The Miami Beach aesthetic has veered so much toward the minimalistic and modern that a neo-Baroque edifice at the ocean’s edge seems like a bold departure. That Italianate pearl in a sea of Art Deco mid-rises is Acqualina, a five-star, five-diamond resort off the beaten South Beach path, in Sunny Isles Beach.
For those of us day-tripping from Palm Beach, the location is fortunate, as the drive is about an hour and free of South Beach traffic. There is something to be said about arriving without stress for the weekend. The entrance through high iron gates, the murmur of water fountains, and the arched-and-vaulted interiors help dissolve any lingering tension. And the accommodations, with their luxurious aesthetic of exotic woods, glamorous detailing, and wide ocean views, clinch that sense of calm and repose that we’d go to the ends of the Earth for.
Beyond the stellar service, dining, and accommodation at the heart of the Acqualina experience, there are several reasons to visit the resort now. Here are three that top our list:
1. Royal Spa Suite
If Acqualina’s spa by ESPA wasn’t fabulous enough, it now has added the ultimate sybaritic pleasure: the 820-square-foot Royal Spa Suite, designed for two. The Royal includes a private, mother-of-pearl-enhanced steam room, rainforest shower, and a separate lounge for before and after treatments. The décor is by Fendi (the plum-hued swivel chairs are so sumptuous, you’ll want to take them home), augmented with crystal chandeliers and hand-painted Calico wallpaper. Services are delivered on a pair of plush spa beds, perfect for everything from a Swedish massage to a 24-karat gold rejuvenation facial. The Couple’s Escape includes all that, plus a finishing gold body shimmer, a bottle of Cristal, and gold-dusted strawberries. Indulgence at its very finest.
2. Il Mulino
New York City’s Italian mainstay has won the hearts of South Florida with its perfect chicken parmigiana, wild mushroom and black truffle risotto, and the ultimate antipasto: Parmesan cheese dug out of an enormous wheel tableside. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any flaw with the food—or the service, for that matter. Hands down one of the best tables in Sunny Isles.
3. Kids’ Adventures
Acqualina is nothing if not family-friendly. Its kids’ program, AcquaMarine, is inspired by the ocean and teaches guests aged 5-12 about marine biology and sea life. Plus, there are fun activities like foosball, pizza-making classes, soccer, and sea turtle education. For the youngest guests, there is Strider Adventure Zone, where kids aged 18 months to 5 years can learn balance and coordination on a Striker Balance Bike with no pedals. After stretching in the Stretch Zone with Mom and Dad, little ones can ride the balance bike, with parents by their side and instructor assistance, on a special course along the beach. The end result is an increase in confidence and skills needed to ride a two-wheel bike. Bonus: quality family time.
And one for the future … Fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld has just unveiled a show-stopping design for the lobby of The Estates at Acqualina, a $1.5 billion residential offering on the grounds of the resort complex. The South Tower will open in 2020, and a second tower will open shortly after.
Lagerfeld’s vision is a studied contrast between classic and contemporary design. He has begun with a palette of pale blues, white, silver, and gray and has ratcheted up the tension with unique textures like hammered metal floors with mosaic tile “rugs.” Fountains soothe, while monumental art panels provoke. Call it edgy, call it bold; it will certainly be like nothing else on the oceanfront strip.