Opening new Lock

Before Playa Largo Resort & Spa opened its doors on Aug. 31, it had been 21 years since visitors to Key Largo could stay at a newly built resort. This significant debut on the Keys’ largest island, just an hour’s drive from Miami, proved to be worth the wait, earning the resort its AAA Four-Diamond designation and selling out for weeks at a time during its first months in business. Like the dolphins that can be spotted from the resort’s beach, frolicking in the Florida Bay, Playa Largo is making a splash.

The resort marks another milestone – as the 100th member and first new-build property in the Autograph Collection, Marriott International’s boutique luxury brand of hotels that promises to be “exactly like nothing else.” Playa Largo hits that mark with a thoughtful design that includes natural materials such as coral rock and capiz shells, and a soothing interior palette of neutral browns accented by splashes of turquoise, coral and cream. While guestrooms reflect a chic beach house design, the lobby and ceviche bar dazzle with a glam Miami Modern style.

Staying true to its locale, the resort’s exterior reflects such traditional Keys architectural details as tin roofs and pastel-hued bungalows, while the lush grounds are shaded by dozens of gumbo limbo trees, moved and preserved during development. Playa Largo boasts that it’s the most environmentally friendly company in the Keys, with, for example, a composting system that processes all organic food waste.

Fanciest and Most Common Accommodations: For the ultimate in privacy and space, guests can book the three-bedroom beach house, with its own private pool ($4,500 per night). The spacious, tall-ceilinged 432-square-foot standard guestrooms are available in king or queen/queen, both with pullout couches. Resort-view rooms are the most affordable and the only category without balconies. All suites boast prime views of the sunset.

Best Place to Soak It All In: Advise clients to while away an afternoon in one of the resort’s beachfront hammocks, which are arranged in pods of three around a helpful hanging table.

Where to Find a Moment of Zen: The topnotch Ocean Spa adds a tropical twist to its treatments – offering pineapple-coconut sugar scrubs and aroma coral wraps, for instance – and invites guests to choose a message-in-a-shell from a treasure box upon arrival. “Peace flows through my life like an infinite river,” reads one tiny scroll a client may find inside.

What’s for Dinner? Each restaurant boasts its own distinct style and specialty. The waterfront Sol by the Sea resembles a boathouse, with lobster trap buoys and tables open to the sea breeze (advise clients not to miss the Frozen Key Lime Bar dessert). At the stylish Las Olas, diners can share scrumptious small plates of ceviche, tiradito and sushi. The only steakhouse in Key Largo, La Marea offers curtained cabana-style booths that serve as a prime spot from which to enjoy the signature steaks and seafood, while the poolside Sand Bar serves up cocktails and bar food like the crowd-pleasing Jammin’ Jerk Chicken Wings.