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Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami

by audra

Take me to a place where “the sun shouts and people abound,” and I will be perennially happy.

This is a long-used mantra I have repeated to my husband over the years. It was Labor Day weekend — time for the last hurrah of summer (Miami is full-on, year-round summer). The prescribed detox from our daily grind was a stay-cation at a local resort, the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami.

Our family of five traveled across the Rickenbacker Causeway and savored the transition from skyscrapers in downtown Miami to the panoramic views of Biscayne Bay. The barrier island is home to pristine beaches, the Miami Seaquarium, world-class tennis and golf, and the shops and restaurants that cater to Miami’s international, seasonal residents.

Driving through guarded gates past the tennis garden and clubhouse, our Honda mini van was surrounded by subtropical flora and fauna. Whenever I have stayed here, I marvel at how impeccable and well maintained the grounds are. Smiling and courteous valets welcomed us, and front desk agents presented us with glasses of champagne. The hotel has been recently renovated, and the look is the classic Ritz brand. Estate-quality chandeliers, pedestal tables topped with 200 roses, and sweeping ceilings made me feel like I was at a Ritz-Carlton, but the expansive windows bringing in azure skies and hints of the ocean reminded me that I was in Miami.

We were directed over to a booth that had the itinerary for children’s events scheduled for the holiday weekend. We usually check our kids into the Ritz Kids Club— a program that fills their day with games, swimming, tennis, and the experience of making friends with kids from another country. The front desk gave our girls red apples, coloring books, and crayons, and we were off to our room.
We had booked at the last minute, and couldn’t get a Club Level suite. That’s the Ritz Carlton version of ultimate luxury with access to an exclusive lounge for Club-level guests complete with drinks, snacks, and private concierge. We had to “settle” for the Ocean View Studio. The rooms were decorated in elegant palettes of cream and beige and featured two double beds, and a kitchenette. The views of the ocean were mesmerizing. The staff had a plate of chocolate chip cookies sent up, so my girls were over the moon. I was impressed that the room was big enough to comfortably accommodate a rollaway bed for my eldest, and a crib for my youngest without being a suite. The bathroom had a large Roman tub, liberal amounts of Asprey toiletries, and plush white robes. The linens were signature luxury hotel, and the mattresses were plush—not that we spent time too much time in our room when the weather was perfect.

My kids could not get into their swimsuits fast enough! The hotel has two pools; one is an adult oasis called the Tranquility Pool — complete with the Dune Bar for drinks — and is very serene. That’s never our destination; we made a beeline to the family pool. Did I mention that I forgot the swim diapers? No problem. There is a station nearby that provides free sunscreen, swim diapers, and chilled water. The lagoon-like atmosphere features a zero-entry pool, (which is great when you have little ones). While your kids wade in the shallow end, you can drift nearby. There is a waterfall that always has large, native iguanas sunbathing around it. Kids love to chase them

The poolside menu features a tasty selection of kid’s and adult fare. If you rent one of the cabanas that flanks the pool, it comes with a well-stocked mini bar and a private concierge service. Did you forget your swimsuit, or do your children have pool toy envy? No problem. There is a poolside boutique that has a fashionable assortment of swimwear for the family, cover-ups, hats, and coveted pool toys and floats. I dreaded the calories taunting me from the ice cream cafe that was right behind my pool chair. The ice cream is highly recommended on Florida’s sweltering days. Nestled between beach and pool, Cantina Beach restaurant, serves the best guacamole, catches nice cross breezes, and has a romantic ambiance at night (when you leave the kids with a recommended sitter service and reclaim your alone time).

This hotel is perfect for the active family. On the beach, there are paddle boards and wave runners for rent. The sand is riddled with the promise of finding a trophy, like a shell or a baby sea turtle. The water is blue and the beach pristine. Want to fit in a tennis lesson? No problem. The hotel has a tennis garden of 11 courts, a pro tennis shop, and clinics for every age range throughout the day. Again, the Ritz trademark is courteous service, and the coaches are professional and engaging. Across the street— outside of the resort—there is a beautiful, rambling playground for little and big kids. The Key itself is very pedestrian and bike friendly, and a beautiful lighthouse in Bill Baggs State park is open for climbing to survey the island.

Even after just a few of these activities you have earned a massage in the famous Ritz-Carlton Spa. My favorite is the deep tissue.

My brood loved the hotel’s well thought-out family activities for the holiday weekend: caricature artist, t-shirt design tent, face painter, obstacle course, children’s nail specials, and a bounce house located inside one of the ballrooms. If you are wondering where Santa Claus goes during his off season, I think he makes balloon animals at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne. Who could blame him?

Room service has a special kids menu for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The hotel is very accommodating to families like ours with food allergies. My girls are picky eaters and gave multiple requests on how they needed their food prepared. They ended up very satisfied, and I was happy with healthy offerings like salad and fruit.

For our dinner, however, we hired the sitter service recommended by one of the hotel’s friendly concierges and went to Cantina Beach (we also like their Italian Restaurant, Ciappino). There is nothing like ordering a great bottle of wine, eating good food, and sitting on the terrace under the stars at the resort. When we returned to our room, all three of my little ladies were passed out, dreaming of the rest of the weekend’s adventure. Our stay-cation at the Ritz-Carlton was another success; it is a perfect family resort.

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