By Sara Liss
It’s always nice to check in with our counterparts across the state to see how the other half live. Sunsets over the water, calm Gulf Coast beaches and a laid-back lifestyle make Naples a sweet antidote to South Florida’s hectic pace of life. With sprawling golf courses, ritzy retirement communities and virtually no traffic, I was expecting the West Coast to be blands-ville in contrast to my normally caliente scene in Miami. Fortunately, Naples surprises with an impressive amount of style: hip steakhouses, sophisticated zen spas and plenty of preppie watering holes. But you’ll still want to bring along the golf clubs, just in case.
Downtown Naples consists of the wide boulevards of Third Street South and Fifth Avenue South. Clothing boutiques, antique boutiques, art galleries and outdoor cafes line the spacious sidewalks. Grab a leisurely lunch at Randy’s Fish Market for just-caught seafood and sublime key lime pie.
It’s worth indulging in at least one massive brunch feast and Lemonia at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort is legendary. The Sunday morning buffet features a sushi selection, ample raw bar, caviar, beef carving stations, brioche French toast, waffles, and fresh fruit and a dessert spread that would satisfy many a sweets-addict.
For dinner on the waterfront head to Baleen with its romantic hanging lanterns and stone porticos. The grouper with red wine risotto and side of lobster mac and cheese are belly-filling standouts. Steak lovers will relish a night at Strip House, with its bordello-chic décor and black and white photos of burlesque stars. Start off with the jumbo seared scallops with edamame and segue to char-broiled steaks that arrive with a crispy finish. The 24-layer chocolate cake (topped with a layer of ganache for good measure) is almost too decadent to conquer, but come on, you’re on vacation!
The beaches of Naples are serene white-sand affairs. A walk along the coast line at sunset is about as close as you’ll get to living in a postcard (clichés and all), and worth doing at least once.
If you catch rainy weather and relaxation is your goal, hit the massive spa at the Ritz Beach resort. A vast chateau of pampering, the spa recently introduced an innovative new treatment called “Elements” using Chinese astrology to determine your personal element (wood, fire, water) and then to tailor the treatment according to those qualities.
If Japanese-inspired serenity is more your thing, book a treatment at the Golden Door Spa. The two-story minimalist facility features a stone garden, outdoor Japanese baths and steam rooms. After your treatment the staff, outfitted in black linen pajamas, offers a shot glass of organic strawberry juice, a refreshing touch.
If you’re looking to stay directly on the beach La Playa Resort is a cute boutique hotel with a green bent. At check-in guests are given a pamphlet about sea turtle protection and reminded to close their ocean-facing drapes by 9 p.m., so that just-hatched baby turtles are not distracted by the artificial light and make their way to the ocean.
For more of a hipster-getaway vibe head to the Naples Grande Resort where a posh lobby of white leather bar stools, orange lounge chairs and a glowing glass bar inspire Entourage-like reveries.
If you want double the bang for your buck stay at either the Ritz Beach Resort or the Golf Resort and get access to both hotels and their pools and restaurants via a convenient shuttle. (Tip: The Golf Resort rates tend to be more wallet-friendly, and you can still enjoy beach access with this sharing amenity.)