There are many ways to arrive in Key West, FL: as one of more than 800,000 cruise ship passengers who dock there annually; as a member of the Navy stationed at NAS Key West; by airplane at Key West International Airport; 113 miles from the mainland by car along the Overseas Highway; or perhaps even by your own propulsion, swimming 90 miles across the Straits of Florida — if, say, your wallet got jacked in Havana or you’re training for a double Ironman.
There are even more options for room and board once you’re there. At the invitation of the Hyatt Key West, we shacked up for a long weekend to explore the island, the last stop in the Keys, what the locals fondly call the Conch Republic. While the other Keys are known for their beaches (Bahia Honda), diving (Key Largo) and fishing (Marathon), Key West is known principally for its eccentricity: it’s the place that values individuality, the arts, fresh seafood, rowdy bars, polydactyl cats and drag shows.
The Hyatt is refuge amid the stir. It’s tucked away on the western tip of the island, a few steps away from the attractions of Old Town, Mallory Square and the bars and restaurants of Conch Harbor Marina. The 118 rooms are spacious and bright, each with a balcony for drinking in views of the Gulf with your morning coffee. But the real pleasures this far south are outdoors. Here the hotel is well-situated: it has its own dock where guests can charter yachts, fishing boats, jet skis, snorkel masks or just drink cold beers and eat oysters.
The actual setting for the latter is SHOR American Seafood Grill (nobody will bother you if shuffle your chair a bit closer to the water). The hotel restaurant does a mean pulled wahoo sandwich at lunch and an equally good piece of local black grouper for dinner. Our favorite cuts, though, were the steaks from Jackman Ranch in Clewiston, FL.
We also hear that Jala Spa offers tranquil services right on the premises. We skipped the massage to rent scooters from the hotel’s fleet for a ride out to Stock Island, where the Hogfish Bar & Grill serves its famous hogfish sandwich topped with mushrooms, Swiss and onions. Some people go for the massage after a 90 mile swim. We go with the fried hogfish. In a quirky beach town like Key West, luxury takes many forms.