Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach
It’s hard to find a more glamorous place than Palm Beach, Fla. Fabulously dressed women strolling down Worth Avenue with small dogs peeking out of Louis Vuitton bags. Priceless European antiques on the famed Dixie Highway. Ocean Drive. Mar-A-Lago. Private beach cabanas with well-dressed staff catering to your every need. Yes, Palm Beach is nothing if not glamorous.
Palm Beach is also the perfect quick getaway, as direct flights from BWI will have you on the sandy beaches of Palm Beach in a little over two hours. Coined “The Palm Beaches” to include Palm Beach and West Palm Beach (as well as neighboring towns of Lake Worth, Delray Beach and tony Boca Raton), the area is great for those looking to see the sights; however, for a relaxing vacation, I chose a destination within itself – The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach.
The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach is a Forbes Five Star and 2011 AAA Five Diamond Award property, which opened in 1991 and recently completed a $130 million-plus renovation. The resort is a 15-minute drive from Palm Beach International Airport and its stunning oceanfront location will tempt you to never leave. (Note: The Lantana Bridge is closed for renovations until 2013. Unfortunately, our rental car’s GPS system did not know this and we had to take a significant detour. For a direct route, use the Lake Avenue Bridge to access Palm Beach.)
The Ritz-Carlton boasts 310 guestrooms and suites – including the 2,755-square-foot Presidential Suite – and 23,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. We stayed in an oceanfront suite that frankly was larger than the condominium I once owned in Perry Hall. The suite featured an office space, large living room facing the ocean, inviting terrace perfect for coffee or afternoon cocktails, two full bathrooms, and a large master suite that included a freestanding, egg-shaped soaking tub, and deluxe shower with multiple jets and spray options.
After checking in, either head for the beach or to one of the resort’s two pools – a heated family pool or the quieter, junior Olympic 25-meter lap courtyard pool, which is chilled to a refreshing 82 degrees in summer. Cabanas, umbrellas, chairs and towels are offered at the beach for hotel guests, and cocktails and lunch can be ordered while lounging from the attentive staff. In fact, don’t
Three full-service restaurants are on the property, as well as a sexy lounge and terrace area, where casual fare is offered (lunch can also be served in the spa). For lunch, the poolside Breeze restaurant offers breathtaking ocean views, build-your-own burgers, sandwiches, salads and innovative cocktails. The whimsical menus are shaped like fans, and I enjoyed the “drink of the day,” a mango margarita and Breeze’s signature lunch entrée, Mahi Mahi tacos, which were wonderful. The burgers were delicious as well.
Temple Orange is a sunny, warm spot for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the resort, and outdoor dining is available as well. The breakfast buffet is a great way to start the day, and the dinner menu features fresh seafood, steaks, pasta and more. One night, we feasted on Calamari and Beef Carpaccio for appetizers and tender, delicious Filet Mignon for dinner, served with tangy veggies and potato cakes. On the second night, I tried the Crab and Corn Chowder, which was perfect for a cool evening, and the massive scallops served on pea risotto made it difficult to leave any behind, but the generous portions did me in. Temple Orange also takes a fun approach to dessert, allowing you order dessert samplers in different amounts (three, six or 12 pieces), featuring miniature versions of Warm Banana Pudding, Red Velvet Cheesecake, Orange Ginger Crème Brulée, Apple Pie, Milk Chocolate Peanut Trifle, Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich and homemade ice cream.
Unfortunately, the resort’s upscale restaurant, Angle, was not open during our visit (Angle is closed Mondays and Tuesdays); however, it has received rave reviews for its use of locally grown ingredients and South Florida seafood. According to the restaurant, Angle focuses on wild, line-caught fish from the waters of the Florida peninsula; sustainable greens and local produce from neighboring farms and boutique purveyors; and all-natural, preservative-free dry-aged, Black Angus Beef. You can also request to sit at the Chef’s Onyx Tasting Table to try the chef’s tasting menu with flights of wine.
The lobby-level Stir Bar is a popular gathering spot for light fare and cocktails. Comfortable chairs and sofas are nice for conversation, while the bar’s “Private Affairs” niches evoke romance. The adjacent oceanfront Terrace with its huge firepit is the perfect place to wrap up the evening, and kids can get into the act, too, by torching S’Mores and playing “Whoopee Pie
Tic Tac Toe.”
Billed as a 42,000-square-foot “Adult Playground,” the Eau Spa by Cornelia at The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach is truly a place where one could spend the day. When I first checked in, my personal attendant said that the average guest spends three to four hours at the Eau Spa. At first, I could not envision that my stay would be that long, but after almost four hours, I still was not ready to leave.
An endless amount of options are available and special packages are offered for those looking to combine several treatments, along with special touches such as Champagne and caviar. After some quiet time in the men’s relaxation area, I had the “Signature Self-Centered Massage,” where my massage therapist customized the experience for my needs and personal tastes. All the senses are attended to – you chose what color you’d like the room to be lit for appropriate color therapy; musical preference; and what scent for the aromatherapy oils. Guests can also upgrade to a luxurious garden villa, complete with outdoor gardens, or a Couple’s Spa Villa with lavish garden enclaves, oversized tubs and outdoor rainfall showers for an open-air spa experience.
For a unique spa experience, try the Sensory Float upgrade. After my massage, I was taken to a “Dry Float Bed” that mimics floating on water and allows one to lie down with the absence of any pressure points. It’s an invigorating 20-minute experience.
Spa guests also enjoy the “The Self-Centered Garden,” a 7,000-square-foot open air garden with a waterfall bench with heated water to massage neck, back and shoulders, hanging chairs suspended above a 3-inch-deep reflection pond and comfortable chairs, sofas and cabanas. I wrapped up my spa day with a trip to the Scrub and Polish Bar where a mixologist makes a fresh-to-order scrub that guests apply themselves in a private sauna or steam room with a kit that includes body scrub of choice, body butter, hand loofah and body mist.
TIME FOR BUSINESS
In addition to ample meeting space, The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach recently unveiled its new Club Lounge, available to hotel guests who book rooms and suites on the Club Lounge floor with complimentary food and beverage throughout the day, work stations and ample outdoor and indoor space for relaxation or business meetings. The décor is very “Mad Men” where the Drapers would feel right at home with period furnishings inspired by West Palm Beach’s Dixie Highway antique stores. Acclaimed textile designer Wook Kim created two custom wallpapers, including the hilarious “Monkey Cocktail” pattern with hidden monkeys bartending and cocktailing. The motif is a nod to Palm Beach history – the palm trees in Palm Beach are said to be a result of the coconuts washed ashore after the shipwreck of the “Providencia,” and the monkeys are in reference to a spider monkey owned by Addison Mizner, a society eccentric and famed architect, who lived in Palm Beach in the 1920s.
TIME FOR PLAY
In addition to the beach, pools and restaurants, The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach has three tennis courts, and three golf courses are just a few miles away. In addition, resort guests can rent bikes to explore Palm Beach, including the picturesque Ocean Drive, or spend an afternoon on the water with a variety of activities offered, including sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, Jet Skis and surfing. Backwater fishing and offshore fishing tours are also available. If you have the kids with you, The Ritz-Carlton also has two kids camps on the property – one for ages 5-12 and another for ages 13-17.
RITZ-CARLTON, PALM BEACH