common / Luxe Living

New luxury resort a compelling reason for a Key Largo getaway

BY MARY THURWACHTER


A beach view at Playa Largo. 
COURTESY PHOTOS A beach view at Playa Largo. COURTESY PHOTOS This year, to mark the Summer Solstice — the longest day of the year — I chose a Florida Keys getaway with the shortest travel distance: Key Largo. It’s only a 2-hour, 10-minute drive from West Palm Beach. The island’s unobstructed sunset views are among its biggest attractions.

I celebrated the setting sun on the beach at Playa Lago Resort & Spa (www.playalargoresort.com), a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel and the first new resort built in Key Largo in 20 years. It’s at mile marker 97 on the Florida Bay side of the Overseas Highway on 14 waterfront acres once home to a campground and RV park.

Tin roof, large balconies with white railings and the classic eyebrow-style roof line typical of vernacular Key West architecture can be found on the resort’s four wings, 10 two-story cottages and a three-bedroom beach house.


Ocean Spa at Playa Largo offers a menu of treatments that merges the most current technologies with a tropical flair. Ocean Spa at Playa Largo offers a menu of treatments that merges the most current technologies with a tropical flair. The lobby sparkles with terrazzo floors, a dramatic spiral staircase to the lower level and cheese hole wall leading to Las Olas ceviche bar. A central fountain surrounded with lanterns and a circle of hanging chairs made of rope and resembling fish net show the lobby’s subtle nautical theme.

Guest rooms are large, with high ceilings and wood paneled walls mimicking the wall decking of old clipper ships. Floors are tiled in wood-washed porcelain. Area rugs and accent furniture reflect a neutral color scheme.

The resort has several restaurants: Las Olas Ceviche Bar, LaMarea for breakfast, and the al fresco Sol by the Sea, built around an old boathouse on the water. Its walls are covered in reclaimed buoys for a touch of barefoot luxury. All three eateries are very good, but for its seafood menu and Keys ambiance, Sol by the Sea, overlooking a 22-slip marina, can’t be beat.


An aerial view of Playa Lago Resort & Spa has 144 rooms and suites and 10 private bungalows on 14 beachfront acres in Key Largo. An aerial view of Playa Lago Resort & Spa has 144 rooms and suites and 10 private bungalows on 14 beachfront acres in Key Largo. The manmade beach has plenty of lounge chairs, hammock pods and kayaks and paddleboards.

I hung out on the beach, splashed in the calm clear waters of Florida Bay and swam in a sparkling zero entry lagoon style pool before stretching out on a lounge chair to soak up the sun.

I didn’t have time to try out the fitness center, but did take an hour for a reflexology treatment — much more than a foot massage — in the resort’s Ocean Spa. Absolutely divine!

While enjoying dinner at Sol by the Sea, I watched the sun set on the longest day of the year. But it ended all too quickly for me!

Top reasons to go to Key Largo


The resort has pools, cabanas, fire pits and watersport programs including kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, diving, boating an ocean excursions. 
PHOTOS BY MARY THURWACHTER/FLORIDA WEEKLY The resort has pools, cabanas, fire pits and watersport programs including kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, diving, boating an ocean excursions. PHOTOS BY MARY THURWACHTER/FLORIDA WEEKLY Playa Largo is one of my favorite reasons to go to Key Largo. Here are five more:

1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (www.pennekamppark.com). Take a glass-bottom boat tour for a view of the coral reefs and underwater park, home to “Christ of the Abyss,” a 4,000- pound bronze sculpture of Jesus Christ standing under 25 feet of water.

2. Dolphin Cove. Swim or snorkel with Flipper’s friends in a natural lagoon at Dolphin Cove (www.dolphinsplus.com). Besides getting up close with dolphins, you can get to know some friendly sea lions, too!

3. Florida Keys Wild Bird Center (www.fkwbc.org). The nonprofit organization rescues, rehabilitates and releases native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced. Stroll along the Sanctuary boardwalk and see what winged creatures fly in to greet you.


Guest rooms are equipped with coffee makers, water, a snack bar and a nifty straw hat for purchase. Guest rooms are equipped with coffee makers, water, a snack bar and a nifty straw hat for purchase. 4. Silent World Dive Center (www.silentworld.com). Scuba divers already know this place. It offers daily dive and snorkel trips to the most popular dive sites in the Upper Florida Keys. Drinks are complimentary and night dives are available.

5. The restaurants. In Key Largo, you can go out and reel in your dinner or find some mighty good seafood at local eateries. I recommend Sol by the Sea (www.playalargoresort.com/sol-bythesea), a photogenic beach shack at the edge of a pier where motor yachts are docked. Try the blackened grouper and conch fritters, for starters. Other popular island eateries include Ballyhoos (www.ballyhoosrestaurant.com) for stone crabs, The Fish House (www.fishhouse.com) and Encore for snapper, mahi-mahi grouper and Florida lobster, and Snapper’s (www.snapperskeylargo.com) for its (pet-friendly) tiki bar and yummy fish sandwiches. ¦



The Miami Dolphin cheerleaders, who spent the day working on photo shoots for their 2018 calendar, celebrated with dinner and dancing at Sol by the Sea restaurant at Playa Largo. The Miami Dolphin cheerleaders, who spent the day working on photo shoots for their 2018 calendar, celebrated with dinner and dancing at Sol by the Sea restaurant at Playa Largo.

A circle of hanging hammock chairs invites guests to kick back and relax in the lobby. A circle of hanging hammock chairs invites guests to kick back and relax in the lobby.

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