Alexander Palms Court (715 South St.; 800-858-1943 or 305-296-6413, fax 305-292-3975; $90-$300) Napping in a sleepy corner of the quiet Atlantic side of the island, this mini-motel-style property offers privacy in a very relaxed setting. The tiny deck area surrounds a small but inviting scallop-shaped pool. The vegetation is pretty but annoyingly overgrown in some walkways and around the pool. The rooms are frumpy but clean and feature standard amenities (TV and phones) but limited bathroom toiletries. The sum of these parts is a 1950s-1960s atmosphere. You half expect to see Lucy and Ethel concocting a zany plot by the pool. Service is very nice and relaxed. The majority of gays (evenly divided male/female) who visit here are couples.
• Location: Atlantic; rooms: 12; nude sunbathing: limited; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 70% straight/ 50%/50% gay/lesbian; meals: CB
Ambrosia House and Ambrosia Too (622 Fleming St.; 800-535-9838 or 305-296-9838; $139-$379, cottages $349-$549) Ambrosia is a pretty and romantic property. Some of the rooms seem designed for newlyweds, with over-the-top zebra-pattern bedspreads and sexy faux-leopard seat coverings. There is a pool and Jacuzzi in the small but lushly overgrown property. This could be rated three palms; however, questionable service warrants only two. Ambrosia Too across the street is nicer, with two pools, and offers a cute two-bedroom, two-bath cottage great for sharing. • Location: Old Town; rooms: seven; nude sunbathing: limited; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 90% straight; meals: CB
Chelsea House Pool and Gardens (707 and 709 Truman Ave.; 800-845-8859 or 305-296-2211; fax 305-296-4822; $99-$359) Located on a busy street (Route 1 -- the main entry point into Key West), the Chelsea House is nonetheless a charming 130-year-old guesthouse. Rooms are clean with contemporary furnishings. The property was taken over by new owners in 2005 and is being renovated, on a room by room basis. Upgrades include new tiles, new bed frames and flat-screen TVs in all rooms. The clientele is largely straight adults. Chelsea is also popular with young couples. Pets are allowed with advance notice for $20 per night per pet. The Chelsea House also incorporates what was the Red Rooster Inn next door. Originally built as a private mansion in 1870, it still feels like a big, gracious home -- albeit one with a clothing optional sundeck. • Location: Convenient; rooms: 33; nude sunbathing: yes; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 75% straight; meals: CB
Old Town Manor (511 Eaton St.; 800-294-2170 or 305-292-2170; fax 305-292-4018; $145-305) Three beautifully restored buildings (one, the 1832 William Skelton House, is among the island's oldest) surround a lush tropical oasis complete with a fish pond/fountain and garrulous parrots. Rooms are prettily decorated but can be small. New owners took over in fall 2006 and are sprucing up the place and promoting an "all welcome" environment. Their sister property around the corner, Rose Lane Villas with six condo-style units (www.roselanevillas.com), provides guests with access to a pool. • Location: Old Town; rooms: 14; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 75% straight; meals: CB/C
Tropical Inn (812 Duval St.; 888-611-6510 or 305-294-9977, fax 305-292-1656; $139-$499) A small property with decent landscaping and a pool, the Tropical Inn caters largely to straight visitors from North America and Europe. The staff is gay-friendly and has welcomed gays in the past but family visits rarely here now. • Location: Old Town; rooms: 11; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 100% straight; meals: ECB
Avalon (1317 Duval St.; 800-848-1317 or 305-294-8233; fax 305-294-9044; $89-$289) Restored in a quirky deco style, Avalon provides a clean, simple, inexpensive option to some of the more upscale guesthouses around. Rooms are rather large and furnishings quite comfortable, with big four-poster beds. There is a small pool and a hot tub but disappointing sun decks. The straight management reports fewer gay guests coming here than in years past. The lobby and front porch -- where breakfast is served -- have a real homey feel, adding to the already nice vibe. • Location: Atlantic; rooms: 10; nude sunbathing: no; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: ECB
ONE PALM -- LAST RESORTS
Garden House (329 Elizabeth St.; 800-695-6453 or 305-296-5368, fax 305-292-1160; $139-$199) This guesthouse has smallish rooms, an unappealing deck area and tiny pool. It caters to a largely European clientele and allows children 13 and older. Everyone seems to smoke.
• Location: Old Town; rooms: 10; nude sunbathing: permitted; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 95% straight; meals: CB/C
Heartbreak Hotel (716 Duval St.; 305-296-5558, fax 305-296-5559; $79-$299) The Web site now touts its location in "the gayest block in Key West" and claims new owners have totally renovated the property, but we haven't visited recently. It had been aptly named. Still no phones and no pool, but rooms do come with fully equipped kitchens and cable TV. Two doors down is the Bourbon Street Pub pool, which is open to everyone. • Location: Old Town; rooms: six; nude sunbathing: n/a; sexual temperature: none; clientele: n/a; meals: none
Key Lodge Motel (1004 Duval St.; 800-845-8384 or 305-296-9915 or 396-9750; $69-$289) With decent-size but tired rooms, a pretty big pool and plenty of parking (all rooms have views of the parking lot), this is, yup, a motel all right. Improvements were made to the pool and grounds and the rooms were repainted in April 2002. But we haven't visited since work was completed to verify the owner's prediction that the property would emerge as a "small luxury hotel." • Location: Old Town; rooms: 24; nude sunbathing: none; sexual temperature: low; clientele: 80% straight; meals: CB