FLORIDA KEYS — New and fully renovated properties, including the Florida Keys’ first luxury-inclusive adults-only resort, are soon to be unveiled in the island chain. New airlift into Key West International Airport also is on the horizon, with seasonal service to launch this summer from Texas. Also, United Airlines is to expand service to Key West from New Jersey this fall and from Chicago this winter.
Curio Collection by Hilton is set to unveil Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo this fall on completion of a multimillion-dollar redesign. The 13-acre, 200-room resort is to offer 17,000 square feet of meeting space with executive boardrooms, outdoor sanctuaries, a grand lawn and two expansive ballrooms. Pet amenities include dog Tiki huts and cooled water bowls. A beachside tequila and taco venue is to include house-made hot sauces crafted from peppers grown on the property. The property also is to include two swimming pools with a waterfall grotto, a winding nature trail lined with hidden beaches, a boat dock and an Aveda salon. Baker’s Cay Resort is located at 97000 Overseas Highway at mile marker 97 bayside. Visit bakerscayresort.com or call 305-852-5553.
In Key Largo, the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo, a 12-acre 135-unit property billing itself as “luxury inclusive,” is targeting an opening in late fall as the first all-inclusive resort in the Florida Keys. Most rooms are to average about 800 square feet and include private outdoor plunge pools or tubs. The resort is to offer two in-ground pools, five indoor and outdoor restaurants, four bars, 1,000 feet of shoreline, three piers to accommodate boats up to 40 feet long, a “Florida Keys chic” design and 4,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space. Rates will include lodging, food and premium beverages, hotel amenities, activities and water toys. The palm-lined bungalow resort is under development by Johnson Resort Properties Inc., owned by Jerry Johnson, who also developed Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada. The resort is located at 99010 Overseas Highway at mile marker 99 bayside. Visit BungalowsKeyLargo.com or call 866-801-0195.
American Airlines is scheduled to begin new nonstop service between Key West International Airport and Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport in June. The new commercial service is to offer once-weekly seasonal flights from Saturday, June 9, to Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018, on 76-passenger E175 regional jets, said Donald DeGraw, director of airports for the Florida Keys & Key West. “With new jet service to Dallas, our visitors now have more than 100 options for one-stop connections to the United States and abroad,” DeGraw said. “The new service opens up the U.S. West Coast market for Key West.” DeGraw worked with the Key West Chamber of Commerce and Voltaire Aviation to secure the new air capacity. For more information, visit American at aa.com, call 800-433-7300 or visit Key West International Airport at eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.
United Airlines is to expand service to Key West International Airport from New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport this fall and from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in mid-December. Beginning Oct. 4, United is to shift from seasonal to year-round daily nonstop service on United Express 70-seat Embraer E170 regional jets. During peak travel season, February through May, United also is to add a second daily Key West-Newark flight. From mid-December through May 2019, United is increasing its Key West–Chicago service to daily. From June 2 through mid-December, United is to operate nonstop weekend service on Saturdays and Sundays between Key West and Chicago, and is set to provide nonstop Saturday and Sunday summer service between Key West and Newark. United originally launched seasonal daily nonstop service from Newark and Chicago to Key West in December 2016. Visit united.com, call 800-864-8331 or visit Key West International Airport at eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.
Florida Keys travelers driving along the Upper Keys’ Card Sound Road, one of two entrances to the island chain, will soon be greeted by a new all-electronic tolling system in Key Largo. Keys county commissioners have set new fees for tolls, to be implemented later this year, at $1.50 per car for a two-axle vehicle and $1 per axle for commercial vehicles or those with more than two axles. An annual pass, allowing unlimited trips through the toll during the year, is $360 (a 50 percent discount based on 480 trips through the toll per year) and is scheduled to begin in early 2019. Discounts will not apply to vehicles towing a boat or trailer and the passes will be nontransferable to other vehicles. Previously tolls were collected by hand at a booth just north of Alabama Jack’s restaurant, located at 58000 Card Sound Road. It was demolished in December 2017 as South Florida’s last manned tollbooth, with the last toll hand-collected Aug. 31. Currently no tolls are collected. Visit monroecounty-fl.gov/100/Card-Sound-Toll-Authority or call 305-453-8761.
Key West’s free hop-on, hop-off Duval Loop bus service is now offered daily for car-free, easy travel around the island’s Historic Seaport and downtown Duval Street districts. The route includes 16 stops near Key West attractions, hotels, museums, boutiques and eateries. It runs from the city’s Park and Ride station on Grinnell Street, along Caroline Street, up the length of Whitehead Street, across United Street and down the length of Simonton to Fleming Street. The city-operated service was created to reduce traffic and parking challenges on island streets and promotes eco-friendly transportation alternatives. The Duval Loop’s colorful pink and blue buses run every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to midnight and every 30 minutes from 6 to 10 a.m. Visit carfreekeywest.com or kwtransit.com.
The Key West Attractions Association is offering a Kids Free Florida Keysprogram Sept. 3-30 with free admission to attractions and tours, meals and other perks for the little ones. Free experiences are offered for kids 12 and under. Participating Kids Free restaurants in Key West include Margaritaville Restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe, Mangia Mangia, Island Dogs, Turtle Kraals and Charlie Mac’s. Key West tours include Air Adventures Helicopters and Old Town Trolley Key West. Also in the island city, participating attractions and museums include Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, Key West Aquarium, Custom House Museum, Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, Fort East Martello, Tennessee Williams Museum, Harry S. Truman Little White House Museum, Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum and Curry Mansion Inn. In the Middle Keys, Kids Free Florida Keys attractions include Dolphin Research Center, the Turtle Hospital and Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. Visit kidsfreefloridakeys.com for updated lists or call 305-293-7249.
In Key West, Key West Food Tours has launched The Cocktail Crawl. On the walking tour, participants receive five beverages including a Hemingway daiquiri, locally brewed beer and a margarita. Three food pairings include tastings such as gluten-free pizza, cauliflower bites, a pork taco or Key lime pie donut. It’s priced from $65 per adult 21 and older, plus tax. The tour begins at 3:30 p.m. and visits Mary’s Ellen’s, The Saint, The Porch, Tiki House and Agave 308 tequila bar. It launched in April. Visit keywestfoodtours.com or call 305-396-2224.
Why go bar-hopping when you can hop on a bar? In Key West, Cruisin’ Tikis Key Westoffers Tiki bar–style cruises lasting 90 to 150 minutes on a Tiki-designed boat for up to six passengers. Boats are run by Coast Guard–trained captains and have a cruising speed of 4-6 mph. Bottled water, sodas, cooler with ice and a captain are provided for events such as birthday parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, corporate retreats and celebratory parties. Guests bring their own adult beverages. Tours include sunset, Garrison Bight, seaport, bar stop, eco and sandbar fun cruises. Each of four boats can accommodate up to six passengers. Priced from $49.95 per person, tours depart from Stock Island’s Hurricane Hole, 5100 Overseas Highway or Key West’s Mellow Ventures, 1605 N. Roosevelt. Visit cruisintikiskeywest.com or call 833-845-4759.
Sebago Key West has debuted the Sunset Power Play, an all-inclusive late afternoon adventure and sunset sail. Activities include jet skiing, parasailing, banana boating and playing on a water trampoline. Also included is a sunset sail on Sebago’s Cubed, a modern 60-foot sailing catamaran with an expansive sun deck. The four-hour excursion departs daily at 4:30 p.m. Appetizers include cold cut sliders, shrimp cocktail, hummus-stuffed sweet peppers, caprese skewers and cookies. Beverages include soda, water, beer, wine and champagne after jet skiing. Sebago bills itself as the longest established day-charter catamaran operation in the continental U.S. Visit keywestsebago.com or call 305-697-5748.
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has implemented a Blue Star Fishing Guide program to recognize and promote sustainable recreational fishing in the Keys. The program provides online training for captains and crew members about the sanctuary and its diverse habitats and fisheries. The program recognizes charter fishing captains and backcountry guides for practicing sustainable fishing and educating fishing clients about the Keys’ coral reef ecosystem. “Nearly half a million people annually come to the Florida Keys to take advantage of the superb fishing along the reef and in the backcountry,” said Sarah Fangman, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary superintendent. “Through this new Blue Star program, those anglers will be able to find and hire fishing guides who know the regulations and understand that they are in place to sustain the fisheries for the next generation,” Fangman said. Qualifying guides receive branded collateral to market their business as a sanctuary partner and educational information to share with clients on their vessels. Annual evaluations ensure program compliance. Visit https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/bluestar/ or call 305-809-4700.
Key West’s 28-acre Truman Waterfront Park has opened with a scenic new entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park with bike lanes, wide sidewalks, a children’s play area and splash park, and an amphitheater. City officials have set June 29 for substantial completion of the first phase of the park that includes green space, landscaping and exercise stations. The $4 million Truman Waterfront Park Amphitheater, surrounded by grassy tiers, has 500 semipermanent seats, 2,400 square feet of covered space and capacity for 3,500. Partially opened in fall 2017, it’s also set for completion in June. Truman Waterfront Park’s second phase of development, scheduled to begin next year, includes a planned multipurpose recreational field, concession area, public restrooms, dog park and paved parking. Visit cityofkeywest-fl.gov or call 305-809-3700.
In Key West, restoration of the city-operated Rest Beach and its sea wall is underway. Located alongside the Edward B. Knight White Street Pier at White Street and Atlantic Boulevard, Rest Beach is scheduled to reopen in September. The $961,000 project includes beach replenishment and restoration, new walkways and landscaping, and covered picnic tables and benches. While restoration of Rest Beach is underway, its beach area remains closed. Nearby Higgs Beach, just east of the pier, is open with amenities for beachgoers. Visit cityofkeywest-fl.gov or call 305-809-3700.
The Key West Historic Seaport has won a Florida Trust for Historic Preservation meritorious award for organizational achievement, honoring the seaport’s Bight District’s commitment to historical accuracy at the waterfront. “Dating back over 200 years, the Key West Historic Seaport remains a thriving engine of commerce, supporting many industries vital to the economy and overall way of life in Florida and Key West,” the award states. “With dozens of events planned each year, the site offers a unique opportunity to capture the history of old Key West while serving as a perfect location for events and special occasions.” The 20-acre seaport, with shops, restaurants and watering holes, is located along the Key West Bight waterfront at the lower ends of Front, Greene, Elizabeth, William, Margaret and Grinnell streets. Visit keywesthistoricseaport.com or call 305-809-3983.
Expedia has named Key West among the “Most Walkable U.S. Cities,” citing it as a “Top-Rated Vacation Destination” in North America and rating it 14th of 50 destinations ranked as tops. Among Expedia’s “Top-Rated Vacation Destinations,” Key West — out of more than 4,600 North American cities reviewed — was named one of just two top-rated Florida vacation destinations. The other was Sanibel Island, ranked below Key West at 15th.
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS