Damage from Hurricane Irma closed LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort for four months, but the massive storm — category 3 when it made landfall in neighboring Marco Island — couldn’t keep this Naples mainstay down. Newly remodeled to the tune of $30 million and celebrating its 50th birthday, LaPlaya is once again charming guests with its boutique feel, barefoot-chic vibe and superlative service. Here are eight reasons to make this breezy retreat your next Florida getaway.
LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort was already scheduled for a renovation in 2017, but Irma broadened the scope. The resort reemerged January 2018 with an all-new lobby, a reimagined restaurant and 70 revamped rooms in the Gulf Tower (watch for dolphins from your private balcony, soak in the whirlpool bathtub, sink into the pillowtop bed, repeat). Rooms in the Beach House received a face-lift in August 2018, while Bay Tower rooms will get made over summer 2019.
LaPlaya is Naples’ only luxury property located right on the beach, and resort guests can leave all the beach paraphernalia at home. Butlers will set you up with lounge chairs, towels and an umbrella; simply raise your flag for food-and-drink service to boot. In the evenings, a firepit on the edge of the sand offers courtside seats to the Gulf’s nightly sunset show.
LaPlaya’s four lagoon-style courtyard pools are the heart of the hotel. Find privacy and quiet in the adults-only pool and hot tub, or splash with the kids in the cascading family pool. Attendants serve up refreshments like fish tacos and piña coladas from the Tiki bar, private cabanas are available for rent, and performing musicians liven things up on weekends.
BALEEN, LaPlaya’s signature restaurant, garners rave reviews for its contemporary-continental menu and beachfront setting. Tiki torches create mood lighting on the terrace, or splurge on an over-the-top, toes-in-the-sand Beach Dining experience. Local seafood is de rigueur: Start with Gulf-catch ceviche; continue with blackened Gulf grouper on a king-crab cake; and finish with Key-lime pie, all paired with premium wine. On the Saturdays and Sundays, don’t miss BALEEN’s breakfast buffet, starring made-to-order omelets, crab Oscar Benedict and other goodies.
LaPlaya’s partnership with AWE Watersports means guests have access to paddleboard and kayak rentals right onsite, as well as sunset cruises, offshore fishing, Waverunner tours and more. Take a kayaking excursion along the Cocohatchee River — a 5-mile round trip filled with red mangroves, ample shorebirds and productive beachcombing at Delnor-Wiggins Pass. A guide narrates the trip with eco-facts and local history. Keep your eyes peeled for a bald eagle: Florida’s population is second only to Alaska’s.
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Naples has one of the best small-town food scenes in the country. Just down the street from LaPlaya, the Beach Box Café dishes up relatively cheap lunches of wraps, salads and flatbreads. For dinner, Deep Lagoon Seafood is a quick drive away (try the coconut Gulf shrimp or seasonal stone crab). Alternately, The Bay House, overlooking the protected Cocohatchee River, has served local seafood with a Southern twist for more than 20 years.
At the Mercato open-air mall, less than 10 minutes away from LaPlaya, grab cupcakes at Grace & Shelly’s, then browse both local shops (Saratoga Sundress) and national stores (Tommy Bahama). The complex frequently hosts events like live-music nights and movies on the lawn. Farther away in downtown Naples, historic architecture, sidewalk dining, galleries and boutiques line Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South.
The Naples area is home to 80-plus championship golf courses with the most holes per capita in the country. LaPlaya boasts its own 18-hole, Robert Cupp–designed course, scenically landscaped with nearly 60 types of Florida plants and trees. Take advantage of golf packages and the club’s seven-acre practice facility.