A Plush Hideway in the Florida Keys


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If you must leave your lounge chair, let it be to kayak around Little Palm Island, where you can commune with birds wading in the mangroves.

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As I lay on my lounge chair watching the egrets preen on the sandbar at low tide, oblivious to my voyeurism, I felt the first tinges of surrender. Abandon did not come without a dogged fight. Life on the mainland — work, traffic, teenage daughters, a ticker-tape of obligations — is an all-consuming, around-the-clock frenzy.

But the Florida Keys always offer an escape hatch. They command relaxation, managing somehow to slow the heart rates of even the most incorrigible multitaskers. This is even truer here on Little Palm Island, a private five-acre islet that offers a chandelier-bedecked, thatched-roof luxury resort, a smattering of mischievous key deer and one exhortation: Let it all go.

Little Palm Island Resort and Spa nudged me into that mind-set the moment my husband and I arrived at the check-in area and boat landing on Little Torch Key, which is about a 30-minute drive north of Key West. From there, you take a 15-minute boat ride to the islet. The car stayed behind, as did our credit card number (so that we wouldn’t have to think about it again, until the staggering bill arrived — prices range from $890 to $1,700 a night excluding taxes and fees). Then we slipped away, a rum concoction called the Gumby Slumber firmly in hand, aboard the Truman, a wood-paneled boat named for the president who used Little Palm Island as a fishing camp.

On Little Palm, there are no cars and there is no lobby, just a concierge who greeted us on the dock and steered us along sandy mazelike trails to our hut. The first thing I noticed was the silence. No ringtones or chatter (cellphones are strictly banned in public areas). No sports blasting from flat-screens (there is only one television at the resort). No children under 16 (no shouting or whining). With only 30 suites on the property, conversation was scarce, even around the small but inviting freshwater pool and the nearby skinny strand of beach. Tranquillity isn’t expected to make you giddy but it did exactly that as we anticipated the many happily uncluttered hours ahead of us. As a recovering activity freak, I’ve seen the light: Nothingness is bliss.

Couples, some well into retirement age, a few just a sprint to their 30s, lay indulgently on lounge chairs under umbrellas, reading from actual paper books or iPads. Many napped, by far the most common pastime here, with genteel drinking coming in a distant second. The well-made cocktails, like the Gumby Slumber, with its shredded coconut, and the mojito, with its watermelon slices and flash of jalapeño, are hard to resist. Soft music — a little Latin jazz, a dip into calypso, a U-turn into New Age — was piped in during the day, none of it designed to rattle the brain.

Our elevated thatched-roof hut, where we happily lounged before dinner on our front veranda overlooking the Atlantic, summoned castaway fantasies with its rustic, well-appointed vibe. Memorable flourishes abounded: My last name hung in oversize letters, like Scrabble tiles, near the front door. A small bottle of Champagne in an ice bucket awaited our arrival. A pair of binoculars with a Florida bird guide beckoned, as did the requisite fluffy robes and slippers. In the bathroom was a stand-alone white soaking tub. At bedtime, a handwritten card, with an inspiring quotation, greeted us atop our canopy bed.

Nothing beat the hot outdoor shower just outside the bathroom side door, where bamboo reeds shielded me from all living creatures except the trilling birds. The comfy king-size bed surrounded by a gauzy, billowing curtain was a close rival, but the noisy on-again, off-again air-conditioner marred the cult of silence I had gladly succumbed to on the island.

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