Destination: Palm Beach
SEE ALSO: Grand: The Breakers
Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
Someone who has experienced many Four Seasons properties around the world may find this one unremarkable. But if the architecture and decor are a bit plain-Jane by Four Seasons standards (at least when compared with the chain’s properties in Bali, Costa Rica and Provence, which truly take your breath away), the service does not disappoint. Whether misting you with Evian poolside or whipping up custom cocktails to suit your mood, the staff here is truly first-rate. The oceanfront suites are not the largest of the resort’s 210 accommodations, but they have the best views. The Restaurant is one of three AAA Five Diamond dining rooms in South Florida. A new spa with a dedicated men’s opened in 2008. Rooms from $295.
Read a postcard from a member about her family’s stay at the Four Seasons Palm Beach
The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach
I had not been to the Ritz-Carlton in four years, and I was amazed to see the hotel’s transformation following a $100-million renovation. Last time I stayed there, the lobby was dark and formal. It felt like the Harvard Club, not a beach resort. Now guests walk into an airy space decorated in a palette of cream and gold, sun streaming in from French doors that open onto the terrace and pool. The décor remains in the traditional Ritz-Carlton style, but it feels much more fresh and young than it did before. The rooms are much as I remember them, spacious and comfortable with expansive marble bathrooms as large as many New York City kitchens.
Although Palm Beach is most popular during the winter, the Ritz-Carlton is a haven for families year-round. When I was there during May, the pool was full of children, whom the pool attendants quickly won over by distributing supersized dolphin floats as water toys. The newly remodeled kids club is divided into two areas – AquaNuts for the younger crowd and Coast for teens. Tikes can romp on the mini-stage (dressed in pirate costume, of course) or scale the club’s pint-sized climbing wall, while older kids enjoy Coast’s DJ booth, Nintendo Wii and nail salon. Service provided to families is also fantastic. The entire staff knew my daughter’s name the morning after we arrived, and we never felt out of place dining with a three-year-old and a baby. (I was particularly happy to see the kids’ menu, which offered a variety of dishes that appeal to tots, all priced around $7.) Even the babysitter arranged by the concierge for one night was perfect, patiently rocking my fussy infant while I escaped for a grown-up meal.
The star of the renovated Ritz-Carlton, however, is the heavenly new Eau Spa. A draw both for hotel guests and Palm Beach locals, the 42,000-square-foot retreat has nineteen treatment room, including twelve spa villas with private terraces and outdoor baths, a meditation garden furnished with plush swinging chairs, a polish bar to create customized scrubs, and a large salon and fitness area. Unlike more serious health-focused spas, Eau feels fun and celebratory, with whimsical touches like mini chocolate cupcakes next to herbal teas in the relaxation area and a family of giant rubber duckies that float around the whirlpool in the women’s lounge. This is the perfect place for a group of girlfriends to kick off their shoes and order a bottle of champagne before an afternoon of facials.
The downside to the Ritz-Carlton remains its location. Its beach continues to shrink due to erosion, and guests will need a car if they want to go into Palm Beach for shopping or dining. That said, the drive into town weaves along the coast, offering a glimpse of spectacular mansions, and most people are perfectly happy to lounge by the pool rather than mess their pedicures in the sand anyhow. Add to that prices well below those at the Breakers, and the resort’s winning combination becomes clear. You won’t find many bargains in Palm Beach, but the Ritz-Carlton’s combination of service, spa and family spoiling is clearly one.
Who Should Go: The resort is great for families, but couples are also welcome and can book an oceanfront cabana if they find the pool area too crowded with kids.
Who Shouldn’t Go: The voluptuous Brazilian woman who wanted to sunbathe topless by the pool had clearly booked herself into the wrong hotel. (Security discreetly asked her to please get dressed.) The Ritz-Carlton may be more hip than some of its Palm Beach neighbors, but it’s certainly not on a St. Barth’s level of sexy.
Room to Get: Although all rooms have water views of some variety, it’s worth upgrading for the direct sea view. The most coveted accommodations for families are the Ocean Front Lanai Suites, which are on the ground level and have private garden cabanas and easy access to the swimming pools.
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