I visited Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton in May 2022 on a long-awaited 3-night getaway to Key West with my husband. We were thrilled to explore this historic tropical island that’s home to Hemingway’s 6-toed cats, some of the best snorkeling in the Lower 48, and endless key lime pie. Overall, Casa Marina proved to be a fantastic home base in Key West.
I chose the Casa Marina for its location, beach access, and historic allure. I had a Hilton free night certificate to use along with some Hilton Honors points and considered Casa Marina a good redemption value for both my certificate and points. My expectations were spot on and we had a lovely stay, but there were certainly some flaws in this diamond of Key West.
Casa Marina was a Waldorf Astoria when it first caught my eye but changed to a Curio Collection property in March 2022. It’s not hard to guess why: the property isn’t what it once was. It isn’t aging as gracefully as it could be, service (while friendly and accommodating) was stretched thin, room cleanliness was lacking, and the interiors needed a significant upgrade.
Still, we were charmed by Casa Marina and would make a return trip. It’s tough to beat the view and quiet location on the largest private beach in Key West.
I found Casa Marina’s location ideal. It was a quick 10-minute Uber from Key West International Airport (EYW) and minutes to bike pretty much anywhere we wanted to go. And while we were close to everything, Casa Marina was far enough away from the buzz of major tourism to feel like a quiet retreat.
Higgs Beach, a public beach, is just next door with decent snorkeling. Close by is Casa Marina’s sister property, The Reach Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, and a small entrance to Dog Beach. The best beach in Key West for clear water and snorkeling is just 7 minutes away by bike or car at Fort Zachary Taylor Park. The Hemingway Home and Museum and Duval Street are less than 10 minutes away, too.
There’s not really a bad location to stay in Old Town Key West if you want to be close to everything. Most spots we hit weren’t more than a mile or so apart, usually much closer than that. On bikes, we could generally get where we wanted to go in about 10 minutes or less, and we passed countless lodging options along the way.
Hot Tip: Key West is a pretty small town and parking isn’t plentiful. Many people choose to get around on bikes, scooters, or golf carts.
Casa Marina opened more than 100 years ago on New Year’s Eve 1920. Established by industrialist Henry Flagler to accommodate the wealthy and glamorous customers of the railroad he brought to Key West, Casa Marina has a storied history.
Like many locations in Key West, Casa Marina has a former military or government use. The property was used by the U.S. Navy for officer’s quarters during World War II, and later to host a U.S. Army battalion during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
On the National Register of Historic Places, Casa Marina has long been a luxury hotspot for elite guests of Key West, including President Warren G. Harding, Gregory Peck, Rita Hayworth, and more modern famed guests such as Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren.
My visit to Casa Marina was an award stay using a Hilton free night certificate and points I earned with my Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card.
I considered upgrading to the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card on a targeted offer with bonus points ahead of the trip but decided against it. Aside from Hilton stays, I earn most of my Hilton points on gas and groceries, which the Hilton Surpass card earns well on and the Hilton Aspire card doesn’t.
If you were to pay cash for this stay, you would earn 12x Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on the Hilton Surpass card or 14x Hilton Honors points per dollar spent on the Hilton Aspire card. Both cards have elevated earnings on dining, as well.
Hilton free night certificates are valid for a standard room reward, which can have a points value of up to 120,000. The Guest Room – King Bed I booked was 90,000 points per night, but I was upgraded to an Ocean View with Balcony – King Bed, which goes for 212,000 points per night, or a cash rate of $694.
My 90,000 points per night redemption had a value of 0.77 cents per point, which is higher than our estimated valuation of Hilton Honors points at 0.4 cents per point.
Bottom Line: With a $45 nightly resort fee (waived on award bookings), I would have paid more than $2,200 plus taxes and fees for our 3-night stay.
We took an early flight and arrived in Key West at 1:30 p.m., well ahead of Casa Marina’s 4 p.m. check-in time. When we arrived in our Uber, we were greeted by a valet who cheerfully mentioned he’d store our luggage if our room wasn’t ready yet.
The check-in desks were to the right of the main entrance doors and there was no line when we arrived, or any other time we visited the front desk.
The lobby was refreshing and open with plenty of seating. There are few entrances to the hotel, especially after 6 p.m. when the Reynolds Street side gate closes, so we walked through this area frequently. It was always nice to get a blast of cold air before continuing back outside to our room, though we would have liked a more direct route.
At check-in, I was delighted to find out that not only was our room ready hours early but we’d been upgraded to an ocean view room thanks to my Hilton Honors Gold elite status.
Hot Tip: Hilton Honors Gold status is granted with the Hilton Surpass card. The $95 annual fee has paid for itself many times over for me in room upgrades and via the 10 complimentary Priority Pass lounge visits annually.
The front desk agent asked if I wanted housekeeping, which I declined in favor of privacy. She confirmed that if we needed any more towels or espresso pods, we could call the front desk.
I was offered a $36 per day food and beverage credit or 1,000 points (which we value around $5). Since the credit wouldn’t cover a full breakfast, couldn’t be used at the grab-and-go market, and we didn’t plan to eat much at the hotel, I opted for points.
As we had a late flight out, I asked about late checkout and was granted an extra hour with instructions to ask again on our last night. Ask we did, and we got an additional hour, which we used to enjoy the private beach, pool, and poolside bar!
To recap, as a Hilton Honors Gold member, I received a few benefits:
- Early check-in and late checkout
- Room upgrade
- 1,000 points in lieu of a $36 daily food and beverage credit
- Waived resort fee on award stay
- Free Wi-Fi
Casa Marina has a $45 nightly resort fee, which I didn’t pay because I stayed using a free night certificate and points. Here’s what’s included in the fee:
- Access and reciprocal charging privileges at The Reach
- Poolside cold eucalyptus towel and popsicles
- Pool hydration station
- In-room water bottles refreshed daily
- Daily newspaper
- In-room espresso
- Beach recreation, including volleyball and cornhole
- Fitness center access
- Business center access
I’m glad my resort fee was waived on my award stay, as we either didn’t notice or didn’t use most of the included amenities.
Casa Marina is on the south end of the island and has the largest private beach in Key West. Although Key West is an island, there’s less beach access than you’d expect, so having a long stretch of private beach steps from our room was a great perk we were happy to take advantage of.
There was a lot of seaweed, but we nonetheless appreciated having private beach access. We enjoyed plenty of shade, beach games, food and drink service, and easy access to rental equipment.
Though Casa Marina’s beach was enjoyable, it’s not the best beach in Key West. Fort Zachary Taylor Park was far superior but incredibly crowded by 11 a.m. on the weekday we visited. It was nice to have a private option to escape to.
I spent most of my time on the Casa Marina beach in a super relaxing hammock watching the iguanas on the property and catching a quick nap. I spotted a small nurse shark near the dock, too.
Between the pools and the beach were sand carvings, which change occasionally depending on events and the season.
When we visited, one of the carvings was a palm and sun on the beach scene, while the other was for Exagen, which had an event at Casa Marina the week we visited.
Casa Marina has 2 pools: an adults-only pool and a family pool. Both are just steps from the beach, with the Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill between them.
Our balcony overlooked the family pool, which was never busy. It’s only 4 feet 6 inches at its deepest, so it’s friendly for kids and casual swimmers. This is the pool we visited, as it was closest to our room and less busy than the adults-only pool. We visited on a weekday in May when many kids were still in school.
The adults-only pool was usually a little busier and slightly closer to the bar. It had more shaded loungers and was about the same size as the family pool.
We hit a snag with towel service at the pool, as there were no attendants at either station when we needed towels. Rather than hunt down staff, we just self-served.
Casa Marina had a few cabanas available to rent at both pools. We only saw 1 rented the whole time we were there by a couple who promptly sat down to work on their laptops in the shade. But we visited during a slow time for the hotel, so most guests were probably fine with the lounger-to-guest ratio.
Cabana pricing varies depending on the season and special events, but expect to pay around $100 to $200 for a poolside cabana at Casa Marina.
Casa Marina had a variety of beach games available to guests, including volleyball, soccer, a huge Connect 4, and cornhole.
We didn’t see all of the equipment come out each day, and rarely saw guests using it.
There was also a huge beach chair for grabbing a social media photo.
Casa Marina offered beachside yoga 3 times a week at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. There’s a $20 fee, which included the class, mat, and necessary props.
There’s a Barefoot Billy’s location onsite at Casa Marina, which was very convenient. The rentals available included kayaks, paddleboards, Jet Skis, and other watercraft to play with on the beach. There was also a small army of bikes and scooters to get around Key West.
The staff at Barefoot Billy’s were especially friendly. Our room was on the same side as the rental location and we often used the gate here to get in and out of the property. Each time we passed by, we were greeted by staff who asked about our day and offered advice. It was awesome having locals help out as we set about exploring!
We often saw Jet Skis taking off from this location.
The onsite bike rental was especially convenient, making it easy to pick up and drop off a bike right at the hotel with no walking in between. And with lots of options, there was a bike for every rider, though the adult cruisers were the cheapest and most accessible option for adults. All bike rentals include lights, locks, baskets, maps, and helmets on request.
Barefoot Billy’s also had scooters available for rent. After bikes, scooters were the second most popular option we saw for Key West transportation.
Meetings and Events
Casa Marina is a popular event space. Even on our weekday visit, we saw staff working on corporate events and a small beachside wedding.
During the day and night, Flagler’s Ballroom and the adjacent patio areas were flipped into an event space a few times during our stay. The patio behind the adult pool doubled as an event space, too, just adjacent to the Grand Ballroom.
The Wi-Fi in our room was slow at less than 10 Mbps. But we didn’t notice as we used cell service to look up directions and stay connected, and we didn’t need to work or stream videos.
Spa al Maré
I didn’t visit Spa al Maré across the street from Casa Marina, but the offerings include beachside massage, facials, aromatherapy, and yoga.
I didn’t use the fitness center, either, opting to get my activity in by bike, but I did pop in to check it out before we left. It was larger and more well-equipped than I expected.
There were Peloton bikes, aerobic equipment, free weights, and weight machines.
The center had plenty of towels available and a place to refill water bottles, along with a fridge to grab a chilled plastic water bottle.
I might have missed the business center, but if this was it, it’s just a computer and printer in a nook under the stairs.
Access to The Reach
The Reach is another Curio Collection property in Key West. It’s Casa Marina’s sister property and guests of both hotels have reciprocal benefits and transportation between them.
We planned to bike, Uber, or Lyft to get around Key West, so we didn’t park a car. There is a parking lot, which you’ll pay a fee of $35 per night to use for valet or $30 to self-park. We never saw the parking lot get full, but the free bike parking was a different story.
While we rarely saw many fellow bikers at Casa Marina, there were a lot of bikes on the racks. We usually had trouble finding a spot at the hotel’s main bike rack near the entrance and often opted to either lock up our bikes on a nearby pole or use the overflow bike parking across the street, which was also frequently full.
The lack of bike parking didn’t slow us down too much, but it was annoying because the bikes didn’t seem to move from the racks. I’d understand if fellow guests were filling the racks, but I suspect the bikes were stored there long term and Casa Marina hadn’t bothered to remove them.
While we were pleased with the amenities and service at Casa Marina, the room, while upgraded, left a lot to be desired.
I read reviews ahead of our visit with horror stories of mold, stained sheets, and broken furniture and plumbing. Our experience was better than I feared, but it wasn’t ideal and certainly illuminates why Casa Marina is no longer a Waldorf Astoria.
In our room 330, I found mold on the balcony curtains, a chair, and the bathroom light fixture and wiped down a few obviously uncleaned surfaces before we settled in. The phone didn’t work, and one of the nightstands had a huge chip in the veneer that was colored over. Every piece of furniture had some sort of scuff, mess, or imperfection. The alarm clock had dirt in the speaker holes, and the bed frame was awkward and clunky.
While problematic, we weren’t bothered enough by the shortcomings in our room to ask for cleaning service, a different room, or leave the hotel altogether. We arrived hungry and ready to hit the ground running, so it wasn’t worth spending our limited time in Key West complaining. And we loved the corner balcony, so I didn’t want to take chances on moving.
Bottom Line: Had we been paying the cash rate of nearly $700 per night for this room, we probably would have complained.
Upon entrance, the wardrobe and coffee station were to the left, with the bathroom to the right and the bedroom area straight ahead.
I’m not much for in-room coffee, but the coffee station fell short of expectations. The room was advertised with in-room Nespresso machines, but that was not the case. Instead, we got a basic Keurig-style machine that easily overflowed. We didn’t need to ask for a refill on pods because we only made coffee once.
Below the coffee station was the refrigerator, which was clean and worked fine enough to hold water bottles.
The metal bed frame was awkward, jutting out below the bed skirt, so we had to take care not to hit our toes on it as we walked by. It was noisy getting on the bed — not squeaky noisy, but a more disturbing clunky noisy.
Before we settled in and committed to the room, I checked the bed to confirm that the sheets were clean, and they were thankfully fine. I can deal with wiping a few surfaces, but a dirty bed would have been a deal-breaker.
Bottom Line: While the clunky bed frame made me a little nervous, it was clean and comfortable and we slept perfectly fine.
There were 2 nightstands, both with lamps and 1 with a (non-working) phone and alarm clock that had USB port and regular outlets. The nightstand closest to the bathroom just had a wall outlet nearby.
The nightstand with a huge chip in the veneer was the worst of the furniture in the room that clearly needed an upgrade. Others had scuffed or otherwise worn surfaces, and almost everything needed a good wipe-down before I was comfortable.
Next to the bed was a small lounger with a table and chair.
On the opposite wall were the TV, dresser, and work area.
The safe was in the dresser under the TV. I call it a dresser, but it was just shelving with doors. We didn’t use it because I had concerns about cleanliness and was also worried about clothes falling out the back of the shelves.
The bathroom was small but overall functional. I didn’t like that it had a shower curtain instead of a sliding door, or that you had to get inside the shower to be able to turn on the water. But the water was always hot enough with plenty of pressure and drained fine.
The Zenology amenities were in refillable bottles in the shower, along with soap and lotion on the counter. I loved the smell of the conditioner and body wash. The counter amenities looked a little lonesome, as I’m guessing single-use amenities were once stored there before the hotel made the switch to refillable bottles.
The balcony was the highlight of the room. We got a corner balcony with an extra nook and no neighbors to the right. It was always quiet and the view was fantastic.
But even the balcony was not without its flaws, as there were once again issues with cleanliness, and also a strange canvas divider that didn’t span the whole space to separate our balcony from the next. We didn’t notice neighbors on the other side until our last day, but the divider made the balcony and our room a lot less private than I’d prefer.
Bottom Line: We were comfortable in our room at Casa Marina, but I expect better from a Hilton resort.
Food and Beverage
We arrived in Key West with a mile-long food wish list that didn’t include Casa Marina, so we didn’t make much use of the food and beverage options, though I couldn’t resist a poolside drink.
Breakfast was served daily from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Flagler’s Ballroom with seating inside or on the patio. During our weekday stay, there was a continental buffet, Flagler’s (hot) buffet, and à la carte items. On weekends, the Grand Buffet was available.
The continental buffet was $28 per person and Flagler’s buffet was $42. We don’t love breakfast enough to push $100 per day and didn’t want to bother with a sit-down meal every morning. Instead, we visited a nearby Cuban Coffee Queen each day for eye-openers, which was more our speed, and breakfast for 2 never exceeded $40 (including tip).
Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill
We enjoyed a couple of drinks from Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill, Casa Marina’s poolside bar and restaurant. I got a piña colada with a dark rum floater that had an awesome brown sugar flavor, and my husband got a key lime colada — one of the many key lime treats he enjoyed on our trip.
In addition to drinks, Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill serves snacks and meals at the pool, beach, and in the seated dining area.
Like the breakfast, we found Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill’s menu pricing to be a bit inflated, even by Key West standards. I love guacamole, but not $19 worth. Still, the menu was tempting with coastal fish tacos, key lime pie, and Florida citrus salad.
Sun Sun Beach Bar & Grill served lunch from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with the bar open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Flagler’s Cafe was open from 6:30 am. to 11 a.m. serving coffee, breakfast cocktails, and breakfast options including sandwiches, parfaits, and fruit. Had we been able to use our credit at the cafe, we probably would have stopped here for breakfast or at least coffee each day.
The HMF Sidecar lobby bar wasn’t open during our stay. Attached to the Ramblers Gift Shop, it was used for merchandising instead.
Every interaction we had with Casa Marina staff was positive, and we experienced friendly, helpful service that fulfilled every request. I usually find Hilton service to be a little cold, but that was not the case at Casa Marina.
We were granted both early check-in and late checkout at the front desk, which was always accommodating. The valets were cheerful and excited to help with our bags and tell us about the hotel and answer questions about local foliage. Even the staff at the Barefoot Billy’s location on the property was incredibly friendly and always ready to answer questions or offer helpful suggestions.
Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton is overdue for an update, and housekeeping seems stretched thin, but there’s a lot to love about this old dame. I found this historic hotel to be charming and beautiful with a location that can’t be beaten, and it will be on my short list when we return to Key West — especially if it’s after room renovations and additions to the housekeeping staff.
If you plan to visit, bring the expectation that your room may not be sparkling or modern, but you’ll get friendly service at a quiet, private retreat with great amenities and rich history.
The information regarding The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card and Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.