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The Key is relaxation

Kathy Becker
Sunset Key is less than 10 minutes by boat from the Keys' funky hub, Key West. The more secluded Sunset Key Guest Cottages, a sister property of the Westin Key West Resort & Marina, gives guests a chance to live the island life with all the upscale amenities close at hand.
Living on island time! Relaxation is key on this island paradise.
The clock seems to tick a little slower when on island time, which is fine by us when there are views like these to soak in.
The island inspired interiors of the guest cottages have all the luxury accommodations one can ask for.
The beaches on Sunset Key are some of the most beautiful on the planet.
Refreshing and family oriented, the palm lined pools at the Sunset Key Guest Cottages are a great way to beat the heat.
As the name suggests, Sunset Key is home to some of the most beautiful sunsets around, worth the trip alone.
Home away from home. The front porches are an easy way to make fast friends with your island neighbors.
Sunset Key is an automobile-free island. So the only 5:00 rush hour you'll find here is usually at the tiki bar.

   Sunset Key Guest Cottages—with a tranquil spa, lush pool area, torch-lit beachfront dining and guest cottages that meld island style with upscale resort amenities—offer an elegant island getaway less than 10 minutes by boat from Key West’s famous sunset celebration at Mallory Square.

   While Key West is about bars, shops, water activities, pirates and history, Sunset Key is calm, serene and lush; it is the introvert to Key West’s extroverted self. Together they are a perfect pair.

   The resort portion of Sunset Key comprises seven of the automobile-free island’s 27 acres. The resort has 39 two-, three-, and four-bedroom cottages with garden or ocean views on one end of the island, and luxury private residences on the rest.

   With boat shuttles running twice an hour from Sunset Key to its sister property, the Westin Key West Resort & Marina, many activities are minutes away. At the marina are several retail shops and charter companies. Danger Charters’ half-day kayak and snorkel trips aboard a sailboat from the marina deliver nature above and below water. Danger’s wine-tasting sail offers a special way to view the sunset. With both tours, the crew is as engaging as the guests onboard.

   Dining options within the resort reinforce the quiet/lively contrast. Earlier this year, a new version of Latitudes overlooking the Gulf of Mexico opened at Sunset Key. Tables are set on platforms directly on the sand, under an overhang, or in the air-conditioned, island chic-inspired dining room. At the Westin, dining options are in the heart of the Key West waterfront. The Sunset Deck, which looks out on the pier and port, is the perfect perch to observe the Key West sunset festivities from afar. Line up with a cocktail along the rail to people watch and see the Sunset Celebration’s famous Cat Man Dominique LeFort, who has been performing in Key West with his trained cats since 1981. He has a regular gig on the pier in front of the Westin.

   At Bistro 245, get closer to the action with a deck table below the Sunset Deck to watch the cat show while enjoying Key West’s amazing seafood offerings. Even if your reservation is well after sunset, you may catch the Cat Man as he breaks down his extensive props and packs up his cats, which is a show in itself. Apparently, LeFort makes several trips back and forth to his home with his gear balanced on a scooter.

   After sunset, the show continues in Key West, with bars, shops (selling “everything $5” to one-of-a-kind sunken treasure jewelry), and a cast of colorful characters. On one walk, we saw two men in elaborate pirate gear, one with a real wooden leg. On another, we stood across the street with a gathering crowd as a man known as the bushman hid behind palm fronds to startle passers-by. Although he did have a tip box, he appeared to be doing it mostly for his own amusement.

   Key West’s abundant history is also close by. Next to the Westin in the historic red brick Custom House, is the Museum of Art & History, and across the street is the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens.

   After a long day exploring all that Key West offers, the rocking chairs on the expansive porch of the private cottage at Sunset Key may beckon for relaxation. The boat ride to Sunset Key may be short, but while taking the delightful cruise across the turquoise waters, the island paradise seems a world away.

   The accommodations provide the perfect place to rest and renew. With a breakfast basket filled with fresh pastries, fruit and a newspaper delivered each morning to your porch, there’s much to encourage staying put.

   Another reason to stay on the island is Sunset Key’s new (Spring 2010) spa. We wound down after our kayak tour with a couples' massage, each choosing a scent therapy befitting our individual moods. With a shot of the warm sipping chocolate in the relaxation room, followed by a cocktail at Flippers Pool Bar—which offers many drinks flavored with Key lime—we felt no urgency to leave Sunset Key. 

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