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“Did not live up to expectations”

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Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Garden
Ranked #1 of 17 Key Largo B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersSilver level
Lancaster, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
23 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 126 helpful votes
“Did not live up to expectations”
2 of 5 bubbles Reviewed December 2, 2006

Having read the reviews of this property from a year or so ago, and from reviewing the website, we were expecting this to be the highlight of our trip to Florida.

More recent reviews had indicated that this might not be the case.

I'm afraid the negative reviews were, on the whole, more accurate than the positive ones.

First the good points. The reception/check-in experience was excellent. The gardens are very tidy. Our room was also very clean and tidy. And the pool and outdoor hot-tub were great too.

Now the less good points. The room was VERY small for the price we paid. The whole resort makes far too much use of concrete and block paving stones. I would not like to swim from the small man made beach.

The fundamental problem with Kona Kai is that it is simply FAR too expensive for what you get. If I was paying half the price I paid, then I would not be complaining...and I stayed at the cheapest time of year!

Key Largo is not the smartest..or most expensive of the Keys. I just can't see how they can justify their prices.

We left Kona Kai feeling it was quite a nice resort, but that we had definitely been 'ripped-off'.

So...check other hotels on Key Largo...we found another small hotel (which also features on Trip Advisor) which was just as nice as Kona Kai, but half the price. Shop around!

  • Liked — The pool and hot-tub
  • Disliked — The pricing
  • Stayed November 2006, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Helpful?
10 Thank Daveyboyuk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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452 reviews from our community

Traveler rating
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    11
    7
    7
See reviews for
29
334
9
3
Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 bubbles
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (118)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Any
English first
Ontario
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 28, 2006

Recently my wife and I, accompanied by her sister and boyfriend spent some time with the folks at Kona Kai. Initially, we were rather apprehensive as we had read the previous remarks from the person who stayed for one night and left (after we had already booked the room and suite). When we arrived, we were delighted to find that this resort and staff were certainly not deserving of the negative feedback provided by the previous guest.

We were impressed by how immaculate the grounds were and how quite and peaceful the location was. There were two other rooms occupied at the time and yet for such a small resort, we hardly ever saw the other guests. Chris and the rest of the staff were extremely accommodating and a pleasure to deal with. thinking back to when we booked the rooms a few weeks before Tracy was nothing but personable and professional.

To address some of the previous guests remarks I say this…”yes” there is no maid service…however this is mentioned in their web site. “Yes” we saw one cockroach which we quickly dispatched never giving it a second thought. Remember, the Kona Kai is on the edge of the Caribbean, with high humidity, nothing can be considered "air tight". “Yes” there is an aerator churning up the water inside the pier area (there is very little current and this is needed to control things such as algae), I applaud the resort for taking this extra step as many other resorts along the coast allow both algae and seaweed to accumulate into significant smelly amounts. Additionally, there are two clear swimming areas, one accessible from a ramp adjacent to the pier, the second from the floating dock.

The beach is beautiful and is raked daily into a corduroy pattern (this is serious attention to detail). We stayed in the Papaya suite and were very pleased. Each morning we ate an uninterrupted private breakfast at the table in courtyard under a tiki hut. Sitting in the courtyard amongst the exotic flowers and lush landscaping and tiny lizards really started the day off right.

At night there are lounge chairs along the pier to allow guests to sit and enjoy the sunsets on the bay. One caution, if there is no breeze after the sunset, the mosquito population of Key Largo will require a small donation.

The pool is perfect. Fresh towels are provided daily as well as an unlimited supply of bottled water (essential if you are vacationing in the Keys in August). The resort even provides towels should you choose to wonder off to one of the area beaches.

Although there is no food service on site, the resort provides guest with a list of places and directions to restaurants in the area (if you choose to not eat at Calypso’s or Morada Bay you are truly foolish).

We have stayed at many different resorts in the Keys. In the past we have been victims of strategically taken photos and well built web sites. I assure you that the Kona Kai is the real deal and is truly a gem in the Keys. We were very sad to leave…although a mandatory evacuation order for Ernesto came out only 72 hours after our departure. If you are looking for a resort that is quite, peaceful and pays serious attention to detail, I would say that this is the place. The advantage to only having 11 rooms and suites is their ability to ensure guests experience as close to a perfect stay as possible.

If asked would we return to the Kona Kia?
Our response would be “Absolutely, when do we leave?”.

  • Liked — Attention to deatail
  • Disliked — Kayaks were a little too basic
  • Tips/Secrets — waterfront suites look really nice but not sure about the price increase
  • Stayed August 2006, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
11 Thank Caug
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Owner-KonaKai-Resort, Owner at Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Garden, responded to this review, August 18, 2011
Dear Caug:

Thanks for such a detailed and thoughtful review. As hotel owners, when Ronnie and I travel, we too, carefully consider Trip Advisor reviews. Like you write, some reviews can and do make one "apprehensive," even when the positive reviews outweigh the negative reviews 8 to 1. As you note, Kona Kai is for the vacationer looking "for a resort that is quiet, peaceful and pays serious attention to detail." Our staff greatly appreciates your noticing the details they work so hard to get right. Our website is comprised of photos taken by staff and guests, not professionals. Thanks for choosing Kona Kai; we're glad you enjoyed your stay with us.
Report response as inappropriate
This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Florida
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed July 24, 2006

Be careful, it is NOT what you think! We booked a vacation here, and left after one night. We asked for a refund and they flatly refused. Why would we leave? Why would we ask for a refund?

Well, we called up and asked specifically for a PRIVATE room (the lychee room to be exact – look it up on their website – see how they describe it!). This room was supposed to have a private patio in the back – just what we were looking for. Funny how they never mentioned over the phone (or on the website) that this backyard (and our room for that matter) was butt-up against the tennis court and the parking lot. Private?

“Beautiful Beach”? Funny how they didn’t mention the aerator pumping algae out of a little “alcove” of seaweed and algae thick water. I wouldn’t go in the water ankle deep, let alone take a swim. Funny how this isn’t mentioned on the website either.

No maid service, no room service. A nice sized cockroach greeting us in the kitchen sink when we walked in. The bedrooms’ “two full sized beds” were set up at 90 degrees to each other – so you had to squeeze between the two to get to the bathroom.

We’ve been to a lot of hotels, resorts and spas around the world. These folks paint a very luxurious picture – right down to the $30K works of sculpture for sale in the gallery. Only problem is, is it’s all a façade – with no support. They sell beautiful spa products in the gallery – but in the small cramped bathroom is a cheap bar of soap. No wonder they billed our credit card in full when we checked in.

Stayed July 2006
Helpful?
16 Thank JKJW
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 19, 2006

After three days in party hardy Key West, we took the drive north to the Kona Kai resort in Key Largo. Turning onto the resort's gravel driveway, we proceeded to enter a world far removed from the touristy offerings that litter the landscape along Route 1. Less than 50 feet from the busy interstate, Kona Kai is a serene tropical paradise that seems far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Kona Kai 's well-appointed and tastefully decorated rooms and suites - and whichever you choose will be larger than most visitors would expect - are all within a few steps from its well-manicured tropical gardens, tennis court, carefully raked beach, hammocks, lounge chairs, and an artfully designed swimming pool and jacuzzi on a raised garden terrace. It also offers a small but impressive art gallery, an orchid greenhouse, snorkeling gear to borrow, and a small pier with kayaks and a paddleboat for guests to use at no additional charge.

These laid-back diversions are in keeping with Kona Kai's intent: it's an adult retreat. If you're looking for dance clubs, bars serving drinks made with Red Bull, or wet t-shirt contests, you'd best look elsewhere. Kona Kai is for stretching out and relaxing.

For $211 a night (a bargain!) we chose the Mango Room, which features a queen-size bed, ample windows that fill the room with natural sunlight, a mini-refrigerator and microwave, easy access to the pool and pier, and loads of Bahamian charm. We were impressed with all the hooks and racks in the bathroom for hanging wet bathing suits and other items. Housekeeping is provided upon request, although the policy is to refrain from disturbing guests unless otherwise instructed. I requested additional towels and tissues during my stay, and they were provided immediately.

There is no restaurant on the premises, but at least a dozen memorable dining establishments are situated nearby. Ballyhoo's, one of the best restaurants in the Upper Keys, is directly across the street. Several other restaurants are also within walking distance, and many more are a short drive away. Those who wish to prepare their own meals can find good supermarkets several miles north of the resort (the nearest grocery store, simply named "Supermarket," is dreadful). There is also a very good - and huge! - diving shop nearby, and a public park for those who wish to exercise.

Finally, I must mention the helpful and attentive staff, particularly the Kona Kai's manager, Tracey. She answered our many questions about the resort's offerings and the proximity of nearby restaurants and attractions, and also booked a snorkel charter and Everglades expedition for us on extremely short notice. She's a gem!

Our stay at Kona Kai was so rewarding that we're planning a repeat visit next year. In fact, we can't wait!

  • Stayed May 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
12 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
1 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 17, 2006

The bottom line is this:

There were fleas all around my booklight when I got into bed. The owners were not available at check-out (I left as early as possible the next morning, though I'd planned to stay for four days). And, when I wrote to them, they denied any problem and would not refund any portion of our payment.

I would never recommend this motel.

  • Stayed January 2005
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
11 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed May 12, 2006

Kona Kai had such brilliant reviews that we were actually expecting Paradise !

What we found was OK but no big deal really : overall the hotel and garden lack charm (very neat but in an artificial kind of way - not at all the wild tropical haven you would figure) and are only 10 meters from the highway.The hotel has a (small) jacuzzi and (medium) swimming pool which are enjoyable but forget about the sandy beach (there's no way anybody could swim in this shallow muddy water). Good for relaxing though, and very nice to quietly enjoy sunset (scenary then is incredible, but you could watch it from any part of the island so I won't credit the hotel for it).

We paid 250 euros / night for a room (Kiwi) with no sea view and no kitchenette, which I find very expensive overall, all the more so considering that the hotel provides no breakfast and no housekeeping services. So unless you want to spend your vacation cleaning and tidying (which don't really qualify as my idea of a holiday), you end up in a mess after a two night stay and keeping clear of your room as much as possible ! Plus the only supermarket in Key Largo to buy your morning food is pretty depressing and doesn't offer much choice...

Coming from South Beach or Key West, you'll find there's not much going on in Key Largo so I would not recommend staying there unless for a stop-over.

On the other hand, if you're a diving addict (in which case Key Largo is definitely the place you want to be !), a good option is staying in Islamorada - which is only 15 min away and so much prettier.

  • Stayed May 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
10 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor Member
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed March 26, 2006

We stayed at Kona Kai for 3 nights in March and couldn’t have been happier with the resort accommodations. The grounds are absolutely beautiful with lush, tropical foliage and a gorgeous beachfront and dock.

Our room (the Banana Suite) was clean and bright with a nice, tropical décor. The kitchen was well-equipped. Suggest stopping at a grocery store to pick up breakfast items, snacks and beverages as there is no restaurant on the property.

With only 11 suites, the resort was not crowded and offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere. There were plenty of chaise lounges and hammocks for all. The pool was clean and refreshing.

Tracy, the manager, is very accommodating and helpful, offering entertainment and dining suggestions as well as making reservations for you. We dined at The Fish House-Encore, Kaiyo and Marker 88 and recommend all 3 restaurants. Also suggest grabbing lunch take-out at Chad’s---great sandwiches.

You cannot beat watching the sunsets over the Florida Bay from the dock of Kona Kai. Wouldn’t stay anywhere else in Key Largo!

  • Stayed March 2006
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
4 Thank A TripAdvisor Member
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Garden

Property: Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Garden
Address: 97802 Overseas Hwy, MM 98, Key Largo, FL 33037-2229
Phone Number:
Location: United States > Florida > Florida Keys > Key Largo
Amenities:
Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Suites Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 17 B&Bs / Inns in Key Largo
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Number of rooms: 11
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Owned and operated by the same family since 1991 and a "Fodor’s Choice" selection since 2009, Kona Kai is a magical hideaway, teeming with the natural beauty of old Key Largo and hand polished into one of the most exclusive resorts in the Florida Keys. With all new accommodations in 2013, Kona Kai is reserved for adults. Offering highly praised personalized concierge service, Kona Kai is regularly recommended by leading travel publications and websites. SInce the 2011 addition of "The Botanic Gardens at Kona Kai," guests enjoy our gardens day and night; complimentary tours for all registered guests are offered by our staff ethnobotanist. Kona Kai is a classic Keys experience; the perfect alternative if you're seeking to avoid the crowds and formality of a big resort. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Kona Kai Resort & Gallery Hotel Key Largo
Kona Kai Resort And Gallery

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