Culture / Travel

When Your Vacation Goes Up in Flames — an Inside Tale From Key Largo Resort Fire

Plush Bungalows More Than Lived Up to Hype Before a Devastating Turn

BY // 06.25.19

It was supposed to have been a quiet, beachfront, under-the-palms respite from Houston’s grueling spring party season. But our hejira seemed complicated if not exactly doomed from the get-go, starting with a four-hour flight delay and ending with an early-morning alert that the main building of our posh resort had burned down overnight and we had to leave.

The online promotions for the spanking new all-inclusive, adults-only Bungalows at Key Largo looked like just the ticket for a long weekend of R&R in the Florida sunshine. And so, we were off, bathing suits and sun hats filling our suitcases. We should be arriving in time for a late lunch.

Well, no. Our flight out of Hobby Airport was delayed due to bad weather in Dallas and beyond, so delayed in fact that we arrived at the Miami airport in time for rush hour. The normally two-hour drive took almost four hours. So we arrived in time for dinner.

But all was not lost. Our bungalow was just as charming, comfortable and contemporary as promised on the website. We had our private garden with outdoor shower, a soaking tub and magazine-worthy sitting area. Two turquoise bicycles stood at the ready outside of our door.

And it was beautiful. Rosy bougainvillea blossomed across the 11-acre resort that was lush with mature jungle-like vegetation. The white sand beaches glistened in the sun while soaring palm trees offered comfortable shade. We had our choice of two pools, two Jacuzzis, beachfront cabanas, morning yoga classes, a “Fitness Tiki Hut” outfitted with Pelotons, and if we had been feeling adventurous, we could have taken a spin on the floating tiki bar.

Bungalows at Key Largo
The main pool at the Bungalows at Key Largo overlooks the water. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)

We dined our first night at Fish Tales, a casual seafood spot where breakfast and lunch are also served. We lunched one day at Sea Señor, a thatched roof Mexican eatery on the beach, a taco’s throw from the water. The next night we joined the toes-in-the-sand waterfront cook-out

Our last night, we were able to snag a reservation at Bogie & Bacall’s, priority reservations given to guests staying five nights. Here, we savored a six-course meal with wine pairings. Lovely, yes. And all-inclusive.

Sunday morning at 7 am, several hours before we had planned on getting up, there was a pounding on our door. “Hello, I’m the assistant manager and our main building has burned down. You’ll have to leave as soon as possible.”

Shocking. We had heard nothing, smelled no smoke. Happily, no one was injured. Luckily, this was our departure day. Not so lucky for those who had arrived only the night before and had planned on a five-day vacay. Also lucky for us, our bungalow was not one of those that had to be evacuated at 5 am as the wind-driven fire was threatening one side of the resort.

The theory at the time was that the resort’s food truck had erupted in flames that had spread to the main building. The two-story Beach House, containing the main restaurant, the club house, the spa, and an adjacent tiki hut, were a total loss. The 135 bungalows were untouched.

Management immediately began plans for rebuilding and are taking reservations for December. And as for those inconvenienced, the Bungalows at Key Largo sent a $1,000 gift certificate for the next visit. Count me in.

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