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FOUR PALMS -- HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Andrew's Inn (Zero Whalton Lane; 888-263-7393 or 305-294-7730, fax 305-294-0021; $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; 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; $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; $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; $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; $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; $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
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