Key West is an interesting place. On the surface, it has the markings of a party town: abundant access to frozen drinks, purveyors of “excursions” on every corner, and people cruising the main drag in golf carts designed to fit half a dozen passengers or more. When we arrived in Key West in August 2021 – still in COVID times – this was our first impression.
But during our week-long stay, we came to see that there’s more to Key West than meets the eye. And H2O Suites served as a terrific base camp to explore the island and, when needed, escape from it.
As first-timers to Key West, we chose our hotel based on experience of properties we tend to favor: small but not too small, independent (generally) ownership, quality (over quantity) amenities, and exceptional service. In a town – or is it on an island? – with loads of choices, H2O Suites seemed to check all the right boxes.
Key West International to H20 Suites
The drive from the Key West airport to the hotel is only about 10 minutes and takes a route mostly along the ocean with a few quick jogs during the latter part of the trip. In terms of landmarks, H2O Suites is just a few blocks from the island’s Southernmost Point. While most destinations we’ve traveled to by air involve flying into airports on the outskirts – or beyond – of central districts, this cab ride was amazingly quick, and it gave Key West immediate bonus points as a destination. We’ll note that many visitors access the island by car from Miami; according to all of the Key West residents with whom we spoke, the drive through the Keys Causeway is beautiful, but it can also be excruciatingly slow. We were happy to fly right in.
A hotel highlight: the central garden
Upon checking in with two friendly staff members in a modest lobby, we were escorted to our room through a beautiful central garden that gave us Northerners pause the first time we saw it and, quite honestly, every time we walked through during our stay.
In addition to the lush tropical foliage, the garden has a water feature that runs nearly its length with sculptures and a fireplace that came on each night; while certainly not needed in August temperatures, the fireplace was beautiful nonetheless. Early in our stay, we met a tiny lizard in the garden that came out on the sidewalk to catch some sun and some bugs. We took to watching for it each time we walked by. On several days, we even got to see the lizard’s big green uncle as we were going to/from our room, which, like each room in the hotel, was accessed from the garden rather than through a typically interior hallway.
When we made our booking, we debated whether we wanted a room with a private plunge pool on the first floor or one with a balcony overlooking the garden on the second (top) floor. The hotel has a really lovely rooftop pool, so we opted for the balcony rather than plunge pool, thinking we could request a change once we arrived if the plunge pool was too good to pass up.
Upon seeing our room – and the rooms with pools below us – we were happy with our choice. We really liked our perch on the top floor, which – from the balcony – felt a lot like a tree house. A few days into our stay, we did learn that the “plunge pool” rooms across the garden from us are more private; on a return visit, we might give one of those a try.
The balcony overlooking the garden (our room had a second, smaller balcony on the opposite end) was surely one of our favorite features, and we spent several mornings with coffee and several evenings with cocktails there. In between the two balconies was a spacious, comfortable and well-appointed room for our week-long stay.
A few features worth noting:
- a marble-heavy bathroom with a big shower, plenty of space for two people, and lots of natural light;
- a mini-bar with a sink and built-in fridge and freezer drawers. Turn-down service each night included Dove ice cream bars, along with baked goods for the next morning, and the staff made sure we always had plenty of water – very important for hydration in Florida in August;
- a seating area with a couch and coffee table – and a second TV, which we turned on once just to say we used it;
- more than adequate storage. The room had a large, well-structured closet and plenty of additional furnishings with drawers. Our only request would be for a few more hooks to hang wet bathing suits, towels, and exercise gear washed freshly washed from hot and humid excursions;
- Egyptian cotton robes; two big umbrellas capable of standing up to tropical storms; and lots of towels, which came in handy for the multiple daily showers required by tropical heat.
Beyond our room
H2O Suites isn’t heavy on amenities; beyond guest rooms, it’s only the pool with poolside bar and fitness room. We didn’t set foot in the fitness room, but we spent plenty of time at the pool and were treated fabulously by the two staff members who were on duty during our stay. Throughout the day, a selection of gratis drinks and snacks are offered at the pool, and if those don’t suit, the bar is fully stocked. The pool isn’t large – it’s really more suited for soaking than swimming – but it’s perfect for cooling down and just the right depth for propping up on the edge to read a book – Hemingway perhaps?
The hotel also offers a concierge service; we didn’t end up using it much, but we did appreciate being able to rent bicycles for the week, which were, by the way, the perfect way to explore the island. On the list of excursions offered by the hotel is a day trip to Cuba. COVID – and politics – put that one on hold, but if we return, that would be top on our list.
Feedback for…a handful of guests
Our only quibble had nothing to do with the hotel itself or the staff, who were generally wonderful. One reason we were attracted to H2O Suites was the 25+ age policy; we felt this policy, along with the room rates, would eliminate visitors who had come to Key West for only a party. Unfortunately, there were a few (just a few) hotel guests who seemed to treat the hotel and the staff with little regard. For example, we cringed when – from the middle of the pool – a guest took to barking out orders for drinks to the person working at the poolside bar.
While H2O Suites may not make our top three all-time favorites, this Key West boutique hotel was certainly well-executed, rarely missing a beat. With a great location, a friendly and professional staff, and standards that met all our expectations, it’s a place we would certainly return to when we find ourselves in the southernmost tip of Florida again.
- H20 Suites near the Southernmost Point in Key West
- Our stay: 7 nights — August 7 – 14, 2021
- Room: Luxury second-floor balcony suite
Where we ate, what we did:
- Eating and Drinking
- Dinner at Seaside Cafe at the Mansion: lobster pizza and margaritas
- Lunch at The Lobster Shack
- Dinner at Southernmost Beach Cafe
- Coffee at Grand Havana Cafe
- Dinner at Hot Tin Roof
- Lunch at La Te Da
- Dinner at Abbondanza
- Dinner at Little Pearl
- Lunch at Salute! On the Beach
- Dinner (and drinks the next day) at Louie’s Backyard
- Breakfast at La Grignote
- Beer at Waterfront Brewery
- Dinner at Marquesa Cafe
- Fish eaten (bonus feature for this entry)
- tuna, lobster, scallops, grouper, shrimp, crab, mahi mahi, yellowtail snapper, swordfish, salmon, and oysters
- Outings and Adventures
- Plenty of pool-time at H20 Suites
- Bike rides all around Key West (rented through the the hotel; the best way to get around the island)
- Strolls up and down Duval Street, Bahama Village, White Street Pier…
- Higgs Beach and West Martello Tower Gardens
- Key West Cemetery
- Sunset at Mallory Square
- Truman Little White House presidential museum
- Fort Zachary Taylor Park
- Hemingway Home and Museum
- Key West Lighthouse
- Kino Sandals factory