A Birthday Celebration at Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada, FL

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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.

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First Impressions

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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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I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. I can’t think of a better way to spend a birthday that at this wonderful resort. It has everything – no need to leave. Sounds like you all had a blast and created some amazing memories.

  2. Wow! This place looks amazing! I would like to try out this hotel with my family. 🙂

  3. What an amazing place to visit for your daughter’s birthday! You all look like you’re having so much fun! Happy memories right there. xx

  4. This resort looks like so much fun! So Instagram friendly too;) . I’m glad you were able to have a fun getaway!

  5. This is such a beautiful place. I went to Islamorada with my family during the summer, but didn’t stay there. Now, it’s on my list and I can’t wait to see it in person. I want every piece of decor too!

  6. The resort looks lovely! The decor is so pretty, with the modern blended into traditional furniture. The food at the restaurants looks delicious as well, and oh, that pool! I could take a dip in there right now.

  7. Wow, it does look like they recovered nicely. I’d love to have the chance to visit. It’s not that far from us at all!

  8. I don’t mind staying here, in fact, can I live here? It’s a great place to celebrate your birthday especially if you’re with family! Their smiles are proof that they really enjoyed going there!

  9. So envy that you guys get to go to so many great places all the time, and this place is no different. The hotel, room, food, etc… are absolutely amazing, the price must be pretty high as well… You guys sure how to live your wonderful life!

  10. Wow, what a little piece of paradise. I like the fact that the place is family friendly. Looks like you guys had a blast!

  11. What a way to celebrate your daughter’s 13th birthday. Happy Birthday to her! This resort is so beautiful. Definitely a place I would want to stay if I ever get to the Florida Keys. Your getaway looks like it was fun and relaxing.

  12. This is such a lovely resort. I love how kid friendly it is and the restaurant looks like it would fill all the kids

  13. The pics are beautiful and the kids look like they’re having so much fun! I’m glad you got a relaxing, fun stay at Amara Cay Resort. It sure looks like a great place to stay. 🙂

  14. That resort looks amazing!! It looks like a perfect place to spend a birthday and from the pictures it looks like everyone had a GREAT time! I would definitely check that place out.

  15. Looks like everybody had so much fun! I love taking family vacations most especially when we get to stay in a cozy and beautiful place like this!

  16. What a great birthday for your daughter. The resort looks amazing, I’ve never been to Florida but it looks like paradise.

  17. What an amazing birthday celebration! I try to convince my daughter to pick to go places rather than have a party.

  18. This looks like my kind of resort! I would love to stay here. Your photos are stunning. Looks like a fun time!

  19. We were there last April we stop by during our Key West trip. Such a paradise place I wish we could go back again any time soon.

  20. What a birthday well-celebrated! And I am sure, well-deserved. Everything about this resort looks like paradise – I especially love the beautiful room!

  21. Wow! What a great place to unwind and bond with family. I have never been to Florida and I guess I need to take note of this so I can consider this when I opt to visit Florida for vacation.

  22. What a way to celebrate a birthday. This resort looks so beautiful, a great time will sure be achieved.

  23. Loving the decor – so relaxing, but warm at the same time. The outside is gorgeous as well, and love all of the fun activities available!

    -Jennifer

  24. What a fun and fabulous birthday celebration with your family! I love that you shared some great information about Amara Cay Resort. What a beautiful location!

  25. What a beautiful place to stay! This looks like an awesome trip for the whole family. Sounds like you guys had a blast. I haven’t heard of this place but would love to go!

  26. This looks like a great place to visit with your family. Plus that burger looks amazing! I love the swinging chairs and hammocks too – soo relaxing!

  27. This resort looks like a fabulous destination for a family vacation. I would love to take the kids and hubby here one day soon.

  28. Those views, pool, I want to be there right now. It’s been dull and raining here for what seems like forever.

  29. I would LOVE to go here one day. How relaxing. My family would enjoy it too. We always like being near the water.

  30. I have never been to the Keys but this is a place I would love to visit. Whether hanging out on a hammock, playing ping pong or having some great food this looks like a keeper.

  31. lol is like a beautiful place to stay. Luxury looking and all the bells and whistles a person would enjoy

  32. I love everything about this resort! From the decor to the amenities – everything looks amazing. And that food – yum!

  33. I would love to go there for a little family getaway! It sounds like such an amazing place to stay.