MARATHON, Fla. -- It seemed like not a guest was absent for
sunset at the Beach Bar here at Isla Bella Beach Resort. The view of the sun
dipping into the Gulf of Mexico behind the Seven Mile Bridge is not to be
missed, and so it seemed that very few did.
Earlier in the evening, a boisterous group assembled for the
hermit crab races, while others nearby played cornhole, ping pong and on the
oversized Connect Four and chess sets.
A crowd gathers to watch hermit crab races. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill
And if you didn’t have a reservation for Il Postino, good
luck getting a table between 6:30 and 8:30. The Italian eatery, which
specializes in brick oven pizza and creative seafood dishes, was bustling.
Such is life this week at this Florida Keys resort, where
vacationers carried on normally despite the constant barrage of bad news.
Guests seem to be taking everything in stride. One couple jokingly wondered if
the airlines’ relaxed policies would let them extend their stay because they
were having such a good time. As one guest drank a can of Corona beer by the
main pool, another quipped that that was the kind of Corona he liked to see. A
family from Chicago said their plane was half-empty -- a nice change.
Anecdotally, staff told me they haven’t seen much of a dip,
and the resort seemed quite full. Americans still seem to rate domestic
vacations as being safe, and a boutique resort like this is perhaps viewed an
ideal escape for anyone looking to avoid crowds.
A two room suite with an ocean view. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill
The resort focuses quite a bit on families, and there are
plenty of them here. The staff has spoiled my 6-year-old son from the moment we
arrived, first with a stuffed manatee -- which was only superseded by a pair of
real-life manatees, a mother and calf, swimming around the resort’s marina.
Beyond that, the resort’s activity team has been offering nonstop entertainment
for kids, including the aforementioned hermit crab races, a coin diving
contest, a shark tooth dig, coconut painting -- in other words, it’s a parent’s
It’s not that coronavirus doesn’t exist here -- it’s being
recognized in appropriate ways. When I arrived, public areas were being deep-cleaned.
I saw many surfaces being wiped down. There are some elbow bumps instead of a
handshake greeting. When I decided to indulge in a CBD-oil massage at the spa,
my amazing masseuse said that given all of the extra stress in world right now
she was going to “spoil me.” I highly
recommend the experience.
A view from the balcony. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill
Isla Bella opened less than a year ago here in Marathon, on
what had been an RV park. The five-star resort is beautiful: its 199 rooms look
out at the myriad shades of the blue Atlantic Ocean. The rooms are built into
four, 3-story complexes, each that has its own pool behind it. Every room has a
sizable deck with comfy, white wicker furniture. Despite all the resort has to
offer, the warm breeze and beautiful views make it a hard spot to leave.
My son didn’t feel quite the same, so off we went to the
main pool, where lots of kids were splashing around a group was learning to scuba.
Then it was off to the resort’s strip of white sandy beach, not easy to come by
in the Keys, which has shaded daybeds and loungers and where we had lunch.
Pretty soon my son was part of a group of several kids building a sandcastle
together. No social distancing here.