Our Key West Vacation with IHG Rewards Club Points

Dave and I once tried to drive to Key West while visiting my parents in Florida in 2005. It was the Christmas holidays and traffic was a nightmare.

We got as far as Key Largo, and with vehicles moving at a snail’s pace we gave up, turned around and made a b-line for Miami. We’ve wanted to go back to give it another go ever since.

When the InterContinental Hotels Group offered us enough IHG Rewards Club points to for a trip anywhere in the world, we decided on a Key West Vacation.

Our Key West Vacation

Our Key West Vacation

Key West vacation Dave driving

Dave driving us to Key West

Staying at the Crowne Plaza La Concha Hotel in Key West

When the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) offered us enough  IHG© Rewards Club points to cover our stay and excursions for a trip anywhere in the world, we decided to choose Key West.

It always felt like “the destination that got away,” and we wanted to do it right.

Key West vacation highway

The highway to Key West

Armed with 800,000 points we perused the IHG Rewards Club catalogue in search of a hotel and exciting excursions in Key West. IHG has the largest rewards program in the world with hotels like InterContinental, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza in the family. Key West just so happens to have a Crowne Plaza hotel right in the heart of all the action.

Key West vacation Crown Plaza ihg rerwards bed

Our room at the Crown Plaza – La Concha in Key West

Key West vacation Crown Plaza ihg rewards club

Crown Plaza – La Concha in Key West

Key West vacation Crown Plaza ihg rerwards pool

The pool at the Crown Plaza – La Concha in Key West

The historic Crowne Plaza Key West – La Concha is located in an enviable location on the vibrant Duval Street.

It is here that famous restaurants and bars like the original Margaritaville, and Rick’s Café line the street leading to the habour where you can watch street performers show off their talents at sunset.

Key West Florida vacation La Concha Hotel

Crown Plaza – La Concha in Key West

We were walking distance to all the main attractions and loved being able to retreat to our little oasis in the downtown core. The Crowne Plaza hotel has an incredible rooftop spa with the best views of sunset on the island.

Like spas? Enjoy the World's Wackiest Spa Treatments

Key West vacation rooftop spa sunset

Enjoying the sunset from the rooftop spa at the Key West Crowne Plaza

If you book a massage for early afternoon, you can spend the rest of the day relaxing on the lounge chairs while enjoying a glass of champagne as you watch some of the best sunsets in America.

Read: Spa Etiquette: From Stripping to Tipping

Key West Crowne Plaze spa vacation

The spa at the Crowne Plaza Key West

Crowne Plaza Key West spa vacation

The spa at the Crowne Plaza Key West

Key West is the ultimate hippy hangout. It feels as if time stopped in the 1970s here as locals clad in flip-flops and tank tops walk the street with their dogs dressed in sunglasses and flower leis.

People come to Key West to party, chill out, and enjoy the sunshine of continental USA’s most southerly point.

Key West vacation southern most point continental USA

Key West is the southern most point continental USA

During our time in Key West, we enjoyed a beverage or two, especially at the Crowne Plaza hotel’s elegant Wine-O Bar. It’s Key West’s premiere wine lounge and retail outlet. We ordered a tasting menu of wines with a cheese and charcuterie plate to die for. We loved it so much, we went back a second night.

Key West vacation Crowne Plaza Wine-O Bar

Crowne Plaza Hotel's Wine-O Bar

But for us, the wee hour partying was left to the heartier crew, and we often turned in early to feel refreshed and alert for our excursions.

We love a great adventure and through the IHG Rewards Club Concierge, our IHG Rewards Club points got us a couple of epic adventures starting with a day trip to the Dry Tortugas. 

The IHG Rewards Club Concierge is available to members in the US, Mexico, UK, Germany and Middle East but as part of our collaboration with IHG, we got the opportunity to try it out.

Dry Tortugas excursion from Key West

Key West vacation Dry Tortugas excursion

On our way to the Dry Tortugas from Key West

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote national parks in the country. You can fly or take a ferry to the tiny chain of keys 70 miles (113 km) off the tip of Key West. From here you are a mere 20 miles from Cuba!

See: US National Parks in Photos

Key West vacation Dry Tortugas

Visiting the Dry Tortugas

If you are a fan of ticking things off the bucket list, the Dry Tortugas is for you.

We listened to fellow passengers talk about how many National Parks they’ve visited and the Tortugas was definitely at the top of their list and was made for the ultimate bragging rights.

The 100 square mile marine park is perfect for snorkeling and swimming off pristine white beaches but it is famous for the imposing Fort Jefferson.

Key West vacation Fort Jefferson

Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, not far from Key West, FL

Constructed between 1845 and 1876, Fort Jefferson is a giant military fort taking up almost the entire Garden Key.

The 8 foot thick stone walls housed 2000 people at the height of its population housing a lighthouse and massive cannons sitting atop the four tiered and six sided brick fort. It was considered an outstanding example of 19th century masonry.

Dry Tortugas near Key West - Dave next to a canon

Dave next to a canon at Fort Jefferson

visiting the Dry Tortugas from Key West - lighthouse

Lighthouse on the Dry Tortugas

Key West vacation Dry Tortugas

Exploring the Dry Tortugas

The ferry trip took us two hours where we were fed a hearty buffet breakfast.

We wisely chose to sit inside away from the relentless sun and enjoyed air conditioning and good conversation with another couple we met from Upstate New York.

ferry from Key West to the Dry Tortugas - breakfast buffet

The breakfast buffet on ferry from Key West to the Dry Tortugas

When we reached the Dry Tortugas, we saw small sand bars leading the way to our final destination, the port where our boat docked for the day as we explored the islands.

Read: 8 Must Try Caribbean Watersports

Key West vacation Dry Tortugas architecture

Arriving at the Dry Tortugas

We walked around the moat marveling at the architecture and then strolled on the beach marveling at the clear sapphire blue waters. It was the best beach we saw during our time in Key West!

Key West vacation Dave Deb beach

Strolling on a gorgeous beach

With lunch served on board, we had reprieve from the heat and enjoyed unlimited sandwiches, sodas and snacks before setting back outside to enjoy the rest of our day in paradise.

After a few more hours, we were back on the ferry heading for home just in time for sunset.

Key West sunset

Key West sunset

Snorkeling excursion from Key West

Our second excursion was a snorkel and sailing trip to John Pennekamp State Park. The coral reef: located just a few miles off of Key West is the only remaining reef in the continental US.

things to do in Key West - snorkeling

Ready for a snorkeling excursion

We set sail just after lunch on our catamaran enjoying the off shore views of Key West. The trip was good enough for us just as a sailing excursion.

We sat at the front feeling the wind in our hair while catching a few rays of sun before we stopped at our snorkeling site.

things to do in Key West - snorkeling

Snorkeling off the coast of Key West

Smack dab in the middle of the ocean is John Pennekamp State Park reef. Dave and I were the first to jump in and swam directly into a mass of jellyfish (don’t worry, not the deadly kind).

We were warned it was jellyfish season, and for the first half dozen people in the water, it was a prickly experience. We couldn’t take our eyes off searching for the near-transparent ball of flesh for even one minute.

Whenever we calmed down to look for other fish, another blob would float right into our legs or shoulders.

things to do in Key West - snorkeling

Having fun snorkeling, despite the jelly fish

It wasn’t long before the stinging became a little too uncomfortable and we chose to cut our swim short in exchange for cold beer and wine on deck. The entire snorkeling area seemed to be smothered in the sting of jellyfish.

Instead, we put on our shades, grabbed a cold one and soaked up the sun on deck. We didn’t mind that the snorkeling was cut short because the sailing was just as fun and fabulous.

Key West vacation enjoying the boat

Relaxing on the boat after snorkeling

It was a sunny day, we met some great people, and enjoyed fantastic deck side conversations. When they finally pulled up anchor, we were sorry to leave our spot in the middle of the sea.

Key West vacation boat excursion

Get out on the water – it's a must when visiting Key West!

The hour ride back to port was filled with laughs where we said our goodbyes and walked back to our hotel for a cool dip in the pool before heading out for a seaside dinner.

where to stay in Key West - Crowne Plaza hotel pool

We loved our Key West vacation!

We didn’t know what to expect in Key West but after spending some time here we would say it is well worth the drive. The laid back atmosphere combined with beautiful sunsets and great ocean adventures make it a perfect place to relax and enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.

Go to a Movie

One of our favourite things to do when on vacation is to go to the cinema.

We aren't huge partiers anymore but we still like to go out.

I find movies are a great way to get a feel for the local community and what people live there. It makes us feel at home and to turn our minds off to relax from the hectic days of sightseeing.

Plus, getting to see the new James Bond away from home. James bond movies inspire travel and we've been to a lot of the destinations the iconic franchise has shot in.

What quirky things do you like to do when traveling?

To learn more about making the most of your vacation visit the IHG© Rewards website. This post is in partnership with IHG Rewards, but as usual, all views of our experience are our own.

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