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Meetings Make a Comeback in the Florida Keys & Key West

Group meetings and incentive events are coming back to the Florida Keys & Key West. The 125-mile-long island chain offers endless wide-open spaces on land and sea, with blue water activities - seamlessly blending work with play - and unconventional ways to reconnect with business colleagues and new friends.
FLORIDA KEYS - Group meetings and incentive events are coming back to the Florida Keys & Key West. The 125-mile-long island chain offers endless wide-open spaces on land and sea, with blue water activities - seamlessly blending work with play - and unconventional ways to reconnect with business colleagues and new friends.

"Our outdoor wide-open spaces, with many of them scenic waterfront settings, offer a unique advantage for all types of activities and help to create unforgettable Keys meetings," said Jack Meier, group sales manager for the Keys' Monroe County Tourist Development Council. "Creatively styled and enhanced outdoor venues throughout the Keys continue to be unveiled as we all look forward to reconnecting and renewing with business opportunities."

The Keys are an ideal island destination and easily accessible with a variety of convenient nonstop flights, and they offer unique bonding experiences for meetings with 15 to 100 attendees.
Six airlines - American, Delta, JetBlue, Silver, United and Allegiant - operate more than 20 nonstop routes to Key West International Airport.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, Keys businesses may require facial coverings at venues such as resorts, indoor attractions, museums, restaurants, grocery stores, galleries or retail shops. Masking is required in all Monroe County and Key West government buildings.

For additional and evolving information about Keys health and safety protocols, visit fla-keys.com.

To download the Monroe County Tourist Development Council's new meeting planner guide and read its Keys Traveler MICE edition, visit fla-keys.com/meeting-planners/.

Keys Airlift

Key West International Airport (EYW) is adding a new $80 million terminal targeted for completion in October 2024, with a new concourse to include enhanced security checkpoint, concessions and baggage claim areas; a spacious departure area; and glass-enclosed jet bridges that connect planes to the facility. Groundbreaking is scheduled in 2022. Currently, nonstop service is available on six carriers, providing convenient access to the Keys for business travelers. American Airlines offers nonstop service from Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHL), Charlotte (CLT), Dallas (DFW), Chicago (ORD), New York (LGA) and Washington, D.C. (DCA). Delta Airlines provides nonstop flights from Atlanta (ATL) and LGA. United Airlines operates nonstop flights from Houston (IAH), Newark (EWR), Washington-Dulles (IAD) and ORD. JetBlue Airways has nonstop service from Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK). Silver Airways offers nonstop service from Florida's Fort Lauderdale (FLL), Orlando (MCO) and Tampa (TPA). Allegiant Air provides nonstop service from Nashville (BNA), Florida's Sanford (SFB) and Cincinnati (CVG), and is adding service from Indianapolis (IND) beginning Dec. 1., Florida's St. Petersburg (PIE) beginning Nov. 19, and North Carolina's Asheville (AVL) beginning Nov. 18. Visit eyw.com or call 305-809-5200.

Keys Accommodations

In northern Key Largo, the private Ocean Reef Club has 30,000 total square feet of meeting space, including a 7,500-square-foot ballroom and state-of-the-art cooking school. Usually reserved for members, Ocean Reef includes a 165-room inn with a newly renovated lobby, dining room and lounge, Buccaneer Island recreational beach and pool area, two 18-hole golf courses, full-service 175-slip marina and private airport. Visit meetingsatoceanreef.com or call 800-741-7333.

In Key Largo, Playa Largo Resort & Spa, an Autograph Collection Hotel located at 97450 Overseas Highway, offers nearly 40,000 square feet of flexible space for six to 300, including an 8,600-square-foot outdoor event lawn. Group dining includes Moroccan-style beach dinners and in-water tables for toes-in-the-ocean dining. Outdoor activities include watersports, private charters, eco-tours, diving, snorkeling and fishing. Attendees can reserve a chiminea to make s'mores, a poolside private cabana or spa pampering during downtime. New Playa Largo Ocean Residences offer three- and four-bedroom homes for corporate retreat options. Visit playalargo.com or call 305-853-1001.

Set on a 15-acre nature sanctuary, Baker's Cay Resort Key Largo, a Curio Collection by Hilton, offers 200 pet-friendly rooms and suites; over 15,000 square feet of indoor space including two panoramic waterfront ballrooms; and 12,000 square feet of scenic outdoor event venues for teambuilding adventures, watersports and water excursions. On-site culinary experiences utilize locally sourced products and sustainable Keys seafood. A beachside tequila and taco restaurant uses house-made hot sauces crafted from peppers grown on property. Amenities include two swimming pools and waterfall grotto, a nature trail with hidden beaches, a boat dock and salon. The property stands at 97000 Overseas Highway. Visit bakerscayresort.com or call 305-602-7988.

The 214-room, 27-acre oceanfront Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada has acquired The Casitas villas at Cheeca Lodge, with personalized butler service, one- and two-bedroom units from 750 to 2,100 square feet. Ten villas offer resort or ocean view, large furnished porches, full kitchens, bathrooms with rain showers and large soaking tubs, and washer and dryer. Guests have access to all the resort's signature amenities and exclusive access to the Casita area's private beach, pool and tennis courts. The iconic resort also has added a third pool and second open-air Tiki bar. Groups can enjoy a sunrise breakfast on a 39-foot motor catamaran or a custom event on nearby Indian Key. With more than 4,600 total square feet of versatile space, the resort has six venues for up to 110. It's located at 81801 Overseas Highway. Visit cheeca.com or call 844-489-9664 or 305-664-4651.

The new luxury 7.1-acre 30-unit Islands of Islamorada, with vacation rental villas and a suite hotel, is an enclave of 22 three-story waterfront villas, each with four bedrooms, full kitchen and outdoor recreation space, accommodating eight to 10 guests. In the Ocean House, an additional eight one-bedroom suites, each accommodating up to three, directly front the Atlantic Ocean. Amenities include oceanfront Tiki bar, paddleboards, kayaks, fitness facility and classes, yoga lawn, two swimming pools and a whirlpool tub, pickleball, a private marina, oceanfront event spaces with a fee and 24-hour on-site concierge. Minimum three-night stays are required. It's located at 82779 Old Highway on Upper Matecumbe Key. Guests can arrive by car, boat or seaplane. Visit theislandsofislamorada.com or call 305-440-3255.

Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key has 48,760 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and banquet space, with multiple outdoor venues for group experiences such as fishing, diving, kayaking and interacting with dolphins. The 60-acre property, promoted as the most expansive resort in the Keys, features two ballrooms and opportunities for outdoor events and team building activities, receptions and pool parties. The Preferred Hotel Group Lifestyle Collection and AAA Four Diamond Award–rated resort offers 177 hotel guest rooms and 250 two- and three-bedroom townhome-style villas and six dining outlets, including the casual waterfront marina restaurant Angler and Ale, the fine dining chop house Sixty-One Prime and Hawks Cay Marketplace. The property is located at mile marker 61 oceanside on the Overseas Highway. Visit hawkscayresort.com or call 855-395-5539.

In Marathon, Faro Blanco Resort, known for its historic lighthouse that has guided guests to the property since the 1950s, is planning renovations to the 125-unit hotel and grounds to include an expanded waterpark-pool area with waterslide, Tiki bar and cabanas. Located at 1996 Overseas Highway, Faro Blanco is a sister property to Isla Bella Beach Resort, owned by EOS Investors LLC. Its adjoining 74-slip marina, accommodating vessels between 35 and 140 feet, has been purchased by Suntex Marinas of Dallas, Texas. Marina guests are to have access to most of Faro Blanco's outdoor amenities. Visit faroblancoresort.com or call 305-743-1234.

Marathon's newest large resort, the 24-acre, 199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort, at mile marker 47 at Marathon's Seven Mile Bridge, has more than 20,000 square feet of function space, including a 3,800-square-foot Hibiscus Event Center and 16,000 square feet of outdoor space. Nearly a mile of shoreline includes an oceanfront event area. There's a marina, a 4,000-square-foot spa, five pools and three F&B venues. Isla Bella is now a sister property to Faro Blanco Resort. Visit islabellabeachresort.com or call 305-481-9451.

In the Lower Keys, the ultraluxe Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located on a secluded private island off Little Torch Key. The exclusive adults-only property offers 2,480 total square feet of oceanview meeting and event space including the 1,080-square-foot Sunset Terrace, 450-square-foot Sunrise Terrace and 950-square-foot Great Room. Venues can be one space or separate. Visitors can arrive by seaplane or the resort's private boat, The Truman. The property's shore station is at 285000 Overseas Highway. Visit littlepalmisland.com or call 305-684-8341.

The 20-acre Oceans Edge Key West Hotel & Marina, with a recent multimillion-dollar renovation, has 175 suites and rooms, each offering waterfront balconies, ranging from 382 to 575 square feet. Outdoor event space overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and oceanside marina can accommodate up to 100 people for receptions or events. The Yellowfin Bar and Grill, also with waterfront views, offers dock-to-dish dining and state-of-the-art retractable walls. It's located at 5950 Peninsular Ave. on Stock Island. Visit oceansedgekeywest.com or call 305-809-8242.

The 219-room Kimpton Key West collection's Ridley House, with 23 king rooms including two suites at 601 Caroline St., and Ella's Cottages, with 22 rooms at 811 Simonton St., are ideal for group buyouts. Kimpton's three other boutique properties include the 45-unit Lighthouse Hotel at 902 Whitehead St., offering a group setting with a historic backdrop for an intimate outdoor dinner or welcome party; the 44-room Fitch Lodge at 1030 Eaton St.; and the 85-room Winslow's Bungalows at 725 Truman Ave., the collection's largest with three pools. Each of Kimpton's five pet-friendly Old Town resorts offers continental breakfast, complimentary bikes, hammocks and its own pool. Visit kimptonkeywest.com or call 877-219-4500.

The rebranded 178-room waterfront Opal Key Resort & Marina, part of the Opal Collection Hotels & Resorts and formerly known as Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina, is located in the heart of downtown Key West, adjacent to Mallory Square at 245 Front St. The resort, with 6,000 square feet of indoor and 10,000 square feet of outdoor function space, is home to a full-service 37-slip marina with watersports, outdoor and indoor dining options, waterside shops and live entertainment. Visit opalcollection.com or call 305-294-4000.

Sunset Key Cottages, on the island of Sunset Key just 500 yards off Key West, offer 40 Key West–style individual two-, three- and four-bedroom cottages, accessible by 24-hour ferry service - a seven-minute cruise - from the dock at sister resort Opal Key Resort & Marina. Guests receive a daily complimentary breakfast basket with fresh muffins and bakery goodies and are invited to participate in "Up Spirits" daily from 4:30-5 p .m. for a complimentary daily ration of white or golden rum. In addition, a "conch cruiser" delivers daily ice cream at 3 p.m. Meetings can utilize space at Opal Key, with 6,000 square feet of indoor and more than 10,000 feet of outdoor function space. Latitudes Restaurant at Sunset Key offers both al fresco beachfront and indoor dining overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. Groups are bookings of five or more cottages. Visit sunsetkeycottages.com or call 855-335-1009.

The 222-room Marriott Key West Beachside, with 129 one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, offers Key West's largest ballroom at 5,673 square feet, in-house audiovisual equipment and an outdoor event patio for 140. With nearly 10,000 square feet of meeting space, the property incorporates seven breakout rooms. A 16-slip dock and pier can accommodate boats for fishing and excursions up to a maximum 40-foot length and 13-foot beam. It's located at 3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd. Visit keywestmarriott.com or call 305-296-8100.

Celebrating its centennial throughout 2021, the legendary 311-room Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, has hosted generations of business tycoons, artists and dignitaries. With more than 11,000 square feet of event space, including the 3,080-square-foot historic Flagler's Ballroom, the resort boasts the largest meeting space in Key West. All-inclusive group packages include the outdoor Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill. New hybrid meetings through Encore, an event services company, offer both virtual and in-person options for meetings and groups. The resort features Hilton EventReady with CleanStay program. It's located at 1500 Reynolds St. Visit casamarinaresort.com or call 305-296-3535.

The 150-room The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton has 18,000 square feet of outdoor event space and over 4,000 square feet of indoor event space. Oceanfront venues include a gazebo that juts over the Atlantic Ocean, which can be set up as a boardroom, and the 3,024-square-foot Palms Lawn in its center courtyard. All-inclusive group packages include the on-site Four Marlins Oceanfront Dining restaurant. Sand sculptor Marianne van den Broek offers group sand-sculpting workshops, and Barefoot Billy's has jet ski and coral reef exploration tours. The resort features Hilton's EventReady with CleanStay program. It's located at 1435 Simonton St. Visit reachresort.com or call 305-296-5000.

Barbary Beach House Key West is to be rebranded as the 186-unit, three-story Margaritaville Beach House Key West in November. The new Margaritaville resort is to include a Tin Cup Chalice & Chill restaurant, new bar concepts, expanded retail outlet space and family-friendly activities. Amenities are to include complimentary welcome frozen cocktails, daily poolside refreshments including fruit smoothies and popsicles, complimentary airport pickup and drop off, concierge service and nonmotorized watersports. The dog-friendly property, to be Key West's only Margaritaville resort, is located at 2001 S. Roosevelt Blvd. across from Smathers Beach. Visit MargaritavilleBeachHouseKeyWest.com or call 866-237-5022.

Florida Keys meetings information: fla-keys.com/meeting-planners/
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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