We spent three nights, midweek, at this iconic family oriented oceanfront resort in the heart of the ritzy island of Palm Beach and discovered it had much to offer. History aficionados may be interested to know the Grand Dame of Palm Beach and one of the top resorts in the country is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Others may be surprised to know the owners invested $250 million over the past decade in ongoing revitalization and expansion and it shows.
Although our time there was insufficient to fully discover the 140-acre child and convention friendly property with 540 rooms and suites, beach club overlooking one-half mile of private beach, five swimming pools including 20 luxury beach bungalows, a 20,000 square foot spa, nine restaurants, several on-site boutiques, two 18-hole championship golf courses, and 10 tennis courts we were there long enough to appreciate the property’s salient features.
We especially enjoyed the beautiful interiors of the main building, our pretty second floor beach facing rooms with outstanding sea views, the Relaxation Pool, an Ocean View Beach Bungalow for a day, and excellent massages at the spa. Also noteworthy was the diversity of meal options and locations. Our favorites were L’Escalier, the resort’s gourmet restaurant led by Greg Vassos, an enthusiastic young chef and fan of molecular gastronomy, and The Flagler Steakhouse with its arresting golf course view and profile of West Palm Beach from the veranda.
The privately owned independent resort offered many worthy luxury facilities and services. The hard work, dedication and perseverance necessary to strive for excellence in the management of such a property well were in evidence. We look forward to further discovering the property on a return visit.
Class Of Accommodation Luxury resort
Concierge Bernard Nicole
Connectivity Our rooms had complimentary Internet access was via wireless or an Ethernet cable. There were instructions in the welcome folder in my room. After three unfruitful attempts to connect with the wireless and the cable I asked my travel partner for help and we were able to connect with the cable (the wireless worked too but was slower). There were instructions to call the service provider, Superclick, directly at a toll free number in case of questions or need of assistance.
Dress Codes While visiting the resort and its restaurants adults and children were asked to follow a dress code divided into three categories and described in detail in our in room binder as follows: Casualwear (shorts, pocket T-shirts, collared shirts, and beach cover-ups), sportswear (tennis and golf attire) and Resortwear (trousers, collared shirts, dress jeans and dress shorts). Shoes were required at all the restaurants. For breakfast casual and sportswear was appropriate; for brunch Resortwear was requested; men having dinner at L’Escalier were requested to wear jackets. At Echo, The Flagler Steakhouse, The Italian Restaurant and The Seafood Bar Resortwear was requested; at bars before 6 p.m. Casualwear and Sportswear and after 6 p.m. Guests walking through the Lobby and Loggia were asked to wear beach cover ups, bathing robes and shoes.
General Manager Tricia Taylor
Handicapped Access The resort had Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access for wheelchair bound guests in the form of Roll-in Shower, and Grab Bars. According to a property representative, there were also shower seats and commode seat raisers and other assistance devices were available upon request.
Length Of Stay Three nights
Location The resort property is on the island of Palm Beach, Florida seven miles from Palm Beach International Airport, 42 miles from Fort Lauderdale International Airport and 72 miles from Miami International Airport. Highway access is via Interstate 95 and the Florida Turnpike to South County Road (via Okeechobee Boulevard) and the entrance of The Breakers.
Owned And Managed When we visited the resort it was owned by Flagler System Inc. (FSI), a privately held company under single family ownership since 1896 now led by Paul N. Leone as president and chief operating officer. FSI also owned Breakers West Development Corporation, specializing in condominium and rental property management; and Flagler System Management Inc., an upscale retail operator that specialized in the resort, restaurant and retail industry.
Pets Allowed No
Size The 140-acre resort with 540 rooms had approximately 1,600 to 1,800 employees depending on the time of year and season.
Year Opened-Renovated The property was first established in 1896 and was most recent guest room renovation commenced the summer 2007 and was planned over a five-year period to ensure minimal inconvenience to guests. It is scheduled for completion in 2011. The fourth phase of The Breakers guest room redesign project was currently underway and a fifth phase was expected to be completed the following year with a full redesign of the 540 guest accommodations.
Room We stayed in new looking Oceanfront Rooms, Rooms 2142 and 2144, on the second floor of a five story building (since there is a mezzanine the second floor was like a third floor) facing the ocean. One of the characteristics of this type of 460-square foot room was a four-foot wide and 12 feet long balcony with wrought iron railing and a sliding glass door. When we opened the wonderful sound of the surf enveloped the room.
Attention to detail had been given to the room décor. Room 2142 (room 2144 was a mirror image of room 2142 with almost identical furnishings and a peach color theme) had a sea foam color theme. There was wallpaper and moldings on the walls, triple curtains, and a pleasant on bare feet khaki carpet with a diamond pattern. A closet with three mirrored doors and ample space was in the hallway near the entrance to the room and across from the entrance to the bathroom (to open the bathroom doors comfortably it was best to close the closet doors).
There was a comfortable neutral shade cloth love seat with sea foam cushions in front of the sliding glass doors leading to the balcony and a beige cloth chair with foot rest in the corner. In the middle of the room, set against the wall there was a king bed framed by matching wood night tables. Across the room from the bed there was an entertainment center housing a flat screen LG television and a Zenith DVD player and minibar. Next to it there was a glass covered wood desk with a glass lamp facing the wall where I set up my laptop computer. A gold framed mirror hung on the wall in front of the desk. There were three phones in the room: a hand held two-line phone on the desk, one on a night table, and a third in the bathroom.
Room temperature was controlled via a central unit with a digital wall display. Art consisted of two plant themed rust colored glass framed prints above the bed and two small black and white photos in the entrance hallway. There was a plant on a round marble and wood top table between the love seat and the armchair.
On our arrival we found a bottle of house sauvignon blanc from Gascogne, France in my room and a bottle of house red also from France in my travel partner’s room. There was also a beautifully prepared chocolate tray with a miniature hollow chocolate The Breakers filled with chocolate truffles, chocolate dipped strawberries (dark and white chocolate), and white chocolate dipped dried apricots in each room.
The day we arrived we had lunch at the oceanfront Seafood Bar. The ambiance was casual in the popular dining room which had a bar with an built-in aquarium and a striking ocean view. After settling down in a comfortable table with a lovely view we placed our order: Coconut shrimp, Lump Crab Cakes (the signature dish), Fried conch, Maine lobster club sandwich with truffled fries and Key Lime Pie with Chantilly cream. The food was satisfying and the service friendly (Christina looked after us).
When we left the Seafood Bar pleasantly plump and satisfied I couldn’t imagine having dinner that evening. Yet before we knew it the afternoon had passed and it was time to make our way across the property to the The Flagler Steakhouse. We hesitated between dining outdoors and soaking up the remaining strong rays of the dying sun in exchange for a lovely view of the golf course in the foreground and the city of West Palm Beach in the background. In the end, we chose the terrace and enjoyed it throughly. As the early evening arrived the terrace became ever more popular and by the time we left all the terrace tables were filled. Tim, our server, had been working at the restaurant for 15 years. He looked after us with just the right balance of warmth, patience and discretion. We started with Iceberg Wedge and an Heirloom Tomato Salad. For mains we sampled Flagler’s Colossal Rib Chop, one of the aged rib steaks, and the Surf and Turf combination of filet mignon and South African lobster tail. The steaks were well prepared and delicious. We wrapped up the meal with Big Chocolate Cake with Coconut Rum Frosty and Deep Dish Apple Pie served with caramel swirl ice cream and a cup of coffee. The combination of satisfying food, attentive and warm service, relaxed ambiance and a memorable setting made us fans of The Flagler Steakhouse.
Breakfast was at The Circle, a large circular dining room with intricate European motif hand-painted ceilings and an ocean view. It was possible to order from an al a carte menu or select the buffet breakfast. The buffet offerings included sliced fresh fruit, boxed cereals, yogurt, pastries, chafish dish items, made to order eggs and a carving station. We tried both options during our stay. Staff were friendly and helpful. Our orders were taken quickly and plates likewise were cleared with alacrity.
Dinner at L’Escalier, The Breakers signature restaurant open only November to May during the high season, was a fun gourmet treat. The name L’Escalier, French for staircase, refers to the restaurant’s location six steps above the main floor and, according to promotional materials “to the commitment of the culinary staff to elevate and exceed guests’ expectations.” At the most elegant of the hotel’s dining venues the dress code called for Resortwear attire and jackets were recommended for gentlemen. The restaurant was in a cozy section across from Tapestry Bar where we had aperitifs before dinner. We noticed the decorative items scattered throughout the restaurant (one of the staff explained during dinner that they were silk flowers made especially for L’Escalier by the artist). Also noticeable were the servers’ distinctive red jackets. From our table at the back of the dining room we could see the entire restaurant and part of the open kitchen. Our tasting menu was a surprise selected by the chef with wine pairings by the wine steward. The service was attentive and helpful. It was a most rewarding meal.
Other restaurants were The Beach Club and The Italian Restaurant on site and Top of the Point in West Palm Beach.
Additional services included concierge, laundry, valet parking and transportation, a Business Center, safe deposit boxes, babysitting, and complimentary shuttle service to The Breakers Rees Jones Course and Echo, a resort off-site restaurant.
Facilities There were two 18-hole championship golf courses, a spa with ocean view fitness center, a Mediterranean-style beach club overlooking one-half mile of private beach, five swimming pools, four whirlpool spas, 20 beach bungalows and 10 pool cabanas for daytime rental with a dedicated concierge, 10 tennis courts, eight restaurants, and a beauty salon (hair and nail services). There were also a dozen on-site boutiques: The Breakers News and Gourmet, Absolutely Suitable, Coconut Crew, Ralph Lauren, Steuben Glass, Guerlain, Mix, Kiehl’s, The Signature Shop, The Breakers Sports Pro Shop, The Beach Shop and Burberry. There were scuba, snorkeling, coral reef tours, deep sea fishing, kayak excursions, boogie board rentals and swimming lessons available.
Fitness Center The fitness center in the hotel building, available on a complimentary basis, was open 24 hours day and accessible with my room key. It had headphones for guest use, towels, free weights, weight machines, treadmills, elliptical and stationary bicycles. Of the six ellipticals three seemed to have problems. The lady that was working out next to me asked an attendant that stepped in briefly for a clean headset. She was unable, even with the attendant’s help, to get the television on her machine to work. She relocated to a second machine which had working television but moved to a third machine after a few minutes because of the loud sounds the machine made when she used it. The third machine suffered the same problem and she eventually relocated to a stationary bicycle. My elliptical machine worked fine (I did not try the television). The 1,400 square foot Oceanview Fitness Center which opened at 9 a.m. was available on a complimentary basis to spa guests and club members only. As hotel guests we had to pay an admission fee to use the facilities of the fitness center at the spa.
Pools We were looking forward to a little quiet time by the pool so we headed to the Relaxation Pool. By the time we arrived mid afternoon it was nearly full and the shady areas were taken. When we arrived a very attentive staff member found a spot with partial shade for us. He placed towels on each chair and left a spare. After a few minutes the burning sunlight in our faces, annoying cigaret smoke from a neighbor and a rather loud woman at the end of the pool drove us away.
We spent the better part of the next day in Bungalow 17, a day rental exclusive use beach cabana in the Relaxation Pool area. It had covered and open areas and came with three lounge chairs, two of them under the shade of an umbrella; a flatscreen LG television, stocked minibar, complimentary sunblock and lip balm, outdoor shower, water closet, copy of that day’s The New York Times and the services of a concierge shared with other bungalow guests.
Shopping There were 12 shops at the resort: The Breakers News and Gourmet sold souvenirs, small gifts, gourmet food products, and sundries; Absolutely Suitable sold designer swimwear and accessories; Coconut Crew, a children’s clothing, collectables and toys store; Ralph Lauren, sold men’s and women’s clothing; Steuben Glass, a fine crystal shop; Guerlain, a hotel owned satellite of the well known skincare, cosmetics and fragrances company; Kiehl’s, a skin, hair and body products store; The Signature Shop had Breakers branded merchandise; The Breakers Sports Pro Shop sold golf and tennis resort clothing and equipment; The Beach Shop, sold suntan products and sundry beach related products; Burberry, a clothing and accessories store; and my favorite Mix, a corner shop showcasing handpicked fashion jewelry, evening bags and hair accessories. I visited three of the shops and all the staff I encountered were very service oriented and pleasant.
Inside the ladies’ section there was a locker area to the right of the entrance and a relaxation area to the left. Past the lockers and to the rear there were showers, a women’s steam room, and a sauna. The spa was impeccably clean. After an attendant assigned me a locker and showed me around I changed into a bathrobe (there were two changing rooms) and sat in the relaxation area to await my appointment. There was a fruit bowl, two containers of iced water, one with cucumbers and another with pineapple, a hot water thermos and a variety of teas: jasmine, green, chamomile, and mint.
My masseur, Leo, had been with the spa 15 years and 27 years in the beauty business. My massage and my travel partner’s were excellent. After an hour long massage I spent some time in the steam room and sauna. Although there were guests in the locker area that day I had the steam room and sauna blissfully to myself. Spa treatments had to be cancelled 24 hours in advance in order to avoid a 50 percent service charge.
Other Check out was a 12 noon. The resort had received the AAA Five Diamond Award. Our room keys had each of our names, the dates of our stay and the type of package we had. We could use the key to charge purchases at the shops and meals at the restaurants.
One morning we went on a six mile bicycle ride with four other guests and a toddler through the the Lake Worth side of the Palm Beach island, circled back across the island to the ocean back to the hotel. Christy, our tour guide, was friendly and shared some local history. It was a lovely way to explore the island.
Date Of Review May 2010
Reviewers Article by Elena del Valle
Photographs by Gary Cox
Service Our rooms were serviced twice daily. Restaurants and the spa automatically added a 20 percent service charge to services. Staff were polite. Some were very service oriented and some were friendly as well.
Would You Stay There Again? Yes