Theses days, many hotels are eager to label themselves a resort. The old meaning of the word seems to have gone by the wayside. Hotels with just a few amenities are anxious to tout their assets by calling themselves a resort, even if they don't fit the traditional notion of one – which in most people's minds is a place where guests can stay while on vacation where they can find everything they need at their fingertips – food, recreation, pampering, etc. – without ever leaving the premises.
Florida, however, has its share of good old-fashioned luxury resorts where patrons are rewarded with the best of the best. These are places where, after you check in, you never need to leave the property until it's time to check out, enjoying a multitude of offerings within just steps of your guest room.
All are a little different. Most are in the best possible locations, like directly on one of Florida's pristine white-sand beaches. Some include spas. Others feature golf courses or yacht clubs. Some are even ecologically friendly – offering luxury accommodations in a setting that minimizes the carbon footprint of those staying there and providing activities for those who truly care about the environment.
Florida resorts do indeed present the opportunity for a pampered vacation, and though they certainly cost more than conventional lodging, those who are willing to spend a little extra will no doubt experience an unforgettable Florida holiday. Some of the best in the Sunshine State include:
- Naples Grande Beach Resort – Part of the Waldorf Astoria Collection of hotels, this Florida West Coast retreat sits on 23 lush acres near a natural mangrove sanctuary. Now part of the Hilton Hotel chain, it offers not only beautiful beaches but also a kids club, tennis, golf, a full-service fitness center, onsite dining, pools, a spa, and much more. The facility also hosts occasional special events.
- Boca Raton Resort and Club – Just one look at this Addison Minzer-designed accommodation and you know you're in for a treat. As elegant as they come, the Boca Raton Resort and Club offers not only opulence but also a host of things to do including lounging on private beaches or by one of three pools, tennis, golf, work-outs, lawn games, cycling, and much more. And Camp Boca will entertain the kids while Mom and Dad enjoy a little pampering at the exquisite Spa Palazzo. When they're through being spoiled, guests can choose from about 10 different onsite dining options. There are even a number of upscale stores on the premises for great shopping.
- South Seas Island Resort – This Captiva Island ultimate has continuously been voted among the "Top 10 Best Beach Resorts for Families" by Parents Magazine. Situated on the tip of this small island, this lovely place is isolated yet safe, surrounded by clear blue waters on three sides. Besides 2.5 miles of private beach, lucky guests can enjoy 19 tennis courts, a 9-hole golf course, 11 pools and 2 hot tubs, fishing charters, numerous watersports, nature center tours, kids' and teen's clubs, and even sea kayaking. And don't forget the spa, restaurants, ice cream parlor, and shops!
- Casa Marina Resort and Beach Club – Located in Key West on the southern edge of the island, it boasts the largest private beach on Key West as well as the rejuvenating Spa al Mare; a plethora of water sports ranging from jet skiing and windsurfing to snorkeling, fishing, parasailing, and dolphin encounter tours; two pools; oceanfront dining; and more.
- Hammock Beach Resort – Built in 2003, and located not far from St. Augustine and about 40 minutes from the Daytona Beach Airport, includes a Nicklaus- and Watson-designed golf course, harborside tennis, a beautiful spa, a "Kid's Crew" program for guests 12 and under, and an amazing two-story water park in addition to pools and water activities galore. There are also four places to dine onsite and a marina on the Intracoastal Waterway.
- Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center – Not on the beach but just as opulent as many of the beach locations, this Orlando resort boasts amenities like 4.5 acres of indoor gardens, a spa managed by famed Canyon Ranch, a water area with slides and waterfalls, a putting course, sand volleyball, lawn croquet, and a street full of unique shops for those who want to do a little shopping without leaving the area. Four restaurants, two lounges, a coffee shop, and an ice cream parlor round out the offerings at this attractive and modern center not far from Walt Disney World.
Just like hotels, some offer great off-season rates and packages, so if you have a flexible schedule and don't mind visiting Florida during the summer, you're likely to save lots of money while enjoying some time in the lap of luxury.