2017-07-13 / Arts & Entertainment News

New luxury resort a compelling reason for a Key Largo getaway

BY MARY THURWACHTER


An aerial view of Playa Lago Resort & Spa. The resort has 144 rooms and suites and 10 private bungalows on 14 beachfront acres in Key Largo. 
COURTESY PHOTOS An aerial view of Playa Lago Resort & Spa. The resort has 144 rooms and suites and 10 private bungalows on 14 beachfront acres in Key Largo. COURTESY PHOTOS This year, to mark the Summer Solstice — the longest day of the year — I chose a Florida Keys getaway with the shortest travel distance: Key Largo. It’s only a two-hour, 45-minute drive from Naples. The island’s unobstructed sunset views are among its biggest attractions.

I celebrated the setting sun on the beach at Playa Lago Resort & Spa (www.playalargoresort.com), a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel and the first new resort built in Key Largo in 20 years. It’s at mile marker 97 on the Florida Bay side of the Overseas Highway on 14 waterfront acres once home to a campground and RV park.

Tin roof, large balconies with white railings and the classic eyebrow-style roofline typical of vernacular Key West architecture can be found on the resort’s four wings, 10 two-story cottages and a three-bedroom beach house.


A beach view at Playa Largo. A beach view at Playa Largo. The lobby sparkles with terrazzo floors, a dramatic spiral staircase to the lower level and cheese hole wall leading to Las Olas ceviche bar. A central fountain surrounded with lanterns and a circle of hanging chairs made of rope and resembling fish net show the lobby’s subtle nautical theme.

Guest rooms are large, with high ceilings and wood paneled walls mimicking the wall decking of old clipper ships. Floors are tiled in wood-washed porcelain. Area rugs and accent furniture reflect a neutral color scheme.

The resort has several restaurants: Las Olas Ceviche Bar, LaMarea for breakfast, and the al fresco Sol by the Sea, built around an old boathouse on the water. Its walls are covered in reclaimed buoys for a touch of barefoot luxury. All three eateries are very good, but for its seafood menu and Keys ambiance, Sol by the Sea, overlooking a 22-slip marina, can’t be beat.


The resort has pools, cabanas, fire pits and watersport programs including kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, diving, boating and ocean excursions. 
MARY THURWACHTER / FLORIDA WEEKLY The resort has pools, cabanas, fire pits and watersport programs including kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, diving, boating and ocean excursions. MARY THURWACHTER / FLORIDA WEEKLY The manmade beach has plenty of lounge chairs, hammock pods and kayaks and paddleboards.

I hung out on the beach, splashed in the calm clear waters of Florida Bay and swam in a sparkling zero entry lagoon style pool before stretching out on a lounge chair to soak up the sun.

I didn’t have time to try out the fitness center, but did take an hour for a reflexology treatment — much more than a foot massage — in the resort’s Ocean Spa. Absolutely divine!

While enjoying dinner at Sol by the Sea, I watched the sun set on the longest day of the year. But it ended all too quickly for me!

Top reasons to go to Key Largo

Playa Largo is one of my favorite reasons to go to Key Largo. Here are five more:

• John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (www.pennekamppark.com). Take a glass-bottom boat tour for a view of the coral reefs and underwater park, home to “Christ of the Abyss,” a 4,000- pound bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ standing under 25 feet of water.

• Dolphin Cove. Swim or snorkel with Flipper’s friends in a natural lagoon at Dolphin Cove (www.dolphinsplus.com).

• Florida Keys Wild Bird Center (www.fkwbc.org). The nonprofit organization rescues, rehabilitates and releases native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced. Stroll along the Sanctuary boardwalk and see what winged creatures fly in to greet you.

• Silent World Dive Center (www.silentworld.com). Scuba divers already know this place. It offers daily dive and snorkel trips to the most popular dive sites in the Upper Florida Keys. Drinks are complimentary and night dives are available.

• The restaurants. In Key Largo, you can go out and reel in your dinner or find some mighty good seafood at local eateries. I recommend Sol by the Sea, a photogenic beach shack at the edge of a pier where motor yachts are docked. ¦

Playa Lago Resort & Spa, 97450 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, 305-853-1001, www.playalargoresort.com. The Oceanfront resort has luxury rooms, suites and bungalows, plus a pool, spa and gourmet restaurants. Snorkel, dive, paddleboarding, kayaking and sunset excursions available. Room rates start at $249.

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