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Summer 2007 | Key West Travel Guide Part 2

Summer 2007 | Key West Travel Guide Part 2

FOUR PALMS -- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Andrew's Inn (Zero Whalton Lane; 888-263-7393 or 305-294-7730, fax 305-294-0021; www.andrewsinn.com; $119-$309) Tucked away at the end of a tiny gravel street just off Duval, this inn is remarkably intimate and private for its central Old Town location. The property is primarily straight and small but attractive, with a cute pool in the courtyard. The pool is perfect for a refreshing dip but inadequate for serious pool frolicking. Rooms and cottages are all adorably furnished and very private. Breakfast and cocktail hours feature a table overflowing with snacks and beverages and can be a nice time to mingle with other guests. (Location: Old Town; rooms: nine; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: FB/C)

Coral Tree Inn (822 Fleming St.; 800-362-7477 or 305-296-2131, fax 350-296-9171; www.oasiskeywest.com or www.foremostgayhotels.com; $139-$289) While the backyard of staircases, verandahs, trees and naked men strewn about is pretty, the rooms, in general, are unimpressive, with renovated baths, phones, refrigerators, and VCR/TVs. The balconies affording views of neighboring inns and the pool below are a plus, but the grounds are in need of TLC. Bathrooms are clean, and service is top-notch. Self-service breakfast and afternoon rum runners and pina coladas are available in the dining area or outside around the pool. New guests receive a complimentary bottle of white wine and a bowl of snacks upon arrival. Wireless internet access is available. Associated with the Oasis (with its pool and steamy 24-man hot tub) and the Coconut Grove guesthouse across the street, the more reserved Coral Tree feels like an afterthought. Guests have access to all three properties, making it the largest male guesthouse on the island. But those looking for a quiet getaway would be better served with other four-palm options that have maintained a higher level of attention to their property. (Location: Convenient; rooms: 11; nude sunbathing: yes; sexual temperature: moderate; clientele: EG/100%M; meals: ECB/C)

Equator (818 Fleming St.; 800-278-4552 or 305-294-7775, fax 305-296-5765; www.equatorresort.com; $120-$230) Beautifully designed, landscaped, and decorated, the Equator reflects passionate commitment to service, attention to detail and southern hospitality. Three houses form a high-end postmodern Caribbean resort with a lovely pool, gorgeous plantings, and a little exotic fish pond. Rooms are packed with every amenity imaginable including king-size beds, gorgeous linens and tasteful paintings and art objects. Two rooms have two beds and high ceilings. Four have French porches. Rates include full hot breakfast and evening happy hour (with beer, wine and special frozen drinks), all served by an extraordinarily friendly and helpful staff. There is also a private two-man outdoor shower, dubbed "the monsoon." The resort seems to draw an attractive, well-heeled, worldly crowd. We were really impressed with our visit and the feedback we've received thus far from recent guests. A new owner took over in 2005 and has redone the pool and decking. (Location: Convenient; rooms: 15; nude sunbathing: yes; sexual temperature: moderate; clientele: EG/100%M; meals: FB/C)

Duval House (815 Duval St.; 800-223-8825 or 305-294-1666, fax 305-292-1701; www.duvalhousekeywest.com; $125-$350) All rooms face the gorgeous and lush interior courtyard and pool area in this lovingly restored and surprisingly tranquil resort comprised of seven vintage homes set in one of Duval's busiest areas (near all the gay bars). The pool is lovely and while the view from the porch out the romantic courtyard is right out of a Tennessee Williams play, the rooms themselves fall short -- Blanche DuBois would never stop here without Stanley leading her on. Guests may take their breakfast or a little respite from the sun in a gazebo. Unfortunately, you probably won't be among family here as the clientele is predominantly straight (although "kids under 12 are discouraged"). Indeed, this resort seems popular with honeymooners. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 30; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: CB)

Heron House (512 Simonton St.; 888-861-9066 or 305-294-9227, fax 305-294-5692; www.heronhouse.com; $159-$389) Luxurious grounds (including an onsite orchid nursery) and elegant rooms (some with marble baths) characterize this unpretentious -- almost country-clubbish -- resort. The staff is very friendly and services include a full-time concierge and nightly turndown service. The predominantly straight clientele is quiet, refined and older. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 23; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 90% straight; meals: ECB/C)

Island House (1129 Fleming St.; 800-890-6284 or 305-294-6284, fax 305-292-0051; www.islandhousekeywest.com; $95-499) The Island House has completed an expensive (to the tune of over $2.5 million) and extraordinary refurbishment, including a full-service patio bar and restaurant serving tasty and creative fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner; a sunny gym; and a rather elegant erotic video room with seven screens. The suites have luxurious featherbeds, new carpets, bathrooms, showers, ceilings, furniture, tasteful artwork and plenty of amenities. Although still known for its hot, clothing-optional atmosphere, the owners now encourage sexual activity to stay behind the doors of the soundproofed rooms or inside the video lounge out of consideration for guests enjoying the pool. The level of customer service and attention to detail surpasses many gay guesthouses. If you've ever stayed at Island House before, you may not recognize the place. (Location: North; rooms: 38; nude sunbathing: yes/entire property (except gym, by state law) is clothing-optional; sexual temperature: high; clientele: EG/100%M; meals: C)

La Te Da (1125 Duval St.; 877-528-3320 or 305-296-6706, fax 305-296-3981; www.lateda.com; $100-310) The La Te Da offers 15 guest rooms, some with Jacuzzi; three bars (the Crystal Room cabaret has entertainment), a heated swimming pool and multilevel sun decks, including a clothing-optional upper deck. Very smartly furnished, this hotel/restaurant/cabaret complex still feels small and local and is a great place to stop for a drink or a meal while shopping on Duval. (Location: Atlantic; rooms: 15; nude sunbathing: yes, clothing-optional deck; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 75% gay/straight-friendly; meals: FB)

Azul Key West (formerly Lightbourn Inn, 907 Truman Ave.; 305-296-5152, fax 305-294-9490;azulkeywest.com; $149-$299) New owners have taken over this formerly gay-popular inn and emphatically state that "gays and lesbians are not our target market." While it is theoretically an "all-welcome" property, we felt that gays and lesbians were definitely unwelcome. Rooms have been renovated and boast flat-screen TVs and wireless access. All bathrooms feature travertine marble floors and Aveda toiletries. Azul is a non-smoking property. (Location: Convenient; rooms: 11; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: FB)

Mermaid and the Alligator (729 Truman Ave.; 800-773-1894 or 305-294-1894; www.kwmermaid.com; $128-$258) An unexpected oasis on a traffic-heavy street, the Mermaid is an intimate eight-room Victorian bed & breakfast providing a quiet, upscale environment to a primarily straight clientele (although the gay owners live on site). Its detached cottage is popular with couples and heterosexual newlyweds in particular. Several of the uniquely styled rooms contain step-up, four-poster king-size beds fit for the most hedonistic queen. The splendid, eclectic art from the owners' personal collection is worth a visit, as are the magical gardens -- containing hundreds of plant, bird and fish species -- created by one of the owners, a locally renowned botanist. Any room you choose -- all are done spectacularly in lush fabrics and beautiful ceramic tiles -- is a guaranteed winner. With a larger pool (it only has a "plunge pool"), it'd be perfection. (Location: Convenient; rooms: 9; nude sunbathing: rarely; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 75% straight; meals: FB/p.m. wine)

Oasis Guesthouse (823 Fleming St.; 800-362-7477 or 305-296-2131, fax 350-296-9171; www.oasiskeywest.com; $119-$239) Associated with the more reserved Coral Tree across the street the Oasis is a perennially popular choice with its extensive sun decks, two pools and 24-man hot tub. Rooms are attractively furnished, and service is very good. New guests receive a complimentary bottle of decent white wine and a bowl of snacks upon arrival. The Oasis offers attractively decorated and upgraded rooms. The Oasis and Coral Tree Inn purchased the Coconut Grove guesthouse in July 2003, making it the largest male guesthouse on the island. (Location: convenient; rooms: 20; nude sunbathing: yes; sexual temperature: high; clientele: EG/100%M; meals: ECB/C)

Pearl's Rainbow (525 United St.; 800-749-6696 or 305-292-1450; www.pearlsrainbow.com; $99-$369) Pearl's Rainbow is a 38-room, two-pool, two-hot tub mega-inn -- and still the only exclusively women's guesthouse on the island. The property consists of five historic buildings: an 1889 cigar factory, the "Surf Motel" built in 1950 and three former cigar makers' cottages. The current owners have earned awards for their ongoing restoration efforts. The exterior received a much-needed facelift; the outdoor decks were rebuilt and new ones added; and the rooms were updated with tropical flair. There are six suites, the pools are attractive, and there is plenty of shaded area for those wishing to avoid the sun. One deluxe poolside suite is wheelchair accessible. Two rooms are designated as pet-friendly. The staff, a.k.a. "Pearl's Girls," is welcoming and very attentive to guests' needs. Although the clientele consists predominantly of couples (75 to 80% they estimate) who come here for a man-free, clothing-optional, romantic getaway, singles are warmly welcomed. In fact, Pearl's Patio (www.pearlspatio.com), a shaded bar and café, provides the only nightlife option just for women on the island, and happy hour usually draws a lively crowd. Inside the main house, Pearl's onsite chef whips up delectable dishes for daily breakfast service and dinners on special occasions; the cozy dining area is open to non-guests as well. Have an even more relaxing vacation and avail of massages in one of the courtyards. A true tropical oasis for women. (Location: Atlantic; rooms: 38; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: moderate; clientele: 100%W; meals: ECB)

Pier House (One Duval St.; 800-327-8340 or 305-296-4600; fax 305-296-9085; www.pierhouse.com; $229-$3,000) is the only large hotel with a true gay following. The staff is very gay-friendly, but the resort is not as involved in the community as it once was. This property does have a small sandy beach -- a rarity on Key West. There is a full-service spa, three restaurants and four bars, and while the hotel is a bit non-Key West and more like a convention hotel, the rooms have a brilliant Colonial/Caribbean feel. Ask for a room in the Caribbean Spa Building. (Location: Gulf; rooms: 142; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 85% straight; meals: none)

Pilot House (414 Simonton St.; 800-648-3780 or 305-293-6600, fax 305-294-9298; www.pilothousekeywest.com; $115-$265) The Pilot House's location is quiet yet near enough to the action on Duval. The decor is quaint and romantic. All rooms have at least kitchenettes (some have full kitchens), and the poolside cabana rooms have in-room Jacuzzis and wet bars. The pool and deck are small but pretty. The six-person, clothing-optional hot tub is in a private, enclosed corner of the property for those wet, romantic moments. The staff is very friendly. The gay population now accounts for about 30 percent of the business, compared to 25 percent a few years ago; during our recent visit it seemed awfully straight -- albeit naked. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 14; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 70% straight; meals: none)

Simonton Court (320 Simonton St.; 800-944-2687 or 305-294-6386, fax 305-293-8446; www.simontoncourt.com; $145-$515) This large complex of cottages, an inn, townhouse, manor and mansion has three smallish pools and one large one (featuring real coral built into the walls and floor) and trellised brick walkways. Originally built in 1880 as a Cuban cigar factory (overseen by the owner's imposing mansion), the property has been painstakingly restored. The gardens, porches and many comfortable nooks evoke a Key West of yesteryear. This is a very romantic property, especially at night, thanks to the recessed lighting and the moon peeping through the 100-year-old rustling palm trees. Lesbian couples have been coming here more in the past year or so and account for an increasing percentage of the gay clientele. Management is very professional and friendly. Cottages have more amenities (kitchenettes, some private Jacuzzis and a few private patios) but less charm than rooms in the main building (some have private balconies) Some cottages can accommodate up to six people. All rooms are light, airy and very comfortable and come furnished with at least one private phone. (Location: Old Town; rooms: 29; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 65% straight; meals: ECB)

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE

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