Evening has arrived, heralded by an orange sun slipping behind the islands in the distance, and the arrival of one of the island's most celebrated guests: the miniature Key deer. These adorable, endangered critters actually swim to Little Palm Island through the chain of islands to the north. Though they can be a nuisance at dinner (they do tend to enjoy putting both front hooves on the table and inhaling expensive, exquisitely prepared food), it's hard to be angry at an eight-point buck that's no larger than a German shepherd. Torches glow on the peninsular beach while water laps softly nearby, providing the perfect soundtrack for dining on the sand. I'll be back on a boat home in the morning, returning to the noise of humanity, but for now I'll enjoy the bliss of being here, away from it all. One more drink can't hurt as I watch the little silhouettes of deer strolling along the shores, and I forget for a little longer that there's something else in the world beyond the edge of the torchlight. From $1,190 per night.
- Jon Whittle