Have never been to Key West and considering a visit. Starting from Marco Island, FL, we can either drive, take the Key West Express ferry for about $100-120 per person, or take a charter flight for $199 per person. Assuming money is no object (which isn't exactly true...), which mode of transportation is best? MapQuest says the drive from Marco is under 5 hours, but I've heard stories of it actually being 8-12 hours because traffic along the keys can be horrendous. Is that accurate? Also, it appears that Marriott has about 4 properties on Key West, including a CY, 2 FFIs, and a Marriott which says it is beachside but doesn't appear to really be on a beach. Looks like none of the Marriott properties are actually on a beach? Anywhere other than a Marriott that we should stay? Is Key West worth visiting at all? The Marriott property is $459/night so maybe a candidate for points redemption? Or should we try Key Largo instead? Or just stay on Marco? Looks like there is a Marriott with a beach (looks pretty small, but a real sandy beach) in Key Largo. Our frame of reference for Florida beach resorts are: Marriott Marco Island, Marco timeshares, Ritz Naples on Vanderbilt Beach, and Ritz Amelia Island all of which have fabulous beaches right behind the properties, as well as Ft. Lauderdale Ritz and timeshares and Marriott Sand Key in Clearwater which have beaches across the street, so I'm wondering how the Keys compare. Any advice on Florida Keys generally would be appreciated! Thanks!
Although Key West is an interesting place to visit, it is not really a 'beach' place and none of the Marriott's have a traditional beach. The Courtyard and FFI are basically your typical older chain hotels that charge ridiculously high prices (points or cash) because they are in Key West. The Marriott property is a converted timeshare with lockoffs. I stayed there a few years ago (when it was 4 categories lower) and had a 1BR with full kitchen as a result of a platinum upgrade. The studio side is a basic hotel room with small windows. I've read that it is more difficult to get an upgrade now, so I would recommend the 1BR. It has a nice pool and a man-made beach the size of a putting green. There are nice public beaches a couple of miles from the hotel. It is located away from downtown, but a complimentary shuttle is available. I would consider it similar to the Clearwater Sand Key property, although it is newer and nicer. Key West offers an advantage of being further south, so it gets warm sooner. The traffic depends on the time of year you visit. We used to enjoy Key West before it became so touristy. The Casa Marina was a great resort and location, but is no longer a Marriott property.
You really can't beat Marco Island for beach location. I also like the Marriott timeshare properties and Suites Resort on Singer Island. These are all located on the beach and the Island is quiet while still only 10 minutes away from good restaurants. My brother likes Key Largo for snorkeling and fishing, but he stays in a condo and told me the Marriott there is not really a resort.
Super helpful. Thank you! Not sure why I expected Key West to have a lot of beaches! Snorkeling sounds fun, though. Maybe we will try Singer Island instead as we have MVC points to use or lose within the next year. I found it amusing that Marriott's website for the Key West hotel said it is a Caribbean location. I thought the Keys were in the Gulf of Mexico, but what do I know? My daughter came home with a school assignment that said Miami is a major city in Central America, so maybe geography has changed a lot since I was in school
Key West does have a Caribbean island feel to it, but the beaches are not as nice and only a few (non-Marriott) hotels are on the beach. We love Singer Island and own both at Oceana Palms and Ocean Pointe. We now prefer Oceana Palms unless we only need 1BR or are traveling with pre-teens. Oceana Palms typically has better availability for DC points because a majority is owned by the trust. Deep sea fishing is good because the Gulf stream is located just off shore. There are a few places to snorkel in the area.
I understand that the Marriott Marco Island resort will be closing for a while for significant remodeling to become a JW. Crystal Shores is also being expanded so construction may disrupt the tranquility of the resort for a while.
Yes, I was told by Marriott personnel that Marriott Marco is closing in May for a re-brand to JW and will reopen in November. And MVC told me that Crystal Shores is adding 2 new towers and 176 more units. It currently has only 69 units so it sounds like a massive expansion. It is very hard to get into Crystal Shores on trust points, so I am hoping the expansion will create more availability. I have stayed there on cash (with the MOD discount) and got upgraded to an ocean-front villa. It was heavenly! Thanks for the tips on Oceana Palms and Ocean Pointe. We have not been to the Palm Beach area and will have to check it out.
As superchief1 aptly put it: "You really can't beat Marco Island for beach location." I have stayed at the Crystal Shores property and it was terrific. The Marriott Resort very near the Vacation Club property there is also first class. Both are on the beach looking West at a lot of water. Key West is worthwhile visiting and reachable from Marco Island. We had no problem with a day trip there, a little rough coming home, but all in all a good day. Good luck.
went to Key west once and flew commercial right into it. We stayed at the southern most inn ( I think that was the name) and was right on a great beach. It is very Caribbean and eclectic that is anything goes there . Overall it is a lot of fun and walking Duval St is a treat
We love Key West and have found it to be a place that you either love or not so much. As previously mentioned not much of a beach town for sure, just fun to watch the people enjoy the sunset from Mallory Square and ride bikes around the island. Most of our stays have been short, no more than two days plus the last morning before leaving. We have enjoyed staying at Key West Hotels | Island City House Hotel | 800.634.8230 as it is very very clean and had a room in Cigar House on the 3rd floor that was lovely and very very clean.
As for getting there, DO NOT DRIVE unless you want to go mad on U.S. 1 with traffic and it can happen going either direction any time of day. The Key West Express we have not taken, but here it is a good mode of transportation. We have flown from TPA each time and you can also go back north to RSW and get there. Not sure what the fares are right now and if you are able to charter $199/person round trip I'd do that from Marco Island.
As far as to where to go, you just have to look at each area and what they excel at. Key West is fantastic place to chill, party, get into water sports (snorkel/scuba, jet ski, sunset cruises, fishing, etc.). Duval Street is fantastic. Good food, drink, music, some shopping, and people watching. Some local sites and interesting history. If you are looking to sit on a beach all day, not the best location. If you want to get sun, relax, and generally chill out, great location. We have stayed at the Beachside both on points and also renting directly from an owner (not timeshare, they own the full unit year round). Good location away from town for quiet, execellent pool, easy access to town, etc. Have not stayed at any other Marriott properties there.
BTW, I could not disagree more on driving vs. flying or the ferry. If you have never made the drive, rent a convertible and do it. Fantastic scenery, views, sunshine and if you like, you can stop and browse some of the other keys on the way down. I have made the drive many times, I think well worth it but YMMV.
Wow, you all rock! Thanks for providing such helpful and descriptive responses! When are you thinking of heading to Key West, clebert? I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time!
We have no set agenda. We have a vacation place on Marco and have also stayed at the Marriott Marco properties before buying our place, and we love both those properties. So we were thinking sometime on an extended stay on Marco we'd sneak down to Key West and see the place. Driving sounds intriguing, but I'm not sure my spouse has the patience for it
Have never stayed at Marco Island. Thought they just had a major expansion/remodel not too many years ago, but time does fly. Me and my wife and son stayed at Key West Marriott several years ago. We have traveled extensively throughout the Caribbean and they kept advertising that Key West was the "Caribbean of the U.S.". After visiting there we decided nowhere is like the Caribbean but the Caribbean. Key West is a rock so, therefore, all the beaches are man made and not really all that great. Right behind the Marriott on the beach there were women in thongs as well as topless, so our teenage son thought that was interesting. There was a pier nearby and some people were removing their trunks before diving into the water. Again, not your typical scenery at a Marriott.
It sounds like you are describing the Casa Marina when it was a Marriott. I recall a similar experience when my daughter (about 9 at the time) told me to go out on the patio to see a 'woman with no top'. I think the beach near the pier was actually one of the first 'clothes optional' beaches in Florida. The Casa Marina was a really nice resort and definitely more like a resort than current Marriott properties on the island.