It’s a travelers’ dilemma: You want to travel with your besties, but balk at the idea of each paying $200 or more for a room — especially when you’ll spend most of your time lounging around the pool, or piled into the same room hanging out. Seems a shame to pay big bucks for a space you barely use, other than for sleeping.
Problem solved — at least in Key West. At Not Your Average Hotel (nicknamed Nie-Yah) in Old Town, rooms can be customized to sleep up to six people. And — get this — the room rate starts at just $150. That’s a lot of cash leftover for conch fritters and Key lime margaritas.
“Key West is expensive,’’ says innkeeper Eric Dennison. “So if you can save on a room, why not?’’
From the outside, the property looks like a turn-of-the-century private home. Head inside to the lobby, though, and you’ll see that it opens up in the back, revealing pools and staircases that connect the three houses that make up NYAH. The property has three pools and two hot tubs. One corner of the front desk is a bar space, where they serve a short menu of drinks and host a happy hour every afternoon from 4:20 to 5:20. There’s a Starbucks station in the lobby and a shaded deck where complimentary continental breakfast is served each morning. From the roof deck, guests get cool views of Old Town, including cruise ships in port.
The emphasis on communal space — and complimentary Wi-Fi throughout — is a lure to the target demographic of this hotel, youngish travelers who are taking a long weekend with their friends. (That said, about 50 percent of NYAH guests are international, and there are plenty of post-post-millennial types sprawled in lounge chairs around the pool decks.) No kids under the age of 18 are admitted here, so there’s a relaxing vibe by day. At night, everyone hits Duval Street for dinner and drinks — and late dessert at a popular, boudoir-like spot called “Better Than Sex.’’
Even in hard-partying Key West, guests eventually retire to their rooms. Visions of past dorm rooms or barracks may pop into your head when you step inside of one of NYAH’s 35 units. Rooms are lined with bunk beds and metal lockers that open with a key card. Everything is stark white. There’s no wall décor, just a wall-mounted TV and a mini-fridge (hooray), and a private bathroom (major hooray) that you’ll share with your traveling companions. Metal hooks and shelving help ease clutter, but it takes some strategizing (like arranging a cruise ship cabin) to figure out where to put your belongings. It’s functional and sleek, not B&B-charming.
But the beds are a marvel, a triumph of customizable room design. When you make your reservation, the hotel staff will set them up to suit the size of your party. With a few deft maneuvers, “bunk beds become sofas, sofas become beds, twin beds become kings,’’ and vice-versa, says Dennison of the modular frames. These transformable beds are made in Spain, with Space Age memory foam mattresses. Slipcovers transform two twin beds into a couch. It’s a cool concept, and the beds are surprisingly comfortable — just avoid bumping into the bunk bed ladders in the dark. (We’d bring along one of those plug-in nightlights for the bathroom.) And — note to Dennison — some extra shelving and bathroom hooks would make it much easier for gals with beauty products to share this space.
The Old Town location is a major selling point here: it’s just a short walk to the waterfront (sunset sails, boat excursions to Dry Tortugas National Park) and the myriad shopping, dining, and drinking options on Duval Street. And the price point is unmatchable in Key West, where the average room rate is $300 plus, and goes a lot higher. “I love this place,’’ said a 20-something guest from New Jersey, who was visiting for the second time with some pals. “I’m getting just what I need, a bed and a pool, and not paying for a bunch of stuff I don’t need, like mirrors and fancy wallpaper,’’he noted. Plus, “the happy hour is awesome,’’ he said, filling a plate with cheese, crackers, and mixed nuts. “Have you tried the rum punch? Four bucks a pop at happy hour!’’ he crowed.
Speaking of crowing, you probably won’t need a wake up call; Key West’s roaming roosters will handle the job quite nicely.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOTEL 420 Margaret St., Key West, Fla. 305-296-2131; www.nyahotels.com. Room rates from $150. Primary guest must be age 21 or older. Additional guests must be age 18 or older.