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 TurnBY Shelby Hodge // 06.25.19
The early morning fire engulfed the Beach House, which included two restaurants, the spa, gift shop and more. (Monroe County Sheriff's Office Photo)
The main pool at the Bungalows at Key Largo overlooks the water. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Oceanview bungalows had to be evacuated in the early morning hours. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The resort has 135 charming bungalows draped in bougainvillea. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Palm trees offer shade along the white sand beaches. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Bicycles are the chosen mode of the car-free Bungalows at Key Largo. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Mature palms line the pathways between the bungalows. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
A spectacular sunset as seen from the Bungalows at Key Largo. (Photo by Shafik Rifaat)
The main swimming pool is the place to see and be seen. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The beautiful thatch work in the Beach House was quick to burn and according to the owner is being quickly rebuilt. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The great room in the Beach House. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The verdant landscape at the Bungalows at Key Largo (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The floating tiki bar offers a spin through the water and all drinks included. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
Waterfront cook-outs are offered several times a week at the all-inclusive resort. (Photo by Seelby Hodge)
Shafik Rifaat & Shelby Hodge will be honored at the American Cancer Society 'Corks and Forks' on October 3.
Entry to the secluded swimming pool. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The second swimming pool offers a romantic retreat from the bustling beach scene. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The 'Fitness Tiki Hut' is outfitted with Peletons. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The reclining buddha a symbol of the Bungalows at Key Largo zeitgeist. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The bungalows offer contemporary elegance and comfort. (Bungalows at Key Largo Photo)
Each bungalow has its own outdoor shower, soaking tub and sitting area. (Photo by Shafik Rifaat)
The Beach House smoking in the early morning hours. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
The two story Beach House reduced to rubble. (Photo by Shelby Hodge)
No injuries in the fire that awakened nearby guests at 5 am. (Monroe County Sheriff's Office Photo)
The fire raged before fire fighters could get to the scene. (Monroe County Sheriff's Office Photo)
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.
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.