Enhanced Programming and Facilities Unveiled for Meetings in the Florida Keys & Key West

FLORIDA KEYS — The 125-mile-long Florida Keys & Key West island chain offers unconventional ways to connect with business colleagues — providing seamless “bleisure” opportunities to extend subtropical midweek business gatherings with leisure stays.

"Resorts throughout the Keys are enhancing group programming, adding unique opportunities for learning about and experiencing sustainability and eco-tourism,” said Jack Meier, group sales manager for the Keys' Monroe County Tourist Development Council. 

"Our resorts have also revitalized and expanded outdoor event spaces to further accommodate increasing attendee levels, another trend we continue to see,” Meier said. 

The Keys are an ideal island destination for meetings of 15 to 100 attendees.

Nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental conservation, sustainability and historic preservation offer unique only-in-the Keys educational and networking opportunities — among driving forces with face-to-face in-person meetings — for groups.

The Keys are easily accessible from 21 major U.S. cities with six airlines providing more than 20 nonstop flights, some with newly added jet service to Key West International Airport. 

To download the Monroe County Tourist Development Council’s meeting planner guide and read its Keys Traveler MICE edition, visit fla-keys.com\kla-mice.

Keys Airlift

Key West International Airport (EYW) tallied more than a 20% increase in airline seat capacity and more than 450,000 passengers during the first quarter of 2024. Six carriers — Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Silver and United — serve EYW with 21 destinations and more than 20 nonstop flights. A 49,000-square-foot Concourse A expansion, set for completion in 2026, is to include spaces for eight gates, additional restrooms, support areas and is to improve the airport's service and operational flexibility with ramp operations, safety and efficiency while addressing long-term passenger needs. New venues are to include a First Call Beach Bar at baggage claim, Chili’s restaurant and Farm 2 Air Market. Also at EYW, Signature Aviation has unveiled a new private 4,500-square-foot aviation terminal with covered parking facilities, second-story patio with panoramic views and pilot’s lounge, work areas and a café. Visit eyw.com/airlines, eyw.com/concourse-a or call 305-809-5200.

Keys Accommodations

In Key Largo, the 200-room Baker's Cay Resort with over 20,000 square feet of meeting space including a 7,000-square-foot outdoor garden set among shady coconut palm trees — is revitalizing its rooftop garden with fresh herbs, tomatoes, edible flowers, cucumbers and other vegetables to enhance garden-to-table fare. Executive Chef Carolann Wheeler is developing the resort's Chef's Garden to seasonally enhance menus with fresh produce. Sustainability initiatives throughout the resort include no single-use plastics in meeting setups, handmade organic confetti for wedding packages, refillable and recyclable bottles of water by Florida-based Proud Source, and team activities involving local conservation groups. A resort team-building activity includes group raft building using repurposed materials. Groups of up to six can build rafts to race on Florida Bay. The property is located at 97000 Overseas Highway. Visit bakerscay.com or call 305-852-5553.

The beachfront Islander Resort Islamorada, undergoing a multi-phase renovation set for completion by mid-December, has unveiled refurbished guest rooms, amenities and resort activities at the 82100 Overseas Highway property. Fully renovated bungalows feature oceanside rooms and suites with updated furniture and interiors in creams, whites, soft pinks and light blues, complementing each room's private patio and lush manicured foliage. Its nearby renovated Bayside Villas at Islander Resort, with townhome-style accommodations redone in the same aesthetic with refurbished kitchens, is at 81450 Overseas Highway. Indoor meeting space, totaling 18,000 square feet, also is slated for renovations. Upgrades are planned at three on-site dining options: Tides Beachside Bar & Grill, offering lunch, dinner and cocktails with poolside and beachside service; Elements Restaurant, serving breakfast; and the Oasis oceanfront food truck. Visit islanderfloridakeys.com or call 305-664-2031.

Islamorada Resort Collection is to offer 80,000 square feet of meeting space, 379 guestrooms,12 dining outlets and a world-class fishing fleet when its newest resort, the 214-room Three Waters Resort & Marina, is unveiled in Islamorada this fall as an independent Marriott Bonvoy’s Tribute Portfolio hotel — the brand’s first Florida Keys location. The property is to feature an island-style pizza restaurant, wood-fired fare and Central American cuisine; two retail shops; a water taxi for guests; a full-service marina; and a renovated Tiki Bar. The Collection currently includes the 110-room Amara Cay Resort and the 55-unit La Siesta Resort & Villas. Planned activities include offshore and backcountry fishing and ocean adventures by Spray Watersports, with a 26-mile personal watercraft tour of backcountry mangroves and wildlife preserves. Visit islamoradaresortcollection.com or call 866-806-0730. 

Islamorada’s 27-acre oceanfront Cheeca Lodge & Spa — with 243 rooms and suites, and 11 standalone casitas that can be booked as a group buyout — has a total 70,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor event space. Its standalone 10,000-square-foot Islamorada Ballroom is billed as the Keys' largest and accommodates up to 1,500 for receptions and 788 for banquet-style dinners. Forty-three premier oceanfront suites each offer over 550 square feet, a private balcony and open-air spa tub. The Casitas at Cheeca Lodge feature personalized butler service and one- and two-bedroom units ranging from 750 to 2,100 square feet. Cheeca Lodge is located at 81801 Overseas Highway. Visit  cheeca.com or call 844-489-9664.

The 125-unit Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, with over 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space and located by Marathon's iconic 1950s lighthouse, is to convert to Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, Curio Collection by Hilton, in July. Located at 1996 Overseas Highway, the property is to include one-story bungalows, a new multi-level pool deck with bar and infinity pool, poolside cabanas and an all-new spa and fitness center. On the resort's third floor, premium king and queen rooms are fully renovated with new furniture and accents featuring light wood tones, natural textures and Keys-inspired tropical art. All guest rooms are to be renovated by the end of summer 2024. Visit faroblancoresort.com or call 305-743-1234.

The Middle Keys' newest luxury property, the 24-acre,199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort, a Virtuoso Preferred resort at 1 Knights Key Blvd. in Marathon, has more than 20,000 square feet of function space, including 16,000 of outdoor space and a 2,800-square-foot Hibiscus Event Center. The resort recently launched a partnership with Conch Republic Marine Army, with complimentary voluntourism excursions available for hotel guestsThe organization dedicates resources to the cleanup and restoration of mangrove habitats in the Florida Keys. For new groups of 20 or more rooms per night, group perks include an "It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere" welcome reception, breakfast vouchers at Marketplace, private pool for a day, fee-waived indoor meeting space, reduced outdoor site fees, premium room upgrades, one complimentary room night for 40 booked, and reduced resort and parking fees. Offerings include a recently launched Sushi Cabana, on-site fishing, diving and watersports charters, a 4,000-square-foot spa, five pools, and five food and beverage venues. Visit islabellabeachresort.com or call 305-481-9451.

The legendary 311-room Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, has unveiled extensive renovations to its 1500 Reynolds St. property. Accommodating groups from 10 to 500, a new 5,000-square-foot oceanfront event lawn has been added to its existing 11,000 square feet of indoor event space — which includes the newly enhanced 3,100-square-foot historic Flagler's Ballroom, 2,600-square-foot Grand Ballroom and versatile 5,000-square-foot Keys Ballroom. All guest rooms — including 63 suites, many with large oceanfront balconies and patios — are renovated. The resort's food and beverage outlets include the new lobby bar and lounge inspired by Ernest Hemingway, The Canary Room, as well as Morrison's Market and Flagler's Ballroom. A new beach bar has opened with food service. Dorada, the resort’s signature oceanside restaurant, is scheduled to open in late May. Two upgraded piers accommodate watersports and group activities such as personal watercraft tours, private snorkeling trips on a luxury catamaran and sunset sails. Sister property The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, is located at 1435 Simonton St. on Key West's only private natural sand beach. The Reach caters to small groups and retreats with over 4,000 square feet of indoor event space and nearly 6,000 square feet of outdoor space including an oceanfront event lawn and Overseas Gazebo that can be?converted into an intimate boardroom floating above water. Visit casamarinaresort.com or call 305-296-3535, or reachresort.com or call 305-296-5000.

Key West’s Beachside Resort, with 10,000 total square feet of meeting space including a 5,675-square-foot ballroom, has been rebranded as the 222-room Beachside Resort & Residences by Spottswood Companies, based in Key West. Its management company Brightwild, which connects guests to local culture, offers guest experiences, managers and city guides to customize visitor experiences like those enjoyed by residents. “Over the years, our journey with legacy brands like Marriott, Hyatt and IGH has shown us that the transition to a model like Brightwild is precisely what Beachside Resort needs to ensure that we remain one of the best resorts in Key West,” said Robert Spottswood Jr., president of Spottswood Companies and co-founder of Brightwild. Spottswood Companies opened Beachside Resort, located at 3841 N. Roosevelt Blvd., in 2007. Visit beachsidekeywest.com or call 305-295-8100. 

Keys Attractions

In Key Largo, The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) is constructing its new REEF Ocean Exploration Center for Marine Conservation, to be unveiled June 8, 2025, on World Ocean Day. The $5 million, 4,000-square-foot, two-story facility, with a second-floor balcony, is to feature an ocean exploration gallery and three centers for discovery science, ocean outreach and program planning. REEF’s headquarters is a classic conch-style house, known as the oldest building in the Upper Keys still in its original location. Its on-site Interpretive Center, for groups of up to 80, provides educational experiences about fish identification, lionfish and mangrove ecology. REEF is located at 98300 Overseas Highway. Visit reef.org/mccproject or call 305-852-0030.

In Islamorada, the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center — a stand-alone 7,500-square-foot facility on the north side of the oceanfront Islander Resort, currently undergoing a multi-phased resort renovation — focuses on the Keys’ maritime history, the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad and exhibits about the island chain’s reef ecosystem. A second-floor 35-seat theater screens documentaries. The center’s first floor showcases Upper Keys history including First Nation people, early Spanish treasure hunters and pirates. A Coral Reef Exploration Exhibit has three aquariums, interactive kiosks and views on monitors of coral reef ecosystems. The center is on-site at Islander Resort, 82100 Overseas Highway. Visit keysdiscovery.com or call 305-922-2237.

In the Middle Keys at Dolphin Research Center, groups can meet dolphins and participate in memorable interactive experiences including team-building exercises with the marine mammals. It offers two separate meeting rooms: the 702-square-foot Key Largo Room and the 672-square-foot Key West Room, each with a full-screen monitor and Wi-Fi, and hosting up to 70 attendees theater-style or 44 for dinner. An airy 378-square-foot outside porch hosts smaller breakouts or an alfresco meal. Business memberships include use of event space once annually and include other perks. Visit dolphins.org/events or dolphins.org/business_memberships_overview, or call 305-289-1121.

At Mote Marine Laboratory's Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration on Summerland Key in the Lower Keys, groups can book a private tour of the land-based coral nursery, with outdoor research and indoor labs, to learn how Keys scientists are restoring Florida's Coral Reef. The facility has classroom space for 25, and continental breakfasts and bag lunches can be arranged. Mote also offers private group tours and interactive coral experiences at its satellite coral nurseries at Reefhouse Resort & Marina in Key Largo, and at Bud N’ Mary's marina in Islamorada. Visit mote.org/locations/details/international-center-for-coral-reef-research-and-restoration/islamorada-coral-nurseryredirect or call 305-745-2729.

In  the Lower Keys on Summerland Key, the Plant a Million Corals Foundation and the Key West–based Coastlove are collaborating to grow mangroves at the foundation’s Summerland Farms, located at 23801 Overseas Highway. Prescheduled small groups can tour the facility to learn about global coral restoration and micro-fragmentation, and the Florida Keys Mangrove Nursery, where mangrove propagules are potted and raised for planting programs. Mangroves and coral reefs offer natural protection against tropical storms, buffering waves and storm surge. Visit plantamillioncorals.org or call 772-216-0391.   

On Key West's Truman Waterfront, the state-of-the-art 6,000-square-foot Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center offers new contemporary exhibits highlighting Florida Keys mangrove, coral and seagrass habitats. A freestanding main exhibit focuses on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, with others showcasing the science behind coral restoration. There’s also an exhibit on shipwrecks and maritime history. A conference room seats 30 and there’s access to a small kitchenette. Visit floridakeys.noaa.gov/eco_discovery.html or call 305-809-4753.

Keys Adventures

In Key West, Steve and Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School School — founded in 1964 by Olympian and America’s Cup competitor Steve Colgate — offers three-day Learn to Sail and weeklong Catamaran Live Aboard Cruising courses for US Sailing certification. The renowned sailing school packages its courses with a resort stay at Beachside Resort & Residences; courses are also offered without accommodations. Sailing lessons and bareboat cruising courses are taught aboard a Colgate 26 sailboat or a Lagoon 40 Catamaran, used for six days with cruising certification courses. In honor of the company’s 60th anniversary, course pricing starts at $1,964 per person, excluding accommodations; with sailing lessons priced at $125 per person per hour with a two-hour minimum. Visit OffshoreSailing.com, email info@OffshoreSailing.com or call 888-385-6177. 

Florida Keys meetings information: fla-keys.com\kla-mice

Islamorada Resort Collection's newest property, Three Waters Resort & Marina, brings reimagined decor to the historic Tiki Bar.

Islamorada Resort Collection's newest property, Three Waters Resort & Marina, brings reimagined decor to the historic Tiki Bar.

This article was updated on May 1, 2024 at 11:30 AM