You only turn 13 once, so I wanted to make sure that our oldest daughter, Lucia, had the most memorable 13th birthday imaginable. We packed up our family and invited her best friend Caitlyn along for a weekend getaway at Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada, in the Florida Keys. Beaches, dolphins, relaxation and family fun made it one of the best family trips we’ve ever taken.
When we pulled up to Amara Cay Resort, it was hard to believe that only a year earlier that most of the Keys had been devastated by Hurricane Irma. The grounds were immaculate and you really couldn’t tell that they had any damage, though according to their General Manager, Miguel, it took the hotel 3 months to recover. I am happy to report that the resort is back and stronger than ever.
When we walked in the front door, I immediately fell in love with this resort. Like it’s sister property, Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, it’s also perfectly and thoughtfully decorated. It was sensory overload for me. I just wanted to pack up every piece of decor and bring it home with me. It’s the perfect mixture of land and sea with surprise accents along the way.
I was greeted by a beautiful, smiling face and given a quick rundown of the amenities. Meanwhile, the girls found the swinging chairs. Oh those swinging chairs. They could have stayed there the entire time if I let them. I can’t count the amount of times, over the entire weekend, that they asked me if we could get those for our home. I practically had to pry them out.
The girls were extra excited because this was the first trip where they had their own room. We kept the adjoining door open just because I’m a Mama and safety is number one, but it was so nice to have a little separation because it made it feel more like a vacation. Anyone with kids knows what I mean. Sometimes you need to not be locked up in one hotel room.
The rooms at Amara Cay Resort were perfect. Our room had the most comfortable bed, a little pull out couch, a desk and a balcony overlooking the courtyard with views of the ocean. I spent way too much time on the balcony, where I could shut the door and soak in the beautiful sounds of paradise.
Reelburger + Reelburger’s Tiki Bar
Amara Cay Resort’s restaurant, Reelburger, is located just steps from the front desk and features direct views of the beach. The girls loved the kids menus and crayons (a must have for families). Their kids menu was perfect, especially for picky kids like ours. Reelburger serves both breakfast and dinner, indoors. Their made to order burgers were like nothing we’ve ever seen and Lucia’s friend said it was the best burger she’s ever tasted. They also offer favorites like fish tacos and salads if you’re looking for something on the lighter side.
We had the pleasure of meeting Reelburger’s Manager Linda while we were eating. We found out so much about the history of the hotel since she’s been there for so many years (18, if I remember correctly), well before it became Amara Cay Resort. You can tell by the way she spoke about the hotel how much she loves her job and the people she works with. She told us that when they were shut down for three months, after Hurricane Irma, that the hotel continued paying the staff, even though they were closed. When a company cares that much about their employees, it says a lot about them. That’s the type of company I want to give my business to, I don’t know about you.
Of all of the decor at Amara Cay Resort, I’d have to say that my favorite thing was the mason jar light fixture. Y’all… I must’ve taken 50 pictures of it, from all angles, so that I could figure out how to make one in our home. OBSESSED. And while the inside is gorgeous, the outside of the property is also amazing.
If you don’t want to be stuck indoors, Reelburger’s Tiki Bar is the poolside spot for lunch and dinner. The Tiki Bar is perfect for those that are sitting by the pool and just want to grab some food or cocktails. We were even able to sneak down after dinner and grab some dessert to-go, after the restaurant had already closed.
Family Friendly Resort
While there are so many resorts to choose from in the Keys, when you have a family, there is nothing more important than a hotel that considers your kids. Amara Cay Resort hasn’t missed one step when it comes to making sure their smallest guests are happy too. The courtyard features table tennis, Jenga, bean bag toss and a foosball table. There’s also a fire pit that is lit at night. The perfect place to hang out or make s’mores!
By the pool, you’ll find a giant connect four game. Out by the beach, they have additional bean bag toss games and hammocks. Who doesn’t love a hammock? I even lounged in one for a while. Let’s talk about the beach area. I love the beach, don’t get me wrong. What I don’t love is the hot sand that you have to work to walk through. Amara Cay Resort’s beach is not that kind of beach. Because so much of the Keys have a sea wall, you’re actually sitting feet above the water. Amara Cay Resort brought in beautiful white sand that is so easy to walk through and even fun to draw pictures in, just ask Falynn!
Non-motorized water fun is available on site in the form of kayaking and paddle-boarding, as well as bicycles if you want to leave your car behind and check out the local attractions.
In addition to all of the games already on site, Amara Cay Resort also partners with local attractions to bring a little marine life education and fun to the resort.
Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen + Bar
On the first night, were drove over to Amara Cay Resort’s sister property to have dinner at Ciao Hound Italian Kitchen + Bar. Holy deliciousness. I can’t even put into words what we felt. The only thing I could say is that they totally ruined Italian restaurants for me because I’ll never find a place that both has a great family environment and also serves food THAT good. They even had a little place outside for people with dogs! Brilliant and thoughtful. Our server was awesome. She was so attentive and really made our experience that much better.
For dinner, I had eggplant parmigiana. It was the best eggplant parmigiana I’ve ever tasted. Ever. They were even super accommodating and switched my pasta for broccolini. Iyla ordered her favorite thing on the planet, caprese salad. At first she was confused at the texture of the fresh mozzarella but once she took a bite, her face told me that she would never eat that store bought mozzarella again.
There was very little conversation happening at our table if I’m completely honest. Lucia ate every single bite of her lobster ravioli. I thought at one point she was going to lick the plate clean. Actually, she might have. To be honest, I don’t really know, I was too busy paying attention to my eggplant parmigiana.
I wish I had the opportunity to really photograph the food (it was just a little too dark and I’m such a natural light snob when it comes to photography). I was so close to going back the following day just to take pictures. Ok, who am I kidding? I would have totally eaten there again.
My Kids Give Amara Cay Resort Two Thumbs Up
If you ask my kids what is most important when it comes to choosing a resort, they will tell you two things. One is that it must have a pool and the other (I’m slightly ashamed to say), is that they must have free wi-fi. Sigh. Good news is, Amara Cay Resort delivered on both. The zero-entry pool allows you to walk in from most parts of the pool. There is no shortage of lounge chairs either so there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view. There is an abundance of palm trees everywhere you look so paradise is all around you.
The girls spent a good chunk of both days in the pool, only getting out to eat, sleep and swim with dolphins at Theater of the Sea (stay tuned for more on that). Fearless Falynn was flying through the air and living her best life, begging for her Daddy to throw her just “one more time”.
We couldn’t say enough great things about the staff either. They all went out of their way to accommodate us and we are so appreciative. If you ask Lucia, she’ll tell you that her 13th birthday celebration at Amara Cay Resort was unlike anything she could have dreamed of. The only word she could think of to describe it was “amazing”.
If you’re looking for a place to unwind or host an upcoming event, Amara Cay is the place to be! I even joked with the General Manager that I could see Super Dad and I renewing our vows there. Maybe in 6 years for our 20th Anniversary? You never know. Either way, we will be back, for sure!
Based on our experience and photos, what do you like best about Amara Cay Resort? Comment below and let us know.
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