I’m a little embarrassed to say that until a few days ago, it’d been years – years – since I last hopped on a short flight down to Florida to enjoy some much needed rest and relaxation. I wish I had a good reason, but I don’t. Thankfully I corrected that oversight on a short but wonderfully restorative trip to South Florida over inauguration weekend. Every four years, no matter who wins, I use the opportunity to take a quick trip somewhere. In the past it’s been Ireland, Iceland and other more far flung destinations but this year I wanted something different. I wanted warmth and a beach, I wanted refinement and a schedule devoid of activities. In other words, I just wanted to relax. Florida has no shortage of places that all excel in the fine art of doing nothing, but thanks to an experience a few months ago, I knew that I wanted to stay at one of the remarkable hotels in the beautifully-curated Curio Collection by Hilton. I wrote an entire post about them, so I won’t go into too much detail, but Curio is a group of upscale hotels and resorts hand-picked for their unique character and personality. They are as far away from cookie cutter as you can get and in South Florida, one of the star properties is the beautiful Diplomat Beach Resort. Instead of just write a review saying the rooms are nice and the service top notch, I want to share the steps any future guest should take to ensure a relaxing stay in this, one of the great classic hotels of Florida.
The Diplomat Beach Resort
Originally built in the 1950s, the Diplomat at one time was the only resort between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Given what the area looks like today, that’s amazing, and it was the start of a long and storied history at one of the country’s great resort hotels. Over the decades, the Diplomat wined and dined everyone from the Kennedy’s to the Rat Pack but then in the late 1980s it began to fall on hard times. Eventually, the original hotel was completely demolished and a new one built in its place; evoking the memory of the original but with the modern flourishes everyone expects. Then just a couple of years ago, the resort once again started to reinvent itself and launched a $100 million renovation project which is just about finished. Along with that, it also became a member of the Curio Collection and it’s this new and reimagined resort that I discovered upon my arrival.
In short, everything about the new look and design works. It’s a large property, but elegant and finely designed furnishings permeate the entire property in what I can only describe as elegant beachy. It also just makes sense. There are plenty of places for guests to relax or get some work done, there’s a canteen with snacks, drinks and light meals and the entire newly renovated hotel has the modern traveler in mind. That’s rare to find and made my own stay not just relaxing, but a lot of fun.
Pick The Right Room
With almost 1,000 rooms at The Diplomat, there are a lot of options but after spending a couple of nights in one of their suites, I can’t imagine a better place to call home. The massive room echoed those light and airy design aesthetics I had found in the lobby and expounded on them. The room was stunning, simply said. Massive windows allow in plenty of light and of course provide stunning views of the ocean.
The luxurious space was elegant without feeling stuffing and little amenities, like outlets next to each night stand demonstrated to me that they truly understand the modern traveler. With plenty of room to spread out and relax, the room was the ideal home away from home.
Eat All The Food
One of the features of all Curio Hotels (I think) are the food options and that’s certainly the case at The Diplomat. Food here is one of the stars of the experience and not relegated to the backstage as at so many high-end resorts along the coast. I first enjoyed this commitment to everything culinary with a early birthday dinner at the resort’s steakhouse, Prime. There are few things I enjoy more in life than a great steakhouse and believe it or not, my experience at Prime was amongst the best I’ve experienced. I was surprised too and no offense to The Diplomat, but it’s not what I expected at a beachside resort. But the fact remains that the steaks were expertly cooked and so well seasoned that I know it’s a meal I’ll remember for a long time.
The excellence in food though continues to all levels of the experience, from the massive breakfast buffet to the independent restaurants on-site serving up everything from BBQ and burgers to Italian-inspired light bites. What is notable about all of the food options is that none of them are average. The breakfast is a great example of this actually. I have probably eaten at 1 gazillion hotel buffets around the world and they’re nearly all the same. There is little left to the imagination and while The Diplomat honors these expectations, it does so with its own flair. Breakfast potatoes are delicately seasoned and tossed with Parmesan cheese, eggs are made to order and even the yogurts are freshly made and lovingly presented. Extrapolate this single experience across the board and you’ll quickly understand why the food was a wonderfully important part of my experience at the resort.
Do Nothing in Style
Ultimately though, we travel down to beach resorts in Florida for one reason – to lay out and do very little. While sitting by a pool all day is not something I normally do, this time I wanted to make an effort to truly relax. It’s something I rarely enjoy and this getaway was meant to be personal, to be a way for me to regain some energy so that I could start tackling the new year in earnest. At The Diplomat, there are plenty of outside options from its large beachfront, to the multiple pools, all of it coming together as yet another elegantly designed recreation space. I took advantage though of their luxury cabana service, reserving a spot for the entire day this turned out to be the best decision of my trip. The cabanas are little rooms alongside the pools, well-designed in a nod to classic art deco South Florida style but come with a whole host of modern amenities including large TVs, a Dyson Blade, complimentary refreshments and snacks and attendants so good at their jobs that you’ll never want for anything, believe me. I can’t remember the last time I spent an entire day lounging by the pool, but I did at The Diplomat thanks not only to the gorgeous outdoor areas, but the cabana service, which is amongst the best I’ve seen.
Another fun way to relax is to enjoy some time in the hotel’s newly refurbished and enormous spa and fitness facility. Once again, the same theme of relaxed elegance continues through to the spa, and the relaxation areas are cutting edge while being welcoming, a tough line to navigate but one that the Diplomat manages perfectly. Ultimately though it’s the actual service that matters the most and my own hour spent with a firm but relaxing Swedish massage was great – I think. I can’t be sure because I fell asleep, but if that’s not the mark of a great massage then I don’t know what is.
Get Out and About
It is perfectly acceptable to never leave the resort property, but there’s a lot to see and do in South Florida and if you’re around long enough, I think you should plan some time getting to know the neighborhood. Hollywood, Florida itself is deceptively interesting, with a 2-mile Broadwalk (correct spelling), running the length of the beach with hundreds of shops, bars and restaurants and amazing views as well. In the city of Hollywood itself you’ll find a small but eclectic community, creative by nature the Mural Project features a variety of outdoor murals around town by a variety of artists and spending the afternoon finding them all is an unexpectedly fun way to learn more about the area. Further afield of course you have all of the amusements offered by this fun part of the country in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Weeks could be spent here, and the Diplomat is very well situated to enjoy everything the area has to offer.
So yes, I enjoyed my far too brief stay at the luxurious Diplomat Beach Resort but not for the reasons I expected. It was all of the unexpected moments of surprise that eventually won me over. The beautifully designed rooms, the large and relaxing outdoors spaces and the delicious restaurants all came together to create the perfect weekend. It’s rare when this happens and I can’t thank the Diplomat Beach Resort enough for helping me achieve the impossible – to well and truly relax.