Every time I decide the Keys as I knew them are lost, a year goes by and I get restless and know I have to go back. In this case, it was to Bungalows Key Largo, and I took the plunge. Bungalows Key Largo opened as Key Largo’s only all-inclusive adult resort a few years ago but suffered a fire only months later. It has been completely rebuilt, and the 12-acre resort is stunning. And it’s close. And it transports you to a place that feels a little like Key Largo and a lot more like Thailand.
Bungalows Key Largo is a showcase of tropical magic through sheer design. Once you check into the chic island registration building, you say goodbye to your car, hello to your chauffeured golf cart, and slip through a pair of large blue wooden gates into a botanical oasis on Buttonwood Sound (Gulf side). There are towering walls of green shading the narrow packed-shell paths that wind through the resort, and in minutes, it feels as if you are worlds away from Key Largo and transported to an island outpost.
The resort has 135 individual bungalows (31 waterfront) with a coastal vernacular feel, complete with small front porch and a private outdoor area with a soaking tub and outdoor rain shower. Each also comes outfitted with two cruiser bikes, although it’s easy to walk to the main hub of the property, which is the waterfront Beach House. The Beach House, with its natural Indo-Florida décor, is reminiscent of a tropical retreat, with four dining options and the intimate Hemingway bar, as well as a tiki bar and an infinity Sunset Pool. The nearby Zen pool is nestled under dense palms, and an expansive fitness tiki hut includes Peloton bikes, elliptical machines, a rowing machine, free weights and more.
Dining at Bungalows is part of the charm of an all-inclusive resort; it’s easy and it’s got enough variety to complement whatever mood you are in that day. The daily breakfast buffet (with made-to-order omelets as well as mimosa and Bloody Mary stations) at the brightly appointed indoor-outdoor Fish Tales is a great way to kick off your weekend (lunch here is also superb), and the more refined dining experience upstairs at Bogie & Bacall’s offers locally inspired seafood and steak options. Perhaps the most charming venue is Sea Señor, an open-air Mexican restaurant under the palms on the ocean. We loved the tacos; it’s real, it’s flavorful, it feels like vacation with every bite. There is also, of course, the obligatory tiki hut, a generous poolside venue for light bites and handcrafted cocktails— and open until 11 p.m. if you’ve got a late craving.
The weekend we were there was a summer holiday weekend, so things were amped up by a lavish seafood and barbecue buffet, everything from sliders and pulled pork to grilled lobster tails—and a cold seafood bar with shrimp and king crab and more. Add in a junkanoo band and fireworks, and the party was up and running. Instant revelry—and happily, not in your own backyard.
In terms of amenities, this resort has it all, but everything feels somewhat tucked away and private. Grown up. No screaming Bill’s Big Banana rides here, but you can hire the motorized tiki bar to chug along the bay while you sip cocktails with a few of your friends, or catch a sunset cruise (this is the Keys, after all) on a spacious catamaran. There are several excursion options as well, from swim and sail trips to snorkeling to ecotours, all available with a picnic lunch.
The Zen Garden Spa exudes luxury with every self-indulgent service; we loved touches like the eucalyptus steam room. In fact, wellness is a theme that runs through the resort, although it doesn’t shame you with it; there are, after all, spa-inspired cocktails. (As we said before, this is the Keys). Daily yoga classes offered on Tranquility Beach are included in the all-inclusive stay.
Overall, Bungalows does what it should: It provides a luxurious (but fun) retreat—without the pretensions of other famously luxe island resorts. And, can we reiterate: It’s only two hours down the road—but with the ambiance of a much more upscale (and slightly exotic) locale. The overall vibe is calm and sumptuous, and the attention to detail is on point. You’ll like it. Go. It’s worth the splurge.