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KEY TO HAPPINESS

Written by Bridget Williams

There are trips of a lifetime and trips that are lifelines. For me, Bungalows Key Largo falls into the latter. Working out the kinks in my weary soul like a skilled masseuse, a few days of self- indulgence here left me feeling fortified to tackle whatever life threw my way when I returned to "the real world".


Located at Mile Marker 99 in Key Largo, the first and northernmost of the Florida Keys, Bungalows Key Largo is an easy-to-access oasis that strikes the right balance between up and downtime. It's also a reminder to not judge a book by its cover. Cited directly off of the Overseas Highway, the resort hides in plain sight among the seemingly endless string of dive shops and dive bars that populate this narrow strip of roadway linking Miami to Key West.

Another era awaits as soon as you exit the thoroughfare; even the property's logo hearkens to the font used by the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel. Having arrived at MIA late morning, it wasn't even noon when I arrived at the resort. And, while I politely passed on the welcome cocktail, no one else checking in at that time seemed concerned with the clock and was happy to imbibe. If you want to bypass the 60-mile drive, you can arrive at the resort's doorstep via seaplane (and make all of the other guests green with envy).

Resort staff reaches out to each guest in advance of their arrival to map out their dining and activity schedule. After checking in, my bags were loaded into a golf cart for an escort to my room. As we passed through the security gate, any ambient street noise was abated by the rustling of palm fronds planted en masse with other tropical foliage to create a verdant cocoon. Throughout my three- day stay, I strolled the resort's sandy "streets" quite often just to admire the transportive power the plantings had on me.

Situated on 11.5 waterfront acres facing Buttonwood Sound, the all-inclusive, adults-only (21 and older), no smoking resort is comprised of 135 standalone bungalows (31 900-square- foot waterfront bungalows and 104 1,00-square-foot garden bungalows), that offers exceptional privacy and elbow room. As I crossed the threshold, a text from the virtual concierge informed me that anything I might need is just a few keystrokes away. Surveying my digs for the next few days, the only thing that came to mind was the need to extend my stay!

My garden bungalow’s contemporary coastal décor was spot on, but what I loved most was outside the chic confines: an alfresco soaking tub and shower connected to a private veranda enveloped by lush greenery. Executed in the resort's signature baby blue hue, a Nel Lusso beach cruiser parked outside my room was an invitation to feel like a kid again by riding a bike solely for the fun of it.

Ease of access makes the Bungalows at Key Largo an ideal quick getaway, and the varied dining destinations mean that you don't have to leave to keep your palate pleased. Bogie & Bacall's quite literally represents the pinnacle of the on-property dining experiences. Located on the top floor of the resort's main pavilion, a dress code correlates with the caliber of the cuisine. The restaurant is attached to Hemingway's Bar, a cozy spot whose décor pays homage to Key West's most famous author-in-residence. Guests gather here for a cocktail hour before the five-course meal.

Serving three meals daily, the breezy environs at Fish Tales complement the views of the infinity pool and the bay. The breakfast buffet is a sight to behold, with Bloody Mary and mimosa stations. At lunch, fresh veggies from nearby Homestead are a perfect partner for grilled fish and peel-and-eat shrimp. Toes-in-the-sand sipping and supping are had a Sea Señor, which celebrates the vibrant flavors of Mexico. Guests consistently seek refuge from the sun under the thatched roof of the poolside Sunset Tiki Bar, which serves up premium cocktails and refreshing frosty concoctions.

Spa services are not inclusive but should definitely be included in your itinerary. The spa's co-ed Asian-inspired relaxation room with a Himalayan salt cave and a eucalyptus steam room is open to a black bamboo-forested courtyard bisected by paths leading to individual treatment rooms. Adjacent to the spa, the Zen Pool is ideal for guests seeking a more tranquil day in the sun.

My facial was a refreshing departure from the product-centric, clinical variety that focuses on flaws and makes you believe the best thing you can pick up in the spa boutique is a gift bag to put over your head when you leave. Jose, my therapist, was a bundle of positive energy. When he noticed my neck muscles were extraordinarily tight, he politely asked if we could shorten the hand and arm massage portion of the treatment to adequately address the effects of looking down at a keyboard all day. The lymphatic facial massage, followed by 20 minutes each in the salt cave and steam room, left me with enough dewy glow to go sans makeup for the remainder of the day.

As tempting as it might be for some to linger as long as possible poolside or in a beachfront hammock, I'm not one to sit still for long. It took minimal effort to discover a plethora of activities to keep me occupied. Yoga is offered each day on either the Tranquility Lawn or Coconut Beach. The open-air Fitness Tiki Hut boasts Peloton Bikes, elliptical and rowing machines, a treadmill, and free weights (and a wonderfully distracting view of the Zen Pool). Paddleboard and kayaks remain at the ready for exploring the bay's calm waters and observing the creatures that call it home. Vegetation growing under one of the property's docks is particularly palatable to a family of manatees who often drop by to the delight of guests and staff alike.

Happy hour becomes the happiest hour when you board one of two whimsical tiki boats on property. Complimentary scenic tours are offered each day aboard a Duffy Electric Boat. Add-on aquatic adventures include catered day trips on "Lady B," a 55-foot custom catamaran, or the on the more intimate 28-foot WorldCat power catamaran. With some of the most fascinating botanical scenery in Florida, including the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef, there are myriad ways for exploring the sights and scenery above and below the water. I've always found a healthy dose of vitamin sea to be a superb salve for the soul.

Bungalows Key Largo is located at 99010 Overseas Highway in Key Largo, Florida.

For more information or reservations

visit bungalowskeylargo.com

call (866) 801-0195

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