at the fire pits at the Amara Cay Resort.

Amara Cay has a clean simplicity mixed with a whimsical island vibe; two-plus hours door- to-door and you’re in the Keys, the place where everything begins to make sense again,  and troubles really do seem to melt away. This charming resort is an excellent spot to get all that going, and then some.

Amara Cay Resort, 80001 Overseas Highway, Islamorada; 305/664-0073


This story comes from our January 2019 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

Marie Speed
Marie Speed is group editor of all JES publications, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Worth Avenue, Mizner’s Dream and the annual publication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. She also oversees editorial operations of the company’s Salt Lake City magazines. Her community involvement has ranged from work with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce to a longtime board member position at Caridad Center. She is also on the George Snow Scholarship Fund review committee. She is a past officer of the Florida Magazine Association and a member of Class XVII of Leadership Florida. In her spare time, Marie enjoys South Florida’s natural world through hiking and kayaking, and she is an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook.

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