By Eric Barton
City & Shore Magazine
Just about anywhere else, a stay at a top-end resort means planning well ahead and at least a half-day’s travel. Not in South Florida. Across town from almost everywhere you are there’s a luxury resort worthy of your commitment to a day or two of leisure and pampering. We’re talking grotto pool areas, oceanfront villas and the kind of dining that used to be found only in Manhattan.
How to choose? Don’t worry. We’ve narrowed it down for you. Here are five can’t-miss staycations.
Shopping and the Sea in Bal Harbour
Where to stay: At the St. Regis Bal Harbour, a private elevator opens up to the 24th floor’s expansive Presidential Suite ($12,000 a night). With 2,800 square feet, there’s a living space, media room, two bedrooms, marble bathrooms and a full kitchen. The balcony, at 1,200 square feet, is bigger than most hotel suites and has expansive views of the coast from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. Like all rooms at the St. Regis, it comes with an on-call butler service available for tasks including pressing a suit or tracking down a gift for someone back home.
9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305-993-3300, stregisbalharbour.com.
What to do: It’s hard to imagine a weekend getaway to Bal Harbour without a visit to Bal Harbour Shops with its collection of fashion icons like Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Chanel, Gucci and Giorgio Armani. Strolling is welcome, but for those who want a hand with their shopping, Saks Fifth Avenue offers a personal shopping service that includes a chauffeured eight-person Mercedes van equipped with hanging bars and rolling racks.
9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305-866-0311, balharbourshops.com.
Where to eat: J&G Grill at the St. Regis is the creation of Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and boasts floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic. The menu is a collection of Vongerichten’s dishes from his restaurants around the world. The wine vault, with 2,500 bottles, is one of the most extensive in South Florida (see related story, pg. XX).
9703 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, 305-993-3300, jggrillmiami.com.
Getting around: The house car at the St. Regis is a Bentley Continental Flying Spur, for travel within a six-mile radius, which luckily covers all of Bal Harbour.
The upgrade: The St. Regis Aficionado Experience includes a two-night stay, a $10,000 tab at Saks, chauffeured transportation and breakfast delivered to the room. The package is $6,025 per night with a minimum two-night stay in a mid-level suite, but you might need two days anyway to finish the shopping spree.
The Boca Beach Getaway
Where to stay: The Boca Raton Resort’s sister property, the 212-room Boca Beach Club, boasts the distinction of being the only hotel in town located right on the sand. You’ll have full access to the resort’s amenities, including a personal concierge and access to the Waldorf Astoria Spa, which looks like a renaissance Venetian bath. At night, relax in one of the club’s 850-square-foot suites ($2,000-$3,000 a night) with a beach décor the hues of sand and sea.
900 S. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton, 561-447-3000, bocabeachclub.com.
Getting around: The resort’s house car, a Maserati Quattroporte, is available to chauffeur guests.
What to do: Spend the day with tennis legend Jimmy Connors, who will provide private instruction on what’s wrong with your backhand. The four-hour experience runs $4,000.
Where to eat: In a town known for its hopping dining scene, Twenty Twenty Grille is unique, with 40 tables split inside and out. That makes for a homey charm that matches the experience, a multicourse, sometimes multihour night that’s all about the plates in front of you.
141 Via Naranjas, Royal Palm Place, Boca Raton, 561-990-7969, TwentyTwentyGrille.com.
The upgrade: The resort’s three-night Legends of Boca Experience package is $20,000 for two and includes a half day with Connors, a private beach cabana and dinner prepared by sushi chef Takao Soejima.
The Miami Beach Retreat
Where to stay: The Palms Hotel & Spa is unique on Miami Beach in that it eschews the clubby runway model esthetic nearby. Instead the pools and near-secret gathering spots in the gardens provide an escape from the island’s nonstop party. Upstairs, the suites, just shy of 800 square feet ($1,000-$1,679 per night), feature balconies looking out on the ocean and living rooms decorated in European-modern pieces.
3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-534-0505, thepalmshotel.com.
What to do: The hotel hosts all-day retreats for $95 that include yoga sessions, mindful meditation classes and a health-minded lunch, all guided by yoga-famous instructors. There are few better spots to reconnect, with the event held under a thatched roofed cabana just beyond the pools.
Where to eat: Essensia Restaurant at The Palms is all about local, with farms and growers contributing much of the ingredients and a poolside garden providing greens and herbs. Chef Venroy Rogers III’s menu is all about island eating, including a dish he invented, Miami chowder, with a tomato-coconut milk base, conch and purple Peruvian potatoes.
3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-908-5458, essensiarestaurant.com.
Getting around: No good staycation begins with a drive down I-95, so instead book an ocean-going ride with Lauderdale Yacht Charters ($995 for four hours, $1,750 for eight).
The upgrade: The hotel’s Nature & Nurture package ($449 a night for two) includes a two-night stay, breakfast buffet, a tour of the garden with Essensia’s chef, yoga and treatments at the spa including a 50-minute massage and facial.
Your (Almost) Private Island
Where to stay: For anyone who has dreamed of being whisked away to a strip of sand in the middle of the sea, there’s the Little Palm Island Resort & Spa. A stay in the 1,000-square-foot Island Grand Suite is billed as “the most exclusive accommodation in the Florida Keys” (starts at $1,590, $2,090 high season). The room is decorated in British Colonial style, with Noble House bedding, a claw-foot tub, iron-and-crystal chandeliers and plantation shutters. The best part, though, is outside: Pass the hot tub and dip your toes into the private beach, your little island escape.
28500 Overseas Highway, Little Torch Key, 305-872-2524, littlepalmisland.com.
What to do: If you’ve tired of the John Pennecamp and Dry Tortugas diving, Looe Key awaits. This is a shallow dive, five to 30 feet deep, that’s ideal for new divers. Grooves in the coral here are unique to the Keys. Dives can be arranged through the resort at $185 per person.
Where to eat: It just so happens that the resort on Little Palm Island includes one of the highest-ranked restaurants in the Keys – and also ranked by Zagat as the No. 3 best hotel restaurant in the nation. Simply named The Dining Room, the menu is traditional French dining meets Latin-island fare. On the menu a churrasco steak with tomato salsa shares space with a 72-hour chile-braised short rib and a duck confit with summer truffles.
Getting there: The resort has a car service ($250 round trip) and a motor yacht to pick up guests at the island’s welcome station. But for the true dream vacation arrival, book a seaplane from Tropic Ocean Airways, from South Florida airports to your private beach.
The upgrade: The resort’s Noble Adventure Package, starting at $13,000 for two, includes five nights in a suite, a half-day fishing trip, a snorkeling adventure, a sea plane flight to Key West, picnic, yoga and meals at The Dining Room.
Hepburn’s Palm Beach
Where to stay: Think Katharine Hepburn, and chances are there’s an image of timeless sophistication. That’s exactly why The Brazilian Court Hotel named its top suite after the screen star. The two-bedroom space, at 1,900 square feet, is covered in mahogany millwork and fabrics and features walk-in showers, an air-jet bath, living room and a private patio with a view of the tropical pool garden below. And just as you’d expect in a Katharine Hepburn-era room, there’s a well-stocked wet bar. Starts at $3,000 per night.
301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach, 561-655-7740, thebraziliancourt.com.
What to do: After its $8 million renovation, The Spa at The Breakers looks more like the comfortable khaki-and-white rooms of a beachside mansion instead of the sterile surroundings of many spas. To truly dive in, go for the Signature Spa Suite Experience ($780 per person), which includes a body scrub, seaweed bath, facial and massage.
1 S. County Road, Palm Beach, 561-655-6611, thebreakers.com.
Where to eat: There isn’t a list of Palm Beach’s best restaurants that doesn’t include the Brazilian Court’s Chef Daniel Boulud restaurant, Café Boulud, and the best seat in the house is the chef’s table. The seven-course tasting menu starts at $175, with $95 more for the wine pairing, per person.
301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach, 561-655-6060, cafeboulud.com/palmbeach.
Getting around: The Brazilian Court has a chauffeured BMW for around-town trips. But while staying in Palm Beach, it’s advised to drive like the locals, which means something Italian and growly or English and clad in hand-stitched hide. Rent an island-appropriate Bentley Mulsanne ($1,399 a day) or a Ferrari California ($1,199 a day) at Chariots of Palm Beach.
2400 N. Florida Mango Road, West Palm Beach, 561-640-1090, chariotsofpb.com.
The upgrade: The Brazilian Court Hotel’s 90th Anniversary Package is the definition of a luxury getaway. It includes travel by private jet, a chauffeured Rolls-Royce, a nine-hour trip on a 90-foot private yacht, a nine-course speakeasy dinner at Café Boulud and matching diamond cufflinks and earrings. Oh, and all the caviar and champagne you can eat and drink. The $90,000 price tag includes accommodations for 12 guests for three nights.