An Elite Retreat
Enjoying the Best of Palm Beach
written by HEATHER KW BROWN | photography courtesy of THE BREAKERS PALM BEACH; DISCOVER THE PALM BEACHES; DALE PAULLEY; ANDY RYAN; TIDELINE OCEAN RESORT AND SPA
ANYWHERE ELSE, the fickle Floridian forecast might have deterred our sunny dispositions. Not here. Not tucked into the comfort of a cabana in an otherwise postcard perfect Palm Beach, Fla., where a rebuttal to rain is as simple as untying the canvas flaps. No sooner had we slipped into slumber, the rat-a-tat-tat relented and our cabana boy returned with another round of umbrella-adorned drinks while the sun shooed away the uncooperative cloud like a pesky sibling.
Beyond cabanas, Palm Beach beckons travelers to its sophisticated shores with promises of posh pampering among palm trees. This 16-mile town, touted as America’s First Resort Destination, arguably offers the best shopping in the country, creative culinary chops and well-appointed accommodations inclined to impress even the most travel-savvy Atlantans.
When it came to choosing a destination for an annual girlfriends’ getaway, it seemed only natural to head for a hotspot well versed in spoiling guests.
OF VIAS AND BOUGAINVILLEAS
Driving over the bridge onto the island of Palm Beach, we immediately noticed an air of much more than briny ocean breezes. Indisputable high style unapologetically resides among immaculate tree-lined streets, presiding over a community both coiffed and captivating. Situated two hours south of Orlando and one hour north of Miami, The Palm Beaches consists of 38 charming cities and towns, tying together 15 distinct districts including Palm Beach and Worth Avenue.
Loosen those purse strings and plan to spend a day in decadence on Worth Avenue. Considered to be one of the most beautiful shopping venues in the world, this landmark is home to fashion-forward luxury labels such as Jimmy Choo, Chanel and Tiffany, among countless others. In addition to many of the finest retailers, we also found locally owned boutiques tucked along the avenue and inside nine spectacular vias. These romantic pedestrian alleys are packed with as much charm as prestige and rightfully, garner their own attention.
Walking through courtyards filled with fountains, I realized the area’s undeniable sense of place is ultimately what makes this area so special. Found within architectural details of Addison Mizner (responsible for the area’s mixed Venetian, Spanish and Moorish decoration), beautiful bougainvilleas and endless historical glamour, are the characteristics — not the high price points — that define Worth Avenue and, in many ways, the island of Palm Beach.
Still, Cartier crowds are aplenty on a road that is said to have been Rodeo Drive long before the stylish street became a reality in Beverly Hills, Calif. After all, being original is fitting for this lavish locale, as that is precisely how the island’s story started.
A GILDED LEGACY
In 1894, oil, real estate and railroad tycoon Henry Morrison Flagler built the Royal Poinciana Hotel. With 1,081 rooms, it was the largest wooden hotel structure in the world at the time and connected his railroad from the northern U.S. to South Florida. Years later, he opened the Palm Beach Inn, now The Breakers Palm Beach, a legendary, AAA Five Diamond property.
The inimitable resort is still owned and operated by the Kenan family, descendants of the Flaglers, and the lush gilded isle continues its century-long tradition of hosting everyone from Hollywood elite and heads of state to literary icons and international business magnates. Knowing its significance and reputation, we planned our day’s end with enough time to explore the opulent lobby of The Breakers before dining in its latest venue, HMF at the Breakers. Named to honor the founding father, this venue sports a younger crowd and to-die-for tapas. After much debate and deep discussion with the waitress, we finally decided on a round of bites that became increasingly hard to share, especially when it came to items off the sushi menu like the spicy dragon roll. Thankfully, the best of friends will always share the last morsel of warm chocolate “Whoopie Pie” sundae and the remaining sip of rare wine, hand selected by an esteemed sommelier.
Beyond the resort’s 140 acres, Palm Beach is replete with fabulous restaurants boasting a well-balanced fusion of celebrity chefs, cutting-edge newcomers and classic masters. The diverse team of talent contributing to the area’s culinary landscape includes world-renowned chefs Clay Conley and Daniel Boulud. We unabashedly dove into innovative dishes at Buccan, where the acclaimed Conley sets the bar high and pleases palates in such fantastic fashion that nibbling on sushi and Asian-inspired dishes next door at Imoto, Buccan’s little sister restaurant, warrants a second reservation. At Imoto, the seared blue fin toro with foie gras, momiji, scallion and ponzu accompanied by sake sangria had my heart. Meanwhile, at Buccan, we were downright spoiled: an appetizer of lobster-stuffed squash blossoms with black garlic aioli and hazelnuts; sweet corn agnolotti with bacon, buffalo ricotta and English peas and steak tartare with grilled bread, black truffle and crispy egg yolk. Adding dessert to the mix would have been detrimental if Buccan and Imoto weren’t a 3-minute walk back to The Brazilian Court Hotel.
Hardly a hidden gem, due in large part to its storied guest list and endless esteem, The Brazilian Court Hotel offers fabulous dining at Café Boulud, one of Chef Daniel Boulud’s well-established eateries, as well as chic boutique accommodations. Nestled in a neighborhood of mansions, the quintessential Mediterranean-design hotel is nothing short of a refined refuge. Dating back to 1926, when it first opened, the property offers studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, all equipped with a wealth of comforts including imported luxury linens, handsome mahogany crown molding and cabinetry as well as every modern amenity you could possibly need. The Brazilian Court, a member of the Leading Hotels of America, exquisitely redesigned its 80 rooms — three of which are named after Fred Astaire, Katherine Hepburn and Marlon Brando — only adding to its legacy. Café Boulud, which opened inside the property in 2003, is a coveted dining destination, with repeat four-star distinctions in the Forbes Travel Guide and Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.” Palm Beach, it seems, is rarely under the radar, providing plenty more excuses to escape.
Proof of this proclivity is evident within the walls of Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa (pronounced “oh”). Designed more like a hip family estate that just so happens to sit on 7 acres of oceanfront property with its own private beach and breathtaking views of the ocean, Eau Palm’s style is best described as relaxed luxury rather than swankiness for the sake of it.
Upon check-in, guests are treated to a complimentary glass of champagne and an opportunity to revel in the resplendent setting. Meanwhile, luggage is whisked o to guestrooms redesigned by famous visionary Jonathan Adler, whose recognizable hues of navy blues and bright yellows played together in modern patterns throughout the expansive space as contently as we clinked glasses on our balcony overlooking the ocean.
Motivated by mere mention of posh pampering, I ventured to the 42,000-square-foot Eau Palm Spa, one of only 48 spas in the world with a prestigious five-star rating from the 2015 Forbes Travel Guide. A glass of champagne (yes, another one) and a sinful cupcake later, I immersed myself in the spa’s inviting Pause, Play and Perfect philosophy. Always up for time to reflect and indulge, I was temporarily powerless by the amenity possibilities. Unlike most spas, Eau Palm includes 19 treatment villas, private garden villas, a scrub-and-polish bar, fitness center, boutique, salon, a wishing well and hanging nest chairs perched above a pad of water that my feet could skim.
I dangled in the chair before my heavenly massage treatment and couldn’t resist dipping my toes once more before reuniting with my friends for lunch at Breeze, Eau Palm’s poolside restaurant. Besides a convenient location near our cabana, Breeze featured a Floridian blend of Latin, Caribbean, Asian and American flavors best enjoyed with a cool cocktail and warm breeze.
Typical of girlfriend getaways, time escaped quickly. Making the absolute most of our experience, we stowed our bags, checked into our flights and turned our attention to Tideline Ocean Resort and Spa. Hours before saying good-bye, we enjoyed a pedicure prior to a memorable meal in Tideline’s reimagined Brandon’s by the Beach restaurant overlooking the ocean. One last look at the waves cresting over the shore reminded me of the wishing well back at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa. As I stood there determined not to waste my moment and wish for something fabulous, I realized my wish had already been granted: a weekend with girlfriends of pure pampering in a place like Palm Beach. I’m not sure it gets any better than that.