There’s plenty of reason for optimism these days. Summer is here, lockdowns are lifting, the tide of Covid is ebbing, and the economy is showing signs of perking up. For many, it’s time to start planning that long-deferred vacation. Yet, not everyone is ready to take on a global super adventure—and the Byzantine matrix of travel restrictions that come with it. The good news is you don’t need to leave the country for a world-class luxury beach getaway. Whether you’re craving a vacation in the sun or a gorgeous setting to work remotely, Miami’s Acqualina Resort & Residences on the Beach offers discerning travelers a private beach experience with few peers. I recently stayed in the soaring 52-story yellow and salmon hotel in the tony Sunny Isles enclave, and it felt like being transported to a far-flung Mediterranean island resort.
The luxury resort casts its spell not with South Beach-style flash, but by focusing on the pillars of old-school hospitality: a stunning location, superb service, and suites that feel more like your own beachfront condo than a hotel. (Oh, and it’s also taken Covid protocols seriously from day one, offering everything from in-suite safety packs with masks and hand sanitizer and cleaned, hermetically sealed TV remotes to a room sanitizing process that would impress most hospitals. And, if you’re feeling ill, you can now get a Covid test right on the premises.)
Any conversation about Acqualina, though, has to begin with the property’s pièce de résistance: its private beach (pictured above). The hotel is situated literally steps from the Atlantic, allowing guests to walk from their suite to the sand in less time than it took to write this sentence. (I exaggerate, but you get the point.) The friendly, attentive staff will set you up with beach chairs, towels and a signature Acqualina red umbrella on a perfect spot near the water, so you can spend the day catching rays and taking dips in the ocean.
You can also order food and drinks from the resort’s bistro-style Costa Grill to be brought directly to your sun bed. I highly recommend the Acqualina Thai Coconut, a sublime rum-infused drink that comes delivered in a whole coconut imported from Thailand. (Somehow, it’s even delicious without rum.) If you’re not in the mood for the sand, the hotel also has three discrete pools, one of which is adults-only; all offer private cabanas, if you need an added dose of privacy.
The offerings inside the hotel are no less impressive. We stayed in Acqualina’s one-bedroom oceanfront suite, which was handsomely appointed in modern, homey furnishings in beach-friendly neutral tones (think soft greys and sandy beiges). The full-size living room includes a sofa sleeper, credenza, club chairs, and smoked glass-and-bronze metal coffee tables; a giant high-def TV—one of two in the suite—anchors the space.
Unlike some other contemporary hotels, the design elements here don’t try to wow you with severe minimalist lines. Rather, the point is to create plush, airy comfort that feels like your own space—except this one just happens to have floor-to-ceiling windows and unobstructed views of the ocean. Those views are enhanced by the suite’s private balcony, which spans the length of the entire unit, from bedroom to kitchen. Sipping an espresso on the balcony—the suite comes with its own Illi—was the ideal way to begin each day. On some days, I even debated whether I wanted to leave the balcony for the beach.
The bedroom brings its own perks, too, starting with perhaps the most comfortable king-size bed I’ve encountered while traveling. Made by Sherwood Bedding, it achieved that elusive balance of firmness and softness at once—no small feat, as any fussy sleeper can tell you. Meanwhile, the 220-square-foot ensuite bathroom feels bigger than most New York City apartments, and comes with marble floors, double sinks and an oversize jacuzzi tub. You’ll also find ESPA Spa bath products and two impossibly soft Bocca Terry microfiber bathrobes.
For those who need to work while they play, the suite offers plenty of nooks for digging into those spreadsheets. The dining table off the kitchen affords the same gob-smacking views of the as the rest of the unit, and there’s also a separate den that comes complete with a daybed, built-in desk and a third, smaller television. It can easily serve double duty as an office or a nap room for the kids. (Naturally, WiFi is provided throughout the unit and the public areas.)
Part of what sets Acqualina apart is the feeling that you never really need to leave the property. Three dining options help make that possible. The definitive headliner is Il Mulino New York, the Sunny Isles Beach edition of the acclaimed Big Apple restaurant. The menu’s classic Italian fare—think grilled lamb chops, poached salmon and braised veal—gives you a reason to get gussied up after a day on the beach. If your palette runs more towards citrus and spice, the hotel has opened Ke-uH, a new tapas-style Japanese fusion restaurant with dishes ranging from tuna tacos to salmon pizza.
The dining experience that no Acqualina guest should miss is the beachfront dinner. For this, the hotel’s chefs have created a special four-course, Mediterranean-inspired menu that you can enjoy at an outdoor table right on the private beach. The setting is spectacular, and the meal is no slouch either: Entrees range from tenderloin center steak to pistachio-crusted black sea bass or spice-glazed chicken breast. Whatever main course you choose, I recommend starting with the tropical fish ceviche, which was both incredibly fresh (as ceviche needs to be) and piquant with the just right note of citrus.
As you might expect from a luxury resort that caters to families, Acqualina offers a slew of activities for both adults and children. There’s a miniature soccer field and a kids basketball court, and you can also play a game of oversize chess on the lawn. But adults won’t want to end their stay without experiencing the award-winning Acqualina Spa by ESPA. The first American outpost of the London-based ESPA, the sanctuary offers a full menu of wellness services, ranging from Cryo T Shock facials to 80-minute deep tissue massages with hot stone therapy. We sampled the couples massage, a 50-minute session that lets each of you customize your experience from light massage to deep tissue. I recommend booking a morning session, which will make your time at the sand or by the pool even more blissful.
Rates start at $765 a night for standard Intracoastal Rooms, $2,633 for one-bedroom oceanfront suites, and $3,800 and $5,966 per night for two- and three-bedroom oceanfront suites, respectively.