Sometimes there’s a need to just let go and get away where nobody can find us. We’ve all dreamed of those private island experiences where the cost for a week is equivalent to that of a new luxury car, but they just aren’t in the cards for many of us. I recently got a tip on a secret gem in the Florida Keys I’d never heard of and decided it needed a look-see. It does indeed offer a private island experience, but with a different flair. Little Palm Island is a five acre hideaway that quietly caters to high-profile celebrities, executives, and yes, even US presidents. No, it isn’t inexpensive, but depending on how tightly you’re currently wound, its cost might be justified as being less than therapy, with a private room thrown in.
Pampering at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa
The intent at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is to pamper to you without getting in your way, and as a Relais & Chateaux property, they succeed. Getting there is either by sea plane or boat and most choose, as we did, to check in at their Welcome Lodge on Little Torch Key, where a vintage styled 1940’s wooden yacht awaited to whisk us out to Little Palm Island. We were greeted with a welcome cocktail and an escort to our own thatched roof private bungalow. Because they want guests to consider it home during their stay, they personalize it with your name on a custom wooden sign out front. At this point for us, the experience officially began and the shoes came off.
Relax in a bungalow at Little Torch Key, Florida
There are only 30 suites on the island, each situated water front and all decorated differently in a Hemingway inspired British Colonial style with mahogany poster beds, butterfly netting and comfortable chairs. There is no phone in the room and no TV, though one is available upon request. And it is requested that cell phones not be used in public areas in keeping with the relaxing atmosphere. Admittedly that brought on fears of withdrawal, but after the first day, following the no cell rule was not a problem. Most accommodations have outdoor showers and hot tubs and we immediately wound down by taking advantage of both. But relaxing in the bungalow is only part of what they’re selling.
There is a full service spa on site and I decided on the Madrugada massage, an early morning session in which the massage table is actually placed in the water on a remote section of the beach. It is said that the ocean provides healing energy and washes your negativity out to sea. I’m not sure if I fell asleep or not, but the benefit sure felt like it. The full featured SpaTerre is adjacent to the fitness center where supervised exercise, movement and yoga classes are also offered.
Plenty of activities at Little Palm Island
The resort offers a wide range of activities, focused around water of course, but we hadn’t anticipated getting visited by local deer while lounging by the pool. It added a little bit of calm and helped to adjust our minds away from the real world. We did get some healthy exercise by taking out kayaks one day to explore the island from the water, but that was only after trying and deciding that paddleboarding around the island was beyond the amount of energy and stamina we were willing to expend. We gained a little bit more respect for paddleboarders that day because it is not for the meek. Little Palm can also provide you with a motor launch for joy riding, or they will set you up with gear so you can fish and catch your dinner.
Gourmet dining on Little Palm Island
The Dining Room is the resort’s restaurant which serves all day with short breaks in service between meals. Fortunately for us, we discovered that they will happily accommodate if you want something when they’re not officially serving. Meals are not included at Little Palm Island. We chose to sign up for the full meal plan at $195++/pp daily, but dining a la carte is also available (check the website for current pricing.)
Dress for dinner
Jeans and beach attire are not preferred in the dining areas, but shorts are acceptable during the day. For dinner, it is suggested that men wear collared shirts and long pants. Putting shoes back on wasn’t as bad as we’d expected. Specializing in seafood with a Caribbean flair, Chef Luis Pous brings his Cuban roots together with French techniques learned from his days in Paris at the George V Hotel’s Le Cinq. His efforts have not gone unnoticed, as The Dining Room has been rated by Zagat as the #3 hotel dining facility in the U.S. and #1 in Florida. The dining was so enjoyable, we jokingly wondered if the resort boutique shouldn’t sell Spanx to wear on the trip home.
After experiencing Little Palm Island, it’s easy to understand why so many haven’t heard of it. The ability to stay anonymous is unusual in such a small setting, but it seems to work. Yes, there were famous names among us, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter to anybody. And that is the success of Little Palm. The nearest airport is 25 miles away in Key West, where you can arrange for a car or a sea plane charter. Rates range from about $700 to $2100 per night, depending on the season and accommodations. Prepare yourself to be spoiled.
Not exactly an insider secret, but plan to spend a few hours in nearby Key West if possible. It is like visiting a foreign country without the passport. I never get tired of visiting the Hemingway Home & Museum. I always leave wishing one of their 40 famous six-toed cats could come along with me.
Have you been to Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys?
This is a guest post by Ralph Warren. Photos courtesy of Little Palm Island.