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Optimism and palm trees. Recalling the moment on a private island when the pandemic dwindled, and the deer came to visit.

I went to Little Palm Island Resort in the Florida Keys for an indulgent weekend, a true vacation. I had no plans to write about it. Until now.

An endangered Key Deer greets diners at Little Palm Island in the Florida Keys.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

LITTLE PALM ISLAND, Fla. — There was a week, maybe two, when the air was heady with the smell of hyacinths and optimism. In the spring of 2021, people eagerly lined up to be vaccinated and COVID-19 mandates were being lifted. The rate of new infections slowed from a gush to a trickle. Countries started opening borders and people were planning vacations again.

We were coming back, or so it seemed. COVID-19 was receding quicker than Jude Law’s hairline. Delta, and all pesky versions of Omicron, had yet to make their rapidly spreading debuts. In the midst of all of this hope and emotional confetti, I joined the throng and booked a vacation. I decided to go to a private island called Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys for an indulgent weekend. This was an honest-to-goodness vacation. I had no plan to write about the experience, just relax on an island (did I mention it was private?) and take a deep breath.


When I look back on it now, it was such a distinct and short-lived moment in time that I feel compelled to share it. Viewing that trip through the lens of February 2022, my vacation on Little Palm Island was a sublime retreat, both emotionally and physically. The visit wasn’t cheap. I depleted my vacation budget for the chance to come here, but I have no regrets. It was freeing and indulgent as all get out. It’s a memory and a slice of life that I hope we will all have a chance to repeat. As Rita Moreno would sing, “Someday.”

Little Palm Island Resort, which is located off Summerland Key, is only accessible by a sleek boat which collects passengers at a nearby dock, serves them cocktails, and then whisks them to the island. You can also get there by seaplane or yacht, but my yacht was in the shop that week. There was a glamorous “Fantasy Island” vibe about it. It’s billed as the country’s only private island resort. The suites and thatched bungalows don’t have televisions and there is only room for 60 guests at a time on the entire island. No children, please. I think there were fewer than 60 people there during my trip.


Last spring most guests of Little Palm Island were opting to eat outside on the beach.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

The place has won a slew of awards for its accommodations, beaches, and culinary program from all the usual hifalutin posh travel publications (Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, etc.). The resort was flattened by Hurricane Irma in 2017, and after more than two years of rebuilding, reopened in March 2020. Which meant it closed again shortly thereafter. When I arrived in the sunny spring of 2021, it still had that new resort smell. My thatched bungalow seemed like something out of a 1940s movie set in Key West. The opulent decor was new, but nodded quite vigorously to the past.

I eased into the escape like a warm bath. I was feeling so confident and relaxed that I brazenly tried stand-up paddle boarding for the first time. Despite a few precarious moments, and someone yelling “Do you need help?,” I managed to stay upright. My main activities were acting like a sloth, and then more sloth time, and watching sunsets. But I broke lazy moments of sunning for snorkeling.

A sign post on Little Palm Island reminds visitors that they're far from the cold.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

This is where things get really good. I’ve snorkeled in a lot of tropical places, but I’ve never seen anything like the teeming marine life here. This was a boat trip chartered through the resort, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I felt like I was in an aquarium. I’m no marine biologist, but I can tell you the species of fish I spotted. They included the yellow ones with the black stripes, the silver ones, the “Finding Nemo” kind, and a lot of the blue iridescent variety. This was a total “Are you kidding me?” moment.


Sunset on Little Palm Island, a private island resort in the Florida Keys.Christopher Muther/Globe Staff

You’re probably thinking “This is his hazy memory, and he’s glamorizing the fish.” I’ll confess that there was a gauzy Liz Taylor White Diamonds filter over the entire experience, I’m not exaggerating about the fish. Nor will I exaggerate about the adorable Key Deer that made nightly appearances at dinner. These small, endangered deer were my favorite dinner companions.

Please interpret my experience as a review as much as reliving a brief halcyon moment when it appeared that the worst of the pandemic was over. On those days when the world feels like an inescapable trash heap, I go back to being an optimistic, vacationing sloth sitting on a deck in the lower Keys and breathing a short-lived sigh of relief. I’m grateful I had the chance to feel that relief, if only for a brief moment.

Off-season rates begin at $2,500 a night. Meals are not included. Little Palm Island, 28500 Overseas Highway, Little Torch Key, 305-684-8341.


Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him @Chris_Muther and Instagram @chris_muther.