Marathon is a city that spans about 13 islands and has plenty of fun water-based activities and things to do. It’s centrally located to the rest of the Florida Keys, which makes it a good stopping point if you are planning a trip from Key Largo to Key West.
Marathon is about ten miles long, with accommodations on several islands, including the main one, Vaca Key, as well as Grassy Key, Crawl Key Number Two/Key Colony Beach, and Knights Key.
Here’s the lowdown on some of Marathon’s neighborhoods and the best hotels to stay at in each one:
Vaca Key (Marathon Shores)
Marathon Shores is located on Vaca Key, over which US 1 crosses to the other keys. If you’re looking to stay in Marathon, this area is a popular spot and has a majority of the most affordable accommodations.
- ($) Captain Pip’s Marina & Hideaway: You get 10% off boat rentals if you stay here — which is good, because there’s so much to explore in Marathon by boat. The tropically inspired hotel has hosted famous guests such as Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Hoffa, Eddie Fisher, and Elizabeth Taylor. There’s also a restaurant, Porky’s Bayside, with waterfront views and live music. Rooms come with a fridge and microwave, and bikes are available to rent. Rates start at $195/night. Book a room here.
- ($) Blackfin Resort & Marina: Located on the Gulf side, this cozy little hotel comes with a pool, private beach, marina, and free parking. Most of Marathon’s attractions are within a 15-minute walk, like Crane Point Museum and Nature Center and Sombrero Beach. Rooms are simply decorated in neutral tones, but the bedspread offers a splash of color. You’ll have a fridge, which is nice, because you can fish and filet at the on-site fish-cleaning area for free and then grill up your dinner. There’s a bait shop as well. Rates start at $199/night. Book a room here.
- ($) Coconut Cay Resort and Marina: If you’re looking for a vibrant, Bahamian-style resort with convenient waterfront access for kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing, you’ll find it here (fishing poles are included). You can also utilize the complimentary bike rental to explore Marathon. There’s a tropical garden, a pool, and complimentary breakfast; snorkeling is available for an additional fee. Rates start at $202/night. Book a room here.
- ($$) Island Hideaway: This is a little apartment with a full kitchen, on-site tennis, and an outdoor pool. And if you decide to rent a boat in Marathon that’s less than 26 feet in length, you can bring it to the marina for an additional fee. Like most other hotels in this article, there’s bike rentals, snorkeling, and fishing. Parking is free, but you need to make a reservation in advance. Rates start at $285/night. Book your stay here.
- ($$$) Skipjack Resort & Marina: if you catch a fish, the chef at the on-site restaurant, Blu Bistro, will cook it for you! They also serve fresh and locally caught seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. The hotel has a terrace, garden and sun deck, and a beach. For an additional fee you can kayak, snorkel, and play tennis or golf. Nearby there’s a spa and fitness center and an outdoor heated pool. There’s also complimentary parking and breakfast, and rooms come with a kitchenette. Rates start at $329/night. Book a room here.
- ($$$) Tranquility Bay Resort: This comfortable resort boasts beautiful and traditional beach houses and has three swimming pools (including a children’s heated pool and an adults-only pool), a private beach with ocean views, a lagoon area, a spa and fitness center, and an on-site bar and café. There’s mini golf, kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, and fishing, and the hotel also offers eco-tours. Breakfast is included in your stay, as is parking. Rates start at $399/night. Book a room here.
If you’d like to get a little off the beaten path, you can check out hotels in some of Marathon’s other keys, discussed below.
Grassy Key is on the north end of Marathon. It’s a bit removed from the heart of Marathon and much closer to Islamorada, which, however, has its own host of attractions. You’re also close to Keys Cable Park, which has a bunch of watersports activities, like wakeboarding and hydrofoiling. Here’s where I recommend staying:
- ($) Sun Outdoors Marathon: Kick back and relax at the waterfront lounge or walk the docks at the marina. Parking is complimentary, and you’re a short drive from popular Marathon attractions like Crane Point Museum and Nature Center and Sombrero Beach. There’s an outdoor pool, plus a fridge and microwave in each room. Rates start at $170/night. Book a room here.
- ($$) The Florida Keys Tree House: You’ll have the whole place to yourself, which includes a full kitchen, two bedrooms (quite extravagant for a solo traveler, so maybe bring a friend!), and a large deck. You’ll be surrounded by trees and gardens, and your stay includes complimentary bikes and free parking. Rates start at $297/night. Book a room here.
- ($$$) Grassy Flats Resort & Beach Club: If you want gorgeous ocean views and a stay at a top locally owned and operated hotel, consider staying here. The resort also includes two pools, a private beach, a garden, a bar, water sports, and free parking. Bikes are available to rent. Some rooms come with an oven and dishwasher, and all have balconies with a breathtaking ocean view. Rates start at $323/night. Book a room here.
Crawl Key Number Two and Key Colony Beach
Less than three miles from Marathon’s main drag is a high-end peninsula with some vacation homes. Accommodations on Key Colony Beach are a bit pricier, but you’re paying for the more private atmosphere and the ocean views. Here are two spots you could check out, one located just off the highway on the way into Marathon and the other right on the ocean.
- ($$) Bonefish Bay Motel: Situated less than a mile from Coco Plum Beach, just outside the heart of Marathon and in the quieter part of town, this hotel has a garden and swimming pool. You can go canoeing, pets are allowed, and there’s free parking. Rooms come with a kitchenette. Rates start at $225/night. Book a room here.
- ($$$) Glunz Ocean Beach Hotel & Resort: If you’re looking for more luxury, you’ll find it in one of the 51 rooms at this hotel. There’s a private beach overlooking the ocean, a fitness center, an on-site restaurant and bar, and two outdoor pools. There’s also live music and on-site activities, such as fishing and water sports. Tennis equipment is included in your stay, but the tennis court is off-site. Rates start at $449/night. Book a room here.
This key is located right on the southern end of Marathon, just before the start of the 7-Mile Bridge. As such, most accommodations here will have great views of this Florida Keys landmark. If you enjoy walking or biking, consider staying in this area, because the bridge is a great place to get some exercise.
Here are two places you might consider staying at:
- ($) Knights Key Suites: This little gem of an affordable hotel has only ten suites, designed with the modern and minimalist traveler in mind. Every room has either a balcony or a patio. Suites come with a kitchenette. There is also a terrace with ocean views, a spa, and an outdoor pool. Bike rentals are available, and parking is included. Rates are easy to stomach; they start at $129/night. Book a room here.
- ($$$$) Isla Bella Beach Resort & Spa: This vast resort spans 24 acres, all of which are oceanfront. It’s a high-end hotel that offers electric vehicle charging and a valet, a garden, a terrace and private beach, and plenty of on-site amenities, such as a coffee house, water sports facility, mini market, spa, and fitness center. Rooms are decorated in ocean hues (white and blue) and come with floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The hotel also offers tours, a happy hour, evening entertainment, bike rentals, and breakfast in the room. Rates start at $637/night. Book a room here.
Marathon has a decent selection of hotels that vary in price and still offer a full experience, so you can easily explore the city and continue on your Florida Keys adventure.
Where do you think you’d stay?