Why did this private Key West beach resort earn the title as the top-ranking Resort Hotel in Florida by Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards? Let us count the reasons.


Any publication or newspaper can praise a resort and call it one of the “world’s best.” But when that praise is coming from a mass amount of magazine readers – as is the case with Travel + Leisure’s annual World’s Best Awards, which surveys its readership of 6.7 million on the best destinations, hotels, resorts, spas, and more – now that…that is saying something else. Because the ones casting the votes are unbiased and honest travelers looking for the most out of their vacations, not some self-proclaimed travel writer who was simply sent off on an assignment. Think of it kind of like winning a People’s Choice Award…just for the travel industry.

So, naturally, it was a big feather in the wide-brimmed beach hat for Sunset Key Cottages, when they found out that they were voted “No. 1 Resort Hotel in Florida” for T+L’s 2020 World’s Best Awards by readers like you. (The resort also placed other noteworthy categories, including the “Top 100 Hotels in the World” and “Top 15 Resort Hotels in the Continental U.S.”). While the results will be featured in print in the August 2020 issue of Travel + Leisure, you don’t have to wait to learn what makes this Key West resort the best in Florida.

Reason #1: The Utmost Seclusion & Privacy

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Guests at any hotel have the option of hanging the “Please Do Not Disturb” sign on their guest room door. But there’s something about staying at the Sunset Key Cottages that gives guests that much-needed sense of privacy – no signage necessary. Naturally, that’s owed to the fact that the resort is based on its own 27-mile island just a quick ferry ride away from Key West with a certain amount of nature-provided privacy. Still, Sunset Key Cottages takes seclusion a step beyond with its accommodations: All stand-alone cottages, fully equipped with kitchens and private verandas, so you only have to venture into the main areas of the resort when you feel like indulging in a facial, playing a round of tennis, or enjoying dinner at Latitudes (the award-winning, on-property restaurant). This, according to D.J. McCarthy, general manager of Sunset Key Cottages, is one of the top features that makes the property stand out in the sea of resorts that call Key West home.

Reason #2: Dockside Attractions Right at Your Fingertips

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There are many advantages to staying at a resort on a private island. One of the favorite waterfront amenities of guests? The prime fishing real estate. “We provide a rod, hook, bait, everything guests need, and they can just go fish over the main dock,” explains McCarthy. “Not to mention, we’ll cook your catch up for you in Latitudes for a truly special dining experience.” There’s also diving and snorkeling, deep-sea fishing charters, parasailing, and boating excursions – all of which the resort’s concierge service can arrange for you.

Reason #3: Unparalleled Customer Service

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Some of the categories that T+L asks readers to judge the hotels and resorts on are intangibles, like how the staff made them feel during their stay. This is another highlight in which Sunset Key Cottages really hits home. “Our year-after-year guests know our staff personally, and they look forward to seeing them each time they visit us,” says McCarthy. “The guests know the concierges, the room attendants, even the ice cream man, and they’ll even send our staff members letters on holidays and birthdays to stay connected.” Those personal connections and friendly faces keep this cottage-studded Key West retreat feeling like a home away from home.

Reason #4: Unique Personal Touches around Every Corner

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Cooking up your catch in their on-site awarding-winning restaurant, your own private porch for rocking the evening away, lush tropical vegetation that is landscaped to perfection daily – these are just some of the tiny details that make this resort so distinct. Still, one of the guest favorites is undoubtedly the island ice cream bike – aka “the conch cruiser.” Think of it as the quintessential ice cream truck of your youth – it even has the bell – except it’s on two wheels for easy access to every corner of the resort. “The bike pushes this big cooler on its front, and every day at 3 o’clock, the ice cream man rides around the island ringing the bell and handing out ice cream to all our guests,” says McCarthy. If you call the concierge, you can even request that the ice cream bike make a special stop at your cottage for your little ones – or yourself.

Reason #5: Enjoying Sunset in Solitude

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Everyone knows that the sunsets along the Keys are unlike any other you’ll experience in any part of the US. But the beauty of staying at Sunset Key Cottages is that you don’t have to head to Mallory Square on the main island to get that prime viewing position. Rather, all you have to do is stroll into Latitudes, where floor-to-ceiling windows frame the sand and sky just right within steps of your dinner table, so you can enjoy dinner in full view of the sun dipping below the shoreline. Another favorite place for McCarthy to take in that stunning spectacle? “The main dock. It’s my favorite thing to do on the island,” says the Massachusetts native who first experienced the cotton candy skies of a Key West sunset when he first starting working at the resort three years ago. “It never gets old. Every evening the sunset looks a little different. It’s amazing,”

Where to Stay Sunset Key Cottages