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Cheeca Lodge and Spa: The Jewel of Islamorada

The Cheeca Lodge and Spa has welcomed guests to the sunny isle of Islamorada in the Florida Keys since 1946. Through the years, it has earned a reputation as a world-class oceanfront resort with breathtaking views and extraordinary luxury amenities and service. Here’s what we discovered.

Beach at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Beach at Cheeca Lodge and Spa © Judy Bayliff

We were about one hour and twenty minutes south of Miami on the Overseas Highway when we spotted the inconspicuous signage for Cheeca Lodge at Mile Marker 82. The modest highway introduction made us wonder if Cheeca Lodge would live up to the stellar reputation on which we based our reservation. Our answer was waiting at the end of a long driveway in the form of the front entrance to Cheeca, and the blue Atlantic beyond.

Luxury Awaits on Islamorada
Reception at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Reception at Cheeca Lodge © Judy Bayliff

Rainshower at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Rainshower © Judy Bayliff

Outdoor soaking tub at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Outdoor soaking tub © Judy Bayliff

Suite 110 at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Suite 110 © Judy Bayliff

 

Before we could unlatch our seat belts, a pair of smiling attendants were opening our auto doors. We were ushered into a breezy lobby area where a waiting receptionist offered us each a chair. Check-in was over in minutes and we were on our way to 110, our spectacularly furnished West Indies style tropical suite.

Guestroom 110 had warm mahogany furniture, and floor to ceiling glass walls that overlooked a pristine beach and swaying palms. The view was breathtaking!

We turned on the ceiling fan, drew back the glass doors and nestled into the deck chairs on our private lanai. As we took our first deep breaths of relaxation, we simultaneously noticed the open-air spa tub, complete with privacy curtains.  What a marvelous innovation.

We bounced on the bed; it was perfect. There was a giant plasma-screen TV, wireless Internet access; the modern bathroom boasted an ocean-view glassed-in rain shower, yet another superb amenity.

Look Around
Waterfall swimming pool at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Waterfall swimming pool © Judy Bayliff

Management had arranged a tour for us, and there was so much to see. From six tennis courts to waterfall pools, a snorkeling lagoon, a nine-hole pitch-and-putt golf course, complete fitness center, an adult lap-pool with private cabanas and an iconic wooden fishing pier. All were beautifully laid out in a calibrated strategy to produce a comfortably luxurious oasis in a spectacular 27-acre oceanfront setting with lush tropical gardens.

Cheeca captures the charm of old Florida in a trendsetter setting

Bike, sail, golf, kayak at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Bike, sail, golf, kayak at Cheeca © Judy Bayliff

The resort also provides all the equipment necessary for total vacation immersion. There are sea kayaks, fishing rods, bicycles, shade cabanas for your beach chair, etc., etc.

Famous Islamorada

All fishermen know that Islamorada is the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World.” It deserves that tag because of the wide variety of angling options. Pursue the elusive bonefish on the flats, or the mighty Tarpon on light tackle – it’s all there. Care for something a little bigger? The sailfish in the deep waters off Islamorada’s islands are waiting for your challenge.

One of the first famous people to stay at the resort was President Harry Truman. Other celebrities that have slept here and fished the abundant waters off Cheeca are Edward R. Murrow, Jack Parr, Paul Newman, Ted Williams, Jack Nicklaus, and George H.W. Bush, to name a few.

After the Tour
Jetty and old wooden pier, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Jetty and old wooden pier © Judy Bayliff

We took a stroll on the resort’s trademark wooden fishing pier. Followed by several hungry pelicans, we wished we had some fishy treats we could toss to them.

Just for Kids
Camp Cheeca hut, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Camp Cheeca hut © Judy Bayliff

Our wandering eventually took us to Camp Cheeca, a wonderful supervised activity area for the kiddies between five and twelve years of age. Kids get to play in the camp hut, explore and discover beach treasures, go fishing on the old pier and splash about in the pool. A great experience for the children, and a much appreciated break for parents. 

Food at Cheeca

We were hungry after our meandering. Cheeca has three restaurants and two lounges to satisfy any guest’s desire for pub-grub or a gourmet feast fit for the most discerning foodie’s palate.

Tiki Hut, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Tiki Hut © Judy Bayliff

Light fare at the Tiki Bar on the sand was just what we wanted – not too much – so we would have an appetite for the main event at the Atlantic’s Edge Restaurant after sunset.

Casual fine dining at Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Casual fine dining at Cheeca © Judy Bayliff

Fresh Fish Extraordinaire

The menus at Cheeca are designed to reflect the location and the relaxed-but-elegant atmosphere at the resort. We chose our dinner from a lavish medley of delicacies from the sea. We started with Cheeca Conch Chowder featuring savory tender conch with succulent corn in a savory broth.

Roast Halibut, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Roast Halibut © Judy Bayliff

Glazed Mahi, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Glazed Mahi © Judy Bayliff

Hummingbird Cake, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Hummingbird Cake © Judy Bayliff

We skipped the salad and went directly to the sea once again for our main courses of Baked Halibut with Beluga Lentils, Sautéed Squash, Herb Spaetzle and Caviar Beurre Blanc.

Our other selection was Guava Glazed Mahi with Coconut Herb Rice, Tempura Baby Bok Choy, drizzled with a delicious Coconut Curry Sauce. Both these principal dishes were outstanding.

Sweets in the Tropics

Hummingbird Cake is Cheeca’s Spice Cake with Bananas, Pineapple, and Pecans – all well frosted with a delicious Cream Cheese Icing. The presentation was too artistic to disrupt early in the enjoyment, so we waited to perform our magic until we were down to our last few bites of cake – then we made the Chocolate and Honey Apricot Drops completely disappear.

The Cheeca Spa

The Spa has seven treatment rooms and a fully equipped fitness room, all surrounded by tropical landscaped gardens, shimmering pools and cascading waterfalls. We indulged in a delicious Sea Breeze Massage under a palm-covered hut, where we were lulled by the rhythm of waves softly touching the sand and seagulls effortlessly soaring above. This is serene isolation and rejuvenation, Cheeca style.

The Unusual Name

In case you are wondering about the origin of the resort’s odd name of “Cheeca,” here’s the scoop. The Twitchell family owned the property in the 1960s. Daughter Cynthia had a great influence on the resort; her nickname was “Chee.” Chee married Carl – and there you have it!

If You Go
Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Cheeca Lodge and Spa © Judy Bayliff

The resort is located at 81801 Overseas Highway, Mile Marker 82, Oceanside, Islamorada, FL 33036 

Main Lodge from Wooden Pier, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, Islamorada, Florida

Main Lodge from Wooden Pier © Judy Bayliff

It’s best to make reservations to avoid disappointment. Cheeca is sought after for weddings and corporate affairs, as well as for romantic and family vacations. You can get all the information you need from their website at www.cheeca.com

You will also benefit by checking out the general visitor’s information about the Florida Keys at www.fla-keys.com

Happy travels!

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