Have you ever landed in a vacation spot where you immediately felt the weight of the world, and all your stresses, fall off your shoulders the minute you set down your luggage?
We found that special vacation spot in beautiful Key Largo, in the tropical Florida Keys.
What followed for us was three nights in paradise, at the Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens.
Before you read on, just a little word of warning. This post is “photo heavy”. Photo ops were abundant at Kona Kai, with another beautiful sight around every corner!
I’ll be honest. In the past, when I’ve vacationed in Florida, I’ve always stayed on the Gulf Coast at a major resort. Based on my previous experiences in Florida, my first thought was to book at a large resort, situated on miles of beach. However, choosing to visit the Florida Keys this time, I knew this vacation would be a little different.
I just didn’t realize how different – and amazing.
A vacation in the Florida Keys is unlike any other Florida vacation. For starters, due to a lack of “wave action” thanks to the coral reefs surrounding the Florida Keys, there are very few beaches here – at least not natural beaches. For me, this is part of the appeal of the Florida Keys. In addition, the lack of “highrise hotels”, and the abundance of more “local” resorts, villas and motels, adds to the charm of this tropical paradise.
Key Largo’s Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens is one of those charming, hidden treasures. Like many of the unique hotels and resorts in the Florida Keys, the Kona Kai is nestled amongst palm trees and lush tropical plants that surround this exclusive resort. Barely visible from Route 1, the Kona Kai is the ideal resort for couples looking for a more peaceful, and relaxing, Florida vacation.
With thirteen beautifully appointed guest rooms and suites, the Kona Kai is made for the traveler who wants more than just a typical Florida beach vacation – like us!
We stayed at the Kona Kai for the first two nights of our vacation in the Florida Keys – and our last night there.
As you drive onto the property of the Kona Kai Resort, you feel like you are in another world. The intimate nature of the Kona Kai Resort makes it seem like it is situated miles from civilization, yet you are mere steps from Route 1, well within the city limits of Key Largo.
In addition to the beauty of the grounds surrounding Kona Kai Resort, the first thing you will notice is the fantastic personal service you receive while vacationing at this resort. Upon arrival at the front office, you are greeted warmly by staff who are ready to make sure your time at Kona Kai is everything you imagined – and more!
Even check-in is relaxing at Kona Kai! You are provided with all the information concerning the resort, a run down of the amenities (including private white sand beach, kayaks, beachfront table tennis, pool, jacuzzi), and great information about what to see and do in the area, and where to eat. The staff is more than happy to answer any questions you may have about your stay at Kona Kai.
From the pristine sand beach (that we witnessed being raked and cleared of debris every day), to the impeccable gardens and immaculate guest rooms and suites, no detail is left to chance at Kona Kai Resort.
We first noticed this attention to detail upon entering our 1 bedroom suite at Kona Kai Resort.
The pastel “beachy” colours, the crisp white linens, the whimsical lamp stand, and the bedside tables. This room was everything I love about decor in the sunny south!
And speaking of “beach decor”, here’s just another example of the fabulous decor items that were placed around our suite.
Relaxing in this beautiful open-concept living room/kitchen at night, was heavenly.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more fully stocked kitchen than I did in our suite at the Kona Kai Resort. They seem to have thought of everything, including “shatterproof” wine glasses! Perfect for taking your glass of wine to the beach to watch sunsets like this one:
Spend your early mornings sitting outside in your private outdoor area like we did, enjoying fresh fruit from the on-site Kona Kai fruit trees(part of the Botanic Gardens), a cup of coffee made in your own coffee maker, and watching the fascinating little lizards that streak past your feet – trying not to be caught! Our mornings at Kona Kai were so tranquil and relaxing.
You’ve got the best of both worlds at Kona Kai Resort. If you desire to just spend time alone with your partner, you’ll find lots of private areas at the resort. If socializing is more your scene, you can invite fellow guests over to your patio area for a “happy hour” beverage. As you can see, there is plenty of room for friends to visit.
For those that enjoy water activities, Kona Kai Resort offers guests plenty of ways to enjoy the water. Slip into a complimentary kayak and paddle in the (usually) calm waters of Florida Bay. Take a dip in the Kona Kai beachfront pool, or have a soak in the adjoining jacuzzi. For the more adventurous visitors, strap on your snorkeling gear and get salty in the waters of Florida Bay. The water here is clear enough that you can see to the bottom. You can enjoy watching some of the sea creatures that inhabit this water. As always, when swimming in any saltwater bay, use caution. Small sharks, jellyfish, and even saltwater crocodiles have been known to inhabit this area. We enjoyed two snorkeling sessions during our stay at Kona Kai Resort, and loved every minute of it.
For guests who wish to venture a little further out in the water, there are many companies in the area that offer water activities. We booked an eco-tour of the southern Everglades via the Kona Kai Resort. It was a thrill to head out into Florida Bay and boat deep into the mangroves. Be sure to watch the blog for more on this a “one-of-a-kind” experience!
Our final night in the Florida Keys was spent back at the Kona Kai Resort. We chose this location thanks to its proximity to the airport we were flying from the next day, however, we were glad we chose to stay here for our final night simply because this resort had stolen our heart from the minute we had arrived five days earlier.
Once again we found ourselves in another beautiful one bedroom suite. You couldn’t help but feel happy in these bright, cheery, and clean accommodations!
If you do book a visit to Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanical Gardens, may we suggest a few things:
- as mentioned in my post “11 Reasons To Come Explore The Other Florida – Before It’s Too Late”, if you have a choice, visit Kona Kai Resort in the “off-season”. Off-season generally means fewer tourists, and therefore, much less traffic along Route 1. We loved being there in early November – just before peak tourist season.
- get staff to book you an eco-tour through the southern Everglades. It’s an outing you’ll never forget. If you are lucky, you’ll even spot a manatee, or two, like we did!
- book a TYUP™ tour, a personalized 90 minute tour by our staff botanist that will “Transform Your Understanding of Plants.” We did it, and cannot recommend it enough!
- Kona Kai Resort does not have an onsite restaurant. Staff can assist you with some great options for all your meals. As well, suites at the resort come stocked with all the dishes, utensils, and appliances you need to be able to make your own meals in your suite. So if this option is more your style, stock up at the local grocery store and create your own seafood dishes!
Our visit to the Kona Kai Resort was arranged in part by the great folks at The Florida Keys & Key West. It’s no secret that bloggers are often given special perks to review products, hotels, and tourist attractions. It is for this reason that I am sometimes left to wonder if something we received was “special”, or if the average tourist would receive the same special treatment. At Kona Kai, I wasn’t left to wonder. From the feedback we received from other guests at Kona Kai, to the genuine interactions we had with staff at the resort (who had no idea we were there for a review), I have no doubt that our fabulous visit to Kona Kai Resort was truly “business as usual”.
Have you ever visited the Florida Keys? Tell us about your time there!