A guide to relaxing in Key West



SpaTerre’s Vichy shower is a direct path to Zen. COURTESY PHOTO

SpaTerre’s Vichy shower is a direct path to Zen. COURTESY PHOTO

Key West’s reputation as a hard-partying island town brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists each year who hope to capitalize on the abundance of bars, festivals and … more bars. Party-seekers make their way up and down Duval Street to the tune of a seemingly endless number of bars’ bumping bass lines or live musicians’ twangs, each spilling out into the street to create an aural assault not unlike what New York City traffic sounds like in Times Square.

Key West is truly a nonstop party year-round, and everyone’s invited — and we mean everyone. Overeager tourists beep their scooter horns incessantly in what appears to be a strange attempt at a motorized mating call; bearded Hemingway doppelgangers toast to the O.G. Papa during Hemingway Days; airbrush-painted grandmas (a sight you will never be able to unsee, no matter how much you try to sanitize your brain) strut proudly down Duval Street during Fantasy Fest; lobster-picking crustacean lovers gorge themselves at the annual Seafood Festival; nubile, inebriated coeds stream in from the mainland for Spring Break (we swear it gets longer every year); and that barely scratches the surface of the zillion other subcultures on display.

A Gentle Flow class at Shakti Yoga is the perfect way to ease into the day. COURTESY PHOTOS

A Gentle Flow class at Shakti Yoga is the perfect way to ease into the day. COURTESY PHOTOS

Mostly for the better, Key West is a diverse hodgepodge of sun-kissed (or more often than not, sun-crisped) skin, frozen drinks, late-night karaoke and bar crawling ‘til the wee hours. You can get a piña colada served inside a pineapple right next to the store that will sell you a commemorative tee-shirt boasting “SPRING BREAK (INSERT YEAR HERE).” You can order a tequila sunrise at the Garden of Eden bar and stand around in your birthday suit while enjoying your cocktail in the blazing midday sun (PSA: Apply sunscreen liberally).

But where do you go if you’re in the mood for a little bit of R&R to go with your rum punch? Whether your recuperation style is sweating out the toxins with an early-morning yoga class or having a masseuse put all your muscles back into place after a night of wild dancing at Rick’s, rest assured that there’s a place in Key West ready to get you back on your feet in no time at all.

Amri’s outdoor spa is an oasis that will soothe your senses.

Amri’s outdoor spa is an oasis that will soothe your senses.

If, the morning after your Duval Crawl, you find yourself cemented to your pillow by a layer of drool, your head aching as though the entire rhythm section of Key West High School’s marching band has decided to practice between your ears, then get thyself to the spa — fast. SpaTerre at Ocean Key Resort (0 Duval St.), to be specific — a luxurious, incomparably serene mecca for those suffering from a case of the “I-swear-I’m-never-drinking-agains.”

You’ll want to call ahead and book the Duval Detox treatment, which pairs a purifying body wrap with a deeply relaxing Vichy shower experience. And if you’ve never experienced a Vichy shower (live under a rock, do you?) picture this: it’s like the best shower you’ve ever taken in your whole miserable, hungover life, and you get to do it lying down on a bed while a very expensive machine, piloted by a licensed therapist, aims a series of shower heads at your body, melting away all your tension and regret.

Take a seat in one of Amri’s quiet sanctuary spaces.

Take a seat in one of Amri’s quiet sanctuary spaces.

If that’s not enough to get you going, the spa’s signature Javanese Royal treatment should seal the deal. It starts with an aromatic Balinese massage, followed by an exfoliating lulur body scrub (a traditional Javanese treatment meant to clarify and invigorate the skin) and finishes with a long soak in a rose petal-filled bath.

SpaTerre relies on mostly organic, biodynamic ingredients for its treatments, and offers express services if you’re pressed for time, but it’s the staff that sets this spa apart from the competition. Its therapists are knowledgeable and super talented, many of whom have travelled extensively in order to master the best techniques in the world. It’s rare to feel as though the person taking care of you is enjoying themselves as much as you are, but the staff at SpaTerre seem to have a genuine passion for the transformative effects their work has on their clients. You’re guaranteed to leave the spa feeling like a million bucks — thankfully, you won’t have to spend nearly as much to achieve it.

If all else fails, a bowl of Kojin’s ramen will do the trick.

If all else fails, a bowl of Kojin’s ramen will do the trick.

Looking a little worse for the wear? Tack a beauty treatment or some retail therapy onto your detox session at Amri (1204 Simonton St.). Located on a quiet stretch of Simonton Street, Amri is the spa-slash-salonslash boutique of your dreams. Not only can you get a customized facial to bring some life back into your boozedulled skin, you can also revive your chlorinesoaked hair and grab a new dress for tonight’s festivities all at the same time.

In addition, at Amri you can treat yourself to your heart’s content while keeping your conscience clean every product they use and every item they sell comes from companies that treat both their employees and the environment with honor and respect. Even the clothing in their boutique is sustainably and ethically made, so you can reduce waste, stress and the pain of that skull-crushing hangover all in one oasis.

If treading water in the pool at Dante’s bar while double-fisting cocktails is your idea of a workout, the Gentle Flow class at Shakti Yoga (1114 White St.) might be just your speed. Held daily at hangover friendly hours — please, no crack of dawn, get-up-and-greet-the-day type stuff after a night of carousing — it’s a great place to (slowly) stretch out your tired limbs and get ready for another day of sun and salted rims. This laidback studio and café, run by owner Sofia Artola, has been in the business of healing people since 2004, and is the type of place that makes one feel virtuous just by walking through the door.

Sink into one of the cozy couches or floor poufs while enjoying one of the café’s reanimating tonics, teas, smoothies and elixirs, all of which are packed with ingredients meant to cleanse and repair, minus the usual tree-bark-stewed-in-swamp-water taste you get at so many “pure food” places. Chase a Hot Shot (lemon, ginger, cayenne and turmeric) with a Killer Masala Chai (mayanjali chai spiked with a shot of espresso) and you’ll be back on your feet in no time. Follow your rejuvenating tonic up with a Gentle Flow class and you’ll feel like a brand new (wo)man.

Muhammad Ali famously said, “The will must be stronger than the skill.” If you can will yourself to the gym after one too many at Virgilio’s dangerously affordable Martini Mondays, it’s trainer Raquel Robbins — famous for whipping even the most determinedly sloth-like into shape — who you’ll want to see for a workout. Robbins sets up shop at Old Town Fitness (1010 Truman Ave.), where she helps clients tone (and atone) with a rigorous regimen of strength classes and HIIT (that’s high intensity interval training, for those of you lucky enough to not be bombarded by emails from Shape and Women’s Health twice a day). An AFAA Certified Personal Trainer with a background in massage and nutritional consulting, she’s known for her no-nonsense training style. Robbins will kick your sorry butt and won’t ever let you give up even if your legs start to buckle underneath you. Quads, you have been warned.

If it’s your mind that needs detoxing, there’s no better place to do it than the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden’s Nature Chapel (5210 College Road, Stock Island). It’s here that the Key West Tara Mandala (a Tibetan Buddhist group) meet once a week to meditate, study Buddhist texts, and practice various mind-clearing techniques. Meetings happen on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon and you don’t have to be a Buddhist to join — the group welcomes people of all faiths and levels of experience. If you’re intending to “Eat, Pray, Love” your trip to Key West, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better place to knock out the “pray” part than with this group.

There are many that argue the only way to recover from a particularly hard night is via that age-old therapy, the hair of the dog. There are countless spots to do so, but ordering a steaming hot bowl of House Ramen and a “can of fun” at Kojin Noodle Bar (502 Southard St.) is practically prescription-strength. The House Ramen — pork shoulder and belly, soft egg, nori, scallion — comes in both normal and cauldron-sized portions. The “can of fun” in question is actually Funaguchi, a fresh sake that is neither pasteurized nor diluted. Take both with water, a side order of steamed pork buns or dumplings, rest and repeat if necessary (and it will almost always be necessary).

And if all else fails, there’s always IVs in the Keys (531 Whitehead St.), whose “Duval Crawl Cure All,” an IV-infusion of electrolytes, pain killers, vitamins, anti-nausea and anti-inflammatory medicines, and something called “oxygen therapy” promises to get you from deathbed to remission in under one hour. The brick-and-mortar clinic on Whitehead Street also offers hotel and house calls for $50, though the cost for going back in time and not drunk dialing all your exes at 3 a.m. has yet to make the official price list. In the meantime, you can enjoy your carefree night out prowling Duval Street knowing that Key West will help you recover just in time to do it all over again tomorrow. ¦

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