By Anetta Nowosielska
I recently overheard a chat at The Living Room at The Maidstone between two couples about their favorite places to visit during winter. There was talk about skiing in Aspen and sunbathing in St. Barth’s, but what piqued my interest was the mention of a tiny place I know well. “One of the most romantic places we ever visited was Little Palm Island,” said one of the ladies, who judging by the distance between her and her partner as well as her constant reprimand of his every word, was way overdue for an amorous interlude.
And I concur; Little Palm Island is romance wrapped in rainbows. But here is the thing about destinations like this miniscule island in the Florida Keys: they tend to undermine all other blissful vacation experiences by setting the bar just a little too high. Take me, for example. My first visit to the tony island that embodies the notion of “getting lost fabulously” was many moons ago, back in the beginning of my traveling days when Holiday Inn was good enough and relaxing at the beach meant bringing your own towel and packed lunch. The few idyllic days I spent there — looking out onto the calm waters of the Atlantic from the comfort of my bungalow, all decked out in British Colonial splendor, while being catered to by a staff eager to get my every whim right — have profoundly twisted my vision of what a “spoil me rotten getaway” should be; much to the misfortune of so many other great destinations I have since visited. Be it Seychelles or St. Tropez or South Africa, I always compared those hot spots to Little Palm Island. So, when I was offered the opportunity to revisit my first luxurious stomping ground a few months ago, I took it without hesitation.
Mind you, in “going back” there are obvious traps to just about anything. Will it bewitch me the same way it did the first time? Have I become so jaded that anything short of revolutionary would be a disappointment? But sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and much to my relief, Little Palm Island is as stunning as ever.
Set amidst Jamaican coconut palms planted by one of its first inhabitants, the uber romantic 15 bungalows that house 30 suites are all set at water’s edge. Surnames, spelled out in blocks by the door, greet the guests, most of who are getting engaged, or on a honeymoon, or in the very least, hoping for either. The vaulted ceilings that rise to thatched roofs add a sense of exotic adventure while the net-enveloped, king size canopy bed — so high you’ll need the stool to reach it — is a shoe-in for that adult crib in The Princess and the Pea fable. Although the comforts of your bungalow, with antique bath and outdoor shower, may make you think twice about venturing outside, Little Palm Island offers many fabulous attractions to get you in the chill mode. Look no further than the spa for a relaxing way to kill time. If you are romantically inclined, reserve the Rainforest Spa Room that accommodates couples.
For those hoping to tackle the deepest personal issues, the island’s Spa Terre offers a wellness program that includes yoga, acupuncture, and life coaching. To solve simpler troubles, head to the pool bar that opens up to the island’s most breathtaking views, or take part in the ? fun distractions that will take your mind off whatever is causing your anguish. There are scuba diving excursions to the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary, deep sea fishing and snorkeling, kite surfing, kayaking, and paddle boarding. Now, if during your water adventure an antler appears on the ocean’s surface, worry not. You have not drunk too many of the island’s signature Gumby Slumbers, a delicious elixir of rum, assortment of juices and coconut. The endangered Key deer, a very crafty animal, has adapted to the sub-tropic climate and all of its leisurely pursuits. Friendly and permanently hungry, this small creature has no qualms about poking around for food while you are dining or swimming for that matter. Ridiculously domesticated, you can pet it, or even Eskimo kiss it if you’d like, unless, of course, you are holding on to your distaste for its Long Island cousin that’s caused ruckus in your garden. In that case it’d be wise to just stay away.
Keep in mind, Little Palm Island is a virtually signal-free zone; so checking your email isn’t just a faux pas — it’s pointless. Same goes for bringing children. (I will go on record to say that, most likely, the deceptively naïve deer are to blame. After all, who wants to compete with the cuteness of a baby?) No one under 16 years old can access the island — unless, of course, you are interested in a resort buy-out, which would permit bringing not only your “junior,” but your mother-in-law, too. Sure. There are limited opportunities to check on a football game, or to get your news fix. (A small media room will accommodate the occasional TV junkie.) But arguably, the best show in town is the daily sunset – that magnificent ode to color and sun and light – which, much like Spencer, the resident blue heron that bids farewell to the departing, hasn’t taken a day off, yet.