Wednesday, December 9, 2009

There's No App for This!

Our winter television ads promoting the Florida Keys start soon. Click here to see the new television spot: There's No App for This then hit the back button to return to Islamorada Insider.

Free Airfare Promotion

Everyone is looking for value-added these days, beyond a stale continental breakfast. Now visitors to Islamorada and the rest of the Florida Keys can earn a free* companion airfare certificate simply by staying at a participating property like Pines and Palms.

Most hotels require a 2 or 3 night minimum and may have other requirements so be sure to inquire. Just click HERE to see all the participating hotels and get your free ticket.

* Valid for travel within the continental 48 United States. Certificates available at participating properties now through March 31, 2010.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Keys Highway is All American Road

The Overseas Highway is now an All-American Road and the only one in Florida (we knew that)!

The designation was announced recently by the U.S. Transportation Secretary and a plaque was presented during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

It's the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program established by Congress in 1991.

Originally completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway incorporates 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. They include the Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon, which stretches 6.79 miles across open water and was referred to on its completion as "the eighth wonder of the world."

To earn All-American Road status, a road must possess characteristics of national significance and features that don't exist elsewhere, making it a visitor destination in itself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hotel Advice - Read and Ask Questions

The headline from the Miami Herald travel section this past Sunday read "Season For Deals." There are some great deals out there as we enter the off-season but you need to read the fine print at the bottom of the ad to figure out the real price.

Take for example The Cove Atlantis on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. They ran a full-page, 4-color ad in the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal. There was a beautiful photograph with the tag line "3 nights from $629." The description read: "Here's to butlers on the beach bearing mid-day mojitos. To oceanfront lounging raised to an art form. To private teakwood cabanas so perfect, it's hard to believe it only gets better."

Sounds really nice. The problem is... it only gets worse! The fine print states... rates are per person with double occupancy required. What? Now the deal goes from $629 to $1258, double the advertised price. But wait, there's more... "add up to $122 per person for mandatory taxes, mandatory housekeeping gratuity, utility service fees and service charges."

You see a very appealing ad with prices pitched at $629 when the real deal is $1502. The Bahamas are notorious for pushing the envelope of deceptive advertising. Every Bahamas ad I found last weekend was quoting single occupancy. How many people fly to the Bahamas alone for vacation? Contrast that with Florida Hotels. All the ads promoted their best deals but the rates were for 2 people, double occupancy.

Still, there are some South Florida issues like "resort fees" that are mandatory daily add-ons not quoted in the rooms rates. Hotels near Pines & Palms Resort charge up to $65 more per day in addition to the advertised room rate. For more info on that tricky maneuver see my blog posted August 5, 2008.

It's a jungle out there... it pays read everything and ask questions.

Monday, August 3, 2009

CNN Does a story on Islamorada

We're getting lots of great press coverage lately. CNN did a "Weekend Getaway" piece which is airing nationally and also in airports (ever notice how all the airports always have CNN on all the TV's?). Those of you who have been to Pines & Palms will recognize various shots of the resort. They make you watch a commercial first but click on this link to watch:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Lobster Season is off to a Great Start

The photo is of Jamie, Steve, Kyle, and Taylor (not pictured) Loyd of Naples Florida. They were just a few of the successful Lobster hunters visiting Islamorada for the mini-season. 

If you didn't make it down, don't worry there are still tons of Lobsters in the water. The regular season begins August 6th and runs all the way through March 31st. 

Usually the first two weeks of the regular season are fantastic hunting. Same rules apply, 6 lobster per person per day. The water is warm... come on down!

Music on the video courtsey of the Walloon Butter Monkeys

Monday, July 27, 2009

TODAY... live from the Keys!

Visitors and residents are invited to watch the Today Show live from Key West, Tuesday July 28, from 7 to 10 a.m.

It will all happen from the Westin Key West Resort & Marina. The special broadcast from the Conch Republic is part of a "Today Takes a Vacation" series where the show examines traditional domestic vacations and explores the beauty of the United States. Set your Tivo's!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wanna go Sword Fishing?

Come on... this looks like a shot right out of a Zane Grey photo album! But no, this is right here right now in Islamorada.

Our sword fishing has gained a ton of well deserved national press and Richard Stanczyk out of Bud n Mary's is the one who discovered the secret of catching these behemoths in broad daylight.

If you want to catch one of these, go see Richard at Bud n Mary's marina or contact us at Pines & Palms Resort. They are now selling all-day 12 hour charters specifically targeting swordfish. It's a long day... instead of a charter, it really should be called an adventure!

This is a photo of the results of a trip from last Thursday. Not all charters are this productive (the fish in the foreground is over 400 pounds) but catching at least one swordfish is now common place in Islamorada and you'll be looking for dolphin and tuna along the way.

Ever wonder why Islamorada is called the Sportfishing Capital of the World? Every fish in this hemisphere can be caught in our waters! With all the opportunity here... the hardest part is deciding what you want to fish for!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

55 Foot Boat stuck off Whale Harbor

What were they thinking? It's hard the figure how anyone could own or be the captain of an expensive 55 foot yacht with all the bells and whistles (like radar and chart plotters), yet lack the wisdom to use channel markers.

I am very familiar with this area, it's a great Tarpon fishing spot. There is a narrow little unmarked channel in there but he missed that too. If you look closely you can see the ditch he dug between the two boats. The fine will be hefty since they charge $75 per square yard and they are still measuring the damage estimated to be a half mile long.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cheeca Lives!

It couldn't happen any sooner... fishing captains, tour operators, retailers, hoteliers, and everyone associated with tourism (most everyone here) can't wait for Islamorada's Cheeca Lodge & Spa to reopen this December 15th. 

Our national economic problems coupled with the loss of Cheeca really hurt our little town. It made me think of the Joni Mitchell song: "with a pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot... you don't know what you've got till it's gone." That's the way most people I know feel about our temporary loss of Cheeca.

Click here for the article about Cheeca's grand reopening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Islamorada is Eco-Paradise

There is no place on earth like Islamorada, the "purple isle." On the Bay side, fresh water from the Everglades flows like a sea of grass merging into Florida Bay and Florida Bay eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. On the Ocean side we have the only living coral reef in North America extending four miles out then dropping off into the deep blue Atlantic.

This scenario of converging waters, mixing together in one place, influenced by tides and warmed by our subtropical climate supports the most unique ecosystem in the world. It's why some of the most exotic and diverse wildlife live here.

Almost any fish can be found and fished for in our waters (it's why Islamorada is referred to as the sport-fishing capital of the world). It’s where rare birds like the Roseate Spoonbill flourish and exotic creatures like Saltwater Crocodiles, Alligators, Porpoises, Manatees, and Whale Sharks live. One thousand year old Lignum vitae trees and wild orchids grow on our islands with their blossoms pollinated by endangered rare butterflies.

Everyone knows we have great weather with world class fishing and diving. Next time you come down, you really should pack your binoculars and go on an eco-tour.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Two New Restaurants in Islamorada

We have 2 brand new restaurants for your dining pleasure here in Islamorada. They fill a much needed niche... more informal, lower priced, family oriented, great food. Both are open for lunch and dinner.

The top photo is of MA'a Fish Camp (love that name). Sara and I ate lunch there today and it was really good. Paper table cloths, fish in a basket style, super informal. She had the BBQ Shrimp from the "small plates" part of the menu, and I had the Combination Seafood Basket. The food was excellent and there were lots of other great choices on the menu such as Baha Style Fish Taco with Handmade Corn Tortilla, Shrimp or Oyster Po-Boy, Grilled Skirt Steak, Homemade Chipotle Chile, and on and on. I want to go back and try the other stuff.

The other photo is of Agave a "family Mexican restaurant." I am so happy we finally have a Mexican restaurant again in Islamorada (I love Mexican food). The menu is extensive with all the things you would expect plus a huge selection of top quality tequilas. Our first experience was a bit too authentic because we had a difficult time understanding our Mexican waiter.

Give both these new places a try. Please cut them some slack as they get their acts together. These are the kind of places you can go with your family, have a nice meal, and not have to pay $25 or more for an entrée.

April 21st Update: Had lunch again at MA's Fish Camp and discovered they make excellent key lime pie... the best I've had since Manny & Isa's was open. Yes!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

Ever hear of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail? It's a fairly new 106 mile multi-use scenic trail system extending from Key Largo to Key West utilizing 36 historic Flagler Railroad bridges and running parallel to US-1.

Ten years in the making (and still not fully completed), the pathway permits running, bicycling, hiking, sightseeing, fishing, and kayaking. Planners envision a world class integrated system of smooth bike paths, educational kiosks, picnic areas, scenic outlooks, fishing piers, boat ramps, water access points, nature trails and amenities. 

This year construction is planned for nine more improved portions of the trail (including retrofits of five bridges) and seven more areas improved for 2010 including a trailhead and offices in Key Largo.

Islamorada locals Holly Padgett, Cathy Rakov, Sara Bernardin, and Nancy Kluger recently geared up their bicycles and left from Plantation Key heading to Key West. Their 1st annual journey was divided into three days of about 30 scenic miles per day. According to the ladies it was the perfect pace (not overly aggressive) to have time to see the sights, stop along the way for snacks and lunch, and arrive at a nice hotel by mid-afternoon for some fun in the evening. Their overnight stops included Hawks Cay Resort before Marathon, Parmers Resort in Big Pine Key, and the grand finale at The Southernmost Hotel in Key West. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Kiteboard Islamorada

Driving over the bridges through Islamorada, it’s hard not to notice an increasing number of Kiteboarders taking advantage of the island breeze. 

This unique, high-flying, extreme sport has been gaining popularity over the past few years, and has found a home right here in the heart of Islamorada. Fueled by wind, and driven with muscle and mind, these new age wind surfers rip across the water, and flip into the air making the sport worth watching from the shore or by boat.

Or better yet, try it yourself! Beginner lessons are now being offered and include the kite, and everything you need to get started. Although I have yet to try it, I’ve heard first hand the sport is nothing short of addicting. Maybe I’ll give it a shot the next time it’s too windy to fish.   

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Islamorada Chamber of Commerce Video

Want some fun ideas for your visit? Watch this video from Judy Hull of the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Kayak Adventures

I received my favorite type of phone call the other evening from our friend Captain Rick Floyd of Island Hoppers Kayaking. It was an invitation to go on a kayak adventure near East Cape.

Rick is an example of a new breed of guides in Islamorada and the Florida Keys who specialize in kayak tours. In this case it was an advanced eco-tour that combined kayaking with fishing and site-seeing in the remote, unforgiving areas of the park.

Rick arrived at the boat ramp with four specialized kayaks (that allow stand-up paddling & fishing) lashed to his boat and we sped off across Florida Bay towards East Cape channel. Once there we secured the boat, unloaded the kayaks and headed into the swampy wilderness of Everglades National Park. He timed it perfect with the incoming tide so paddling was easy.

We saw numerous exotic creatures including the elusive Roseate Spoonbill, White Pelicans, Wood Storks, Herons, alligators, crocodiles, sharks and much more... all up close and personal. It was like being in a tarzan movie. As far as fishing, we were sight-casting with jigs for Redfish and Snook. What a blast!

Rick and other kayak guides offer a variety of trips from easy sunset paddles for beginners to advanced everglades adventures. It's a beautiful and unique experience. You can reach Rick at 305-345-1908.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cheeca Lodge Burns!

A New Years Eve blaze gutted the main building at Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada last night. Eighty firefighter and rescue crews from as far away as Miami battled the flames late into the night. 

Although the fire was quickly brought under control, firefighters were still shooting water all over on the smoldering roof through midday January 1st. It looks to me like the main building (which houses the restaurants, administrative offices, front desk, and a huge block of rooms) was extensively damaged, if not totally lost.

All guests were evacuated and relocated to other hotels with no injuries reported at this point. Cheeca is closed indefinitely.