Between the Sunset and the Sea
Key Largo, Florida
The Florida Keys are a series of islands that, in many ways,
mark the point where vast continental North America dissolves into the
fragmented geography of the Caribbean. It’s not just a physical half-way point,
either: in many ways it’s the cultural stop-gap between the laid-back world of
the Caribbean and high-tech, urban America.
The most northerly of the Keys is
Key Largo. It’s a great destination for vacationers, studded as it is
with excellent hotels and resorts. Anyone who has seen John Huston’s excellent
1948 film noir Key Largo – in which Humphrey Bogart turns up at his friend’s
hotel on the Key, only to be found it has been taken over by gangster Edward G.
Robinson – can rest assured that local hotel management is a lot more civilised
and well-regulated these days!
It’s possible to get great deals
on many of the local hotels and resorts. The Key Largo Sheraton Beach Resort,
for example. Offers five-star accommodation and services at a price lower than
you would pay for a stay many four or even three star establishments elsewhere.
The Beach Resort offers service of a standard that has come to be expected from
the Sheraton brand worldwide: A stretch of private beach, luxurious amenities,
amazing rooms and fantastic service. The resort even has its own 21-slip
marina, so if you were thinking of making your way to your vacation destination
by sea, you should have few problems.
Like most resorts of its size and class, the Sheraton Beach
Resort offers most activities and services as part of its all-in-one fee. Some
of the activities offered may carry a surcharge, but given the range and
variety of things to do that is on offer, you can’t really complain. A full
suite of watersports activities is available, from lounging in the Jacuzzi or
one of two freshwater pools to diving into the ocean all by yourself, or on
board a windsurfer, surfboard, or sailboat.
For those who feel like simply lazing around reading a good
book, there is much else to recommend the Sheraton Beach Resort. The place has
no fewer than six dining venues, from the deluxe Tree Tops Dinner restaurant,
which serves the very best in prime Caribbean seafood, to the informal Parrot’s
Lounge, where you can while away a little time drinking exotic cocktails and
playing a little pool. The Lounge even has a dance floor, so if you’re idea of
a great time is to boogie the night away this could be the place for you!
Beyond the Sheraton Beach, Key Largo has an enormous amount to
offer the vacationer. If you love diving, or you want to learn, it’s the place
for you: Key Largo has been described as ‘the dive capital of the world’ – and
it does its very best to live up to that reputation. Experienced divers will
want to head straight for the wreck of the Spiegel Grove – a US Navy ship that
was scuttled off Key Largo in 2002. The idea behind the deliberate sinking was
to create a ‘seed’ for the growth of a new coral reef. The idea seems to be
working, and divers are flocking to the huge wreck, which lies 45 feet beneath
the surface of the Caribbean, to explore its unique architecture and wildlife
habitat. Vacationers who have never explored the wonders of the deep before and
who wish to learn to dive will also find an adundance of opportunities to do so
on Key Largo – it probably has the highest number of dive instructors per head
of population of any settlement on earth.
For those who like to get close to the ocean without
disappearing into it, Key Largo offers a wide range of surface-based
watersports. The island is the base for some of the finest sport fishing to be
had anywhere. There are very many experienced fishing captains and guides
living in the area. If you happen to be staying at the Sheraton Beach Resort
you can make enquiries at reception about the availability of trips and gear
hire in the locality.
The first Spanish explorers who ran into the Florida Keys in
1513 were searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth. Although this
much-searched-for source of immortality eluded the explorers, they did find
something that has become almost as valuable. Key Largo’s neighboring island
settlement of Key West was once the richest city in the United States, its
economy pumped up by the abundance of the ocean’s natural resources and the
presence of Navy.
These days the area is still very affluent – largely because of
the presence of so many tourists and of resort hotels such as the Sheraton
Beach. But Key Largo retains some of that untamed magic – the feeling that
you’re on the edge of a world, but safely restrained from falling off.