Florida Keys, Key West Unveil New Programming, Facilities for Groups

The 125-mile-long Florida Keys and Key West island chain offers a range of “bleisure” opportunities for groups of 15 to 100 attendees. Additionally, nonprofit organizations dedicated to environmental conservation, sustainability and historic preservation offer educational and networking opportunities for groups.

Keys Airlift

Key West International Airport (EYW) saw a 20 percent increase in airline seat capacity and over 450,000 passengers during Q1 2024. Six carriers—Allegiant, American, Delta, JetBlue, Silver and United—serve EYW from 21 destinations. A 49,000-square-foot Concourse A expansion, set for completion in 2026, will include spaces for eight gates, additional restrooms and support areas. New venues will 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, a second-story patio and pilot’s lounge, work areas and a café.

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, is revitalizing its rooftop garden to enhance garden-to-table fare. The resort’s sustainability initiatives include no single-use plastics in meeting setups, organic confetti for wedding packages, refillable and recyclable water bottles 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 beachfront Islander Resort Islamorada, undergoing a multi-phase renovation set for completion by mid-December, has unveiled refurbished guestrooms, amenities and resort activities. The Oceanside Villas area of the property offers over 16,000 square feet of meeting spaces, currently going through a renovation.

Islamorada Resort Collection will offer 80,000 square feet of meeting space, 379 guestrooms, 12 dining outlets and a fishing fleet when the 214-room Three Waters Resort & Marina is unveiled this fall as an independent Tribute Portfolio hotel—the brand’s first Florida Keys location. The Collection 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

Lobby_Three Waters Resort & Marina, Islamorada Resort Collection
Three Waters Resort & Marina (Three Waters Resort & Marina)

The 125-unit Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, with over 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space will convert to Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, Curio Collection by Hilton in July. The property will include one-story bungalows, a new multi-level pool deck with a bar and infinity pool, and a refreshed spa and fitness center. All guestrooms will be renovated by the end of summer 2024.

The Middle Keys’ newest luxury property, the 24-acre,199-unit Isla Bella Beach Resort, a Virtuoso Preferred resort offers over 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 guests. The 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, 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, room upgrades, one complimentary room night for 40 booked, and reduced resort and parking fees.

The 311-key Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, has unveiled extensive renovations. 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 Flagler’s Ballroom, 2,600-square-foot Grand Ballroom and 5,000-square-foot Keys Ballroom. All guestrooms, including 63 suites, are renovated. The resort’s F&B 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 catamaran and sunset cruises. Sister property The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, 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 a boardroom floating above water.

Key West’s Beachside Resort, with 10,000 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 offers guest experiences, managers and city guides to customize visitor experiences.

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 on June 8, 2025, on World Ocean Day. The $5 million, 4,000-square-foot, two-story facility will house an ocean exploration gallery and three centers for discovery science, ocean outreach and program planning. The Interpretive Center, for groups of up to 80, provides educational experiences about fish identification, lionfish and mangrove ecology.

In Islamorada, the 7,500-square-foot Florida Keys History & Discovery Center on the north side of the Islander Resort, 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.

In the Middle Keys at Dolphin Research Center, groups can meet dolphins and participate in interactive experiences including team-building exercises with the marine mammals. It offers two 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. A 378-square-foot porch hosts smaller breakouts or alfresco meals. Business memberships include use of event space once annually alongside other perks.

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 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.

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. 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.

On Key West’s Truman Waterfront, the 6,000-square-foot Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center offers new exhibits highlighting Florida Keys mangrove, coral and seagrass habitats. There’s also an exhibit on shipwrecks and maritime history. A conference room with access to a kitchenette seats 30.

Keys Adventures

In Key West, Steve and Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School offers three-day “Learn to Sail” and week-long “Catamaran Live Aboard Cruising” courses for US Sailing certification. The 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. 

For more information, visit www.fla-keys.com.

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