A version of this story originally appeared in the Florida Weekly Palm Beach Gardens May 20, 2011 edition.
By Jan Norris
For more than a century, well-heeled travelers have called South Florida a playground. It reached a heyday in the 1920s, when a flush high society came to winter in the area. Oil and railroad barons competed for land here, building hotels, railways and winter homes.
Noted bon vivant and South Florida architect Addison Mizner put his stamp on Boca Raton as the designer of the “Cloister Inn” – now the Boca Raton Resort and Club. Its Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean revival styles are synonymous with the Palm Beach County area.
Designed to be the most “architecturally beautiful playground,” the inn opened in 1926 with 100 rooms, and a price that raised eyebrows even among haute society, who nonetheless flocked to be one of the hotel’s guests. Mizner himself took up residence in one of the suites, with his pet monkey, Johnnie Brown.
Sold several times over the years, and used during World War II as a military barracks, the hotel has undergone dramatic changes and renovation, yet keeping the building’s architectural details that made it so special.
Summer specials and packages
Today, the Resort is a one-stop vacation, giving guests a taste of that history while serving all their needs in a luxury fashion. It comes at a price for winter birds, but summer to early fall is the time locals can take advantage of special rates. Rooms start at $179 a night; and packaged like the Uniquely Boca package includes extras such as parking, breakfast, discounts for a number of resort activities, and the real bonus – a 2 p.m. checkout.
Secluded on its 356 acres along the Intracoastal Waterway, the resort has enough activities available for kids and grownups to keep everyone happy on site.
A big draw is the renowned Spa Palazzo. Awarded four stars from the Forbes (formerly Mobil) Travel Guide, the spa was built to replicate Spain’s Alhambra Palace. Vaulted ceilings and intricate mosaics surround the spa’s main pool that takes relaxation underwater with piped-in music. Tranquility gardens, a meditation area, and sunning terraces are options to sooth the psyche and unplug.
Couples, bridal parties or travelers seeking hands-on stress relief can take advantage of the 44-room treatment area for massages, facials or the signature Ritual Bath.
Golf, boating, tennis for families; camp for kids
For active guests, the resort has two 18-hole championship courses, ranked among the top 75 in the country by Golf Digest. It has its own respected tennis program, a 32-slip marina for boaters, seven pools and three fitness centers as well as a private beach.
Families with kids in tow have a number of options to keep the youngsters occupied. Camp Boca, split into two age groups (3-5 and 6-12), has full- and half-day schedules of games, crafts, educational field trips and other activities every day, year round. They also can get in on pro golf and tennis clinics aimed at juniors.
Accommodations are as varied as the activities, with rooms and rooms in the original area, called the Cloister, updated with all modern luxuries. Some have terraces and parlors for entertaining guests overlooking the gardens.
In the Tower, over-sized rooms have views of the ocean or golf course; a couple of the suites have full kitchens and dining rooms for eating in.
The Yacht Club ‘s room and suites overlook the marina and waterway. Dockside terraces and balconies offer options for waterfront entertaining or relaxing.
Two other options offer rooms and bungalows away from the main hotel properly. Boca Bungalows are set along the golf course, offering seclusion and more home-like features, such as a full kitchen. A separate concierge is on hand for those staying in the bungalows, with a free frequent shuttle that delivers guests to other resort areas. Two bedrooms make the bungalows family-friendly.
The Beach Club with ocean views
For beach lovers, the Beach Club would be the rooms of choice. This property recently underwent a multi-million dollar makeover, changing the lobby entrance to an artful display of sculpture and architectural details invoking the ocean.
Lanai rooms and suites here have floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open up to terraces surrounding one of three pools, with the half-mile private beach just beyond. Up above is the Sky Deck, with balcony rooms giving guests pelican-level views of the Atlantic.
A water taxi and a land shuttle are available to ferry guests to the main resort on a frequent basis.
Restaurants range from the hip Seagrille in the Beach Club, serving fresh-catch seafoods and boasting a large list of wines by the glass, to the romantic Cielo, fine dining in the top of the Tower with a view of the city lights. 501 East is the casual restaurant in the main resort, and the Beaches Café at the Beach Club dishes up burgers and sandwiches and a large craft beer list for the pool and cabana crowds. Best spot for a drink before dinner is the Ocean Bar, overlooking the water in the Beach Club.
Around the town
Though the resort is all inclusive, it’s set near the revitalized shopping and entertainment plazas along Federal Highway. Plenty of restaurant choices – Max’s Grille, Rack’s Table 42, and ZED 451 among them – offer casual dining on all levels. Unique shops like Les Bijoux, with fashion jewelry, Vicki Soble Couture for evening wear, and the Z Gallerie for unusual furniture and home goods are gathered in Mizner Park and Royal Palm Place.
Nearby also is the Boca Museum of Art, and concerts are scheduled throughout the summer in the recently revamped Mizner Amphitheater. Along S.R. A1A is the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where summer programs teach kids and adults about the coastal eco-system and give visitors a chance to see some of the area wildlife and sea creatures up close. Snorkelers or divers find plenty to see on the artificial reef off the park’s shore.
A number of weddings and parties are held at the Resort during the summer, so for best rates and dates, those in the know book ahead of time. The packages and specials are listed on the Resort’s web site.
IF YOU STAY
- Boca Raton Resort and Club
- 501 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton
- 888-543-1277; www.bocaresort.com, www.bocabeachclub.com
Special rates for Cloister rooms start at $179; Uniquely Boca package, from $199.