Boca Raton Resort & Club, Iconic Florida Elegance

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Croquet at Boca Raton Resort & Club.
Croquet at Boca Raton Resort & Club.

Which Florida property was designed by famed architect Addison Mizner in the 1920s, has been used as army barracks and is still—almost nine decades after it first opened as the most expensive 100-room hotel of its day—a must-visit resort destination in Boca Raton? Well, it’s the Boca Raton Resort & Club, of course.

Since it first opened as The Cloister Inn in 1926, the Boca Raton Resort & Club has gone through many renovations, expansions, and ownership changes—today it’s a Waldorf Astoria hotel—and yet has managed to retain its status as one of the grand dames of Florida’s hotel landscape. In fact, like fine wine, it has improved markedly with age, although its historical character, which has been lovingly maintained, is one of its most beautiful traits.

Spread over 356 well-tended acres, this stunning resort is a mix of styles that is anchored by the magnificent original structure of the resort estate—the “Cloister”—and reflects Spanish-Mediterranean, Moorish and Gothic influences. The grandeur that reigns over the resort—and which guests expect of it—begins the moment one passes the ornate fountains and palm trees of the forecourt, are greeted by name and ushered into the privileged world within. The lobby itself is bright and airy with white walls, sumptuous couches and club chairs, and plenty of greenery. Although the style is tastefully modern, elaborate period touches remain such as the crouching figures tucked away in the columns, the intricately carved intaglio wall plaques and antique furniture pieces.

This sprawling resort yearns for exploration and is characterized by hidden gardens, barrel tile roofs, archways, ornate columns, finials, intricate mosaics, fountains and beamed ceilings of ornate cypress. In fact, the resort is so expansive it’s hard to list all the facilities, so we’ll keep it to the basics. There are 1,047 guestrooms, inclusive of 187 suites, spread over several locations and room types; two 18-hole championship golf courses and a golf clubhouse, the Boca Country Club; 30 tennis courts; a Yacht Club with a 32-slip marina with full fishing and boating facilities; a 128,000-sq.-ft. conference center; a world-class spa; multiple dining options; seven pools; and just across the IntraCoastal waterway, the Boca Beach Club with family activities and a half-mile of beachfront. Did I mention the croquet lawn? On a recent overcast afternoon during our visit, after exiting the main building towards the golf course, we came across what could have been a scene from an English country estate (“Downton Abbey” perhaps?), as teams of white clad croquet enthusiasts practiced their sport in subdued calmness. Interested spectators watched the “action” from wicker armchairs along the covered walkway. Privileged indeed.

Hotel guests here are made to feel they are members, be it temporarily, of an exclusive club, which, in fact, it is. Even the restaurants are only open to club members and hotel guests. Speaking of dining delights, the choices are varied and excellent. For fine dining, clients should not miss Lucca, the Tuscan trattoria in the main building, or Cielo, a fashionable Mediterranean-inspired eatery and bar on the 27th floor of the resort’s Tower building that offers spectacular panoramic ocean views. Serendipity is the sole Florida outpost of the famed New York dessert restaurant featuring ice cream creations, a family-style menu and bright whimsical decor. Sushi lovers will delight at Morimoto’s, a sleek sushi bar located near the entrance to the resort’s iconic Palm Court and the creation of chef Masaharu Morimoto of “Iron Chef” fame. Passing guests are drawn inside by the undersea scenes shown on the multi-screen video display behind the bar. The Palm Court, with its transparent ceiling so the natural light can filter in, lush landscaping and courtyard design also serves cocktails and a light menu. Overlooking the golf courses, 501 East kitchen and bar is a more casual option for lunch or dinner, and for seafood enthusiasts the Sea Grille is located off the third floor lobby at the Boca Beach Club and overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

The Boca Beach Club itself is accessed either by shuttle bus from the main resort or by ferry from the marina and also offers casual oceanfront dining and drinks at Beaches, located near the main pool area. For families, the Boca Beach Club would be a good option with its 212 guestrooms, fitness center, private cabanas, an extensive kids’ program and even its own kite runner who flies an assortment of huge colorful kites during weekends when the wind is just right, much to the delight of guests of all ages. Other guestroom options include the Tower rooms and suites with their spectacular views, the more traditional Cloister rooms in the original main building, the 112 rooms at the Yacht Club, all with water views, or the expansive residential-style Bungalows adjacent to the golf course.

Come evening, guests gravitate towards Bar Luna for cocktails with its high ceiling, massive marble fireplace and extensive fine wine collection. Alternatively, Mizner’s Monkey Bar, at the other end of the lobby building, is a more intimate homage to the resort’s founder.

After an evening of dining and drinking, perhaps a visit to Spa Palazzo the next day is in order. The Moorish-style spa offers 44 treatment rooms, an opulent wet room, palatial pool and gardens, a Great Room for relaxing, and an extensive menu of treatments and programs.

Despite its historic past, the Boca Raton Resort & Club has successfully kept up with the present and the two blend nicely together as evidenced by the intriguing collection of modern art and sculptures displayed throughout the property. It’s not easy for the traditional to coexist with the modern, but this resort does it well and does it with refined tastefulness, as well as personalized service. When it all comes together, guests can expect nothing less than an exceptional resort experience.

The Uniquely Boca Winter package, available through May 1, is an ideal value-oriented getaway to the Boca Raton Resort & Club with rates starting from $299 per night. The package includes complimentary breakfast, 15 percent off golf greens fees on two 18-hole courses; services at the award-winning Spa Palazzo featuring Natura Bisse, tennis court time, and Camp Boca for children ages 3-12; plus complimentary parking, resort fee and late 2 p.m. check-out.

For more information, call (888) 543-1277 or visit Travel agents, click here to visit the Waldorf Astoria travel agent-dedicated website.

To see more of the hotel, check out images in the Eye on the World here.