In December, the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo debuted as the first all-inclusive in the Florida Keys. Early Sunday morning, an inferno of flames ravaged the luxury property, making for a frightening end to many a relaxing vacation.
Sherry Conn, a resort guest on a girls’ trip from Raleigh, North Carolina, woke up to loud knocks on her door.
“We were in a dead sleep and I hear ‘Bang! Bang! Bang!’ ... I looked in the peep hole and it was our friend … and she said, ‘Get out! There’s a fire! There’s a fire!’ I felt the door and I felt like I was in a hot box,” Conn told Travel+Leisure.
“You could hear it crackling and the entire thing was on fire,” she said. “I mean, from the beginning, where the tiki bar is, all the way to the end of the main pool. The entire building was in flames.” Firefighters warned her to evacuate as quickly as possible in order to avoid smoke inhalation from the billowing clouds.
According to witnesses, the fire broke out between four and five o’clock in the morning and burned for several hours. The cause of the fire is not yet known, but some suggest it may have originated in a food truck on site. The resort website states that a food truck called the Conch Cruiser, A.K.A. Largo Larry’s, is “coming soon.”
“Due to a fire this morning, isolated within the Beach House, all guests and associates were evacuated, all are safe and there were no injuries,” Bungalows Key Largo said in a statement. “No guest accommodations were affected. The state and local fire departments responded immediately. Our priority is for the comfort and safety of our guests and associates.”
Fortunately, no one was injured in the fire.
“The staff was amazing. They were running around on this golf cart trying to get people out of there,” Conn said. “They already had all the cars waiting, like all the people that drove, they were all lined up ... The resort did a phenomenal job of keeping everyone calm.”
The Beach House is the main clubhouse area of Bungalows Key Largo. It houses two restaurants, a bar, and a pool with cabanas. While it’s the main hub of the 12-acre resort, it actually takes up a very small section of the resort’s total acreage.
The attached spa — a bamboo-filled wonderland that seemed to teleport guests straight to Thailand — was also affected by the fire, according to Kathy Shirley, owner of Key Largo Yoga, sole yoga provider for the resort. She received news of the fire shortly before a scheduled sunrise yoga class at the resort.
“From what we know of the owner—his name is Jerry — he’s just an amazing human, and I really foresee he will work really diligently to get things cleaned up and moving forward and rebuilding as quickly as possible, for the community as well,” Shirley said.
The resort has the support of the Key Largo community, she said. “We’ve been doing yoga there now for six months and the feedback from the people staying there has been really amazing.” Trained in trauma-sensitive yoga, Key Largo Yoga has offered free memberships to anyone involved.
Luckily, this fire doesn’t spell the end of Bungalows Key Largo. If you were planning a trip of your own, consider it postponed, not cancelled. “Our operations team will be contacting guests with existing reservations to rebook for future dates,” Bungalows Key Largo said.
In the meantime, nearby Playa Largo Resort & Spa is a strong contender for alternative accommodations. It isn’t all-inclusive, and guests stay in rooms and suites rather than individual bungalows, but there’s an ocean-inspired spa plus water sports, pools, and a hammock garden.
In a tragically ironic twist of fate, this isn’t the first fire faced by Bungalows Key Largo owner Jerry Johnson. He was the former owner of Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, favored by the late President George H.W. Bush for bonefishing trips; Cheeca Lodge was razed by fire on New Year’s Eve 2008. It was later struck by Hurricane Irma in 2017 but reopened in early 2018.