The Palm Beaches are perfect for a wellness break
Palm Beaches – just the name conjures up images of sun, sand and tropical scenery, and that’s exactly what you can expect. Florida is not just about manic Miami and bustling Disney World. You can enjoy the amazing year-round weather while thoroughly relaxing, not just traipsing around lively cities or shaking hands with Mickey. The county is situated in the southern part of the Sunshine State, just up from Miami, and is big on eating well and feeling great.
Where to stay
We stayed at the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens. No, you don’t have to play golf to stay there, but it does boast five legendary championship courses if you or your other half are partial to teeing off. Otherwise, you can eat, drink and kick back in the huge modern spa with outdoor mineral pools and 32 treatment areas. We had a great full-body massage, then laid out by the pool.
There are plenty of places to eat at the resort. The breakfast buffet at Palm Terrace offers chicken and waffles (fried chicken, two eggs and maple sauce), and salted caramel-glazed candied pecan buttermilk pancakes. But don’t worry, you can have granola and fruit if you’re worried about your arteries.
We dined at the resort’s Ironwood Steak & Seafood restaurant, a sophisticated eatery with delicious steaks (try the succulent 21-ounce Tomahawk for two). You can grab lunch at the poolside bar and grill, which serves crab patty sandwiches and frozen cocktails.
For the second part of the trip we stayed at the Wyndham in Boca Raton, a city with great beaches and fun night life. The Wyndham is a boutique hotel – although still fairly big by British standards – which has a tilt towards wellness. The Farmers Market restaurant is all about fresh, local produce and grass-fed meats, with plenty of veggie and vegan options available. The Buddha bowl with noodles and shrimps is delicious, as are their flatbreads. For a party vibe, there are live bands and Spanish guitarists in the evenings. And in the spacious bedrooms, you’ll find a snazzy control for different lighting settings. There’s also a large saltwater pool, a fitness centre and a yoga studio.
Palm Beach County is a place bursting with wellness options, and yoga is big hit for the health-conscious Floridians. In Boca Raton, you must try a class with the irrepressible Leslie Glickman at the top of the Wyndham. Leslie, who used to be an advertising exec, but jacked it in to pursue a more spiritual way of life, makes yoga fun, and she’s very encouraging.
For a completely different experience, visit the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum, where they run a twilight yoga session beneath the Banyan trees – it’s a truly special experience. The lighthouse stands in an outstanding natural area where you can hike trails, plus the view of The Palm Beaches from the top is the best in the county. On our way back, we ate at Guanabanas restaurant, also in Jupiter, which has a great tropical, waterfront setting, live music and a 100 per cent outdoor dining restaurant.
As well as our massage at the PGA resort, we spoiled ourselves with a 50-minute signature facial at the Boca Raton Resort & Club’s Waldorf Astoria spa, which was wonderful. The spa is as luxurious as the rest of the Astoria brand, and is known as the “Pink Palace” because of its colour and grandeur. It’s set by a luxury marina, and inside, there are restaurants, tea rooms, pools and gardens, as well as interesting sculptures and art work. After our spa visit, we ate lunch at the super-swanky 501 East, where we had delicious roasted cauliflower followed by fish tacos.
Beaches and wildlife
There are so many hiking and biking options in Palm Beaches, where you can immerse yourself in the area’s wonderful wildlife. We went kayaking at the beautiful Riverbend Park with the Jupiter Outdoor Center team. The John D MacArthur Beach State Park is also well worth a visit – it’s a beautiful, peaceful area where you can kayak, fish, do a nature trail, have a picnic or swim in the clear water, as well as learn about sea turtles, dolphins and manatees in the Welcome Center.
Delray Beach is a beautiful seaside town, perfect for a day of lying out in the sun. You can then grab some refreshments at the Yaxche Tearoom, a brightly coloured, hippy-esque café with friendly, knowledgeable staff who can recommend an exotic tea just for you. The cakes, cookies and coffee are good, too, and we liked the fact that some of their proceeds go to charitable foundations around the world.
Palm Beach town is one of the most affluent zip codes in America – the average house price is $1.38m – and it does have a seriously expensive feel about it. Take the Island Living Tour with the enormously entertaining Leslie Diver, where you’ll have a gentle cycle around the many grand properties (President Trump owns a mansion here), and ride down Worth Avenue with its Spanish architecture, upscale shopping malls and boutique shops. We stopped at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, a stunning Edwardian-style mansion, to hear the fascinating story of the oil tycoon who built it for his third wife.
For a livelier night out, Boca Raton is a good choice. Mizner Park has plenty of great restaurants and bars. We ate at Max’s Grille, a contemporary American diner with signature dishes, including meatloaf, steaks, and freshly grilled fish.
Need to know
· Double rooms at the PGA National Resort & Spa start from £180 per night (Pgaresort.com).
· Double rooms at the Wyndham Boca Raton start from £78 per night (Wyndhamboca.com).
· Return flights with Norwegian Airlines from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport cost from £374 per person (Norwegian.com).
· For more information on The Palm Beaches, go to Thepalmbeaches.com.