In Key West, 10 Places to Sleep Tight

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 15, 2006

Key West has -- hang onto your slippers -- 3,881 hotel rooms and 908 B&B guest rooms, according to the Florida Keys and Key West Tourism Council. Accommodations range from garden guesthouses to Old South manses to same-sex quarters.

To save you the grief of hopping from bed to bed in search of the perfect fit, we vetted 10 properties that stand out amid the overcrowded sleeper scene. Here are our picks, which cover a variety of budgets and are mainly central to the Duval Street action. Rates listed are the lowest available per night and are for double rooms. During special events such as October's Fantasy Fest and winter holidays, prices can rise by 20 percent or more.

· So many properties claim to sit on the most southern point of the United States. However, if you pull out the yardstick, the true honor goes to the exquisite Southernmost House Grand Hotel . The pink-turreted mansion has 12 rooms befitting a president -- which makes sense, since the 1896 house has hosted a number of chief executives and doubles as a museum of presidential and Hemingway memorabilia. Besides the hotel's southernmost pet rabbits, it also has the southernmost bar where you can order a southernmost cocktail and sip it at the southernmost pool.

1. 400 Duval St. Rates from $155. Info: 866-764-6633,http://www.southern mosthouse.com.

· At the Key West Youth Hostel , you'd be wise to abide by the rules: "Place your name tag on your bed. No name tag, no sleep," reads a sign posted on the front door. If you're not into the "Hello My Name Is" scene -- or, more specifically, sleeping with a roomful of strangers -- you can stay in a private room at the affliated Seashell Motel , just across the courtyard. The 10 hotel rooms are so stripped down that we had to use shampoo for soap (or maybe we were supposed to put our name on the bar?). And while there's no pool, the outdoor common area is quite the social center, with its open-air kitchen and rotating band of foreign travelers. The hostel/hotel is a short trek to Duval Street, but those backpackers are used to hoofing it.

718 South St. Hostel rates, $34; hotel rooms, from $95. Info: 305-296- 5719, http://www.keywesthostel.com/ .

· Look around Pearl's Rainbow and you'll notice something's missing: men. That's because the property is for women only and is female-friendly, regardless of sexual orientation. The 38-room sanctuary has two pools, an outdoor bar and grill, a dining room serving breakfast and dinner (open to the public, but again, no Y chromosomes allowed) and a Friday happy hour for visiting and local women. On the way out, pay respects to the elegant portrait of the guesthouse's namesake, a bon vivant and lover of all women.

525 United St. Rates from $99. Info: 800-749-6696,http://www.pearls rainbow.com. For a list of all-male accommodations, see http://keywest.com/gayaccomm.html.

· At the Speakeasy Inn , smoking is not allowed in the four eye-pleasing white-and-wood rooms -- despite the temptation of the Key West Havana Cigar Co. below (the store is also the lobby). However, guests can light up on the balcony, whose railing is carved with bottles, hearts and diamonds, a tacit sign for gambling and drinking during Prohibition. The store is a mini-museum of cigar artifacts and folk art, as well as a hangout for Key West's colorful cronies, including 90-year-old Tony Barcelo, a Hemingway drinking pal, and Mr. King, who plays the hand saw. It's a veritable Key West Social Club.

1117 Duval St. Rates from $65. Info: 305-296-2680,http://www.speakeasy inn.com.

· At the 100-room Ocean Key Resort and Spa, enjoy Mallory Square's evening carnival of kooks . . . in your bathrobe. The hotel's dockside location offers prime views of the spectacle -- and legendary sunsets -- from the comfort of your balcony or, if you prefer, from a table on Sunset Pier or a cushy chaise longue by the pool. The party-size guest rooms are splashed with bright colors and prints that are one part preppy, two parts Caribbean. But the bathroom is solid luxury; the bubbly tub opens up to the bedroom and the sea and sky beyond.

Zero Duval St. Rates from $179. Info: 800-328-9815,http://www.oceankey.com .


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