I’ve been obsessed with Islamorada since Netflix released Bloodline, the family drama about dark secrets and their far-reaching consequences set on the island located halfway between Key Largo and Marathon. To me, Islamorada seems to encapsulate everything best about the Florida Keys—sandy beaches dotted with hammocks and palm trees, placid water perfect for SUP or floating loungers, photo-worthy sunrises and sunsets that draw a daily crowd, and a laid-back vibe that permeates every encounter and experience. It’s also the locale of Amara Cay Resort, whose quarterly Weekends of Wellness are worth the drive across the Overseas Highway to this destination that feels a world away.
Hosted by Crystal Carnahan of Zenfully Aware, a health and wholeness coach who brings offerings to guests at Florida resorts, the events are held at Amara Cay Resort as well as at its sister properties in the Islamorada Resort Collection: Pelican Cove Resort & Marina, Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, and La Siesta Resort & Villas. (A shuttle connects all of them and can also take guests to other spots within a few-mile radius.)
A few months ago, I headed south for the property’s first wellness-themed weekend of 2023. (The next one will be offered May 18-21, 2023, so book now if you need a little zen before the summer begins; check the website for the exact programming that’ll be offered, which differs a bit from my experience.)
After settling into my one-bedroom king suite, which overlooked the beach and the dock and had a separate dining and living area and balcony, I followed the palm tree-lined stone path for lunch at the Tiki Bar. The lively setting is the all-day gathering place for cocktails, beer, and casual fare like local mahi mahi ceviche, Caribbean lobster tacos with slaw and mango salsa, and tender grouper cheeks with cilantro aioli—their most popular dish, with good reason. (Their restaurant Reel Catch offers the same menu.)
The wellness activities kicked off that evening with a sound bowl meditation in the pavilion just a few feet from the water. Sound bowls of various sizes were arranged in the front of the space, participants were spread out on yoga mats with blankets to ward off the chilly breeze, and a Reiki practitioner walked around to offer gentle, healing hand movements to whomever wanted them. The sounds and vibrations that transitioned from loud and energetic to quiet and calming were a fitting metaphor for what I hoped would mirror my transformation by the end of the weekend.
The next morning, I took the shuttle to Postcard Inn Resort & Marina, an equally charming property with a more sprawling poolscape and larger sandy beach. Beachside yoga was followed by a demonstration by the resort’s Executive Chef Andy Phillips, during which we made DIY power bowls with açai smoothie packets, mango, strawberry, dragonfruit, pomegranate, starfruit, granola, and shredded coconut. I toted my superfood-filled bowl to a lounge chair in the sand for a mid-morning fuel-up.
I stayed on for lunch at the Postcard Inn, whose Raw Bar offers ocean views from two levels, and all my favorite seafood and shellfish: steamed clams, oysters on the half shell, grilled Caribbean lobster tail with coconut rice, and the jerk-grilled catch of the day. I loved the menu and the setting so much that I returned one night for dinner.
That evening was the most special part of the weekend, as we headed to the dock at the Postcard Inn for full-moon yoga. Held in collaboration with the Coral Restoration Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to protect the world’s coral reefs, the practice began with an educational lesson about how the moon is the catalyst for coral spawning each year. (Florida’s coral reef, which stretches 360 miles from Dry Tortugas National Park to the St. Lucie Inlet, is the largest in the continental U.S.; the barrier it provides offshore is the reason for the Keys’ calm, glasslike water.)
With the setting sun and the full moon rising as the backdrop and gentle lapping waves as the only sound, it was an organic meditative experience that ended with a photo opp as I tried to “hold” the moon in my hand.
I have regularly practiced yoga for almost a year and a half, but I have to admit it was a challenge to do two solid practices per day—even when the setting was a pretty South Florida beachfront instead of my Northern Virginia apartment. But I was back at it the following morning, where an AM yoga sesh with energizing sun salutations and other flows concluded with cold cans of Olipop, a probiotic- and botanical-packed soda that supports digestive health. Namaste, and cheers.
Of course, there was ample down time in-between the wellness activities to enjoy the resort and explore the area. There are plenty of shops and boutiques within walking distance, though accessing the ones on the opposite side of the road requires crossing Route 1, which can be quite a nerve-wracking experience as there aren’t any crosswalks. Judging from my haul, I would say Miss Monroe has the cutest, most unique clothing, jewelry, and accessories.
And if your visit falls during Stone Crab season, which runs October to May, queue up at the Square Grouper’s Sunset Lounge a half hour before opening, where you can get $5 claws every Wednesday to Sunday from 4:20 to 6:00 p.m. Challenge accepted—I ate my weight in them. But there is also something to be said for just grabbing a hammock or lounge chair in the shade of a palm tree or taking to the water in a SUP or kayak (morning is generally calmer here for such pursuits.)
The weekend concluded with a class on conscious breathing, during which we learned how to become better aware of our breath. We also discovered the impact of the connection between mind and body, and how it can settle and calm our nervous systems. I once read that yoga is first and foremost a “breath practice,” and I definitely believe that’s true. Focusing on deep, mindful breaths—instead of the shallow ones we take when we’re stressed, preoccupied, or just busy—fuels our bodies and brains with that much-needed restorative flood of oxygen. Four days spent breathing in the place the Spanish called “Purple Island” for its soothing lavender sunsets and deep orchid bougainvillea was a rejuvenating start to my year.
The next Weekend of Well-Being will be hosted May 18-21, 2023, with all activities complimentary for hotel guests and $75 for non-guests and locals. To celebrate the bicentennial of the Florida Keys, the Amara Cay Resort (and its sister properties) is offering a package that includes an exclusive discount on accommodations, $200 resort credit, and a special-edition anniversary print by a local artist.