South for Winter: Little Palm Island

A short trip offshore from the Keys leads a million miles away.

By Lindsay Lambert Day

We are not even on Little Palm Island yet, and already I'm feeling better. As my husband and I emerge from our car into the bright, only-in-the-Keys sunlight, a staffer exits a thatched-roof building carrying two Gumby Slumbers. His job is to put those drinks in our hands and lead us to a waiting motor launch, which will spirit us across the water to our destination. Our job is to sip, follow, and climb aboard. I take a pull of the fruity nectar—Palm Island's signature cocktail—through the straw. Maybe it's just really good rum, or that balmy breeze, but more likely it's a combination of the two that begins to smooth out the knots in my muscles and my mind.

Accessible only by boat or by sea-plane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa promises—and delivers—a level of privacy that is practically guaranteed by that limited access. A velvety sense of solitude pervades this outpost of voluntary exile with only 15 bungalows, each of which houses two suites and is topped with a manicured mop of thatch. Our suite's vaulted ceiling, deep tub, softly whirring ceiling fan, and king-size bed shrouded in white mosquito netting make for a jungle-luxe haven. It's a hideaway that tempts us to venture only as far as our private porch for a dose of salt air, or to our outdoor shower for a drenching in fresh water.

Amid all of these creature comforts, though, it's what we discover is not here that may be the most alluring. Bungalows at Little Palm are noticeably—blissfully—devoid of televisions and radios, which leaves books, bubble baths, and conver–sation to fill in as our in-room enter–tainment. Want to watch a show? Step outside to catch the fiery sunset. Is listening to music more your speed? An overture of wind, water, and busy crickets is just an open window away.

And yet outdoor pleasures still beckon. We while away three days in loose-limbed recreation: exploring the shallows on standup paddleboards, indulging in a couple's massage, dining by torchlight with our feet in the sand, and watching lanky-legged seabirds pace the beach. And although we see other couples coming and going from dinner, the pool, and the spa, we enjoy a tacit, shared credo of allowing each other to pass unperturbed.

That privacy, that intimacy, and that simplicity work their magic in surprisingly short time; the daily stresses we kicked to the curb on our arrival have left behind no trace. With happy hearts and clear minds, we spend our last afternoon snoozing and reading by the lagoon-style pool. I snap a picture of the palm trees over-head with my smartphone, which feels foreign and heavy in my hand, and then stop just short of sharing it online. I toss the blinking, buzzing phone, a reminder of the reality that awaits us tomorrow, back into my bag. I replace it with one last frosty Gumby Slumber and, along with it, drink in every moment that remains of life on this idyllic island escape.


Key West is the nearest airport; for a totally seamless trip, book a round-trip airport transfer ($250)—a Little Palm Island representative will pick you up in Key West and make the 35-minute drive to the resort's Welcome Station on Little Torch Key, where you'll catch the shuttle boat to the island.

For a true VIP vibe, book an Island Romance Suite. In addition to the standard outdoor shower and private veranda, you'll have your own outdoor fire pit, hot tub, and day-bed. Rates start at $1,190 and are exclusive of spa services, meals, and beverages. An additional resort fee covers amenities, from welcome cocktail to staff gratuities. A minimum two-night stay is required on weekends.

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Coastal Living readers will enjoy a 10 percent discount off the published rate, plus a complimentary welcome bottle of Champagne upon arrival and full gourmet breakfast daily. Enter promo code "COASTAL" when making your reservation at