Sybarite's Delight Doing nothing tops the to-do list at Little Palm Island

February 25, 2003

It was barely past noon, and already Jennifer was looking for her
lost shaker of salt. A "nail technician" at Florida's Little Palm
Island Resort & Spa, Jennifer had insisted on pampering me with
her specialty, a margarita pedicure. As my feet soaked in warm
water with sliced key limes, she searched for coarse sea salt,
which would help remove the gunk from my lowest extremities. Any
skepticism I had about the procedure evaporated when Jennifer
told me that she had just administered a similar treatment to the
tootsies of Columba Bush, wife of the Florida governor. "She's
just a little thing," Jennifer said, "but, boy, is she beautiful
and fun. And elegant too."

She could just as easily have been describing Little Palm. Though
it is only three miles offshore in the Lower Keys, the resort
feels far removed from civilization. It seldom accommodates more
than 50 guests, yet the hyperattentive staff numbers more than
100. Palm trees and thatched structures--imagine Trader Vic
suddenly coming into a large inheritance--give the place a feel
that is more South Pacific than South Florida.

There is plenty to do. Diving and snorkeling outings to nearby
Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary are offered daily, as are
fishing charters, on which guests troll for tarpon and mahimahi
that routinely exceed 50 pounds. But the prevailing pastime at
Little Palm is dolce fa niente, as the Italians call it, the
sweetness of doing nothing. If you want casino nights, dance
contests and costume parties, you're better served at Club Med.
The entries on the Little Palm daily activities board went from
LOUNGING to VEGGING OUT to NOTHING. For all the kayaks and
pontoon boats on the property, the watercraft that get the most
use are the floating lounge chairs in the pool. In short, the
M.O. at Little Palm is as lackadaisical as it is paradisiacal.
"The whole idea is to get away from everything," says Patrick
Kluck, regional general manager. "We're talking total escape."

To that end the suites, while tastefully appointed with original
art, sprawling canopy beds and Jacuzzis, are conspicuously
missing televisions, clock radios and phones. (One of the two
public phones on the island is, symbolically, in an outhouse.)
Last year the resort experimented with in-room Bose wave radios,
but it was decided that they were too loud. Going one better than
those who believe children are best seen and not heard, Little
Palm bans kids under 16 altogether. During my stay, one party of
diners--O.K., my party--became a bit rowdy one night. The next
day we received a letter from management, politely requesting
that we keep it down.

All this splendor doesn't come cheap. My 50-minute pedicure comes
highly recommended; it also comes with a $115 price tag. While
outstanding, the crab cake entree at the Little Palm restaurant
will set you back $42. It wasn't surprising to learn that a
couple married on the island last fall arrived a night early to
sign their prenup. But even if you're not in the
money-is-no-object crowd, there are worse splurges. After my
pedicure, in keeping with the island's spirit, I frittered away
the rest of the afternoon and early evening relishing la vida
low-key. A margarita in my hand this time, I read, napped and did
nothing more constructive than leave an ass-groove in a chaise
longue. As the cloudless sky edged from orange to black, the
sound of silence was interrupted only by the serenade of birds, a
breeze slicing through the palms and the light crashing of the
waves at my exfoliated feet. Somewhere in the distance I could
swear I heard the lovable homunculus Tattoo yelling to Mr.
Roarke, "Zee plane, zee plane." --L. Jon Wertheim

COLOR PHOTO: M.J. FIGEL LEISURE, CLASS Fontana, seen here loading up between shoots, found that the phrase 'R and R' is taken to a whole 'nother level at Little Palm Island. COLOR PHOTO: LITTLE PALM ISLAND RESORT & SPA [See caption above] COLOR PHOTO: DIANE SMITH [See caption above]

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON LITTLE PALM, TURN TO PAGE 218.

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