Luxury means different things to different people, as we learned when we sent three writers out to find their idea of the ultimate escape. For editor Janet Thomas, the task led her to the beach — lush, secluded, and serene. Senior editor Lori Stacy opted to go west, uncovering both a desert style and a snowcapped ranch flair to luxurious accommodations. And writer Tanvi Chheda traveled east — to the Far East — to unwind in an Indian palace. What’s your definition of luxury? We think you’ll find the answer here.
LittlePalm Island Resort & Spa
The electric wine chiller cradling Nicolas Feuillatte champagne purrs gently in the Zen-like peace of the Kingfisher Suite. My kind of white noise. I gaze out the windows of my thatched-roof bungalow. I could be anywhere … looks like Bali or somewhere deep in the Caribbean, with thick, lush, tropical growth everywhere. But I’m at Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, lucky me, after an easy flight through Miami to Key West. This five-acre private-island paradise sits just off Little Torch Key — just far enough off that privileged guests board a beautiful wooden yacht to be transported to what feels like another time and place.
It reminds me a bit of Gilligan’s Island, and I arrive feeling like a stressed-out, high-strung Mrs. Thurston B. Howell III, hoping the Gumby Slumber rum drink I was just served kicks in quickly.
I unwind almost immediately during a thorough tour of dreamy Little Palm Island. One of the first things I notice is a film crew. “Oh, that’s the Travel Channel, working on an upcoming documentary,” my guide says nonchalantly. I’m impressed already.
Hidden in the shady trails are 30 exquisite thatched-roof suites — each a minimum of 550 square feet and furnished in British Colonial fashion with traditional West Indies touches, complete with a netted bed so plush and deep that there are steps to ease the climb up. Key deer graze freely and are adorably small.
A lagoon-style pool, Zen Garden, and the SpaTerre lure guests in for further relaxation.
There’s also plenty of activity on Palm Island, just in case you want to do something wild — like move. Watersports are plentiful and upscale: Complimentary Triumph boats and Boston Whalers, kayaks, small sailboats, snorkeling gear, water bikes, and fishing gear are all available at a moment’s notice. Excursions for diving, deep-sea fishing, or snorkeling are easily arranged, as are nature tours by canoe and sailboat. The Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary — the last living coral reef in North America — is a nearby highlight for divers.
Dining on Little Palm Island is a wonderful pastime of its own, and there’s not a bad table in the place — everything looks out to the ocean, and it’s a matter of choosing to keep your shoes on or bury your toes in the sand and dine right at the water’s edge. Chef Luis Pous creates specialties like short-rib dumplings with a lemongrass corn broth; Peking duck foie gras; and — my favorite — Key West lobster risotto with coconut and lime in a red basil broth.
Do expect peace, quiet, and privacy on Little Palm Island, as they are plentiful. Many rooms have no stereo, no television — not even a clock. Who cares what time it is when you’re on Little Palm Island? There is one television on the island and it is in the “Great Room,” a lovely small library, and arrangements must be made to have the power turned on by a staff member. Most folks like it that way, and I never once saw the thing on during my visit, which suited me perfectly. Whether here solo or romantically coupled up, the unanimous goal is to unplug.
Remember when I said I arrived feeling like a high-strung Mrs. Thurston B. Howell III? Well, I left relaxed, refreshed, and the spitting image of Ginger.
Suites begin at $590 per night in low season. (800) 343-8567, littlepalmisland.com — Janet Thomas