Bianca Jade’s Little Black Book: The Key West Edition

By  June 10, 2013

I’m a lucky girl. I got to spend a week of May in Key West, Florida for a family get-together. I’d heard many things about Key West over the years, and my own conclusion is that Key West is the most quaint and relaxing beach town I’ve ever visited. You must go! Check out my top picks to have the best time in Key West as you plan your own getaway there.

Where to Stay:

This is the Ritz Carlton of Key West. Make sure to request a room on the newer side of the hotel. The older side has smaller rooms with not as magnificent (or in some cases missing) views, unless of course you’re dropping a dime on one of the specialty suites overlooking the 2 pools. Those are very nice and are located in the center part of the hotel–you’ll gawk at them from the pool.

Casa Marina has an excellent staff and the hotel-beach grounds are wonderfully well kept with lemon water and watermelon slices available to you. Expect to pay a slightly hidden fee ($25-$50/day) just to use the beach and pool area. But there’s no getting around that, so just enjoy it!

The hotel restaurants and the grill are both lovely, offering many healthy options. You’ll find most waiters come from distant places and their accents are nice in light of Key West’s homogenous nature.

Where & What to Eat:

I’m a loyal regular to Sarabeth’s Chelsea Market location in NYC. When I realized there was one in Key West, I had to go. It’s a popular and gratifying brunch spot, plus there’s good people watching. Ask for bread or toast to experience the amazing jellies…or as they call them: “spreadable fruit”. Winning dishes are the Goldi Lox (smoked salmon and cream cheese scrambled eggs) and Porridge loaded with fruit and honey.

Make sure to get here! Louie’s is an amazing dining experience. I was there for lunch where I sat on the outside, upper deck. There’s a beautiful view of the beach and the waitress was unbelievably attentive and helpful. When I first arrived to Key West, I passed by Louie’s and my cab driver said it was the nicest restaurant on the beach. After lunching there, I wouldn’t disagree with him. Every dish that came out was beautifully plated and tasty. I ordered the Bo’s Crab Cake Caesar Salad and relished every bite.

I was shocked to discover one of the most satisfying sushi dinners I’ve had in my life in Key West! Ambrosia has an open and serene feel to it. Located in the Santa Maria Hotel, you have a view of the inner court of the hotel, which is fun in a voyeuristic kind of way. It wasn’t pretentious like many Japanese restaurants can be in popular tourist destinations. I sat at the sushi bar (because I like to watch the artful preparation of my food) and ordered the Stingy Woman’s Purse appetizer (the yummiest crispy shrimp dumplings) and the Wasabi Key West roll among other things. Ambrosia is not to miss for dinner and for the opportunity to try something new!

What to Do:

I suggest going to their website before your trip and making a reservation for a 2 or 4-seater electric car. That way, the company will provide you with a courtesy pick-up and drop-off from the airport. It’s way better than wasting your time waiting for a cab at the airport. I rented a 4-seater for the weekend for around $300. Not so cheap but worth all the fun and it made getting around super easy.

If you like his books or enjoy walking back in time to see how Mr. Hemingway lived and decorated his home, this museum/restored home does the job without boring you to death. The tour is short and sweet and the main draw is the army of cats that Hemingway left behind. They’re beautiful, populating the home as if he never left. Strangely they all have 6 toes and couldn’t be friendlier.

This is the spot in Key West to treat all those stress spots on your body. Take a morning or evening class and spend the rest of the day on the beach! Done and done.

It’s true…if you’ve seen 1 butterfly museum, you’ve probably seen them all. But this little gem charmed me. It’s fun, as an adult, to let the butterflies tease you as you try and capture their image with a camera that just won’t click fast enough. If you’re with your family or have time to kill, you won’t regret spending 20-minutes here. If you have kids, you’re mean to not take them!

  • Shopping along the main drag. Most shops were too touristy and cheesy for me. My advice is to save time checking out the 2 best stores for women: Isle Style Key West: Part shop, part spa. Stylish and feminine beach-y apparel, accessories and jewelry & The Green Pineapple: A soothing and eclectic shop with lots of interesting home goods, artisan type crafts and yoga-inspired apparel and gifts.

What to Watch Out for:

  • Long wait time for cabs from the airport to your hotel. This was the most frustrating part of my trip. Only 1 or 2 cabs come along every 20 minutes. Most van cabs will take a group of people at a time for a shared-taxi experience. But if you’re at the end of the cab line, expect to wait a while. No one’s in a rush in Key West and the cab drivers there aren’t on anyone else’s schedule but their own.
  • Chickens crossing the road. I’m not even kidding. You don’t want to be responsible for a chicken’s death while scooting around in your golf cart. That would be so sad…
  • Crazy guy running in red getup.  He’s awesome and a bit of a celebrity in town. He jogs in a red uniform with a big floppy red hat and he’s very friendly. I drove past him one night in my golf cart and honked as a fellow running enthusiast. He returned the love with a big enthusiastic scream.

Gotta love Key West! Enjoy your trip!

Contributing Editor, Bianca Jade, a leading lifestyle, beauty and fitness expert, is the founder and editor of top fitness, fashion and wellness website, MizzFIT.com. Known to her readers as MizzFIT, Jade brings the latest trends in fitness apparel and accessories from around the globe, highlighting active wear from both emerging designers and major luxury sportswear brands. Through her writing, Jade is continuously committed to furthering a movement of feel-good exercise and female empowerment.