Florida Road Trip: From Naples to Miami to Key West

Edgewater Beach Hotel’s Coast restaurant serves coastal cuisines from around the globe in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Did somebody say “road trip?” We suggest a drive through Florida, say, from Naples to Miami to Key West, might just be the ticket for a fun getaway. So load up the rental car, put on your sunglasses and pay a visit to this quartet of swanky hotels.

The way to start off any buddy trip is to celebrate friendship, and the chief concierge at the all-suite, boutique Edgewater Beach Hotel in Naples knows how to make it happen. Colleen Sugden ([email protected]; 239-403-2120) once cleared traffic from a busy downtown street so her hotel guest, who was celebrating his birthday at a local eatery, could receive his surprise gift in style: a brand spanking new Bentley driven up to the front of the restaurant. This beach-style hotel also has a “Jet Set Celebration” program that flies up to eight into town to the hotel’s party suite for an overnight stay, dinner and a brunch the next day. Bonus: The host and one guest get a massage.

Maria Delacruz ([email protected]; 941-387-1588), who handles travel industry sales, can also assist with special requests, say, if you’re traveling with an entourage or just some family members who need space. If that’s the case, we suggest the Three-bedroom Gulf-view Suite; the hotel also has one-bedroom beachfront suites available with direct views of the Gulf of Mexico. Nice Touch: All suites here have refrigerators that can be custom filled with goodies. The hotel’s general manager, Laura Radler ([email protected]; 239-403-2156), also welcomes contact.

 SLS Brickell’s Lifestyle Suite has up to 800 square feet of space. Shown is the suite’s dining room.

The hotel’s Coast restaurant can set you up for some seaside dining, with custom menu and butler included. If that’s too extreme, at least opt for a seat on Coast’s verandah for a good view of the Gulf. Bill Zimmer ([email protected]; 239-403-2101), the food-and-beverage director, can handle any unique dining request. Do book Coast a few days out during Christmas through Easter, which is Naples’ high season.

If you still need to plot out your Florida road trip, we suggest snuggling up in the hotel’s outdoor bar, where the Edgewater Margarita (with fresh-squeezed lime juice) can get your creativity flowing. If it’s already evening, we suggest a S’mores Cocktail by the beachfront fire pit.

Proper attire here is resort casual, which means dress shorts are fine. In fact, casual attire is acceptable throughout the Edgewater. If you’re looking to up your game, head over to Naples’ Fifth Avenue via the hotel’s electric trolley, where there’s plenty of shopping. Do take time to visit Norman Love Confections’ Naples Chocolate and Dessert Salon, located at 3747 Tamiami Trail North.

Want to go glam? The Edgewater’s makeover program provides a pre-vacation wardrobe consultation via Skype, a personal shopping excursion and a salon visit (think mani, pedi and a blow out). It all wraps up with a professional photo shoot.

End Note: The hotel is pet-friendly if you’re bringing Fido on your South Florida tour.

You can drive the 195 miles to Miami in a number of ways, but if you want to take it slow and see old Florida, the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) provides all of that, with stops at Ochopee (home to the smallest Post Office in the U.S.); Big Cypress National Preserve (check out the alligators) and Everglades National Park. Biscayne National Park is a must for boating, fishing and snorkeling before heading deep in to Miami for some good food and pampering.

The folks at sbe hotels love Miami so much, they’ve opened up their second SLS location. SLS Brickell threw open its doors in November in a very modern tower that holds 124 guestrooms designed by Philippe Starck and 450 condo residences. The hotel, close to downtown Miami and the Design District, is being touted as an “urban retreat” with three pools all on one deck, where there are also eight cabanas and al fresco dining. The hotel also has two restaurants, Bazaar Mar (order the Salt Baked Red Snapper or the Cobia “Classic” Ceviche) and Fi’lia, where we hear the Pistachio Pesto Pizza is a definite crowd pleaser, as are the meatballs with whipped ricotta and garlic bread.

The Ciel Spa has three treatment rooms and a relaxation lounge spread over 5,000 square feet. We suggest booking three days in advance, especially if you’re seeking services from Matilda Hoffman, who is dual licensed in massage therapy and facials. The spa director, Charissa Beavers (charissa.beavers@
slshotels.com; 813-526-1889), can assist if you want to arrange a spa takeover for a wedding party or group. In a hurry? Shorter treatments can also be arranged.

SLS Brickell’s Altitude Pool Deck has two different pools with expansive city views.

Detox, retox anyone? Bar SAAM, a lounge on the hotel’s mezzanine level, serves up cocktails, premium cigars and live music. José Andrés’ Bar Centro in the Bazaar Mar restaurant uses molecular gastronomy to craft cocktails. We suggest the LN2 Caipirinha and the Salt Air Margarita.

This is a chic setting where the dress-up vibe is elegant and a little edgy. If you need to stock up on things to wear, just ask for a ride in the BMW house car to the nearby Mary Brickell Village or Brickell City Centre, which just opened with 125 shops and restaurants. The head concierge, Frederic Frances, and his team ([email protected]; 305-239-1302) can assist with that, and with 24/7 help with dinner, spa, concerts, sports games, theater reservations and yacht experiences. Note: Marlins Park and the American Airlines Arena are within five miles of the hotel, which is run by General Manager Florencia Gariboldi ([email protected]; 305-239-1311), and is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ Lifestyle Collection. The hotel is pet-friendly as well. Be sure to book out at least two months ahead if you’re seeking the Presidential Suite and SLS Suite. Do save time for the cool pool setting on the Altitude Deck and to visit the hotel’s sister property, the oceanfront SLS South Beach, where SLS Brickell guests get free VIP beach access. Luxury travel advisors can contact reservations manager, Gustavo Aponte ([email protected]), for any unique requests or for assistance in booking rooms for their clients.

Casa Marina’s 900-square-foot Loft Suite is spread across two stories

Want to get in to the Miami culture? Conrad Miami just launched a 1 / 3 / 5 program that immerses travelers in local settings for one, three or five hours. Activities include stand-up paddleboarding, diving, museum tours, boating and more. The hotel’s concierges, Francois Calixte ([email protected]) and Kefyrah Yisrael ([email protected]) are on hand to assist. If you’re interested in glamming it up at the hotel, we hear that the Executive Two Bedroom Bayview Residence King Suite is top notch. We also hear all rooms have pretty fabulous vistas of the bay or the city. The director of business travel and leisure sales, Liliana Penaranda ([email protected]; 305-503-6551), can walk you through the options. Note: All rooms at the hotel, which is run by General Manager Chintan Dadhich, have bathtubs and double sinks. The hotel is not pet-friendly.

The Conrad Miami has a 10-room spa; reserve one to two weeks out, particularly for the popular Signature Ultimate Tension Relief Massage or the Hydrotherapy Bath. The spa manager, David Oves ([email protected]; 305-503-6533) can assist with special requests, particularly for wedding parties, which receive a discount on treatments. Alexis Matusewitch specializes in facials with special skin treatments (acne, rosacea, age prevention) and Nadege Gedeus-Labastille specializes in massages (think, “Ultimate Tension Relief,” a full-body deep tissue massage incorporating warm stones on the back).

After the spa, we say, it’s time for some private dining in the wine room at the hotel’s Atrio Restaurant and Wine Room (book the restaurant at least a day in advance by contacting the hotel or via Open Table). If you’re in the mood for just a drink, The Bar at Level 25 pulls in the local crowd and the bartenders here like to tout a vintage Miami vibe by serving up the Old Cuban cocktail, made with Bacardi 8 Rum, fresh mint, lime, and bitters, topped with Prosecco.

Note: The hotel is also close to the new Brickell City Centre.

Time now to head down to Key West to the Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. The 150-mile route from Miami to Key West is an iconic drive; it’s always scenic and sometimes slow since you’re traveling on a two-lane highway. But there are plenty of places to stop to imbibe, shop or dine, and if you catch it in time you might get some amazing sunset views.

Casa Marina opened in 1920, so it has that classic Florida feel; think French doors that open out to the ocean. In fact, it’s the brainchild of American railroad tycoon Henry Flagler (another project of his was that Seven Mile Bridge that connects Key West to the Florida mainland). Because the hotel has been around for so long it has a top location, which means it has its own large, private beach, made all the better with new cabanas that have daybeds, TVs and fridges. Did we mention the Beach Concierge who walks around with chilled eucalyptus towels and who will clean your sunglasses? Since you’ve arrived at your final Florida destination and safely parked your car, we can safely advise you to head to RUMba, a new rum bar serving up some mighty fine rums, classic cocktails (Key Lime Mojitos!), rum flights and cigars.

The director of leisure sales, Hillary Spence ([email protected]), can help you with the finer details of planning an A-list vacation for your client, particularly if you want to book the Two-bedroom Ocean-view Loft; we hear the Ocean-view King Rooms with a balcony are great in a pinch as well.

Need to work out a little stiffness from all that driving? Spa al Mare has four managers on hand to assist with bookings; Graziella, Daniella, Sherry or Patricia can be reached at [email protected] or 305-906-0645. (Ask them about customizing a spa or yoga package for your group). Do book a few weeks out, especially for the “Total Body Rejuvenation” treatment, which is 135 minutes of body scrub, massage and a facial. Insider Secret: Daniella is a top-rated esthetician and a master at delivering the Signature Oxygen Facial. Note: You can get your spa treatment on the beach or in a cabana as well as at the spa.

The resort has a casual restaurant, but if you want to take it up a notch go next door to its sister hotel, The Reach, for Spencer’s by the Sea. Here, you can book private beach dining in the form of a six-course dinner, champagne toast included.

Good to know: If you’re ready to bail on the whole driving-trip theme and want to fly home from Key West, you’re in luck; the resort is just 2.5 miles away from the local airport. Another tip? Seaplane service can be provided from Miami and Fort Lauderdale directly to Casa Marina’s pier.