Hotel Review: Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Sharon and I have visited Key West many times and we actually started planning this trip shortly after Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys last year. We wanted to visit more sooner than later to help support tourism since people will often avoid places after natural disasters. Even though we’ve found that when visiting Key West we’d rather spend time at an independent hotel than at at a chain property, I just couldn’t pass us a chance to stay at this hotel. This all worked out because before Citi discontinued their Hilton credit cards last year, we signed up for the Hilton Honors Reserve card. Instead of points, like most cards offer as a sign up bonus, this card was offering two weekend nights at any of the Hilton brand hotels. That’s including the Waldorf Astoria properties (well, except for several hotels that were excluded from the offer).

Since this would probably be my only chance to stay at this hotel, I went ahead and booked a Friday to Sunday stay at the Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort.

Casa Marina Key West, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
1500 Reynolds St.
Key West, FL 33040

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The Casa Marina hotel opened in 1920. It was conceived by railroad tycoon Henry Flagler as the place where people arriving on his Overseas Railroad could stay when reaching the end of the line in Key West. At the time, this was the spot to be seen in Key West, as President Harding visited the hotel three days after its grand opening, firmly placing it as an exclusive destination.

Today, the hotel has a total of 311 guest rooms spread throughout several buildings. There are 142 rooms with 1 bed, 105 rooms with two beds and 69 suites, some of which are in their own section of the hotel. The hotel was totally renovated in 2007.

Booking

Rooms at this hotel don’t come cheap. Given, most people staying at Waldorf Astoria properties don’t care about the price, but we do. We only had access to a king bed room with our free night certificates. Starting price was $330 a night before taxes and a $40 resort fee. Luckily, the resort fee is waived if you’re redeeming a free night (points or certificate). If you were looking to use Hilton Honors points, rooms will cost you 80,000 points a night.

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The one fee we couldn’t avoid was a $35 a day valet parking fee. They did offer self parking at a nearby lot but that was still $27 a day. I could’ve saved the $8 but decided to splurge :-). Key West gets hot and rains often so I’d rather not be walking to the car in either of those instances.

The regular rooms are spread throughout the main historic Flagler Building and the west wing of the hotel. I read online that rooms in the newer wing are nicer but the reason we wanted to stay here was because the hotel was old. Why would we want to stay in the new wing? I emailed the hotel concierge at Casa_Marina_Resort@waldorfastoria.com and told them we’d like to stay in the Flagler Building.

Photos

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The hotel’s exterior just evokes the sense of classic Florida architecture. The pastel color exterior and red shingled roof with the palm trees are exactly what someone visiting the Florida Keys would expect from a luxury hotel.

That classic elegance carries over into the lobby area.

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While we took this picture at night (the only time the lobby was empty), during the day the space looks much lighter as there’s sunlight coming in from the many windows facing the ocean. There are three check in desks and a concierge in the lobby, along with the bell services desk. Along the far end of the lobby (behind us in this picture) is a small lobby bar called RUMba which, despite its small size, can make a pretty great rum based cocktail.

The check in process was very efficient, except for the front desk agent forgetting to give us the envelope that told us about all our benefits of being a Hilton Gold member.  We were provided keys to our room on the second floor. The elevators were a short walk away. These were classic elevators that barely fit Sharon and I with our roller bags. The hallway to the room wasn’t elegant but we never expect much from old buildings. I’d rather they leave it like this instead of remodeling all of the character out of the place.

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Our room was located in its own building, separated from the main area by a short walkway. Our room was actually located over the coffee shop area of the hotel on the main floor. Since that space is only used in the mornings, there was no problem with noise from the floor below.

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As you can see the room had an odd shape, like a square with one of the corners cut off. That led to the room having a quirky layout, which is something we like. Cookie cutter rooms tend to be boring and this way we know someone had to think about where everything was going to go in the room.

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The door of the room opened directly into the room with the TV and refrigerator cabinet directly in front of you. Down the hallway to the left (where I’m peeking out of) was the sink and then the bathroom.

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The bathroom was small but adequate. It had a walk in shower, toilet and cabinet with the toiletries. I have to agree with other comments I read online that the shower setup made no sense. There was a glass door near the shower head but then there was a shower curtain over the half open side. My only guess was they tried to be fancy and have a half open shower, but that only works in a large shower. Which this is not. I imagine that having constantly wet bathroom floors became a problem and the shower curtain was a quick solution.

The bed was by far the best thing in the room. It was so comfortable and I’ve found that Waldorf Astoria is always great with their pillow selection with both size and number of pillows provided.

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Sharon was also impressed with the Waldorf Astoria branded sheets.

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There was a single chair under the desk, which was also the place for a lamp and the entire coffee set. Needless to say there wasn’t a whole bunch of workspace in the room. There was also an chair and ottoman by the window.

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The one thing that was hard not to notice was that the chair did not play well with the floors. There were nicks and scrapes everywhere. Also the table looked as if the leg was going to fall off any minute. I did manage to wedge it back into place but not what I’d expect for a luxury hotel.  (Included is a picture of our two free bottles of water)

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Sharon wasn’t able to take an picture showing her excitement over the toiletries since there wasn’t a mirror in that room so she had to show off the full size mirror in the room.

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We didn’t use the safe in the room (<– click on the link to learn why) but I was happy to see that we had a refrigerator and not a mini-bar in the room so there’d be no unforeseen charges on our bill.

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Finally we found that the despite turning down the thermostat as far as we could, the room never really cooled down. We may have checked YouTube to find out more about how to fix the thermostat’s settings. It was much more comfortable the second night of our stay.

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As nice as the hotel is, this isn’t the place you go to spend time in the room. While the lobby is really pretty, the reason you go here is just outside the doors.

There’s a path from the lobby direct to the ocean. The hotel restaurant, Sun Sun, where they do not serve a continental breakfast, is located immediately to the right. There are two pools, one on each side of the pathway; one is the family pool and the other is for adults only. There’s also a pool bar and a restaurant at the end of the path before the ocean.

This hotel is one of the only places in Key West with a private beach. You can also walk out onto a pier and go swimming in the ocean. The hotel also has its own water-sports rental facility so you can get your fill of going around the ocean on a jet ski or stand up paddle board.

Final Thoughts

The Casa Marina is an amazing place to stay and there is truly no other place like it on Key West. It’s a full resort property. You could easily spend a few days here and never leave, that is if all you want to do is swim in the pool or sit on a beach. But honestly, is that why you’d travel to Key West? There are so many places with beautiful beaches and nice swimming pools. Key West is about exploring the island and this hotel is a little out of the way for that. It’s a ten or so minute walk from the hotel just to get to Duval St. and when you finally get there, you’re on the southern side of the island. It’s another 30-45 minute walk to the northern side of the island where most of the action is, such as Mallory Square and the sunset celebration. It’s easily walkable but Key West gets hot, much hotter than it would be in mainland Florida. We strolled back and forth twice during the trip but the third time we decided to take an UberX across the island, which cost us around $12.

I was comparing it to our other luxury stay on Key West at the Hyatt Centric last year. I think Sharon hit it on the head when she said the Hyatt felt like “new money” and the Casa Marina exuded the luxury of “old money.” The Hyatt has a far better location but was just an average hotel. The Casa Marina is a glamorous hotel on a wonderful piece of land but it’s far away from most of Key West’s activities. It’s a place to go, not just a place to stay. Which, honestly, is what it was always was intended to be.

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