A Uniquely Modern Stay in the Florida Keys
Located right off Highway 1, on the souther edge of Key Largo, lies Baker’s Cay Resort, a 200-room resort spread over two 4-story buildings set amongst a verdant 14-acre property overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, proudly part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.
Originally built in the 1980s on a pineapple plantation, a heritage paid homage to with a number of golden pineapples located throughout the property, the resort took on its second life, reopening in January 2019 after a full rebuild resulting from the unrecoverable damage sustained from Hurricane Irma in 2017. Today, the resort portrays itself as an upscale property with a tropical, contemporary exterior balanced by its laid-back barefoot-chic personality, exuding a sort of effortless sophistication.
Nestled in its lush natural surroundings, guests are provided with a more exclusive, intimate setting than that of a typical ‘resort’. While describing Baker’s Cay Resort as a luxury retreat would be an overstatement, the resort does provide a uniquely modern and fresh option in the region.
The resort’s main beach, Coconut Beach, fooled me for being manmade, with its white powdery sand and shallow clear waters. While advertised as having two beaches, the secondary beach on the property, Hammock beach, is reserved for adults only and isn’t really a beach in the traditional sense, with its draping trees but does offer a more private and quiet place to relax and take a dip.
In the event you didn’t come to Baker’s Cay to relax by the beach or pool, the resort has an abundance of activities to endeavour in right on the grounds with fishing rods, kayaks and paddle boards available on a first come first serve basis at no additional cost, a large lawn areas designation for games and movies, as well as a variety of additional activities such as parasailing, sunset cruises, snorkeling tours even private fishing charters all at an extra cost available on site at an additional cost.
Multiple dining options are available to guests including beach front, in-room or a meal with a view. Carlusa, the signature restaurant I would say, is located on the upper terrace providing a view from part of the restaurant serving Creole-Caribbean cuisine - It should be noted, given we visited during the COVID-19 pandemic, Calusa was not open for dinner unfortunately so we did not get the opportunity to formally dine here. We did have breakfast here one morning and I was less than impressed, with a mediocre meal and a hefty bill. Dry Rocks is a more casual option with a predominantly mexican menu, located right on coconut beach overlooking the water, with a proper open air bar and a variety of outdoor seating options; couches, swings and table. The food here was great (the tacos and tortas were so flavorful and abundant) and the tequila cocktails fantastic. At sunset the place fills up with guests as complimentary bubbly is served every evening at 8pm to celebrate yet another sunset.
What to Know
Bakers Cay is not only evidently a family friendly resort, I would say its a family centric resort, as the abundance of amenities and activities center around families and children, with lawn games, movie nights, an indoor pool table, even the adult spool is attached to the kids pool, only separated by a split level and loud water feature to drown out the noise and a pool bar to assist. The hotel is also pet friendly and the walls are thin.
The hotel is not walking distance to any of the nearby attractions, town or restaurants so if you don’t plan on just vegging out at the resort renting a car is highly suggested.
Rooms are quite spacious and have a fresh, contemporary yet simple decorum with every room on the property equipped with a seating area and private balcony.
While the resort was completely rebuilt with an obvious effort made to provide rooms with a modern and barefoot-chic feel, they do fall short of the standards set by the main building and still feel a touch outdated, especially the bathrooms.
It should be noted that ‘garden view’ rooms are in fact ‘parking lot view’ rooms. Hammock view rooms are more like garden view rooms overlooking lush trees making it forest like and the waterfront view rooms look directly onto coconut beach, the resort’s main beach, providing the best view of all room options but its a trade-off for privacy as you are visible to beachgoers from your balcony, so choose wisely.
I consider sunset an attraction so I highly suggest heading off the resort, about 10 minutes north, to Snook’s Bayside Restaurant, which is perfectly situated offering unobstructed and unparalleled sunset views. I have never seen a better sunset than the one I saw here and I have seen A LOT. While the food was good, the crowd seems to dwindle a bit post sunset and many onlookers head to Snappers for dinner for its live music and well regarded menu.
The resort is located just 15 minutes from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which offers a variety of activities to visitors including hiking, snorkeling, diving, fishing, kayaking, canoeing or just relaxing on the beach.
In the event you didn’t know, the Florida Keys are home to the only barrier reef in North America so diving is obviously one of the key attractions in the area with Kay Largo being a preferred departing point given the proximity to a variety of coral reef and shipwrecks. Rainbow Reef Dive Center was suggested by the resort and they were a great option with nice boats, helpful and informative instructors and quality gear.
#HotTip alert! While I am not sure if this sort of activity is sanctioned by the resort or not, nor am I sure if this was something a bit more specific to COVID times, but most guests seem to BYOB to the beach, packing large coolers with drinks and snacks and openly indulging throughout the day. We took this as an opportunity to discreetly enjoy a nice bottle of wine we had on hand on the more secluded Hammock beach while we took in another beautiful sunset.
If you are going to pay up for a waterfront view room, I would try to get in an early request for a top floor (4th floor) room as some of the 1st and even 2nd floor rooms have a bit of an obstructed view due to the trees on the beach - see photo below.
If you are willing to drive about 10 minutes for breakfast or a quick lunch, I cannot suggest Cafe Moka enough. The coffee is the best I had in the Keys, well maybe tied with Cuban Coffee Queen in Key West, the sandwiches are so abundant, fresh and served on the perfect baguettes and the pesto, cheese and tomato croissant twist will transport you straight to Paris or ecstasy, probably both.