How Are We Doing?
Recently launched is "Google Hotel Finder." It's a great tool; sort of.... If you've used GHF, you'll notice Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens ranks right up there with some of the top places in South Florida - if you sort by User Ratings. Best of all, our rates are usually a bit lower. Take a look at the snapshot in this blog posting.
It's great to be stuck between Little Palm Island and The Ritz Carlton, South Beach. But, sort by anything else, and we're not to be found. Because we do not do on-line booking we do not have the reach of many other places; are not listed with our availabilities; are not listed by our rates; are not listed by our stars; etc.
Our years of experience tells us you will get a better room selection and rate, as well as much more personalized service, by calling us at 305-852-7200 or e-mailing us directly. While a phone busy signal can sometimes be frustrating, it oftentimes avoids the disappointment experienced by guests when they arrive for their Internet booking - at some place other than Kona Kai!
The best way to discover Kona Kai is to stay with us and then tell your friends about your experience - there will almost always be room for all of you. Both the pro's, as well as our guests, seem to like us: we've been a Fodor's Choice selection since 2009; top rated on Trip Advisor since 2003, and are now top rated on the new Google Hotel Finder too.
In a world where it's getting harder & harder to find your personal "David," and near impossible to avoid the cookie-cutter "Goliaths," you are our best means of continued survival. So, after 23 years of continued family ownership and quality service, we're asking you to tell your friends about us, become a returning guest and post your comments on Google and Trip Advisor. We promise, you and your friends will be glad you recommended Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens.
Growing Our Ethnobotanic Gardens
February 1, 2013: The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort will celebrate its second birthday on March 21, 2013. The Botanic Gardens, a non-profit operating
independently of Kona Kai Resort, was the idea of resort owner Joe Harris, known for bringing his outlandish ideas to fruition. The Gardens has become reality with the input of a vibrant young college graduate, Rick Hederstrom, our ethnobotanist and tour guide, along with the dedication and hard work of the entire Kona Kai Resort team.
In our nation's capital, the United States Botanic Garden writes, in its brochure: "Humans are inextricably intertwined with plants and other life forms, locked in a dynamic, co-dependent struggle for survival. It is in our own self-interest to pay them more attention." While there is no connection between The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort and the US Botanic Garden, our missions are similar.
As a guest at Kona Kai, you will be invited to take one of the tours we're currently offering guests and the public at-large. On the tour you'll be invited to go beyond admiring the plants; you'll be encouraged to explore the complex relationships between people and plants and it's likely you'll take with you the beginnings of an understanding that 'plants are like people too.' Gardens Director Joe Harris envisions a day when Kona Kai is not a small resort hotel with a botanic garden, but rather a Botanic Garden with a small resort where people will live with the tropical plants, experiencing all that plants have to offer.
March 21, 2013 will also be the 22nd birthday of the Kona Kai so many of you have come to know and love. Kona Kai celebrates its 22nd birthday under the continued ownership of Joe and Veronica (Ronnie) Harris with a whole new set of "clothes." The 'birthday party' began in August 2012 with interior repainting, continued with furniture, design and exterior upgrades and will continue with additional upgrades through the coming summer.
Thus for our guests, as well as our botanic garden visitors, 2013 means a unique and enhanced experience for all. Like many small businesses in this age of technological globalization, operating a business has grown incredibly complex and expensive and starting a Botanic Garden without an initial endowment, an almost unheard of task. Nonetheless, we are doing our best every day to achieve our goals and please each of our visitors.
So, this is how Kona Kai begins its 23rd year and how The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort begins its 3rd year! Please come stay with us to enjoy our resort and experience our botanic gardens. If you wish to help further our unique vision, you can do so by clicking here.
Thanks for visiting and best wishes for a grand 2013, from everyone at Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens.
Looking ahead to 2013 - Making things even better...
October 23, 2012: For almost two decades, Kona Kai has been well-known for the service, quality and serenity we provide . . . and now we're also being noted for our exquisite (ethno)botanic gardens.
Over the years most guests have found their "Kona Kai" experience to be delightful. Nevertheless, earlier this year we decided it was time to shake things up a bit, so our accommodations, as Bob Dylan might say: ' . . . They Are a-Changin!'
In planning the changes, we went to TripAdvisor to see what guests have said about our accommodations, up to this point. Their comments were so noteworthy that we decided to repost them here, direct from TripAdvisor.
But beware, for we're bold enough to say: "you'll be tempted to call and book your stay by the time you've read through the first half of these comments!"
“Any, all are more than luxurious. Spoilt for choice”
Oct 21, 2012
“If you want a suite, 2 of them have private outdoor sitting areas ... I'd go for one of those 2 suites”
Jul 16, 2012
“All the rooms we saw were exceptional.”
Jul 9, 2012
“The waterfront rooms have great views and are near the pool.”
Jul 3, 2012
“The rooms/suites are all so terrific it doesn't matter which one you stay in.”
Jun 20, 2012
“They are all a little different - I doubt there is a bad room on the property, considering there are less than 20!”
May 29, 2012
“Nowhere in the Keys is far from the main road. Our room near the Bay had no traffic noise.”
May 12, 2012
“Try to get the cottage closest to the beach for the best view. The others mostly have a view of the courtyard / botanic gardens.”
Apr 30, 2012
“Largest suite facing the water with an outside patio was the pineapple suite. (We loved it.) Next time we will try the Breadfruit suite.”
Apr 30, 2012
“Next time we will try to book a room with a water view...”
Apr 22, 2012
“It all depends on how many people you have in your group. I enjoyed our room, "The Kiwi Suite.”
Apr 12, 2012
“The staff at the Kona Kai will work with you to pick the perfect accommodations for you; some face the water, some are super private. Just call them up; they're endlessly patient and obviously love their jobs.”
Apr 1, 2012
“Small property, can't go wrong”
Mar 27, 2012
“Two suites; website diagrams room locations to scale; closer to water, more expensive. Pineapple is largest room. Still sleeps two - no pullout couch. Email or talk to staff for advice - very friendly.”
Feb 29, 2012
“Do upgrade to a suite if you get the chance! For not much money, you get a whole lot more!”
Dec 7, 2011
“This is a small resort so I think every room is in a great location. It really depends on what size you want or how many people you have.”
Aug 29, 2011
Remember, these comments are about the rooms as they were, not as they are about to be. Thus, if you're arriving after mid-December 2012, prepare to be surprised by the exciting upgrades in store for you!
August 12, 2012: Way back, when Ronnie and I first bought Kona Kai and ran the front desk, we came up with a phrase to identify guests who had settled in and began to “feel” their vacation. We called it “The Third Morning;” usually on this morning guests would come into the office all smiles, rested and relaxed, to say they had [finally] ‘transformed into vacation mode.’ Happiness abounded and their Kona Kai vacation generally had 7 to 10 more days before departure time. That was then!
This is now! Because so many have shortened their ‘vacations’ to two or three days, Tracey and Denise don’t often see “The Third Morning” expression. Furthermore, guests have incorporated smartphones and laptops into their pool, beach and dining time, so guests are no longer truly disconnecting from their day-to-day world; something crucial to experiencing “The Third Morning.”
Thus, here at Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens we’re coining the word “iDisconnect” and inviting you to – disconnect, discover & daydream!
Newsweek’s July 16, 2012 cover story was: “iCrazy.” The story elaborated on our electronic-device-connection-addiction, citing some of its’ negative effects upon our lives. The story suggested we’re all suffering from some form of “iCrazy:” some call it IAD, Internet Addiction Disorder; other’s NDD, Nature Deficit Disorder; others JPS, Just Plain Stressed.
Whatever you call it, when you’ve got it, a vacation is necessary. And, once you realize it should not be one of those go-see-do vacations, think of us. Sure, you can do all the go-see-do you want here in the Florida Keys, but everything about Kona Kai is set up for iDisconnect: stay-feel-relax; do nothing, reconnect with the natural world.
The space and quiet of idleness helps us stand back from our daily lives and connect instead with those unexpected inspirations that enrich our lives. Periods of idleness are natural and valuable parts of life, even though it seems we now view them as unnatural and downright awkward. So, while you can sever your connection to reality with technological toys, we ask: “Is that as good as reconnecting with reality through the beauty of nature and the joy of doing absolutely nothing?” Imagine what your vacation would be like if your day was immersed in nature rather than electronics?
Our conclusion: come stay with us to slow down the velocity of your life. iDisconnect at Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens. We predict, if you have chosen to iDisconnect, on “The Third Morning,” you’ll find it wonderfully easy to spend your day in the idle pursuit of laying in a hammock, relaxing poolside, taking in the sunset, dining under open skies and watching the stars.
What’s so incredible about The Florida Keys ?
May 5th, 2012: Lots of folks have written about the Florida Keys, but perhaps a recent Huffington Post article best describes why our islands are so unique and so worth more than a cursory visit.
Pam Grout, travel writer and author, recently visited the Florida Keys to gather information for future articles. Her thoughts on folks down here who have dared “try something new” are worth sharing, so here goes:
Florida Keys Define The Art Of Reinvention, by Pam Grout: “The Florida Keys, a necklace of coral islands stretching 127 miles from the tip of the Florida peninsula, epitomizes the art of reinvention. Not only have the Keys and the people who live there survived countless floods and hurricanes, including three that finally put the kibosh on Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway that connected these free-standing tropical islands to the rest of the country, but they've managed to do it all with an uncommon panache.
Pilgrims from other places end up here with a dream to try something new and the cojones to create a whole different reality for themselves. Take Joe and Ronnie Harris, for example. New Yorkers through and through, they worked for NBC until Joe, on a diving trip to Key Largo, turned around and saw what he called the world's most beautiful sunset. That was in 1991 and, before he was able to regain his senses, he was the proud owner of a small beach and the 11-room hotel that fronted it.
And since what's a Florida hotel without tropical greenery, he and Ronnie, his eventual wife, started buying plants, so many that they noticed their two-acre property had morphed into a botanic garden. Today, Kona Kai still features nightly, knee-weakening sunsets, but Joe and Ronnie watch them under the tropical fronds of their very own botanic garden, a 501c3 non-profit complete with an ethnobotanist, educational programs and tours of their more than 250 species of plants. Joe, who has been known to say that "plants are people, too," sees this as his new life mission.
On the tour, led daily by Rick Hederstrom, a bright, eager young ethnobotanist straight from London's Kew Gardens, I learned that West Indian mahogany contains catechin, an anti-oxidant that reduces the risk of heart disease, that the seats of Henry Ford's first Model T's were stuffed with Spanish moss and that if you place the top of a pineapple in your backyard garden, it'll eventually grow into a pineapple bush -- if you happen to live in the appropriate climate. With the plants in this botanic garden, I could have waterproofed a blow gun, plucked a needle used in Haitian voodoo or temporarily stunned some fish, making them easier to catch. My main thought while on this tour was why can't every kid in America see this? Maybe they'd realize there's more to life than the tiny screens they worship.
Kona Kai also has an art gallery, topped only by that sunset I enjoyed while munching on Jamaican cherries, star apples and other exotic fruits grown right there in The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai."
There’s more to what Pam has written, so follow these links for the rest of her article and her blogsite.
And finally, follow this link for a great NY Times article on Duke Farms. If it can be done at Doris' place, we can do it here too! We'll just need help from folks who think like us: "An Oasis, Once Gilded, Now Greened."
21 Years & Counting. . . .
March 21st, 2012: Well, our 20th year has drawn to a close. We’re looking forward to the next 20 years being as exciting, challenging and rewarding as the first 20!
During 2011, our 20th anniversary year, we ran a yearlong 20th anniversary sales special. Now in 2012, we’re continuing some great rate offers so make sure you call us when planning your vacation. Over the past year, we’ve welcomed many returning guests as well as many new guests; made some major environmental improvements; continued our annual “soft renovations” programs and, most significantly, opened The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort.
This new project has been incredibly rewarding for us and, significantly, for our guests. When we announced The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai Resort we weren’t sure how it was going to grow, but the roots have taken and we’re well on our way to providing our guests, the community at large, and the 3 million folks who visit the Florida Keys annually, with a new and important element for their Florida Keys vacation experience.
Our focus on ethnobotananical education has proven to be an excellent choice. Visitors and guests who take Rick’s ethnobotanical tours report they are “fascinated,” “spellbound,” “intrigued” and “hungry for more.” It turns out we’re offering a unique and unexpected experience to our guests, who then enjoy our gardens that much more during their stay at Kona Kai.
In partnering with The Fairchild [Tropical Botanic Garden] Challenge we’re giving back to our community with student educational programs – a unique reward for our entire staff. In observing student reactions during the programs we offered this year, we’ve been rewarded with student comments like this one: "The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai really helped me understand the real-world value of plants and the ethnic, medicinal and industrial implications they have in our environment. Often, we don't stop and appreciate the real value these plants have in our lives." Here at Kona Kai, we look forward to a greatly expanded Challenge partnership in the upcoming school year.
In keeping with the 21st century, we’ve added an easier to use weblink at kkresort.com; enhanced our mobile website which you can easily access from the bottom of our homepage; expanded our presence on the web with Facebook; added a Blog about our gardens written and “tweeted” by our ethnobotanist, Rick Hederstrom and launched version 1.0 of our botanic smartphone application @ kkbg.org.
Finally, as we begin our 21st year, we are readying a new conference center enabling us to expand our botanic programs for guests and visitors, as well as offer a fully equipped executive meeting center for small groups.
And, while it not really need be said, we continue to put our guests first – making sure our accommodations are the best they can be; our front desk concierge service the most knowledgeable, personalized and helpful in the region; and, our staff the most talented and friendly on the island – just take a look at our guestbook. So, as we enter our 21st year, we’ll continue to try to please 100% of our guests, 100% the time. While we won’t succeed, we plan on keeping up our record of a +98.5% approval rating.
Value - The Ultimate Question?
Is it dollars and deals, or memories and more?
August 10th 2011: At today’s staff meeting, we got into a long discussion about “value.” When asked to define “value,” everyone had a different definition.
Universally, “value” is defined as: “the importance or preciousness of something; the material or monetary worth of something.” When discussing hotels, inns and resorts, many refer to price. Yet, from our guest’s comments, we’ve noticed many actually mean the former – recalling how wonderful or precious their Kona Kai experience was, they see value in the experience.
Either way it’s clearly a personal perspective: a free breakfast or a small box of candies will be very important to one guest, while of no “value” to another. Kona Kai’s oft complimented, knowledgeable, personalized, service will be of great value to some guests, while others are simply not interested.
So, our conclusion, at the end of our staff meeting: “as ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder;’ perhaps the same should be said for value; it an interpretation that’s different for each of us.”
Evaluating Your Vacation Choice
Value is not what we put in, but what you take away with you at vacations end.
August 11th, 2011: So, if value is different things to different people, and if one's perception of value changes depending on the object in question, dies this make choosing a place to stay the most complex choice of your entire vacation?
Perhaps, when planning your vacation, the most important question to answer is: ‘what do I want from this vacation?’ By answering, you’ll likely realize what is most important to you, on your vacation.
Here at Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens we like to say: “If you want to visit the Florida Keys, stay anywhere. But, if you want to discover the Florida Keys, stay at Kona Kai.” Why?
Well, we feel the Florida Keys are easily misunderstood. Driving the Overseas Highway, now an official "All American Road," you’ll see either beauty or blight and you may be overwhelmed by our 43 different islands. While you will, of course, find a place to stay, few places will help you discover and re-discover the true beauty of our island paradise. That’s what we see as the difference between "visiting" and "discovering" and why we say: “Discover the Florida Keys with Kona Kai.” This is the unique value we offer.
Expect quality. Then, if unobtrusive service, an incredible setting and a knowledgeable, friendly staff will truly “add value to” your vacation, perhaps Kona Kai is your most valuable choice. Call us – 800-365-STAY (7829) – we’re here and happy to help!
Is Kona Kai the place for you?
May 9th 2011: Most small inn owners are folks who fell in love with a location or a specific property and chose to make it theirs to share with others. Ronnie and I fit into that category and although you might not run into us often, we are still an important part of Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens. Tracey, Denise and the rest of the staff are now well versed in taking care of you and meeting your needs while Ronnie and I are in the background taking care of the unseen needs of the resort.
Nonetheless, Ronnie and I still have our own vision of what Kona Kai should do for you - and it hasn't changed much from when we first bought the property back in 1991. Recently, a guest posted a comment on YELP that embodies what we hope you get from each visit to Kona Kai. We want to share it with you so you know what we and our entire staff are trying to achieve. Here is a bit of what the guests wrote:
"The staff achieved a balance of excellent service and a laissez faire attitude. They gave us tons of area resources & personal recommendations and arranged a snorkeling trip & massage for us. But the staff seemed to disappear when we didn't need them, leaving us with privacy and almost no restrictions....
The best part of our stay was watching the sun set over the bay with a bottle of wine (in the company of 2 manatee one evening!) and then sitting in the outdoor hot tub under the stars. It felt a little like we were staying on our own private property. The only downside (which wasn't a big deal): the front desk closes at 7. So, if you need extra towels or want to borrow a DVD for that night, get it ahead of time."
The first time Ronnie and I walked down the pathway to the beach overlooking Everglades National Park, we wanted Kona Kai to belong to us. Some six months after that first visit, it was ours. Today, some 20 years later, perhaps mainly due to comments like the one above, we are still thrilled to be able to share it with you and thrilled that you take away from it what we first saw and felt over 20 years ago!
Joe and Ronnie Harris
Kona Kai stays with you . . for all the right reasons!
April 7th, 2011: Ah, choosing that right place to stay – with so many choices and so many sources, it’s quite difficult to decide. So, for your ‘decision convenience’, below are some Facebook comments from the first 3 months of 2011 that might help you with your vacation choice. Social media comments are usually sincere and reliable.
If you’re following us on Facebook, it’s likely you’ve seen the remarks below. But, if you’re not [yet] a Kona Kai fan, they’ll be new to you. To see who wrote them [returning guests, new guests, or yet-to-be guests] visit our Facebook page. Your vacation is a big investment which should endow you with lasting, pleasurable memories and, as you might grasp from the following comments, Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Garden does just that!
• can't tell you how excited we are to be returning to paradise in June.....it's been
• haven't been to Kona Kai yet but will be there in May, can't wait :o)
• Pineapple Suite in December already booked! Can't wait to be back again.
• Syble, looks like they have our room all ready for us. See you Pineapple room in May.
• easily the most romantic place on earth!
• no doubt, very cool place !
• we are so glad we discovered you so many years ago!
• OK, expect us to be down next March.
• it just does not get any better than the Kona Kai, my favorite place to be.
• we just came back from the Kona Kai ... it was the most relaxing vacation I ever had.
• oh, I miss that pool!
• I think I need to be there now.
• miss this place.
• it's alway so beautiful there.
• looking forward in a couple of weeks to our first stay there.
• oh that hammock is calling me to come on back!
• we want to be at Kona Kai!
It’s Happened Yet Again. . .
July 5th, 2010: And those of you who know us are probably not surprised. For us it continues to be an honor, a great achievement and a re-affirmation of our efforts to offer you the best of the Florida Keys here in Key Largo.
We are very pleased to announce Kona Kai Resort and Gallery has been selected as a 2010 Fodor's Choice Resort! We are one of only six hotels selected throughout the Florida Keys and again the only Key Largo selection.
This distinction represents a remarkable achievement and recognizes Kona Kai Resort and Gallery as a leader in its field for service, quality and value. Fodor’s Travel, the foremost name in travel publishing, has been awarding the Fodor’s Choice distinction since 1988 to only the very best hotels, restaurants and attractions around the world. Here at Kona Kai we are proud to continue to display the Fodor’s Choice star.
The Florida Keys can be a wonderful place for a relaxing and rewarding vacation but to be truly enjoyed it must be experienced slowly and knowingly. Yet, that is something we have noticed many of our guests are no longer doing – making the time for a truly relaxing and rewarding vacation – something to be savored.
I fell in love with the Florida Keys some 20 years ago when I first came here to dive the wondrous and unique coral reefs a few miles off shore. The Keys were a great way to escape for a weekend while on assignment at NBC’s Miami affiliate, WTVJ. Like so many who visit the Florida Keys, I soon decided I wanted to retire watching sunsets and enjoying the waters off these easily accessible, casual, laid-back chain of American islands. I bought what is now Kona Kai Resort in 1991 and in 1994 I made the mid-career switch, along with Ronnie, who later became my wife, and we became “hoteliers.”
At first Ronnie and I did everything from cleaning toilets to making reservations, and ensuring our guests had a great time. This was back in the 90’s when most of our guests came to stay with us for 7 to 10 days. We took great pleasure in watching their transformation from harried and stressed to happy and satisfied. In fact, those transformations were, and still are, the greatest joy Ronnie, Tracey, Charlie and I receive from our guests.
Back when we were on the front desk everyday, Ronnie and I concluded that “guest transformations” usually became apparent on the third morning of a guest's stay. Oftentimes, that is still true, yet today, because so many guests now frantically rush from Key to Key seeking something that usually eludes them, they never truly transform into vacation mode.
After years of experience, we’ve concluded that what has really changed is the way so many of us take our vacations - a few days at a time - which is simply not enough time to unwind, relax, savor the vacation experience, relax some more and finally return to our daily lives.
By definition, a vacation is “an extended period of recreation, esp. one spent away from home or in traveling.” Note the important “extended.” The origin of the word vacation is from Latin or old French, vacare, which means “to be unoccupied.”
Ok, so what does all this have to do with “Discover the Florida Keys at Kona Kai Resort?” Discovering the Florida Keys is not just taking a 2 hour Everglades enviro-tour from our beach and then checking out the next morning to catch the sunset scene at Key West’s Mallory Square. (Besides, the sunset from our beachfront is much, much better!)
Discovering the Florida Keys requires time to unwind, relax, slow down, try some new experiences, perhaps do some things you’d love to do again, all while in a peaceful environment where you don’t have to do the thinking or planning. After all, you’ll be back at home and work soon enough, and once again you’ll be doing the thinking and planning.
When you make Kona Kai Resort your vacation choice we’ll do the thinking and planning for you, based upon your desires as expressed to us. In one sense, once you’ve chosen to stay at Kona Kai, we’re your activities coordinator for the duration of your stay. It begins with your accommodation selection, which is why you have to call us, so we can help you select the accommodation most rewarding and relaxing for you. It doesn’t end until you head for home on the last morning of your vacation, hopefully some 5 to 8 days after you’ve arrived. In between, we’ve helped you every step of the way to discover the things here in the Florida Keys that will make your vacation remarkable, relaxing and memorable (as well as worth repeating the next time you want to get away from it all).
So, if you want to visit the Florida Keys, stay anywhere. In fact, keep unpacking and packing and stay in as many places as you wish. But, if you want to Discover the Florida Keys, stay at Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Garden!
"Just read Joe's post 'The Third Morning.' We were on our first trip to the Keys, doing the frantic rush from Key to Key until we were transformed into vacation mode by a few days at Kona Kai. Vicki and I fell in love with Kona Kai and arguably fell in love with each other there under the palms. We've been back many times since and can't imagine finding a more perfect little slice of paradise anywhere else! We both feel the weight of the world lift from our shoulders from the very moment we pull into the drive at Kona Kai. We always give Kona Kai our highest recommendations to everyone so they can experience "our" favorite place on earth and the amazing transformative feeling you get upon your return. Thank you a million times over for what you guys do." Garrick & Vick
KONA KAI'S MOBILE WEBSITE(s). . . .
March 10th, 2010: Our mobile website is now up and running in two versions. And there are still more to come as smartphone use grows around the world.
At the bottom of our home page [the short link is - "kkresort.com"] mobile users will see an icon that shows the opening page of our mobile site, powered by I Love Inns. If you're surfing the web on your mobile phone and tap that image, you'll be taken to our easy to use mobile site. While perhaps not as dynamic as our ever evolving 12 year old website, it gives you all our pertinent information right at your fingertips. By pressing on the large green "call" button you will be connected directly to Tracey or Charlie, who are standing by from 9am to 7pm daily to answer your questions and take your reservation information!
If you're an iPhone user, you might want to visit the app store and download the free "InnTouch" app - it's a pretty handy tool to use when on the road and, of course, you will find Kona Kai Resort and Gallery by searching Key Largo or simply by being near us!
There'll be more mobile connections coming in the months ahead, but all you need remember is "kkresort.com" and you can find us anywhere, anytime, on anything that connects to the internet. Just another way that Kona Kai Resort and Gallery is is working to be always here for you.
EVALUATING ALL THOSE REVIEWS. . .
December 16th, 2009: When selecting a hotel for the first time, guest comments can be a bit misleading. A guest who loves an economy small hotel is likely to write a glowing review and indicate they got great value for their dollar. But, if you prefer a more upscale hotel offering select services, you might not to enjoy that hotel, even though it might get a higher "value" ranking on a review website. This is not only because "value" is highly subjective, but also because the hotel just might not be your style. Our point - when you check out reviews, check out the hotel first - if it appears to be what you are looking for, then check out the reviews, otherwise you might be unintentionally mis-led by well meaning guests who take the trouble to review a hotel on-line.
To that end, we have been posting our guest reviews since 1998: you can see them all on the Guest Comments page of our website. What we find particularly important are reviews from returning guests - as they are an indication to us that the guest not only enjoyed their first stay, but subsequent stays when they've had a "second chance" to decide if they really enjoyed Kona Kai and found it worth their hard earned dollars. To that end, here are two reviews that came in today via e-mail:
"Hello to everyone at the Kona Kai! Once again you made our vacation experience a truly relaxing 'paradise'. We never want to leave and when we have to, we can't wait to return. And you can be sure you'll see us again next year. Happy Holidays to everyone." Paul & Laura
"Yes, our anniversary was made very special by returning to Kona Kai. I've often said to Keith, "I wish we could live here. Not just in Key Largo....at Kona Kai, in the Papaya suite!" It truly is Paradise. Every time we stay with you it's just magical for us and we truly appreciate all you do to make us feel welcome and comfortable. We look forward to spending more time there in the future." Helen & Keith
A ROAD NOT TO BE MISSED!
You have a choice when you drive the 113 miles of the “Overseas Highway” from Key Largo to Key West – you can look at the blight or you can look at the beauty!
October 17th, 2009: Yesterday, the US Department of Transportation designated the Florida Keys Overseas Highway an “All American Road.” Now, US#1 in the Florida Keys takes it’s place amongst only 30 other roadways in America and the only roadway in Florida to achieve this prestigious “All American” designation. Our “Overseas Highway” is now one of an elite list that includes the Blue Ridge Parkway, Alaska's Seward Highway, Historic Route 66 and the Las Vegas Strip.
To earn All-American Road status, a roadway must contain multiple intrinsic qualities that are deemed nationally significant and contain one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere.
After a yearlong effort by the now defunct group, Clean Florida Keys, US #1, the road that serves as our “Main Street,” was named a Florida Scenic Highway in 2001. That designation paved the way for official nationwide “All-American Road” consideration by a national panel that considers six qualities: natural, scenic, recreational, archaeological, historical and cultural.
Judy Hull, President of the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance, during the nomination process said that while the Overseas Highway had all six qualities, “we decided to hang our hat on scenic and recreational.” The Keys’ US#1 has a combination of only-in-the-Keys recreation: diving coral reefs and shipwrecks in Key Largo and visiting one-of-a-kind National and State Parks; deep-sea and flats fishing off Islamorada; walking the old Seven Mile Bridge to Flagler's historic railroad camp on Pigeon Key; visiting the endangered Key Deer reserve on Big Pine and visitng the country's southernmost city, quirky Key West, with its bars, art shops and Historic Seaport District.
Here at Kona Kai we’re busy putting together our own guide to the blight and beauty of our All-American 100 mile long Main Street. As a guest of Kona Kai you’ll be given your copy, along with our personalized recommended restaurant list, shopping and events guide and our evolving botanic garden guide.
Meanwhile, for more on the Overseas Highway designation visit this link:
For more on All American Roads visit this link and click through to the main article link at the top of the page as well:
P.S. If you want to make your Keys vacation one of National Scenic Byways – you can also traverse the Tamiami Trail which officially is the 245 miles from Tampa to US1 in Miami on US 41 – but perhaps the most scenic portion is right near here as the road traverses Everglades National Park.
PATHWAY TO PARADISE - TOO!
July 27, 2009: "Sometimes it's the journey, sometimes it's the destination—and sometimes, it's both." Yes this is how National Geographic Traveler see's it: "National Geographic Traveler has scoured the globe for the world's most beautiful, interesting and off-beat road trips."
Here at Kona Kai Resort, we are thrilled to note that along with the Almafi Coast, the Pacific Coast Highway, Mount Hood Oregon, the Netherlands Flower Route, Provence, France, and 15 great locations throughout the world, National Geographic selected US #1, the 113 mile Overseas Highway that runs right down the middle of all of the Florida Keys, as one of the world's top Drives of a Lifetime.
Here's just the first few sentences of what they have to say: "The 113-mile (181-kilometer) drive on Highway 1 from mainland Florida to Key West induces sensory overload. Besides the natural beauty along the route—tidal flats, teal waters dotted by distant islands—the so-called Overseas Highway awes you in its own right as an engineering marvel. Its concrete stretches across impossible expanses of water, the Atlantic spreading out to the left, the Gulf to the right."
So, just like our Canadian writer friend, Ian MacNiell (see story below), people are finally discovering and reporting that there are two distinct ways of looking at what you see when driving from one end of The Keys to the other. Here at Kona Kai Resort and Gallery we think National Geographic and Ian MacNiell are looking at things the right way and we're happy to help you see things the same way. You can begin by checking in here at Kona Kai Resort and Gallery, or by reading all that National Geographic Traveler has to say - take a look right here: http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/road-trips/florida-keys-road-trip
And, since the article also mentions it, we would be remiss not to quote this line as well: "For a classic Keys lodging experience, stay at the quiet Kona Kai (MM 97.8; 852-7200; www.konakairesort.com), a restored 1940's bayside resort." Oh yes, the article indicates we are in Islamorada; we're actually in Key Largo, but it's all the upper Keys to us and our Front Desk knows all the Keys and will steer you to the best!
THE PATHWAY TO PARADISE:
July, 2009: A lot has been written about driving through the Florida Keys, and much of it has not necessarily been complimentary. Sadly, the same can be said about many beach and waterfront communities, where the beauty lies not on the roadway, but elsewhere.
Nonetheless, one travel writer who recently visited our fabulous Florida Keys for a week or so, looked at our “Overseas Highway” the way most of us who have chosen to live here look at it: as a fabulous, one-of-a-kind pathway to paradise!
Many of us “keysians” are hoping that by the end of 2009 our incredible “Overseas Highway” will be officially designated a National Scenic Byway and an All American Road. Should that happen, you will begin hearing a lot more about the incredible experience of driving from Key Largo to Key West (and back to Key Largo, of course!). Until then, read these words by Ian MacNeill, who sums the Overseas Highway experience up both beautifully and accurately:
“Strung out along the Florida Straits like emeralds on a necklace, the eclectic islands of the Florida Keys are one of America’s more fabled and exotic travel destinations, luring sun seekers, nature lovers, adventurers, artists and a colorful array of bohemians attracted by the laid-back lifestyle.
Often referred to as America’s Caribbean thanks to the tropical, frost-free climate, the 1700 islands of the Keys (from the Spanish cayo meaning “small island”) are actually the visible portions of an ancient coral reef exposed by falling sea levels.
Although it’s possible to fly directly into the tourist haven of Key West at the southernmost tip, clients are well advised to rent a car in Miami and drive there via famous US Overseas Highway #1 (total distance 250 km). Doing so allows visitors to immerse themselves in the “Keysian” way of life, while at the same time enjoying the unique experience of driving on a ribbon of highway with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.
The drive itself is akin to traveling back in time; strict covenants have staved off the construction of the kind of high-rise hotels that crowd the shoreline at so many tropical resorts. The result is an old-fashioned feel and a human scale that seems much more in harmony with the low-rise landscape; old motels and storefronts are still visible with their classic neon signs, while new developments huddle discreetly under the protected canopy of mahogany trees and native flora known locally as a “hammock.”
While meandering down the road to Key West there is a wealth of things to see and do. Fishing, both deep-sea and inshore, is huge in the Keys, as are scuba diving and snorkeling. In fact, boating is a way of life, and it’s a good idea to get out on the water at least once during a visit, if for no other reason than to get away from shore far enough to be able to look back and see how inconsequential what little there is of it appears against the vast backdrop of sea and sky.
Since the drive to Key West is a short one and some unique attractions are located along the way, visitors are advised to slow down and enjoy the ride. Recommended in Key Largo is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where visitors can join snorkeling expeditions or rent a kayak to poke around the myriad mangrove islands. . . .”
Stay with us at Kona Kai and we’ll make sure you discover all those things that will keep you on the pathway to paradise!
KONA KAI'S WILD KINGDOM
April, 2009: Ever since Papa Hemmingway first arrived in the Florida Keys over 7 decades ago, the islands have been known world-wide for their ‘wild-life.’ But times have changed - and so has our “wildlife.”
This year and every year, CNN makes the wild-life in Key West a national scene when they televised the annual New Year’s Eve Shoe Drop, thus leaving little doubt about the type of wild-life encountered in Key West. If you’ve never experienced it (Key West), you should. But, Key West wildlife is not Key Largo wildlife! In fact, up here, a bit closer to the mainland, there’s lots of wildlife – it’s just of a different type.
Today, when one speaks about the wildlife in the Florida Keys it is just as likely one is referring to the key deer, comorants or the dolphins, often encountered right here in Key Largo. So with that in mind, and realizing that eco-tourism might be important to you, we thought you would enjoy seeing some of the wildlife encountered right here at Kona Kai Resort. All these photos were taken on our grounds by a staff-member or a guest. To get a closer look, visit us here at Kona Kai and bring your camera and come on down to see for yourself. See what you can “capture,” so you tell your own Keys wildlife tales when you return to your jungle in the city!
February 19, 2009: When Ronnie and I first took on Kona Kai in 1991 we did not have a clear vision of what we would make the place into. It was a sleepy “mom n’pop” in need of attention and repair.
Over the years it has been our guests, both the new ones and the returning ones, that have helped us shape Kona Kai into the magical hideaway it is today.
We - and our hard working staff - try every day to please you and make your stay with us something wonderful. As is with most everything in life, it is not possible to please everyone: so, a few who come here are disappointed for one reason or another but most find Kona Kai their perfect vacation spot and return year after year.
Our reward is our returning guests as well as the first time guests who discover a place that stays with them forever. It is your words that keep everyone at Kona Kai working at their topmost to make sure your escape is the best it can be.
While the experience can, oftentimes, be hard to describe, this e-mail, received on February 16th from Randall Keefer, puts into words the perfect experience Kona Kai can be. We asked them if we could share their e-mail with all of you and they kindly said “ yes.” So, here, in a first-time guests own words, is Randall’s description of his experience at Kona Kai Resort and Gallery:
|“We were only there for one night, but it was a perfect 24 hours! Thank you! We will be back. In fact, I hate to tell you this, but we won’t be telling any of our friends about your place. We want to keep it all to ourselves. It is now "our place;" our little slice of paradise. The 'stay-cation' was a surprise for my wife. I told her I had picked you out from your website and researched you all over the Internet. She was skeptical to say the least. In fact, as we were driving along US1 and I said we were just a couple miles away, her skepticism grew. She said: "All I've seen so far are places that I wouldn't want to stay at." I asked her to just wait. In fact, just before we got to your driveway, I said: "It's just up ahead." She saw your 'competition' next door and was about to hit me. When I turned into your driveway, I heard a quiet sigh and "Awe, isn't this beautiful" and "Oh my, I LOVE this!"
I knew I had the right place. I can say the only thing that wasn't perfect, was that she'd love to have stayed there to eat and drink, instead of bringing our own or going out. But I knew it was that way and it wasn't any problem or detraction at all. We just didn't want to leave, that's all. The sun setting into the ocean was perfect. Adding to the fact it was Valentines Day just made it that much better. I had a wonderful vintage of champagne, ice cold and we toasted the sun 'farewell til tomorrow.' The evening was just as perfect: quiet, full of stars and cool breezes. She kept commenting on how clean and attractive the rooms are: such attention to detail all over the grounds. We will be back...and for more than just one night. Thank you and your staff again. My wife and I were VERY pleased.
......................................................................................-- Randall and Melissa Keefer of ‘The Mango Room.’"
Oh, and Randall, we are trying hard to come up with the formula to make a small “trattoria” right here at Kona Kai so, perhaps, the next time you guys come down you won’t have to leave until it is time to go home!
PADDLING IN PARADISE:
October, 2007: We all know the Florida Keys are known worldwide for their magnificent diving and fishing. But kayaking?
This past summer, a 106-mile “trail” along the waterways of the Florida Keys was dedicated by the federal government as a “national recreation trail.” Officially known as the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Greenway trail, it stretches from Key Largo to Key West as two trails, one for bicycles and one for kayaks.
There are many people who have worked hard to make both the bike and paddling trails a reality. For Upper Keys paddlers there are some 18 “trails” that can be explored independently or with the assistance of Frank and Monica Woll of Florida Bay Outfitters (www.kayakfloridakeys.com).
And now, with the recent publication of “The Florida Keys Paddling Atlas,” written by ACA certified kayak instructors Bill and Mary Burnham who spent most of 2006 mapping and detailing the “trail,” there are now excellent details available for the experienced paddler to explore eco-systems that can be seen only in the Florida Keys. And, more than any other place, Key Largo offers the paddler sheltered oceanside paddling that will not be found elsewhere in our island chain, as well as unparalleled bayside Everglades paddling.
Kayakers come to the Florida Keys for our clear, shallow nearshore waters. Within an hour of parking your car you can be in some of the most isolated and magnificent coves and creeks found along the east coast of the USA. Our waters possess natural and man-made wonders unmatched in the continental United States and if you’re not yet a “kayaker,” our friends at Florida Bay Outfitters will be happy to get you started with kayak rentals, instruction and guided tours. Just inquire with Tracey or Bobbi when you check-in for more details.
THE HEADLINE SAYS IT ALL. . .
October, 2007:Writing in today’s issue of the Palm Beach Post, staff writer Mary Thurwachter ‘s “Weekend Getaway” review of Kona Kai Resort & Gallery tells how this “Key Largo resort’s alluring grounds and amenities will charm you.” Mrs. Thurwachter does a thorough job of describing our resort as well as some of the things to do and places to eat around here.
But, it’s the headline of the story that perhaps says it all: “Kona Kai gets everything just right.” That's a tough bill to live up to and we are sure it’s not always the case for every guest. Perfection is hard to achieve, but we do our best to reach that goal every day, for every guest. So, if a casual, laid-back, unpretentious resort is what you are looking for, you just might find it at Kona Kai Resort & Gallery.
Thanks to the internet, you can now have many more movies - uncensored by us. One of the most popular sites for these movies is, you guessed it, "You Tube." Here is a link to a video put up by a guest who shows you what you will see as you walk down the short path to our waterfront, something so many of you ask about via e-mail or the phone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tl3rup5_zFE.
Of course, searching “You Tube,” will bring you more Kona Kai videos; including a few of our Assistant General Manager, Tracey, feeding the tarpon at Robbie's and diving the local reefs. Other videos will show you a road trip all the way to Key West; fishing off our sunset pier; laying around our "cool," uncrowded, pool and much, much more. Hopefully they will always accurately reflect Kona Kai Resort & Gallery, as well as the Florida Keys; and, hopefully they will further entice you to decide to spend your Florida Keys vacation with us here at Kona Kai Resort. Please let us know otherwise.
According to the article, Conde Nast’s 20 threatened treasures are threatened by climate change, careless development, pollution, or neglect and all 20 are at risk of disappearing in our lifetime. Florida’s Everglades are “the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States” according to the article and are threatened by “Florida’s development boom which continues to pave over and deny the Everglades its lifeblood – water.” The article points out that while Congress passed a Comprehensive Restoration Plan in 2000, many of the funds have yet to materialize and political and scientific squabbles are also stalling recovery.
Conde Nast suggests the best time to visit the Everglades is November to mid-May and the recommended places to stay are Everglades City’s Ivey House or Key Largo’s Kona Kai Resort, which they write, “enchants.”
To see all of Everglades National Park, stay with us and first take our daily guided Everglades tour and watch the sun set over the mangrove Everglades islands. Then, on another afternoon we’ll send you to the best of the land based Everglades sites. On a third day we’ll send you on a snorkel trip into another threatened natural wonder, Pennekamp National Marine Sanctuary, America’s only living coral reef. Give us a few more days and we’ll send you to two talked about manmade sites – Key West and South Beach – so plan a week and you won’t regret it!
However, if all this sounds like a bit too much for your next vacation, try out our other recommended vacation schedule, a “far niente vacation,” discussed below.
IL DOLCE FAR NIENTE!
April 2007: Those of you who know Kona Kai Resort know Ronnie and I sometimes escape the resort for our other favorite place, the Cote d’Azur. We don’t go for the beaches, but for the food and a bit of “il dolce far niente” … the sweetness of doing nothing! We just sit back and let life happen when we’re vacationing over there and we can tell you, it is a wonderful, relaxing and rejuvenating experience; one that we had almost all but forgotten.
In the mid 1800 and early 1900’s far niente and dolce far niente was a favorite title used by impressionist artists fond of painting all sorts of people relaxing, or literally, “doing nothing.” The painting here is one done exactly 100 years ago by American artist, John Singer Sargent and is currently part of Brooklyn Museum exhibit, – “ Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism” which will travel to Sarasota this summer.
Il Dolce far niente is an art form not only for impressionist painters but also for those who vacation for relaxation and rejuvenation. It takes time, the right location, patience and practice; but, once learned, it is a most incredible means of vacationing. Many of our returning guests come to Kona Kai because it is the perfect place for a far niente vacation.
So come to Kona Kai and we'll help you r ediscover the joy of doing nothing. In a world filled with so much to do, what’s wrong with scheduling a week or two doing absolutely nothing? And, while doing nothing might take a little planning, all you need do is make your reservation – we’ll take care of the rest. So, imagine doing nothing - imagine Kona Kai, where reservations are not only suggested – they’re cherished!
A Million Miles from Civilization?
"As the highway jumps from Florida's mainland to the string of islands known as "the Keys," travelers immediately sense a difference. Giant red-and-white dive flags signal Key Largo's place as the sport-diving capital of the world. Souvenir shops peddle shells, coconuts, and kitschy nautical collectibles. And funky (not in a good way) motels line both sides of the thoroughfare. Rest assured that amid this clatter of sensory overload, oases do exist. You just have to know where to find them.
At mile marker 97.8, a canopy of trees envelops the oval sign marking the entrance to Kona Kai Resort and Gallery. This green welcome mat hints at what's ahead: a lush, 2-acre tropical garden with palms, fruit trees, flowering shrubs, and even an orchid house. All of this foliage creates an intimate setting for the resorts 11 guest rooms and suites. Bright and spacious, the accommodations feature spalike decor—ceramic tile floors, light-wood furniture, original artwork, and, in several rooms, oversize showers with glass-block walls. But the appeal of Kona Kai extends beyond its walls and gardens to the small details that indulge guests' every whim. Parched? Grab a bottle of water and a mango from the poolside refrigerator. Feeling up for adventure? Take a spin in one of the kayaks or paddleboats tied up at the dock. Pining for culture? Tour the resorts New York–quality art gallery. The sunsets are complimentary, too. When the sun begins to edge toward the horizon, guests make their way to the beach and pier for the nightly Keys ritual. As orange hues spread across the sky and sea, tranquil, tropical Kona Kai seems a million miles from civilization."
Here's a link should you want to see the other places they recommend:
Is It Real, Or Is It Virtual?
August 15th, 2005. A personal note from Joe Harris:
I was watching the Today Show this morning. They featured a story on celebrities getting upset with magazines for using computer software to extensively touch-up photos taken of them. Seems those celebrities are getting tired of having to live up to the impossible perfection represented by those photos. The Today Show story made me think of the Internet, our guests and our website here at Kona Kai.
Over the years, numerous professional photographers have come in and offered to do a first class ‘photoshoot for the web’ for us. We’ve always declined, preferring to shoot the photos ourselves. Why? Because of comments such as this one just received from a guest:
“Personally, I think one area that could be improved is your website. That’s how I discovered you guys (and, to be honest initially, passed you over). [Another small] resort has one that is really well done. I stopped by there on my way back from Duck Key to see what it was like in person and was not impressed. Kona Kai has it beat hands down, but you would not know it from the Internet.”
By reading our "guest comments" page and the numerous Internet travel blogs, you'll conclude that 99% of Kona Kai's guests are thrilled with their choice. Perhaps I should also note that it's not unusual for a guest to tell us the real Kona Kai is just so much nicer than the virtual one, especially if they've visited some of the other properties they were considering during their initial internet research.
In managing our website, the decision comes down to a question of exceeding your expectations, as so many places “virtually” do, or showing you the “real” Kona Kai, virtually. So, is it real, or is it virtual? Kona Kai’s website is real and we assure you that when you arrive you will not be disappointed.
So, when planning your vacation, visiting websites and calling reservation desks, remember to ask: “Is it real, or is it virtual?” Our answer, unequivocally, is that at www.konakairesort.com, what you see is what you get, if not more!
Geographic Adventure Names Florida Keys One of Amercia's 50 Phenomenal
October 2003: In the October issue of National Geo's "Adventure" magazine, the Florida Keys were selected as one America's great places to take nature to the extreme. Editor-in-chief John Rasmus says: "The largest barrier reef in the country is protected by the [National] Marine Sanctuary, a 220 mile arc comprised of many different sites. Dive [or snorkel] French Reef, Molasses Reef and other 'no-take' zones, so called because they limit lobstering and fishing." Kona Kai is surrounded by the John Pennekamp Park and the National Marine Sanctuary and the Everglades National Park, another place to take nature to the extreme. At Kona Kai, we can arrange a variety of guided trips to both of these incredible natural areas of the U.S.A. Just ask us.
Magazine Tells It Like It Is!
May 2003: An article in Gourmet Magazine, entitled “An Oddball World” has this to say: Brake before you hit Key West. Enter a tragicomic realm of outlaws and rumrunners, pink flamingos and yellow limes that drop off trees into the palm of your hand. These are the other keys, languid, laid-back, full of light and salt air.” Of course, perhaps one of the things we like best about the article is that it recommends only three places to stay outside of Key West: Little Palm Island, The Moorings Village and “charming” Kona Kai. And, just so you know – we helped them find most of the other places they write about – so check with our superb concierge service when you arrive – there is no better advice!
The Ultimate Guide to this Legendary String of Islands
March 2003: Travel and Leisure published an article entitled: “The Best of the Florida Keys.” Outside of Key West they note only five places to stay: Little Palm Island, Hawk’s Cay Resort, Moorings Village, Cheeca Lodge and Spa, and, of course, Kona Kai Resort & Gallery. Perhaps you might pay a little more than some of the other places to stay in Key Largo, but at Kona Kai you get a lot more with a lot less crowds!
UNTIL WE MEET (AGAIN):
Well, for now, that's "The Latest" from Kona Kai. We never know when we'll update this page again - but we can guarantee that the best of what we write will stay here, as will we. So - if you want to see what we've written in the past, just click below.
Or better yet - come in person and we'll show and tell you all.