Florida Life - Getaways
Little Palm Island in the Keys
For 20 years, Little Palm Island has been one of Florida's most luxurious escapes, a dot of serenity in the Keys, regularly listed as one of the world's most idyllic resorts. Accommodations, food, sport and comforts for body and soul are thoughtful and custom fit to the privileged visitor. In summer, rates begin at $595 a night and in winter can reach $2,000 for a grand suite with three meals.
The rich and famous may be in the other 29 suites, yet they don't come for South Beach glitz or Palm Beach posh. They and you are here for lower-case beach pampering of unhurried romance and hammocky relaxation of the Eat-Pray-Love kind.
Luxury is low key. You can kayak, sail or fish, but there are no personal watercraft and there's no golf course on the island.
Enlightened explorers can seek out great white herons or dive among the amazing wildlife of Looe Key. Or take a catamaran picnic of artisan goodies assembled by Chef Luis Pous or a seaplane loaded with pate and truffle butter to an even more secluded island for a picnic ($900 to $2,700).
You can go kiteboarding or sky diving, yet it's more tempting to stay put and let the resort re-energize you at SpaTerre. Services range from sublime Thai body rituals, Balinese massage and yoga to, well, coconut body polish, honey body wrap or a Key lime margarita.
You can unwind for hours with a complete package of Cougar to Kitten pampering or Sacred Journey restoration, starting around $700.
That's top-dollar luxury, but cheaper than a trip to the South Seas.
Rates at Little Palm Island start at $595 a night in the summer.
For a vacation with high style on a lower budget, thrifty Floridians would be smart to look north this winter.
The Panhandle's seasons (and prices) are the reverse of south Florida's. The beaches are wide and brilliant white despite a summer of fear over the oil spill. The developments on the beaches of South Walton are a spectrum of the smartest in modern beach architecture.
Rosemary Beach has the feel of a 17th century Caribbean town.
So it goes in every development along the beaches and the coastal lakes, according to Johnny Earles, former chef and owner of Criolla's, who now runs 30A Resorts, a property rental and catering firm.
You can ensconce yourself in the New Urbanist heart of Seaside, in the quirky three-story tower of a fantastically re-imagined "motel" for a week for about $1,000.
Just past the white stucco of Alys Beach is half-timbered Rosemary Beach, which feels more like a friendly corner of the 17th century Caribbean. On the other side of Seaside is Watercolor, a wide-porched community of Old-Southern comforts. In between are classic screen-door beach cottage areas and more designer towns.
Everywhere rates drop in the fall and then again in November to almost half the summer charges for vacation rentals of family-reunion-size houses.
Off-season, Highway 30-A has plenty of pleasures. In November, Watercolor hosts the Mountain Film Festival from Telluride, and Seaside throws the Seeing Red Wine Festival. In January, underwater expert Celine Cousteau headlines the Florida Chatauqua in DeFuniak Springs. Favorite restaurants Fish Out of Water and Bud & Alley's are open, Red Bar's funk and jazz keeps on and the farmer's market in Seaside lasts all winter.
The beaches are just as white, the birds are many, oysters are in season, and the gnarled live oaks still loom. If the summer crowds are gone, all the better.
Watercolor Inn and Resort