A Sophisticated Florida Resort for the Whole Family
Acqualina Resort and Residences on the Beach
Sunny Isles, Florida
Refined Beachy Fun, $$$
If there's one hotel that quickly showed the pandemic who's boss, it's Acqualina Resort and Residences on the Beach in Sunny Isles, the beach neighborhood just north of Miami. We've been impressed with how they've handled the shifting situation since the spring, quickly developing new safety and cleanliness protocols and leading the industry through their example. (We invited CEO and Partner Deborah Yager Fleming to be an expert on the panel about upcoming trends at The New Travel conference last June.) And they've done it in Southern Florida, the don't-rain-on-our-parade land that doesn't seem to believe in masking.
But even before this, we've had our eye on this resort, a family-friendly enclave of Mediterranean living punctuated by signature red umbrellas and accents. Kids aged 5-12 in the AcquaMarine program can have all kinds of hands-on fun, tracking whales and creating edible coral polyp, among other don't-tell-them-they're-also-educational offerings. Adults can relax by the pool or challenge their skills at the outdoor oversized chess board, putting their new Queen's Gambit skills to use. The 20,000-square-foot Acqualina Spa by ESPA, the first ESPA location in the United States, brings a European sensibility to healing offerings like holistic and Ayurvedic treatments and a striking hammam. The dining program includes Ke-uH, a new Japanese fusion restaurant; an outpost of Manhattan's beloved Il Mulino New York; Costa Grill, serving a gourmet Mediterranean menu; and AQ Gelato and Coffee for all those sugar and caffeine needs. Other hotel amenities include a gym (reservations are required during Covid), business center, meeting rooms, and a custom app that makes high-touch service possible in a no-touch world. If you find that you just can't tear yourself way at the end of the visit, you can see if any Acqualina Residences are available. See? There's a reason this resort has won five-star status from the Forbes Travel Guide and five-diamond status from AAA.
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At a Glance
The Vibe: Upscale, though not intimidating, and very family-friendly.
Standout Detail: The thoroughness of care and attention to guest service.
This Place Is Perfect For: Well-heeled families who need a break (sometimes from each other!) in the sunshine.
Rooms: 98 rooms in various categories and configurations overlook the Intracoastal Waterway or the Atlantic Ocean and are decorated in a palette of warm neutral tones. Amenities include Illy Espresso machines, marble bathrooms, private terraces, and free WiFi.
On Site: An impressive, two-story Acqualina Spa by ESPA, with treatment rooms, a hammam, an outdoor pool, and a Roman waterfall. The gym is by reservation only during Covid.
Food + Drink: Brand new Ke-uH serves a Japanese fusion menu overseen by a former Nobu chef. Il Mulino New York serves refined Italian cuisine — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and has an expansive outdoor seating area, to add to the dolce vita feeling. Costa Grill, which is only open to hotel guests and residents, is the only Miami restaurant that close to the beach. AQ Gelato and Coffee is located in the lobby. In-room dining is available 24 hours per day.
What to Do Nearby
Sunny Isles is close enough to Miami for a zip down to its top restaurants (Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Fiola Mare) and cultural attractions (PAMM, de la Cruz Collection), but removed enough that you can easily avoid the thumping South Beach scene. The ritzy boutiques in nearby Bal Harbour Shops will be more than happy to fulfill any overpriced shopping urges that should strike.
This article was originally written in February 2021 and was updated in December 2021.