The Mermaid & the Alligator
With at least 80 inns and B&B's squeezed onto the eight-square-mile island, Key West may well be America's most "inn" town. So what makes the Mermaid & the Alligator stand out? Try the crystal chandelier glittering from the royal poinciana tree out back, or the plunge pool with built-in bench for sipping Meursault. Or is it simply that the inn, though only a 10-minute walk from the beach, hides in a palm and bromeliad jungle, secure from tourist-mobbed Duval Street? The owners intended to create a respite from Key West's hubbub when they bought the 1904 Victorian house five years ago. They planted every exotic they could find, then decorated the rooms with refreshing details like Polynesian tapa cloths and Haitian and Cuban artwork depicting island life. None of the nine guest rooms have phones or TV's, but instead encourage lingering at mahogany writer's desks. But first, you'll need to check in at the kitchen—there's no reception desk here.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.