If you’re envisioning trendy beach spots in Florida, Miami immediately comes to mind. When you think about timeless glamour, Palm Beach might top the list. And if family fun is on your agenda, Orlando has that category pretty well wrapped up. Naples, a city of just under 22,000 full-time residents, has lots to offer, too. But up to this point, it just hasn’t had much of a stage in the Sunshine State’s seasonal production to do so. With a little of your help, though, all of that can come to a halt. When your next two-day break arrives, fight the urge to trek back to Tampa because Naples, in all its relatively unbothered beauty, awaits its chance to pamper you.
Top-shelf properties such as Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites and Five-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Naples call the Southwestern Florida city home, but another option for your weekend accommodations is LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort. An idyllic spot in the Gulf’s spectacular white sands is reason enough to reserve a suite, but the lush, Caribbean-influenced hotel wins in other ways: The golf at LaPlaya Golf Course is incredible; the treatments at SpaTerre are invigorating; the cuisine at Baleen Restaurant is an epicurean delight.
Once you put your bags away (and pull your significant other away from the entrancing terrace view), make the five-minute drive to the Mercato shopping center for lunch at The Counter, a hip burger factory that takes a certain pride in every sandwich in manufactures. If you think its list of eight breads and 45 toppings is special, wait until you see a drink roster that includes vodka-spiked blueberry lemonade, beer cocktails and mimosa shakes. When you’ve stuffed yourself, walk off the carbs in the swanky outdoor plaza where you’ll find local brands (Gigi’s Children’s Boutique) and national chains (Nordstrom Rack) to entice you.
After shopping for an hour or so, head back to LaPlaya where you’ll see a number of options for your next activity. A long nap on the pillow-top king bed isn’t a bad call. Nor is seeing whether the spa’s promise of its tropical essence massage being a mood-altering experience is mere brochure talk. Even putting the beach concierge to work for a snack from your spot along Vanderbilt Beach sounds great. Whatever you decide to do, just remember that you have 8 p.m. dinner reservations at Baleen.
At first glance, LaPlaya’s signature fine-dining establishment comes off a tad formal. Glimmering chandeliers, private booths and a snazzy waitstaff set the polished mood. But upon deeper inspection of the guest in the polo shirt and shorts or the family chuckling over the day’s parasailing exploits, you realize the place is for anyone who appreciates good service and inventive dishes such as Florida Keys yellowtail snapper or chili-rubbed short ribs. An order of freshly churned guava sorbet should complete your first day in Naples.
Since you have an early-morning tee time at LaPlaya Golf Course, you may not be able to fit in a lavish breakfast. Luckily, the golf club, which is just a nine-minute ride from the resort, offers pastries, hard-boiled eggs and fruit for hotel guests and club members. If you’ve signed up for a session at the prestigious David Leadbetter Golf Academy, your one-day mini school will start at 9 a.m. If you’re going at the 6,907-yard, mangrove-flanked course on your own, head out to the first hole. A beautiful marriage of manicured greens and natural majesty—during our particular morning on the course, we came across turtles and anhingas, the bird that’s pictured on the LaPlaya logo—the layout is one golfers will compare favorably to anything they’ve played previously in Sarasota or Ft. Lauderdale.
Once you’ve completed your round, grab a cheeseburger wrap at the clubhouse or make the breezy 20-minute drive to Cosmos Café & Pizzeria, an unpretentious spot that cooks up inspired pies that could leave the Naples in Italy a little envious.
By the time you get back to the hotel, it’ll be around 3 p.m. and roughly 83 degrees. Hit the water for a spell. Only this time, ask your beach concierge for a Tiki Mudslide—the Tiki Bar’s recipe of Kahlúa, Baileys Original Irish Cream and Sobieski vanilla vodka isn’t anything groundbreaking, but its execution is nothing short of exceptional.
After you freshen up in your room, throw on your finest resort-chic ensemble for dinner. Fifth Avenue South is another shopping center in Naples with high-end boutiques and great eateries. One of these choice destinations is Avenue5, the Inn on Fifth’s newest restaurant. With its alluring vintage-glam dining area and bountiful seafood selection, it’s no wonder why locals and visitors have lined up for tables since its debut last December.
If you want to try Avenue5’s barrel-aged Manhattan, by all means, indulge. But if you can wait, there’s one last bit of fun awaiting you at the resort. Like some scene you’d imagine on Amelia Island, every night LaPlaya’s back patio converts into a fireside lounge. Servers cater to your drinking need while flames from the pit tickle the toes ever so gently. It’s a perfect way to reflect on the relaxing weekend, or ponder how in the world you’ve managed to overlook Naples for so long.