Key Largo

Last year after the South Beach Food and Wine Festival, I surprised the Chef with a one day trip to Key Largo. He woke up thinking we were headed back to Cleveland on our four year wedding anny but we weren't. Haha Chef.  Widow tricked you!

I always have a hard time buying the Chef gifts. He is a man that does not want. And if he does want it's probably a freaking 800 lb. french cookbook. And really, how many of those can one man really need?

So when the SOBE fest landed on our anny date I thought, perfect, I'll take him to Key West, the locale of our engagement. I started researching the drive, places to stay, and car rentals and realized that a one day trip from Miami to Key West would not be the best way to utilize our time together. The drive alone would take up the majority of both days. I decided to look at Key Largo. I had never been and had always loved The Beach Boys song Kokomo (they mention Key Largo). Yes I know I am absolutely ridiculous.  Howfreakinever,  if the B Boys mention a city in one of their songs, you know it's good times.  The Beach Boys only had good times. Besides you know the whole Charlie Manson, never leaving the house, crazy Brian Wilson thing...Bygones.

My first thought was to stay here. I was familiar with the chain and even had a credit card with some points that would knock of some of the cost. I booked a room for $220. I began to read the reviews of the hotel on TripAdvisor after I booked and soon decided that this was not the place for us. Every review reiterated the same thing, not clean, run down, and poor customer service. Exactly the opposite of what I was looking for. I continued to obsess on Trip Advisor and finally came across an adorable boutique hotel called Azul Del Mar.

We woke up Sunday morning in Miami, the Chef thinking we were headed back to snowy Cleveland, but soon were on US-1 headed south.

The Chef was ecstatic.  Anny gift, a success!

An hour and a half on US-1, we realized we had passed the boutique hotel we were so excited to get to. Our damn iPhone decided to lose service, we had about given up, and then saw the sign pointing us towards our final destination:

The Hotel: Azul Del Mar

The first thing the Chef and I noticed about Azul del Mar was how secluded it was off of US-1.  We pulled under an umbrella of trees to see a lovely white beach house.

Dominic + Chef

The Chef and I headed into a wee house that seemed to be the check in area and found ourselves face to face with Dominic, owner of Azul del Mar.  He inquired about our visit and we told him of our journey.  He pulled out a long skinny piece of paper that turned out to be a map, and started scribbling all over it. You must go here, here, and here he said in his faint British accent, these places have the best local foods.

He handed over the keys and walked us to our room, the tropical garden suite.  And sweet it was! As he opened the door to a gorgeous room, I couldn't help but be impressed.  The room was simply decorated with a hint of mod.  Not cheesy seashell motif in this garden suite!  After checking out the main room, we found a giant whirlpool tub loaded up with Aveda essentials.  My heaven.  Love it. Dominic was soon on his way and the Chef and I were set to explore Key Largo.

Queen Size Bed + Leather Couch + Kitchenette

Aveda + Bubble Bath = Lurve

Azul Del Mar was the absolute perfect hotel for us.  It was very secluded, with it's own private beach & pier, and very very beautiful.  The room was large, well decorated, and clean.  Dominic even had the fridge and cabinets all stocked with basic needs like wine glasses and ice!  Our Key Largo trip was pretty amazing and the food was off the hook.  More to come on that later.

The best thing about the Azul Del Mar was actually two things.  Dominic, the owner made our stay quite enjoyable.  By the end of our trip he even offered to sell us the joint.  I would have jumped on it in a second but my better half (aka the Chef) talked me out of it.  Best thing #2 was what everyone focuses on for travel, and that is the price.  Azul Del Mar was less than $200 a night and worth every penny.  The ambiance, the intricate customer service, and the seclusion of the boutique hotel made our short trip to Key Largo the most pleasurable trip ever.

For more info about The Florida Keys and Key Largo check this site out.  They also have a twitter & FB page and will respond to any Keysee questions.

For more info on Azul Del Mar, please head on over to their website.  If you book via phone, tell 'em I sent you!

To see more pictures of our Key Largo trip, check out (and be my friend!) Chef's Widow Flickr.