Saturday, January 25, 2014

Alexander's Guesthouse Key West

Alexander's guesthouse Key West
Alexander's Guesthouse in Key West is currently the best gay guesthouse in Key West. Alexander's has 17 well maintained rooms, an excellent team and a social happy hour. Its location on beautiful Fleming Street is perfect (for me anyway!) - far enough away from the noise of Duval Street but close enough to walk there in 15 minutes. Prices of the rooms, which vary significantly, range from $175 to $420 per night. Recently (October 2014) as a result of two bad recent reviews Alexander's was demoted to 4th best guest house in Key West. Prior to this it had been at #1 for 2 years or so.

The 5 best things about Alexander's
1: It's really friendly. Both the staff and the guests.
2: The basics are gotten right, always. The service is excellent; the property and rooms are spotless and excellently maintained.
3: Happy hour (free for 1 hour from 5 to 6pm) every evening at the pool bar in Alexander's. Very social, very fun.
4: It's not bland and standardized like a hotel. The rooms are all different, and have character. You're in the middle of the community in a residential area in Key West Old Town.
5: It's gay. See other gay hotels and guesthouses here.

The cons. Are there any downsides? Sure. I find the air conditioning noisy in all rooms. They don't have central air but units in each room. Next issue: the curtains are lovely but totally useless to block out light - then again I am light sensitive and it's a compromise I choose to live with when I stay at Alexander's. Finally, I have detected a slight belt tightening over the years. Cosmopolitans are now charged for even in happy hour (not the case in 2013) and the wine quality is really not very good, even for a "free" happy hour. Some of the rooms are REALLY small so do your research - see below for a room by room guide.

Look - I'm being picky, right?! I still, right now, would not stay anywhere else in Key West.

Below are videos, loads of pictures taken my me, a history of Alexander's, the Alexander's ghost and cat, why Alexander's is called Alexander's, and a room by room guide....

The gay thing
Alexander's is a guesthouse for gays and lesbians. It varies from week to week, but I would say at the moment the average is 60% gay men, 40% lesbians. Of course, it's not gay exclusive and some straight people stay here, but this is currently less than 5%.

This is absolutely not a gay bathhouse/sauna - if you want that, Island House 10 seconds right over the street is the place for you. There (Island House) it is loud and busy. Many men stay at Alexander's (because it's peaceful and relaxed) and visit Island House a number of times in the week. At Alexander's, there are 2 clothing free (=naked) areas but they are on the sun decks only so it's secluded/private. And other guests don't run the risk of a nude display during, say, breakfast!

Laura, the general manager of Alexander's, talks a little about the gay/straight policy later in this post - go down to "The History of Key West" section, half way down the post.
Alexander's Guesthouse Key West on Fleming Street
Location: Alexander's is right at the top end of Fleming Street
Alexander's is a little way away from Duval Street, at a moderate pace it's a 14 to 20 minute walk to Duval Street (which is Key West's main drag) along Fleming. As Fleming Street is one of the finest Old Town Key West streets the walk is fascinating, even if you end up doing it several times a day. The buildings along Fleming are impressive and there is an interesting variety of architecture (and people) including old Conch houses, the city library (oldest public library in Florida) and palm park, Timmy's Tuxedos, etc... There is always something happening or going on!

There is a large convenience store (called Sunbeam) right behind Alexander's, a 20 second walk from the front door.  Old Town Key West's (modestly sized) supermarket is called Fausto's and it's actually also on Fleming, so you will pass it when you walk down Fleming towards Duval Street.

Parking: park on the streets around Alexander's
Alexander's has no parking lot or area.  This is typical of guesthouses in Key West (because they are mostly converted real dwellings in residential areas of Old Town). If you have a car then you'll need to park on the roads around the guesthouse. There are a few spots on Fleming Street within 30 metres of Alexander's (i.e. so you can see the car from the front porch) but these get taken very quickly.

Most likely, you'll need to park on the side streets around Fleming (i.e. so you won't see the car).  Important: Make sure you avoid the residential spaces (they are marked in paint on the tarmac "residential" but the paint on some of the spaces is very old and so faint and so hard to see, especially in the dark).  Take the usual precautions when parking in Key West but it's safe in these streets around Alexander's.

Facilities at Alexander's
  • There is very good wifi in all rooms and communal areas. There is a lap top for communal use in reception if you have not got your own.
  • Breakfast is served every day for several hours. It's "expanded" continental but with changing daily specials and home baked pastries like muffins.  
  • There is a happy hour (free lager, wine, spirits, cosmos) every day at 5pm for an hour. After this the bar stays open for a few hours more, but you gotta pay!  
  • There is staff on site from 9am to 9pm every day. Outside these hours there is no staff in site, but an emergency mobile number.
  • Rooms are cleaned daily of course, and the cleaning team do an excellent job.
  • Every room has a fridge or mini fridge.
  • The team are great at recommending things to do, places to eat and making bookings, including cycles.
Outside - lots of balcony space, 1 pool, 1 hot tub
The 3 main buildings are arranged around the pool and hot tub, by the pool is the small bar where evening happy hour takes place.  There is a raised sun gallery above the bar/pool and then a sun deck on the very top of the main house with room for maybe 6 loungers (which gets sun until the late afternoon).  Rooms 16 and 17 each have their own private and secluded outside space - see below.  Several of the other rooms also have their own balcony. Here is a video tour of the property (it's quiet because I took this very early in the morning!):
All this means that there is enough sunbathing space for everyone even when the place is full. You can always get sun at any time in the day. Here is a video of the sun deck at the very top on a lovely day:

The breakfast and general sitting area to the side of the pool. You can see the coffee area which is available all day.
The kitchen and help yourself breakfast area for continental breakfast daily
The pool at Alexander's guesthouse Key West
The history of Alexander's - built in 1911, BY LAURA
This section has been written by Laura, the excellent General Manager of Alexander's.

Both houses were built in 1906 and were purchased for two sisters by their husbands so they could live side by side. The main house stayed in the family as a private home until it was sold in 1981 to Walt Marlow and Dell Brixey. It was the main house that they purchased. After doing some renovations on it, they opened Alexander's Guesthouse in 1982 as a Gay and Lesbian guesthouse. The name came from their very sweet parakeet who chirped and sang all day...who's name was Alexander. They named it after their little parakeet. 

They built and kept the business going until 1992 when an architect named Michael Ingram bought it from them. He then acquired the house next door and built the third house where Rooms 14/15 are. During his ownership he started the happy hours around the pool and decorated with Key West style decor.

Alexander's history. I've added this to Laura's section here. This is a photo I took of an original framed picture that used to be in the apartment (it's not now). I don't know the people or the date (assume 1980s). It looks like they are laying the decking around the pool. Looks hot but fun work!
The present day owners Orlando Torres and Raul Diaz, purchased in back in 2003. They used to come and stay here as a couple for years. They were so excited when it came available for purchase. Raul Diaz came in and really updated the style and feel of Alexander's. He has enjoyed so many positive comments from guests over the years, that he recently decided to create Alexander's Lifestyle...with furniture and tips to create that Key West Casual look and feel.

We also have a ghost in the house, I only found out after several guests at different times told me about what they would see. It is a little boy about 10 years old, very sweet, just wants to play.  He passed away from tuberculosis probably around 1920-1925.  He was the son of one of the sisters.  His grandfather have also been spotted on the grounds as well. His grandfather passed away about the same time and for the same reason.(tuberculosis).

Alexander's has gone through a transition also over recent years in our guest base.  We have always been a gay and lesbian guesthouse...also always welcoming friends and families (straight) who were friends of guests. However, over recent years we have seen more and more straight guests wanting to stay here. With the changes happening in the world with more acceptance and integration, we see it here at the guesthouse.  While we do ask straight guests many questions before we allow them to reserve as to whether or not know we cater to LGBT community, if they are all comfortable with that as we do not want our guests to feel uncomfortable...etc...we are not allowed to turn any guests away due to sexual orientation. We have fought the fight, but it goes both ways. Overall, the experience of more integration has been positive, straight guests who seek us out want to stay here for a reason...many are exploring their own sexuality, some have friends who are gay, some have children or parents who are gay...many different reasons for wanting to be here. In the end, we are grateful as we get a chance to educate each other on how the other lives.

Laura Zequeira
General Manager
Alexander's Guesthouse
Key West, Florida
November 2014

Thanks Laura, very interesting I think you'll agree. When you come to stay say hi to the ghost! Right, I'm back.

Let's cover the rooms now. I've stayed in quite a few of them over the years. First thing to say is that:
  1. All the rooms are nice
  2. They are all excellently maintained and stylish
  3. But they are quite different (this is not a hotel with just a few rooms types!): very different sizes, positions, views etc
  4. The costs are quite different too so check out the room rates on their website. For example, the apartment (room 17) is $410 per night in March 2014, but room 8 only $175.
  5. Alexander's is very popular and gets booked up way in advance so check out the availability ASAP. All the availability can be seen online on their online booking engine:
  6. The preferences expressed here are mine and you may well have a different view.
  7. To see more, Alexander's own website is here.
That said, here are the rooms I am familiar with, listed in order of my preference:


Room 17 - the apartment
Room 16 - the suite
Room 11 - lovely porch facing the main street.  A little noisy from street noise but if this does not worry you the porch makes up for it
Room 15 - upstairs in the small house
Room 14 - downstairs in the small house
Room 1 - in the main house
Room 10
The other rooms in the main house
Rooms 8 and 9 - very top of the main house
Room 7 - just by the breakfast/communal area

Map of Alexander's guesthouse Key West showing room layout (source: Alexander's website)

The rooms at Alexander's - room by room

Room 17 - the apartment

Here's a video tour of the apartment:

If neither budget nor availability are an issue then Room 17, the Apartment, is the room for you. It's the largest room; actually it's a lot larger that the other rooms, it's therefore also a lot more expensive. But it is great, and well worth it, if your budget can stretch. The current rate is $410 per night, peak season.

In addition to the video above, I wrote a full post on this room as we were the first to use the apartment after its refurbishment in the summer of 2012. Click here to read the full report with lots of pictures.

Room 16 - the Suite. Is the next largest and next best room - see below for full review.

Rooms 14 and 15. Identical rooms, 14 on first (i.e. ground for UK readers) floor, 15 on second floor. These are nice sized rooms. They are in the small house by themselves and so a little tucked away which is nice. They look directly onto the hot tub and pool. i.e. the hot tub is 5 metres from your front door. The great thing about these rooms, especially 15, is that they get direct sun through into the late afternoon and are therefore the most light and airy rooms in the property. It's lovely to be on the balcony of 15 in the afternoon getting the setting sun direct.

Room 10. Tucked round the back of the main house, this room is well liked. The special feature is a private, OUTSIDE shower, very useful/fun during really hot and humid summer months in KW. A nice, private room.

Room 1 - main house, second floor. This is a great room. Main bedroom with "wet bar" to the side (=with 2 sinks and fridge) and in addition an en suite bathroom. The wet bar feature makes this room feel bigger than it is. Accessed through the main house's stairs. Look out onto Fleming Street. I really like this room.

Rooms 8 and 9. These are on the third (top) floor of the main house accessed via the external stairs. These are very small rooms - make sure you do your research before you select these and these would be too small for me to be really happy - but that is just me! Couples stay in here happily.

Room 11 - Second house, first (ground) floor.  Facing Fleming Street and with it's own entrance and porch (nice to have some private outside space even if it looks onto Fleming Street!). We are staying in this room for Fantasy Fest 2014, so a full review of the room then!

Room 7 - on the first (ground) floor by the pool and by the breakfast area. Not a big fan of this room. You are right by the breakfast area which gets busy from 9am so if you are a light sleeper don't count on a lie in. See pictures (below) of where the room entrance is relative to the breakfast area and you will be able to figure if this will be an issue for you. Also because you are tucked in on the ground floor, under a balcony, there is little light into this room, as you'd expect.

Rooms 5 and 6 - Second floor.  Looks out on pool. Own balcony. Lighter than rooms 1,2,3 and 4 (which was "internal" in the main house) but more noisy than those rooms if this is a factor for you. 1,2,3,4 are more private/quieter (generally), but darker and don't have balconies.

Now for a detailed review and pictures of some of the rooms....
Room 16 - the suite
Room 16 is the second largest room in the guesthouse. It's in the second house and on the ground floor, actually under the apartment, but about 40% of the size of the apartment. I really like 16 as it's more affordable yet has a private outside area.
  • Dedicated entrance way
  • Outside sitting area with table and 2 chairs, and 2 loungers. No one can view you in this area so it's totally private. Only gets direct light during middle of the day as it has walls on all sides (hence the privacy).
  • Small bathroom with shower
  • Sitting area as well as bedroom area
Room 16 Alexander's. Private entrance and outside sitting area makes this very secluded room.
Room 16 just outside the room front door, which you can see to the left of the picture.
Room 16 is divided into 3: sitting area, bed, bathroom. This the sitting area.
The bed area of room 16. In the background you can see the sitting area and front door.
Room 16 bathroom. Excuse all of our mess!
Room 15
Very light and bright. Balcony with setting sun right in your face. Lovely design and decoration. Great room.

Room14 and 15 at Alexander's Guesthouse from outside. 15 on the top. By the hot tub. You can just see the stairs to 15 on the left behind the black planter.
Main doors to room 15 at Alexander's guesthouse Key West.

Bed in room 15 in Alexander's

Bathroom in room 15 Alexander's guesthouse
You can see how really light room 15 gets - most of the day
View through the tall bamboo from balcony of room 15. You can just see the pool area below
Balcony for room 15 Alexander's is a huge asset of this room. Very sunny most of the day.
Room 7
Is downstairs on ground floor right by the main sitting area where breakfast is served. As I've mentioned this is a dark-ish room and is very near the breakfast area and general sitting area.

Entrance to room 7 Alexander's Guesthouse Key West is right by the breakfast area ands sitting area by the pool
Bed in room 7 Alexanders
You can see the sitting area for all guests outside the room
Small fridge and small tv
You see the entrance (to the left of the coffee cups) in context to the sitting/breakfast area

Hercules the house cat
Guest pets are not allowed at Alexander's.

However, no post would be complete without mention of the resident cats. All the cats are ex-rescue cats and they don't get in your way as they are mostly shy. The leader of the pack around here is the handsome Hercules who is friendly but aloof in an alpha cat kind of way.

If you're not a cat person he won't bother you. However, I am, and I let him come in when he occasionally wants to. Here's a few pics of Hercules over the years.
Hercules the house cat at Alexander's guesthouse Key West. Half asleep. It's a hard life being surrounded by all these holidaymakers.
A younger Hercules attacking my sock
Hercules the Sphinx. Keeping guard in the spotlight on the front entrance to Alexander's
Is Hercules the best looking cat in Key West? October 2014 on the sofa on the main porch at Alexander's

There are many other options, of course

I recommend staying in a guesthouse in Key West. Much of Key West's charm comes from its history, quirkiness, architecture and friendliness. You get these much more if you stay in a guesthouse here. And you don't have to compromise on much as so many guesthouses are such high quality.

Of course, Alexander's is currently the best but it's a competitive market and it's not the only five star guesthouse. 

For my other recommendations go my post on gay hotels and guesthouses.

For more straight options, this post on the best hotels in Key West.

Price watch
Quality Key West is a premium experience and it can be expensive. That applies just as much to guesthouses as it does hotels in Key West.  It makes a big difference when you come. For example, in Alexander's the prices of rooms are on average 20% or 30% higher in peak season (Fantasy Fest and Dec to May) than off season (July to Sept). See here for guide on when best to come to Key West.

Please leave comments in the comments section at the end
If you have any questions then please contact me - click on the About Me tab at the top.

Otherwise, see you at Alexander's sometime soon.

Other pages on this blog

Gay Key West hotels and guesthouses

If you have to stay in a hotel then I have written a guide to Key West hotels - click here

When is the best time to visit Key West?

Full, recently updated, guide to gay Key West

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Duval Street Key West

Duval Street is Key West's main street with dozens of bars, restaurants, shops and lots of loud and/or weird people. It's always busy - to get some tranquility just fall back a few blocks from Duval, if you want to. Duval Street evolves down its length from Gulf of Mexico (Front Street) to Atlantic Ocean (and the Southernmost point end). The very noisy end is the Front Street end - after 5 blocks it gets less hectic and more interesting. Don't assume all Duval Street is like the first few blocks: if you can restrain yourself from going into the alluring bars in the first few blocks, you've got many more treats awaiting you further along.... I really like Duval from Eaton Street and up.

Here's some pictures of the journey up Duval Street. starting at the bottom at the intersection of Duval and Front - the center of town. Click below

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Key West pictures of the week

Here are my Key West pictures of the week, every one taken by myself, during my few days in Key West in early January. Leading the pack, and my biggest surprise of the week, was a dolphin which I snapped from land and who appeared immediately in front of me. I've never seen a dolphin in Key West before from land and so this was a neat surprise. He hung around for 5 minutes or so before disappearing. After all these visits, there are still some trees that surprise me in Key West too. I'm not totally sure what this tree is with the amazing buds but maybe someone can tell me in the comments. It looks other worldly, something that could appear in sci-fi. Details of certain buildings fascinate me and the red brick tile feature on the top of the Old Custom House caught my eye this time. We don't look enough at the detail life offers us.

Please enjoy. They are all original, taken by me, and totally un-photoshopped or altered in any way.

Natural and organic Key West photography.

Dolphin in Key West comes up by the sea wall in the Outer Mole. It was early morning and there was just me and him around. He hung round for five minutes.
Shrimping boats, here 2 of a dozen of them, came inshore from their hunting grounds, because of bad weather expected soon.

more pictures - click below

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Key West rum distillery

Key West rum
Key West's first legal rum distillery is in full production at 105 Simonton Street. Yep, I'm sure gallons of the stuff has been brewed in Key West illegally but this is the real deal! It's all made here in this historic building (which used to be Key West's coca cola bottling plant - anyone for rum and coke?!). They sell and distill the rum here on site and you can look into the distillery and ask questions.

The big question of course is: does the rum taste any good?

Click below to

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Key West changes 2013

What changed in Key West in 2013? Lots. But here are the things I noticed or wanted to comment on. West Marine has a great new store. La Ti Da, Antonias, and Pier House changed hands, as did Big Ruby's, another gay only guesthouse gone. Aqua changed hands but so far has stayed the same (good). The pizza place on Duval has closed - why?, it was great. Key West is back to being super super busy with new nationalities taking over town in certain weeks! There is a Fort Jefferson museum at the Bight. The development between the Bight and Caroline Street has started. Shopping wise: The Rum distillery has opened as has Salt on Fleming - good news, both. Old Bones antiques has a notice in the door that they are moving. Evolution has their most boring window display yet. Cuba Cuba! has dumbed down and changed its name to Funky Chicken Store or something like that - what a shame that Cuba has no allure any more as a name. Little Room is still open, against the odds - excellent! The Citizen's weather forecast stupid descriptions are now driving me mad (they are no longer funny, even if you thought them funny in the first place).

The biggest change/achievement of the year: The channel widening decision was a NO - well done sane and rational people of Key West.

Please feel free to leave a bitchy, or even constructive, comment below. What Key West change have you noticed the most?


Saturday, January 18, 2014

What cruise ship passengers see arriving Key West

When you dock and get off your cruise ship in Key West this video shows you what you'll see - you are right in the middle of Key West Old Town and you have lots of options on what to do. 


Flying from Miami to Key West

Miami International Airport MIA

American Airlines operates 6 flights a day from Miami airport to Key West airport and is the only airline to fly direct from MIA to EYW (Key West). The actual flight time is 29 minutes at an altitude of only 16,000 feet.

Click below for more...

Hyatt Key West Resort

Hyatt Key West
The Hyatt Key West resort hotel is one of the big hotels central located in downtown Key West. It's a good hotel, stylish but a little smaller than the others. But it would be a good choice and it's very central. Here's my take on the Hyatt:
  • It's the smallest hotel of the big 6 and probably the quietest. This is not a party hotel. You do get the feeling they've have to squish a lot in. Less space here than the other hotels.
  • It's a typical Hyatt. That's a good thing: it's stylish with good service.
  • The bar is quite informal and small. If you like good hotel bars then go elsewhere. Having said that, you're in the middle of Key West so how much are you going to be hanging round the hotel?
  • The swimming pool is small, but they all are in Key West. However, it's surrounded by the accommodation blocks which are pretty tall (5 floors) and so you don't get too many hours of sun. If you are sun worshipper then the other hotel pools are better oriented for more sun.
 click below for more

Friday, January 17, 2014

Westin Key West hotel resort

The Westin Key West hotel and resort is central but almost too central: it's on the harbor and so the docked cruise ships block and obscure the ocean view rooms in this hotel. What is the point of an ocean view room when the actual view you get for most of the day, most days, is of the starboard side of a huge, very tall, multi-level, cruise ship?

Ok, so the Westin argue that cruise ships don't dock here all the time (truth: for the months you are likely to visit Key West, there will be a cruise ship 6 days out of 7). Or that the cruise ship only docks here for part of the day (truth: most of the day, sometimes for sunset too).

And, also while you are indeed located in super-central Key West, you are also in the middle of a very busy pedestrian throughway - with thousands of cruise ship passengers disembarking as well as all the non-cruise ship tourists milling around, just outside your "ocean view balcony".

Basically, if you like it busy, then great. If you wanted a fairly quiet and a guaranteed ocean view then think carefully about the Westin Key West.

Click below for pictures...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Key West harbor

In Key West the harbor's called the Key West Bight, and the walk on the board walk is one of my favorite things to do in Key West.  
Key West Bight looking out to sea.
There is always so much happening there, every day is different. At dawn, it's almost solitary, for then on there is constant activity with the coming and going of hundreds of boats and ships; by afternoon it's the liveliest place on the island with noise from the harborside bars and restaurants; see the unmissable tarpon/pelican feeding at 4pm; and the watch the sun set in the evening.
And all of this within a few hundred yards of the very center of can you miss it?!.. read on for more...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Little Room Jazz Club Key West

Little Room Jazz Club is the dark and intimate jazz bar on Duval Street, Key West with live music every night from 8pm, it's a good place to chill and is well worth a few hours and a few drinks. They have a very generous happy hour from 1pm to 8pm (2 for 1). It's called a jazz bar but the music policy is very broad: the music on the balcony is soul/Motown (the nights I was there anyway, I'm sure it changes) and inside there is a different live group on every night so depending on your night can be jazz, soul, reggae, country or a mix of all. Click below link to see my full post and some video...

Little Room Jazz Club Key West

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Eaton Street seafood market

Lobster roll at the Eaton Street Seafood Market
Best lobster in Key West? I've discovered the lobster delights of the Eaton Street Seafood Market. I thought it was just a market, but they prepare lunch sandwiches, including the amazing lobster roll which was really tasty.

Click below for more...

Today in Key West - live blog - rain blog

Hello and welcome to my live blog from Key West, today Saturday 4 January 2014. Many people actually read this blog from Key West (I can see from the stats in Google Analytics). Especially on a day like this…. everyone in Key West will know all too well that it's RAINING. Yep, right now at 9.41am it's raining hard in paradise.

And, sorry folks, it looks that way for the vast majority of today.

If you are in Key West, I can direct you to my post on what to do when it rains in Key West - click here.

I'm going to put this post live and then do more live blogging during the day today - in the rain!

For now, here's some pics from my guesthouse room of the scene in Key West taken just this second…