FLORIDA KEYS — The Florida Keys & Key West reopened to visitors June 1, with officials urging everyone to take personal health actions to protect against the spread of COVID-19. A Keyswide county ordinance requires that facial coverings must be worn by visitors and residents while in business establishments and other public settings where there is a roof overhead.
The ordinance permits restaurant and bar patrons to remove their masks while seated and eating or drinking. It is not mandated to wear a mask while in a lodging room or vacation rental.
Keys officials’ messaging also encourages visitors to take personal health responsibility and embrace protective measures such as social distancing and frequent handwashing.
Throughout the Keys, lodging properties, restaurants, attractions, watersports, parks and other visitor venues have enhanced safeguards with added sanitization and distancing in restaurants, attractions and public venues.
The face covering ruling recommends that everyone over 6 years old carries a mask with them while in the Keys and puts it on wherever they come within 6 feet of another person, even in an outdoor setting.
A face covering must shield the nose and mouth and may include a face mask, homemade mask or other cloth, silk or linen covering such as a scarf, bandana, handkerchief or similar item. Those working out in gyms can remove their face coverings while actively exercising, provided there is at least 6 feet of distance from the closest person.
The Keys visitor website at fla-keys.com offers comprehensive COVID-19 guidelines for visitors traveling to the destination.
Here’s what’s new:
In Islamorada, the 214-room, 27-acre oceanfront Cheeca Lodge & Spa has added a third pool and second open-air Tiki bar. The zero-entry, 1,100-square-foot pool features Atlantic Ocean views alongside a private resort beach. Accessible to all guests, the new pool complements the resort’s existing nearby family pool and an adults-only pool at The Spa. A second Tiki bar called 25 South is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., offering tropical cocktails with all-day dining fare such as lobster grilled cheese, lobster mac and cheese and catch-of-the-day tacos. Cheeca Lodge is located at 81801 Overseas Highway. Visit cheeca.com or call 800-327-2888.
In the Lower Keys, the 75-acre, 399-site Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina offers the Sunshine Key Tiny House Village. Each tiny house accommodation, priced from $250 per night plus tax, is under 350 square feet, sleeps two to six and sits near the RV resort’s gulfside shoreline at the south end of the famed Seven Mile Bridge. Houses include linens, a full bath and standing shower, air conditioning and heat, stove top, coffeemaker, toaster, cookware and dinnerware, refrigerator, TV with basic cable and outdoor dining. Models include the aqua Kai and jade Hemingway, each with accessible lofted sleeping quarters; the yellow Lucy and light green Isla, with round porthole-style windows; and the pink Pearl, with a lofted queen bed and living room sleeper-sofa. It’s located at 38801 Overseas Highway on Ohio Key near Bahia Honda State Park. Visit sunshinekeytinyhouse.com or call 877-570-2267.
Off Little Torch Key, the exclusive adults-only Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, accessible only by boat or seaplane, is open with a British Colonial design and 30 thatched-roof bungalow suites for a maximum 60 guests. The new Dining Room is enhanced to encompass sweeping ocean views. The oceanfront pool area offers private cabanas and beach lounge chairs. Hammocks are tucked off crushed seashell paths. Suites are priced from $1,500 per night, with a 12.5 percent resort fee, and include welcome cocktail, landside valet parking and motor vessel transfers, nonalcoholic minibar beverages, fitness center, nonmotorized watersports, nightly turndown and gratuities. Access to the ultraluxury resort, part of the Nobel House Hotels & Resorts collection, is at 28500 Overseas Highway. Visit littlepalmisland.com or call 888-413-0560.
On Big Pine Key, the four-room boutique-style Deer Run on the Atlantic is the only Keys property — and one of only six in Florida — with a prestigious Florida Green Lodging Program 4-Palm designation, awarded from the Florida Department of Environmental Education. Located oceanfront in the heart of the National Key Deer Refuge, it utilizes organically sourced bedding, supplies and food as a 100 percent vegan establishment. Guests can enjoy bicycles, kayaks, a daily full vegan breakfast, an on-site beach, parking, Wi-Fi and private porches. One room is pet-friendly for companion animals weighing less than 40 pounds. Deer Run, located at 1997 Long Beach Road on Big Pine, also has an event planner and caterer. Visit deerrunontheatlantic.com or call 305-872-2015.
In Key West, the new 219-room Kimpton Key West collection has opened the 85-room Winslow’s Bungalows, the first of five new boutique properties, at 725 Truman Ave. Named after artist Winslow Homer, the property is the collection’s largest and features three pools. Scheduled to open individually in June are three other Kimpton pet-friendly Old Town resorts: Ella’s Cottages at 811 Simonton St. for groups and extended stays; Ridley House at 601 Caroline St., ideal for honeymooners and VIPs; and Lighthouse Hotel at 902 Whitehead St. The fifth, Fitch Lodge, is to open July 15 at 1030 Eaton St. Each resort features its own pool, hammocks, hosted breakfast and complimentary bikes. Kimpton offers a package with complimentary parking. Properties are the former Historic Key West Inns. Visit kimptonkeywest.com or call 877-219-4500.
The recently converted 184-room Barbary Beach House Key West, located across the street from Key West’s half-mile stretch of Atlantic Ocean shoreline at Smathers Beach, opened June 1. Amenities include a lagoon-style pool, lounging hammocks, bicycles, complimentary shuttle service to Duval Street and downtown, a 1,500-square-foot event palapa (an open hut with a thatched roof crafted from dried palm leaves) and a full-service restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating and pool bar. Across the street at the Barbary Beach Club, guests can enjoy Hobie Cat sailboats, paddleboards and kayaks. An on-property coordinator assists with beachfront weddings and other events. Located at 2001 S. Roosevelt Blvd., a mile from Key West International Airport, the property is owned by DiamondRock Hospitality Co. Visit BarbaryBeachHouseKeyWest.com or call 855-335-1072.
In Marathon, a new 3,000-square-foot, two-story Marathon Jet Center, located at 8800 Overseas Highway on the west side of Florida Keys Marathon International Airport, is to open in July as a full-service fixed-base operator. With a 5,008-foot-long runway to accommodate most private jets, including the Gulfstream G650, the center features a pilot lounge, flight planning area, snack bar and exterior elevator to access a second-floor passenger lounge and outdoor viewing decks. The Middle Keys airport is a general aviation facility with no commercial passenger service. Visit Marathonjetcenter.com or call 305-743-1995.
Silver Airways resumed nonstop service June 15 to Key West from Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood, Orlando and Tampa international airports on 46-seat ATR42-600 aircraft. Silver’s service features six flights per week from Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (daily except Wednesday); five weekly flights from Orlando International Airport (Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday); and nine weekly flights from Tampa International Airport (one Monday, Tuesday and Friday; and two Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). Visit Silver Airways at silverairways.com or call 801-401-9100.
Key West International Airport has implemented new social distancing configurations and seating arrangements for passengers. In addition, a $28-million renovation project is underway that includes upgraded baggage conveyors, new U.S. Customs and Border Protection space, and restrooms with a new family facility restroom and pet relief station. Exterior upgrades include an overflow aircraft parking ramp, a new elevated maintenance storage facility, reconfiguration of the fuel truck delivery area and new access road to fixed-base and general aviation operations. Carrier American Airlines currently connects Key West to Charlotte, North Carolina; Washington, D.C.; Dallas–Fort Worth, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia. In addition, Delta Air Lines offers two daily flights from Atlanta and Silver Airways flies from Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa. Visit eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.
In Key West, the air-conditioned Duval Loop bus has added a $1 fare per ride, per visitor, with 18 hop-on, hop-off stops throughout the Key West tourist corridor. The bus service provides visitors a convenient way to get around the Historic Seaport and downtown districts without using a car. The pink and blue public transportation buses run every 30 minutes from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and every 20 minutes from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Social distance seating and face masks are required. Visit kwtransit.com for route details or call 305-809-3910.
In the Lower Keys, the 524-acre Bahia Honda State Park is in the final stages of a full restoration with completion scheduled in the fall. The Sandspur area on the park’s north side is undergoing a $2.96 million restoration of its mile-long Sandspur Beach, its 24-campsite Sandspur campgrounds, a 155-car parking area and two shower towers at the day-use area. “The Sandspur restoration project will mark a tremendous milestone,” said Don Bergeron, park manager. “Countless Keys residents and visitors have shared stories of their time at Sandspur and deep emotional connections they have with the area.” Trolley tours or pedestrians currently are not allowed in the Sandspur area. Known for sandy beaches and shallow-water swimming, the park is located at 36850 Overseas Highway. Visit floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda or call 305-872-2353.
Want to experience social distancing with a fish pedicure? At Crane Point Hammock Museum & Nature Trail in Marathon, you can. And it’s free, included in the price of admission. Visitors to the attraction can dip their toes in the Crane Tidal Pool, located near the park’s Point, and let minnows nibble on their feet. Social distancing is easy at the 64-acre park located at 5550 Overseas Highway. Visit cranepoint.net or call 305-743-9100.
Mote Marine Laboratory recently announced two new science-based coral restoration partnerships in the Keys: with Bud n’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada for a new land-based coral nursery for restoration of the reef at Cheeca Rocks, and with I.Care, Islamorada’s newest environmental awareness group, to work with citizen-divers to help outplant Mote-supplied coral fragments onto the reef in Islamorada and monitor them. Cheeca Rocks is one of seven “iconic reefs” identified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for Keys restoration support. Mote’s Keys facility on Summerland Key, the Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration, offers a “Reef Revival” program that enables novice and expert divers to experience hands-on reef restoration. The center is located at 24244 Overseas Highway and complimentary weekly public tours are scheduled to resume in July. Visit mote.org or call 305-745-2729.
In Key West, four permanent rainbow crosswalks — spanning four corners at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets in the heart of the LGBTQ entertainment district — have been installed as the final step in the repaving and restriping of the island’s historic Duval Street. The crosswalks feature long bands of all six colors of the rainbow flag, an internationally recognized symbol of LGBTQ unity. Rainbow crosswalks were originally installed on Duval in 2015, quickly becoming a city landmark and popular photo stop. Their replacement was necessitated by the repaving project. The new crosswalks are composed of preformed thermoplastic color stripes heat-treated with propane torches to affix colors permanently to the pavement. Key West, a leading LGBTQ vacation destination, is internationally known for its heritage of diversity.
On Stock Island, Washed Up Key West, a gallery, gift shop and artist collective with four local artists features a larger location (double its previous size) at 6475 2nd St. Specializing in unique woodworking creations by gallery co-owner Kasidy Fritts, the collective also features a 60-foot-wide, 8-foot-tall mural art wall. Also on-site are Made by Soto, a gold and silver jeweler owned by Nick Soto; Key West Island Art with “Conch villages” and paintings by co-owner Debi Fritts; and Concrete Ship Mercantile with modern macramé and fiber art by Kelly Raspa. It’s open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or by appointment and for special events. Visit washedupkeywest.com or call 305-509-1856.
Key West Food Tours, created and curated by island city native Analise Smith, in July is launching a new all-outdoors walking tour, Old Town Culture Walk: Bahama Village, Gatoville & Key West Cemetery with Key lime pie included at the end of the tour in Bahama Village. The 1.5-hour tour covers a mile of walking, is offered for up to 10 people, and priced from $39 per person plus tax. Added health protocols include noncontact temperature checks, stops at each venue to maintain hand hygiene, individual (rather than group) tastings, and mandatory wearing of facial coverings. Smith’s tours enable visitors to experience the island’s rich history and cultural heritage while gaining insights into the local way of life. Visit keywestfoodtours.com or call 305-570-2010.
Up the Keys Eco Tours offers private sightseeing tours including three new excursions: a “volun-tour,” a yoga tour and a Key West walking tour. The first offering gives visitors an opportunity to experience the Keys’ unique environment for a day to learn about the Lower Keys’ history, culture, ecology, Key deer or how to plant mangrove seedlings. The operator has teamed up with the nonprofit volunteer “Conch Republic Marine Army” and Big Pine Kayak Adventures for a guided tour and kayak excursion. Guided tours leave Key West with door-to-door service in air-conditioned 15-passenger vans. The yoga tour offers instruction at an off-the-beaten-path location with a certified yoga instructor, hotel pickup and yoga mat for a minimum of six guests. New walking tours are customized to feature history and architecture, ghosts, pubs, happy hours and a “welcome to Key West.” Visit upthekeys.com/voluntourism or upthekeys.com/yoga or call 305-587-5575.
At the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, the United States’ only butterfly facility housing flamingos, small groups can now book relaxing, informative Twilight Tours. Participants can discover butterflies from some 50 to 60 species, and exotic birds from more than 20 species, in a spacious glass-enclosed habitat as the sun begins to go down. Tours feature a blend of nature viewing, learning and serenity in the lush rainforest-like setting. For a separate experience, lovers of pink flamingos can “Flamingle” with Rhett and Scarlett, an 8-year-old male and female breeding pair, during daily late-afternoon “Flamingle” encounters. The conservatory is located at 1316 Duval St. Visit keywestbutterfly.com or call 305-296-2988.
Key West’s 8,200-square-foot Hemingway Rum Co. Distillery plans to open a new 2,400-square-foot center for hosting events by early 2021. The distillery attraction is offering private “Papa’s Cocktail Classes” with a tour, tasting, class and a glass for a maximum six participants. Classes are set for 5-6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Formerly a tobacco warehouse, the venue houses Papa’s Pilar Rum production facility, an experience center, tasting room and trading post. A 350-gallon still produces up to 80 gallons of rum daily from molasses, yeast and water. The distillery’s 30-minute tours are to be offered beginning June 25 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., and Saturdays between noon and 4 p.m., at 201 Simonton St. Visit papaspilar.com or call 305-414-8754.