advertisement

You'll find a wide variety of places to stay in Key West, from resorts with all the amenities to seaside motels, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, and clothing-optional guesthouses. Unless you're in town during Key West's most popular holidays -- Fantasy Fest (around Halloween), where Mardi Gras meets South Florida for the NC-17 set and most hotels have outrageous rates and 5-night minimums; Hemingway Days (in July), where Papa is seemingly and eerily alive and well; and Christmas and New Year's -- or for a big fishing tournament (many are held Oct-Dec) or a boat-racing tourney, you can almost always find a place to stay at the last minute. However, you may want to book early, especially in winter, when prime properties fill up and many require 2- or 3-night minimum stays. Prices at these times are extremely high. Finding a decent room for less than $100 a night is a real trick.

Another suggestion, and my recommendation, is to call Vacation Key West (tel. 800/595-5397 or 305/295-9500; www.vacationkw.com), a wholesaler that offers discounts of 20% to 30% and is skilled at finding last-minute deals. It represents mostly larger hotels and motels, but can also place visitors in guesthouses. The phones are answered Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, and Saturday from 11am to 2pm. Key West Innkeepers Association (tel. 800/492-1911 or 305/292-3600; www.keywestinns.com) can also help you find lodging in any price range from among its members and affiliates.

Gay travelers may want to call the Key West Business Guild (tel. 305/294-4603; www.gaykeywestfl.com), which represents more than 50 guesthouses and B&Bs in town, as well as many other gay-owned businesses. Be advised that most gay guesthouses have a clothing-optional policy. One of the most elegant and popular is Big Ruby's, 409 Applerouth Lane (tel. 800/477-7829 or 305/296-2323; www.bigrubys.com), located on a little alley just off Duval Street. Rates start at $173 double in peak season and $125 off-season. A low cluster of buildings surrounds a lush courtyard where a hearty breakfast is served each morning and wine is poured at dusk. The all-male guests hang out by the pool, tanning in the buff.

For women only, Pearl's Rainbow, 525 United St. (tel. 800/74-WOMYN [749-6696] or 305/292-1450; www.pearlsrainbow.com), is a large, fairly well-maintained guesthouse with lots of privacy and amenities, including two pools and two hot tubs. Rates range from $89 to $359.

It's Not Easy Being a Green Hotel -- The Gardens is one of the first "Florida Green Lodging Hotels" in the Keys, meaning the hotel has installed energy-efficient light bulbs throughout the property, uses all "green" cleaning products, eliminated plastics and Styrofoam use, educates staff and guests of the importance of recycling, and raises room temperatures to 78°F (26°C) when not in use, among other eco-friendly efforts. For more info on the organization and participating hotels, visit www.floridagreenlodging.org.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.