Pulling into the porte-cochere of Acqualina Resort & Residences in Sunny Isles Beach, covetable cars are lined up like shiny soldiers, and when a Tiffany-blue stunner with silver stripes eases into the valet, my husband excitedly whispers, “It’s a Rolls-Royce Ghost.” The enviable show is commonplace at a resort and residences with bragging rights to the largest collection of independently owned Rolls.
When it comes to an uber-luxe vacation, Acqualina lives up to its five-star accolades upon arrival. Step inside the recently reincarnated lobby that now flaunts a lighter, contemporary look—yet still clings to Old-World sophistication—to be greeted with a welcome glass of bubbly. Enjoy your glass in the high-design lobby fitted with Fendi Casa furniture before escaping to a newly rejuvenated room. Even standard guest rooms are generous in size and plush furnishings, while suites resemble stylish apartments with gourmet kitchens, separate living areas, and marble-rich bathrooms with roomy tubs and showers. Acqualina’s best asset is its unobstructed ocean views, and vacationers will find it difficult to leave their balconies that overlook the turquoise water. Let the feeling that you’ve been swept away to an Italian Riviera villa settle in.
The resort is known for its oceanfront living room where vacationers camp out on beds and couches and hop between the ocean and three pools. The adult pool is a blissful respite to be spoiled by butlers who roam the pool with refreshing treats, or hide away in cabanas fitted with TVs and cushy seating.
Acqualina Spa has mastered the art of pampering, and couples who desire more privacy and extravagance can retreat to the secluded Royal Spa Suite. Book the new Stress Relief Back Massage, where a therapist works out knots and tension in the back using CBD oil and a potent serum of lidocaine and menthol, then rolls an ice-cold ball vigorously over the back to reduce lactic acid build-up and ends with attention on the neck and scalp.
Dining options are plentiful with top hits like Ke-uH restaurant that offers a tapas-style menu of Japanese fusion dishes bursting with flavor. Favorites include a wafer-thin tuna pizza, a uniquely paired pear and salmon dish touched with yuzu and truffle, and spicy tempura shrimp that mingles with walnuts and honey. One of the hottest reservations on the property is the newly opened Avra, a Greek restaurant dreamily decked out with hanging bougainvillea. For something special, splurge on a private beach dinner on the weekends. Walk down a candlelit path to a white-clothed table set with romantic touches like roses and flickering candles, and as the waves lap the shoreline, you’re treated to a four-course meal with shareables like fresh ceviche and mains such as a beef tenderloin and rosemary-crusted chicken.
If you desire a forever vacation, the neighboring Estates at Acqualina is a fashionista’s dream home. The south tower’s lobby was designed by the late Karl Lagerfeld and showcases eye-popping details like marble fountains, glass mosaic tiles that shimmer in turquoise and silver like the sea, and banquettes trimmed with a wall of cast aluminum swans. The pièce de résistance is a towering glass mural starring Rome’s most photogenic fountains snapped by the designer—it’s the Lagerfeld swagger that only Acqualina can deliver. acqualinaresort.com
It’s a Monday evening at The Colony Hotel and well-dressed islanders and vacationers have taken over the poolside veranda of Swifty’s restaurant for a competitive, rowdy game of trivia that somehow how only Palm Beach can make chic. For locals, it’s a weekly ritual to test their wits, socialize, and sip copious amounts of wine and martinis— and, for visiting voyeurs perched at neighboring tables, it’s an insider’s glimpse of the colorful life on the exclusive island.
That’s the thing about a stay at the iconic hotel dripping in pink— it’s not just a vacation, it’s a social experience. You never know who you’ll see, from celebrity fitness trainer Isaac Boots parading through the lobby with his poodle to designer extraordinaire Jonathan Adler leisurely lunching by the pool.
The Colony is ever evolving under the ownership of Andrew and Sarah Wetenhall, and now in its 75th year, that means newly refreshed guest rooms and a host of glamorous collaborations and programming. Rooms and suites are what Palm Beach dreams are made of, with patterned wallcoverings and whimsical fabrics splashed in happy hues, as well as rattan and faux bamboo furniture by Society Social. Catering to locals who want to recreate their posh stay at home, all of the decor in the rooms can be shopped through the hotel or their design partners’ websites. Guests can even purchase custom-created pajamas by Petite Plume—a gal getaway’s Instagram dream. Each of the five floor’s landings are a treat for the eyes, with various de Gournay hand-painted murals that depict scenic tropical snapshots, including marching pink flamingoes, swimming sea creatures, and the hotel’s mascot monkey, Johnny Brown, tooling around on a bike.
A staycation at The Colony means long stints by the pool, ordering bottles of rosé and napping under the scalloped umbrellas, and maybe, a round of lawn games. If you desire some beach relaxation, the staff will set you up with on-brand pink-and-white striped chairs and umbrellas for the day. Within close proximity to Worth Avenue, set your credit card on fire at the designer shops, or pop over to the equally fabulous The Royal Poinciana Plaza for a meal and more high-end shopping. Along with weekly trivia nights, guests can join their sceney bingo game nights on Sundays, and or kickback in the Living Room for live music. Depending on the time of year, the hotel partners with fitness gurus like Isaac Boots (who’s been tapped several times for seasonal residency to teach his popular Torch’d classes), and the Tracy Anderson Method which draws Fort Lauderdale residents who drive up just for the classes. thecolonypalmbeach.com
Those looking for a dramatic change of scenery should make a jaunt to Ocala, Florida, a 5-hour drive from Fort Lauderdale. Tucked away in breathtaking horse country, where rolling green pastures, prestigious horse farms, and clear-blue springs abound, you’ll find The Equestrian Hotel. The newly minted hotel is the centerpiece of the World Equestrian Center, considered the largest equestrian complex in the nation. This 380-acre property is where equestrians of all ages and skills come to compete—and where the rich come to play—with a daily parade of Olympic athletes and guests dressed in attire fitting of a Ralph Lauren ad.
Equestrian elegance is at every turn. The grand lobby literally sparkles with Swarovski chandeliers dangling from theatrical ceilings and gleaming Italian porcelain floors that are kept meticulously clean even with the constant march of riders. Guests casually gather on the lobby’s couches and chairs touched with handsome plaid and leopard prints as music drifts from the self-playing piano. More than 100 oil paintings of regal dogs cover almost every inch of the hotel’s wall space, and hallways are swathed in Hermes and Louis Vuitton-inspired carpeting featuring bridle-patterns. Even the front desk staff is on-brand, dressed in sharp Ralph Lauren clothing. Guest rooms and suites are refined with plush beds draped in European linens, bit handles on the nightstands, separate living areas, and opulent marble bathrooms. It’s worth springing for an arena-view room that presents sound-proof windows that overlook the Grand Arena where horse competitions take place throughout the day.
Start mornings at Emma’s Patisserie for made-from-scratch croissants and pastries, then stroll the rambling property dotted with moss-covered trees to watch the pageantry of horses on the trails and riders practicing. Escape to the zero-entry pool for the day, and then to Calluna Spa for a Rider’s Recovery massage, where even those who haven’t been on a horse can reap the benefits of this vigorous rubdown and stretching. The hotel’s luxury persona extends to shopping, with more than 25 retailers including Lugano Diamonds where baubles top $200,000. In the evenings, Yellow Pony Pub buzzes as bourbon-based cocktails flow and guests load up on Southern comfort foods and globally infused dishes.
The real draw is the weekly equestrian competitions where the grand prize often exceeds $100,000, and guest can have a full immersion, from rooms that overlook the grand arena to window-fronting tables at upscale Stirrups restaurant where caviar and fine wines are commonplace. Another standout affair is the Grand Prix Dining Experience presented by Wheels Up on Saturday evenings, where for $275 per person, guests can savor a 3-course dinner with wine while viewing top-level equestrians compete. It’s an energy-charged experience where the lights are turned up, and guests will be mesmerized by the talent of the riders and horses.
It all points to the property’s mission to expose more people to the sport and make it more accessible. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, there’s no fee for entry and much of the seating is free to view the sporting events that range from horse jumping competitions to dressage. Plus, there are high-end car exhibitions, home and garden shows, and social events throughout the year. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a pair of fancy riding pants and a lot more equine knowledge. equestrianhotel.com
By Angela Caraway-Carlton.