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