Key Biscayne Historic Trivia

Key Biscayne has a rich history dating back to the Tequesta Indians, the island’s first settlers. The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne endeavors to incorporate these sometimes obscure bits of trivia into the guest experience to enhance their stay and create truly memorable moments that connect our guests to the island’s colorful heritage.

 Coconut in Key Biscayne - The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne

Coconut has always been an important part of the Key Biscayne landscape. In fact, the island was once the largest coconut plantation in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. One of the earliest accounts of the coconut’s arrival to Florida is from a Jesuit in 1568 that describes the Tequesta Indians traveling to an island seven leagues from the present day Miami River to eat coconut and palm grapes, which makes Key Biscayne the first documentation of the fruit in the Western Hemisphere. 

The 20,000 square-foot destination Spa (the largest of the three Miami Ritz-Carlton hotels) has as its signature treatments the Coco-luscious line of coconut-based therapies.


Famed explorer Ponce de Leon was so captivated by the island’s beauty he stopped here on his search for the Fountain of Youth and christened it “Santa Maria.”

The Spa honors this famed explorer with The Legend Package of anti-aging therapies. 


Cape Florida Lighthouse - Key Biscayne history meets luxury resort at The Ritz-Carlton Key BiscayneThe Key Biscayne Cape Florida lighthouse is one of the oldest in the country and is the only lighthouse in the U.S. to ever have suffered an Indian attack. During the Seminole Indian Wars, the lighthouse keeper daringly defended the landmark by climbing to the top and burning the stairs behind him so the invaders couldn’t follow him up to the turret. He fought valiantly and fainted because of the searing heat below, which melted the metal floor and railings. Believing he was dead, the Indians left; however, the lighthouse keeper regained consciousness and waited several days until he was rescued. He promptly retired.

The Fitness Center offers private, by-appointment Atlantic Walks, a light workout on sand and sea to the lighthouse, where they can ascend to the top for sweeping views of Coconut Grove, Atlantic Waters and South Beach.


The infamous pirate Black Caesar marauded ships off these waters and was said to have “a madness for jewels and a passion for luxury.”

   In the 1500’s galleons laden with treasure of Inca Gold and Aztec silver swept through these waters in what was one of the greatest treasure caravans in the world. Legend has it that gold doubloons are still scattered on our shores.

A favorite Ritz Kids activity is to uncover “ancient” treasure chests filled with “pirate booty” and gems that young guests can take home as mementos.

Moon rising over the Atlantic - Key Biscayne - luxury travel meets Florida history 

Tequesta Indian settlers on Key Biscayne named the island “Favorite Path of the Rising Moon” because of the remarkable vistas during a full moon.

The resort’s signature Cioppino restaurant holds special moonrise dinners once a month during the full moon, where guests experience a spectacular four-course, wine-paired menu and can get a first rate-view of nature’s show from tabletop telescopes.


The island was once home to the Miami Metro Zoo, which opened in 1948 on Key Biscayne with three monkeys, a goat and two black bears that were purchased for $270 from a small road show stranded near Miami. These six animals were the beginning of the Crandon Park Zoo, which grew and gained recognition worldwide for its collection of exotic animals, including an aardvark, two Asian elephants, a white tiger, a pair of Indian rhinos and two Bald Eagle hatchlings.

In 1980, the zoo relocated to Miami-Dade County; however, the resort is still home to many iguanas that roam the grounds freely and are part of the breathtaking experience at nearby Crandon Golf Course.


The wreck of the Half Moon (formerly the Germania) lies just outsideThe HALF MOON Preserve - Underwater Archaelogical Preserve, Florida - Key Biscayne snorkeling and diving Bear Cut, between Virginia Key and Key Biscayne.  For decades, the ship remained a mystery to local Miami divers, snorkelers and fisherman; however, it is now recognized as the seventh established Underwater Archaeological Preserve in the State of Florida.  The 151-foot sail-powered racing yacht was built in 1908 at the Krupp Shipyard in Kiel, Germany. It carried German nobility, raced in the Cowes Regatta in England, was auctioned in Britain after World War I, served former Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gordon Woodbury, and was a floating saloon in Miami during prohibition. After sinking twice, the wreck settled into its final resting place in the 1920’s.

The nearby Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature and EcoAdventures in Crandon Park offer regular snorkeling tours of this underwater landmark.


Key Biscayne was home to the “Winter White House,” Richard Nixon’s summer home, which he visited at least 50 times during his Presidential term, 1969-1974. The original building was razed in the 1980s, although the helicopter landing pad still remains and its neighboring house was Tony Montana’s oceanfront home in “Scarface.” President John F. Kennedy and Nixon met for the first time after the 1960 presidential election on Key Biscayne.

Guests who want to explore the island at a slower and more scenic pace can rent bicycles from the Concierge for $35 a day.


The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne

455 Grand Bay Dr.

Key Biscayne, FL  33419



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