Friday, June 17, 2011

Key Largo Travel Reviews

Hotel: Azul Del Mar-We stayed two nights at Azul Del Mar. The hotel is actually an old mansion converted into a 6 room hotel. I believe that all of the rooms are suites. We had one of the ocean view rooms on the second floor, and it had a nice sized bedroom, a living room, a full kitchen, and a sun room that overlooked the ocean. Note that there is no elevator, so if you can't climb stairs, you would need to get one of the first floor rooms. On the property, there was a very small man-made beach, where I honestly would not go swimming, but it was pretty to look at, and a dock. There were also several huts with cushioned benches where you could get away from the sun. Both nights we were there, we sat under one of the huts and enjoyed the sunset with some wine. It was extremely peaceful and relaxing. It was also great to have a full kitchen in our room, including silverware, dishes, and glasses. We took advantage of this and went to a supermarket and bought ingredients to make breakfast and lunch so we didn't have to go to a restaurant for every meal. The hotel also has a very friendly stray cat that allows you to pet it. It followed us right into our room, so of course we also bought some cat food at the supermarket and gave him breakfast. The hotel was within walking distance of a couple of restaurants where we went to for dinner. I only have 3 small criticisms about this hotel: (1) there was no full length mirror in the room. I know Key Largo is casual, but I still wanted to be able to check my outfit; (2) there was no t.v. in the bedroom, only the living room. I realize that is not a problem for everyone, but I like to watch t.v. when I am getting ready for bed; and (3) they make a big deal on their website about offering activities, such as a sunset cruise to a wild bird sanctuary deep within the Everglades, and when we checked-in, the owner even told us about the sunset cruise again, but then they didn't offer it either night we were there. When I tried to book it, I was told the owner had something come up so he couldn't do it. While we didn't really mind because we were heading to the Everglades the next day, I would have been terribly disappointed if I had booked this hotel based on this information.

Here's a photo of the wine and cheese we had while waiting for the sunset. You can see the small beach and the dock in the background.

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And a photo of the sunset from the beach.

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Restaurants and Bars: The Big Chill-On our first night in Key Largo, we decided to walk to a restaurant, and the Big Chill, which was about 1/2 mile from our hotel, was first place that we came to. The Big Chill was kind of weird and actually made up of several smaller bars that were all connected. They had a sports bar inside, a tiki bar with live music and dancing, and a restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating. We were a little tired from the long drive and the wine we had at sunset, so we decided to sit at the outdoor part of the restaurant, and we were seated next to the canal where we could see the dancing at the tiki bar. The menu, or I should say menus, was also a bit weird. They actually handed us several menus as if there were several restaurants on the premises. One was kind of beachy (seafood, burgers, etc.) and one was Italian. We decided to have chips and salsa as an appetizer, but I cannot recall what either of us had for an entree, which is not a good sign for the food. I actually don't recall the food being bad, just probably generic and not memorable.

Here's a view from our table. Please excuse the really bad cell phone quality.

The Big Chill

Senor Frijoles-On our second night, we again decided to walk to a restaurant, so we ate at Senor Frijoles, which was only a little bit further from The Big Chill. A you can probably guess, Senor Frijoles is a Tex Mex place. We were again seated on the canal, and the place was pretty quiet and peaceful. Again, we started our meal with chips and salsa and then I had the bean and vegetable burrito as an entree. I don't recall what my husband had. The food was fine, but again on the generic side.

The Caribbean Club-We wanted to check this bar out since it was actually used in the movie "Key Largo" and we were able to walk there from our hotel. It is a real dive, but you could definitely have fun there. The inside bar area is pretty small, but they have a nice backyard area on the bay. On the night we went, there were very few people there, but they were having karaoke.

So, I think the moral of the above reviews are, if you really want a good meal in Key Largo, you probably should make an effort to look for one instead of just walking into the first place you can find.

Tours: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Snorkeling Tour-We decided to take the 9am snorkeling tour out of John Pennekamp, which is the first one of the day. We actually made reservations in advance, which was probably a good idea because there were a lot of people trying to get on the tour. I have to say upfront that I did have fun, but I have a lot of criticisms about the tour: (1) The registration process was incredibly disorganized, and disorganization stresses me out A LOT. We got to the park at 8am on the dot, which is when the park opens, but so did everyone else trying to get on the tour. Everyone had to stand in the same line, regardless of whether you had a reservation or not, so we wound up standing in line for close to an hour. The tour was supposed to leave at 9am, but we left much closer to 10am, and we really weren't kept apprised of what was going on. They had so many people that they wound up having 3 boats go out, which is really too many people to go snorkeling in one spot. They did not take us to the giant underwater Jesus statue, which looks really cool in all of the tour books and is really the big draw of the place. And, finally, the snorkeling was not that good. So, the bottom line is, I would recommend this place if you are in the area, but I wouldn't make a special trip just to go snorkeling there.

Here I am on the boat:

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  1. omg i want that first picture and the sunset one as my view every day!

  2. It sounds like you guys had such a great time!

  3. These pictures make me want to beeeeeee there! We went to Key West last year and had a blast!

  4. Sounds like an amazing vacation, that first photo is just perfect!

  5. That sunset is just gorgeous! It makes me want to go on vacation REALLY badly! It looks like you had a great time!

  6. Oh, Barbara, these are just lovely! That first shot actually took my breath away when I scrolled down to it. Great job!

  7. What fun! I absolutly love the first shot, so simple yet tells so much! I want to just jump into the scene! :D