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Sybarite's Delight
L. Jon Wertheim
February 18, 2003
Doing nothing tops the to-do list at Little Palm Island
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February 18, 2003

Sybarite's Delight

Doing nothing tops the to-do list at Little Palm Island

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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 entr�e 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."

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