10 Places You Must Stop During Your Florida Keys Vacation
I just returned from a nine day vacation in the Florida Keys, Key West, and Miami with one of my better halves, my mom, who just happens to be the heart and soul and principle stylist at Destination Wedding Studio. Together we embarked upon a tour of sorts, staying at some of our favorite hotels, dining at some restaurants, both on and off the beaten path, lounging at our Miami favorite, and as all women love, we had to squeeze in a little time for shopping! Over the course of nine days we barely saw a cloud in the sky and not until the very last day were we met with a sprinkle of rain. After our mini excursion, which included a few weddings and a two year old named Chase, and many many years of vacationing (and briefly living) in this part of the United States, I now have absolutely no doubts whatsoever why so many couples choose South Florida and the Florida Keys as their perfect place to say I Do! It is absolutamente pure paradise!
1. Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa, 601 Front Street, Key West, FL
This is how I began my vacation or work trip, whatever you want to call it: a glass of champagne, an ocean view, and a very very very comfortable bed. No more is needed to be said other than this place does it right!
2. Mallory Square Pier, 400 Wall Street, Key West, FL
After a couple hours of working on our balcony overlooking the ocean it felt like time to head out into the wild and crazy world of the Key West living. We put on our evening’s best and sauntered into the masses to fill our bellies and enjoy the festivities on the pier of all piers. If you’re in Key West you must check out the the sunset festivities on the Mallory Square Pier. Here you’ll find performers, magicians, artists, food vendors, great salsa music and gente bailando, a few too many people who should have stopped drinking a while back, put on sunblock, or both, and everything (and then some) in between.
3. Key Lime Pie Company, 511 Greene Street, Key West, FL
After lots of walking and a lot of heat we sought cooler refuge and deemed it only appropriate that “when in Key West” one must end the night at the famous Key Lime Pie Company. My mother insisted I try a ‘pie in a jar to go’ so one was ordered, whip cream was a must on half (for me, of course), and two minutes later there was no more pie in a jar to go. If you’re counting calories, skip the drinking and splurge wisely in Key West on some delicious and perfectly tart key lime pie.
4. Old Key West
I have known Key West as another home for over 15 years, 10 of which my parents owned a home just steps away from the water, 10 months I lived there, and both my sister and I, one cousin, and a longtime family friend got married on this beloved island. I woke up day two feeling super nostalgic and ready to explore the island I have come to know and love as my home away from home so I got dressed, tied my running shoes and was off. Being a lover of running, I feel as if over the many years and vacations on this island, I’ve seen Key West in its entirety and then some. Yet, whereas most people always opt to run around the island along the water where one is gifted picturesque and panoramic views and killer sunsets, I always found myself drawn to the inner and often overlooked parts of Key West, the places not marked on a map that invite you into their secret only by getting a little lost. These places are by far the true treasures of Key West. So next time you’re there, let yourself wander, and I promise you will be pleasantly surprised just as I was that morning and all the mornings I’ve let myself wander.
5. Santiago’s Bodega, 207 Petronia Street, Key West, FL
Unless you know someone or know someone who knows someone, you might never hear of, therefore wander past Santiago’s Bodega, which sits a little beyond the heart of Bahama Village. At least that’s how it was with this place when it first opened its doors and my now husband was one of its very first servers. It’s since expanded to Orlando and word on the street is they’re opening a third location and we know why, the food and ambiance are absolutely memorable and a standout for the Keys. If you have a palette for tapas and wine then look no further. Santiago’s is your must, which is why for lunch on our way out of town we purposefully carved out time for their lamb patties, pita bread and hummus plate, goat cheese stuffed dates, and bread pudding. Oh, and I may have made room for a glass of their white sangria. Delish!
6. Wanderlust, 310 Petronia Street, Key West, FL
I discovered Wanderlust by accident last fall when I was only in Key West for a day. My mom, sister, and I were cruising (on boat) and our first stop after leaving port in Miami was Key West. We exited the ship and headed straight for Whitehead St. and then turned down Petronia St. for breakfast at a long time fav, Blue Heaven. After an always delicious breakfast there we headed back out into the heat and a new storefront immediately caught my eye, Wanderlust. Having always been one for the bohemian flair I figured I’d check it out and I am forever grateful that I did. As far as legitimate shopping goes in Key West, untouristy and not a chain, this store (along with a few others) is it for me. The owner, Casey, is super sweet, hands on, and has a fabulous eye and her store has a little bit of everything for everyone. There is jewelry, handbags, artwork, maxi dresses, swimsuits, the MOST adorable kids clothing, underwear (just in case you forgot yours at home), shoes, sunglasses, denim; it’s all there! The best part…it’s totally affordable and genuinely what is says it is (which can be a concern sometimes on Duval Street). So if you’re in Key West and your needing your fix, which tends to be a habitual problem for me, well then don’t hesitate to get off the beaten path and check out Miss Casey and her wonderfully fabulous store.
7. Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, FL
After we finished up in Key West we drove for roughly 90 minutes north on US Route 1 to the beautiful and seemingly always sunny Hawks Cay Resort, a place where we have planned and designed many weddings and seen the exchange of hundreds of I Dos. As my mom once said,
“Being at Hawks Cay feels as if you’re in the Caribbean. But what makes Hawks Cay one of the most interesting places on the islands is that you truly feel as if you are away from everything; that while you can explore its surroundings if you want to, you can just as easily stay on its grounds and not go anywhere, and feel like you went everywhere.”
Hawks Cay was defintitely the highlight of the trip. We swam, played on a pirate ship, coordinated a wedding, witnessed jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets, performed a vow renewal, ate great food, met people from all of the world, woke up early and stayed up too late. Hawks Cay, for me, is one of the most absolute perfect destinations for your destination wedding in the Keys, especially if once you arrive you want to “not go anywhere, and feel like you went everywhere.”
8. Grassy Key Outpost, MM 58 Oceanside, Florida Keys
Our third day at the resort we needed to pick up some essentials so we all piled in the car (mom, Chase, and I) and headed to the Grassy Key Outpost Market and Grill. We figured as long as we were there we might as well have some lunch. If you are anywhere near Marathon in the Florida Keys or if you just happen to be driving by on your way to or from somewhere further down south, make the pit stop for some of their grub. It is killer! I had the fried green tomato B.L.T. and my mom ordered the ‘Lucky 7’ and both were out of this world.
9. Inspired Rentals, Miami, The Florida Keys, and Key West
Sadly, it was time to leave the Florida Keys, which meant we were headed up to Miami for the last few days of our tropical adventure. “What were we doing in Miami?” you might be asking. We were shooting our amazing wedding decor must-have’s that have been collected over the years for the soon-to-be wedding decor rental side of Destination Wedding Studio – INSPIRED RENTALS! We are so so excited to be offering this to all of our couples in the near future. Above are just a few of the images of us getting carried away and having fun with decor and stylizing. More coming soon…
10. The Biltmore, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, FL
Oh Biltmore, how we love thee! Every Miami and Florida Keys adventure ends with the Biltmore and if you’ve ever swam in their pool, dined in their restaurants, or lounged in one of their poolside cabanas, well then you would know why. This place is a piece of art and our urban oasis. Our last night we had the most delicious Italian food at their restaurant, La Fontana, which got mama the best kisses from her now not so baby boy who was a rockstar the entire trip (I don’t hand that out easily), and we had such a great night that we thought we’d get a cabana the next day and have both breakfast and lunch their cause, “why not?” After a full day of lounging in the Biltmore’s half-acre pool (the largest hotel pool in the continental USA) it was time to head out, wash up, pack, get dressed, make our way to Miami International Airport, and fly back home to our beloved Denver, Colorado. To sum it up…BEST TRIP EVER and to all of you couples out there, GET READY FOR INSPIRED RENTALS. Good things they are a comin’!
Alex Cordoba started working for Destination Wedding Studio as their Digital Marketing Manager in September of 2014. She resides in Denver, Colorado with her better better half and their son Chase. When not writing her next blog post or spending endless hours on all things social media, you can find Alex chasing her son (named appropriately) in and all around Denver and nearby mountaintops, practicing yoga, or planning her next tropical adventure. Contact Destination Wedding Studio for planning + design services and Inspired Rentals in south Florida, Key West, and Florida Keys.