Keys trip report - part 1

Mar 13th, 2002, 02:19 PM
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Keys trip report - part 1

This report is broken into several parts...
Thanks to everyone who provided insight into the Keys, it was truly helpful!

Where we stayed: 1 night at Kona Kai in Key Largo, 2 nights at Parmer's Resort on Little Torch Key. I can recommend both places - but they are both very different, so its best to have an idea of what you are looking for in your vacation.

The Kona Kai is a great place to stay, beautiful rooms and landscape, extremely helpful hosts. We arrived on a drizzly afternoon, but sat by the pool under a thatched-roof shelter on lounge chairs unwinding after our day of travel. They have a small sandy beach (not natural) on the bayside. It was quiet, perfectly clean, and was updated, comfortable, and extremely nice. I could have stayed longer, but
it was a bit of a luxury for us for our anniversary.

Parmer's resort was very clean, the people were great, and at a reasonable price. We had a large efficiency, which was more than enough room for the two of us. We actually didn't use the pool or any other of their
facilities, as we were out much of the time exploring the area. They have a dock area, with some seating by the water, but it really can't be called a beach, but then again, don't expect much in the way of beaches in the Keys, as many people have pointed out on this list again and again.
They also have a pool, which we saw on our tour of the property (they walk you around when you arrive).
Next, Eating in the Keys.
Mar 13th, 2002, 02:21 PM
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Eating in the Keys..
Where we ate:
Bayside Grill, Key Largo - MM 99.5 - lunch, on the bay, good views, my
husband loved the fish sandwich, and I ordered a salad with grilled chicken, and found it lacking. I wish I had ordered the shrimp basket, it looked great. I think I just ordered the wrong thing, but the grilled chicken was bland, and cold, meaning they had it pre-made, which I don't care for.

Morada Bay - Islamorada - MM 81.5 - dinner - The best! It was our anniversary dinner, and I couldn't have been happier with our choice of this
restaurant. It is bayside, and has a beautiful beach to watch the sunset.
We'd had drizzly weather all day, and
the rain stopped just enough for the sun to peek behind the clouds as it set
into the bay. The place has the atmosphere of an old beach house, and we
had a table on the edge of the brick patio next to the beach. I think they
put additional tables on the beach when weather permits, but not that night.
They have Adirondack chairs on the beach, and I think it would be great to
stop there for a sunset cocktail even if you weren't planning on having
dinner there. The food was wonderful - We had the house salad (split), lamb
chops, and seafood cioppino. The lamb chops were perfect! Add a good bottle of shiraz, a split desert, and we had a perfect dinner. No reservations.

Zane Gray bar - next to Morada Bay, a clubby bar with live entertainment, in
a very large sporting goods shop (World Wide sports?)
Mar 13th, 2002, 02:23 PM
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More eating..
Harriett's - Key Largo - Breakfast! MM 95 - Good, fast, inexpensive. Lots
of locals eat there, and we had a very good breakfast.

Calypso's - Key Largo - lunch - off the main drag - On the water (seaside),
but that really doesn't add much to this place - I got the shrimp basket w/
fries, both of which where soggy. My husband didn't like their fish sandwich as well as the one he had at Bayside Grill.

Mangrove Mamma's - dinner - mm 19 -20. Very good food, service, fun atmosphere. Would definitely recommend it if you are in the area. They also had live music at happy hour (which we caught the end of). Carribbean-Keys style.

Fins 24 - MM 24 - lunch - very good, newer place. They have a nice outdoor
patio in the back and good food. It was always busy when we drove by it at
night, but we never stopped for dinner.
Mar 13th, 2002, 02:24 PM
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More eating..
Blue Heaven - Key West - Great food, but don't let them seat you anywhere
but downstairs in the back yard. We were seated upstairs, on the side porch, overlooking the back yard. We didn't notice at first, but after we
were seated, we realized there were a few inherently bad things about the
seating there - it was hot - the fence around the seating blocked the breezes, which led to more mosquitoes, and the noisy duct from the kitchen ventilation fan made conversation difficult. Add to that a smoker and a crying baby at the next table, and we couldn't wait to get out. No lingering over drinks or ordering desert, that's for sure. Not a good restaurant experience at all, even with a plate of good food.

The No Name Pub - after our KW experience (see below), we escaped to Big Pine Key to find this local hang out. Lots of locals eating pizza and
having beers. People decorate/sign/etc and hang dollar bills from every
imaginable surface, interesting to look at. I guess I prefer the low-key places to the high traffic ones. You'll need directions to find it.
Mar 13th, 2002, 02:28 PM
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Activities - Pennekamp park: We walked the trails, which familiarizes you with much of the native species. We took a one hour kayak tour (self-guided) through the mangroves, nice. This was our drizzly day, so we scheduled our snorkel trip for the next day when weather was supposed to be better. We took our snorkel trip with Sharky's, which is located in the marina at the Ramada in Key Largo. The coral here is
great, and we saw good sea life. The waves were a bit rough, but the
visibility was fine. The Sharky's people were great - we had a good trip.
If you are the least bit inclined to be sea sick, remember to take something
for it before you go out if its rough.

Bahia Honda Park: relaxed on the beach... pretty, but not my favorite beach by a long shot. Crowded, lots of stuff washed up, not much shade. When you enter the park, go left to the beach that people rave about, the other beach is really small.

Looe Reef marine sanctuary - snorkel trip with Strike Zone Charters (Big
Pine Key). Great trip with good people. Highly recommend. While the
reef isn't as impressive as Pennekamp's, the sea life is. Lots of big reef fish, and several large barracuda (and one small reef shark, which got me out of the water fast!). Its about 7 miles out, so it takes a while to get there, and you spend a couple of hours out on the reef, at 2 different spots. The seas were calmer, but several people still were very ill.
Dramamine is my friend. Strike Zone also has a bayside outing, with snorkeling, fishing, and a cookout on an island, if the weather is too rough
to do the snorkel trip to the reef.

Afternoon in Key West - never again. We toured Hemmingway's house, walked Duval and other streets, had a cocktail at Hog's Breath, watched the sunset show on the dock, then dinner at Blue Heaven. I just don't see the attraction of the place. Its crowded,
full of tacky tourist shops, and not all that interesting. I was there
about 12 years ago for spring break (as a student), and had a great time, but it isn't what I'm looking for in a vacation as an adult. They have re-done the dock, and its overly-commercialized for my tastes. Drunks
screaming that its "time to celebrate sunset, come on people, party" don't
do it for me. Some liquor company selling its wares by having 3 motorized
parachute guys do runs over the dock so you can't hear people talk or
entertainers do their thing was just annoying. Not exactly my vision of
More to come...
Mar 13th, 2002, 02:30 PM
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Here's the part where I get really flamed (if not for the KW thoughts)... While I stayed in good places, and ate great food, and had good snorkel trips, I don't ever need to go back. I'll save my money and take a full week to go to the BVI's. In retrospect, I wish we would have headed to Little Palm Island for dinner and skipped KW entirely. We could have taken a ferry out, had a sunset cocktail, and reportedly some of the best food down there, and had a relaxing and beautiful end to our Keys vacation. Live and learn! Oh well....I relaxed, soaked up the sun, and had some good dinners. It was a good trip, but it just can't
compare to my favorite place. Thanks to everyone again for all the help in planning my trip, hope this helps someone else! Regards, Amy
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