Feature image courtesy of India Tupy, Unsplash
The sun rises and I’m looking for dolphins. They’re usually frolicking in the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico at this hour. If I don’t see any, it’s no big deal. I could spend all day on these gorgeous white sand beaches, taking in the sun and adding to my collection of seashells if I start to feel a little restless.
For lunch, I grab a grouper sandwich so large it hangs off the bun and take a sip of a tropical drink while watching the fiery orange sun sink into the deep blue waters of the Gulf. In the evening, I might head to one of the beach bars in town for live Jimmy Buffet-style acoustic music, or if there’s a full moon, I’ll take a moonlight kayak trip with my boyfriend.
With Florida’s idyllic year-round temperatures, there’s something in every season for couples. Summers are for diving for scallops and fall brings the first stone crabs of the season. Spring is all about baseball, outdoor festivals, and craft beer, while winter — when we enjoy temperate days with no humidity — offers cool breezes for playing golf, hiking and biking. There’s even plenty to do on rainy days exploring our surprisingly large collection of museums and art galleries.
Suffice it to say, the Sunshine State is filled with unique places to pursue your personal passions. Here are some favourite romantic Florida vacations for a weekend of sun, sand and spa treatments, or an action-packed adventure for two by land or sea.
10 Florida Vacations for Couples
The Don Cesar: A Beach Paradise Built by Lovers for Lovers
Built by Thomas Rowe in 1928 as an homage to his lost love, a Spanish opera singer named Lucinda, The Don Cesar is a Gatsby-era landmark that has hosted presidents, rock stars, and famous literary lovers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, who penned some of his famous letters to Zelda from this pink and white Mediterranean confection on St. Pete Beach.
If you can pull yourself away from one of the two pools—and the poolside concierge service with Evian and suntan lotion misting, chilled towels and frosty tropical cocktails—the sugar-like white sand beach beckons. Rent a Waverunner, paddle board or a kayak for two, or just chill out in your own private beachfront oasis with sun loungers and a large umbrella. And although the hotel does offer a fully-equipped indoor fitness center, live like a local and stay fit the Florida way with complimentary beach yoga, water aerobics, and water yoga classes. For total beach bliss, order a couple’s massage while watching the sunset. Finish the day with a sea-to-fork dinner at the private chef’s table in the award-winning Maritana Grille.Check availability >>
Sail Into the Sunset at The Breakers
The last thing you would expect to find in the land of palm trees and sunny beaches is a European villa worthy of royalty. Inspired by the Villa Medici in Rome, the historic Breakers Resort epitomizes the glitterati lifestyle in Palm Beach, often called Florida’s “Riviera.” The mammoth 140-acre resort oozes opulence, from the Venetian chandeliers and hand-painted ceilings to a veritable shopping mall of designer boutiques.
If you believe couples who play together, stay together, this resort offers the motherlode of activities, from championship golf and tennis to scuba diving, reef diving, and ocean kayaking, offering certified instructors for each. Relax on the private beach in a loaded beach bungalow with private concierge service or add some spice to your getaway with complimentary classes in belly dancing. The sunset catamaran cruise is a perfect prelude to a romantic dinner at one of the eight on-site restaurants. End the day with a nightcap at HMF, the resort’s historic flagship bar named for its founder, railroad baron Henry Flagler.
A Dolphin Tale at Clearwater’s Sandpearl Resort
Sitting on a coveted stretch of glistening white sand in Clearwater Beach, the Sandpearl Resort is truly a jewel with its upscale amenities like private boat slips, a full-service spa, a lagoon-style pool, an electric car charging station, the city’s only four-diamond restaurant and an array of curated enrichment programs. Guest rooms feature chic modern beach décor, although the resort’s laid-back attitude includes activities like a nightly beachfront fire pit for impromptu social gatherings.
And if you’re dying to see dolphins, you’re in the right place. You’ll see pairs and sometimes whole pods swimming by in the early morning and at twilight. Ask the concierge to arrange a dolphin-watching cruise if you want to play it safe. The resort’s enrichment program also offers a behind-the-scenes experience at the nearby Clearwater Marine Aquarium, home to our local “movie stars,” the dolphins Winter and Hope from the Dolphin Tale movies. Be sure to upgrade to a Gulf view room to take advantage of spectacular sunsets, or if you really want to splurge, go for one of the suites on the top two floors to have your own fully-equipped home-away-from-home on the beach.Check availability >>
1 Hotel South Beach: Living La Vida Local
1 Hotel South Beach is an eco-friendly, hipster hotel in the heart of trendy South Beach with some of the largest guest rooms in town as well as its own stretch of private beach. The sleek, minimalist rooms offer reclaimed driftwood headboards, organic mattresses, bed linens and towels, a triple-filtered water shower and all-natural custom bath amenities. Don’t be surprised to find dried mushrooms as a wall treatment, indoor gardens, and even a personal terrarium in your guest room.
Hotel 1 continues the local trend with its food offerings, from a farm stand in the lobby, where you can pick up fresh fruits and veggies to its three restaurants. Plnthouse offers healthy organic fare, Chef Jose Mendin’s Habitat features sea-to-fork daily catches, grass-fed meats and local produce, and Watr on the adults-only rooftop serves up an array of Peruvian and Japanese-influenced seafood, available in the restaurant and poolside. Or pick up something healthy to-go at the hotel’s snack shop, Nativ Made. After 7 p.m.—when the public is allowed to access the rooftop—expect a true South Beach party. Chill out the next day on the beach, on a daybed, at one of the two oceanside pools or at the Bamford Haybarn Spa. Try the After Sun Recovery treatment which includes a footbath, full body wrap, and facial mask.Check availability >>
Seashells by the Seashore at Casa Ybel Resort
This tiny barrier island has enough lush tropical foliage to fuel any deserted island fantasy. The best way to see it is by bike on the more than 20 miles of paths throughout the island, and Casa Ybel has several on hand for guest use. This all-suite resort offers accommodations more like private residences than hotel rooms. All suites are beachfront with Gulf views and feature full kitchens, living rooms, and even outdoor gas grills.
Known as the Seashell Capital of the World, you can pick up your own souvenirs at popular spots like Bowman’s Beach or at Blind Pass, the dividing point between Sanibel and Captiva. The resort offers a beach trolley if you want to go into town to check out the many art galleries and boutiques or visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. For outdoor fun, rent a kayak or paddle board and don’t miss the resort’s beach bonfire and s’mores roast just after sunset.Check availability >>
Secede from Stress at the Southernmost Beach Resort
Nicknamed the Conch Republic — after this quirky and eccentric city seceded from the rest of Florida in 1982 — Key West is a true original. The Southernmost Beach Resort is located in the historic Old Town and so named for its proximity to Cuba at the southernmost point of the island. Don’t let the quaint Conch-style architecture fool you. The guest rooms here — spread throughout several different buildings— feature a contemporary coastal décor and views of the Atlantic Ocean or of the resort’s lush gardens.
Grab a seaside hammock and a good book for a lazy afternoon by the beach or walk to Duval Street to enjoy the boutiques, galleries, and local restaurants. Don’t be surprised to meet some of Key West’s other famous residents, the free-range roosters and chickens that roam about town. If you visit Ernest Hemingway’s house, you’ll see some of the six-toed cats descended from his own feline, Snow White. And be sure to join the sunset celebration, held every evening at Mallory Square, which commences with the blowing of a conch shell. In addition to the resort’s private beach and tanning pier, take advantage of the three pools and access to nearby South Beach. End the day Jimmy Buffett-style with a Key Lime margarita at the Shores Bar while listening to a local songwriter.Check availability >>
Why is Key West called “The Conch Republic”?
The short answer is that in protest to a roadblock in the Keys following the Mariel boatlift from Cuba — which caused a 17-mile backup and heavily impacted tourism — the mayor declared that if the Keys were being treated like a foreign country, they should just secede and be a separate country called the Conch Republic. He then declared war on the U.S., immediately surrendered, and then asked for a billion dollars in war relief.
His humorous handling of the situation resulted in enormous press coverage and the end of the roadblock, and to this day, Key West uses that story and the name Conch Republic to market its quirky, independence. Visitors even get a “Conch Republic Passport” at the visitor center.
April 20, 2019 will mark the 37th annual 10-day celebration, including drags races (drag queens in pumps) and other events to celebrate the city’s motto, “We Seceded Where Others Failed!”
Double the Fun at LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort
Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and Vanderbilt Bay, LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort offers double the fun for couples with tandem kayaks, tandem massages, and even parasailing for two. Golfers will love the Robert Cupp 18-hole course with its challenging lakes and water features, but be sure to leave some time for relaxing by the pool, where the resort’s beach butlers deliver cold sorbet and chilled towels in the afternoon.
Guest rooms and suites in soothing tones of green and gold—many with additional amenities like marble bathrooms and whirlpool tubs—are spread through a variety of buildings. From May through October, the resort works with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to protect the nesting areas of the endangered sea turtles and asks guests to close their drapes by 9:00 p.m. so the lights won’t disturb them. Be a good earth steward and you’ll be rewarded with a complimentary sea turtle lapel pin. If there’s a full moon while you’re in town, take a romantic moonlight kayak tour with local outfitters, Adventures Kayaking.Check availability >>
Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island: A Pirate’s Paradise
This barrier island on Florida’s East Coast — known as the Island of Eight Flags — is the only American city to have been ruled by eight different nations. Fernandina Beach celebrates its heritage with the annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival every May and The Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island celebrates it daily with a Pirate Toast. With 13 miles of unspoiled beaches, abundant wildlife from ospreys to dolphins and a Victorian village loaded with boutique shops and dining options, Amelia Island is a treasure chest waiting to be plundered.
In contrast to the Victorian village, the resort and its guest rooms and suites are defined by contemporary elegance and an abundance of amenities and activities. The resort offers tennis facilities, water sports rentals, both an indoor and an outdoor pool, and an 18-hole championship golf course as well as a spa. With a total of eight on-site restaurants and bars, there’s no need to leave the property, but visitors should take the complimentary evening shuttle at least once to explore historic downtown Fernandina Beach. Ask the concierge to arrange special activities like horseback riding on the beach and surfing lessons.Check availability >>
Seaside Spa Days at The Henderson, Destin
The Henderson’s cedar shingles and gabled rooflines may evoke Florida’s early 20th-century beach resorts, but this resort is anything but old-fashioned, except in its exceptional personal service. Guest rooms and suites offer a coastal décor reflecting the blues and greens of the Gulf of Mexico, most with views of the beach, the adjacent Henderson Beach Preserve or the tropical gardens.
Spa lovers should choose one of the spa-inspired rooms, which feature a claw foot soaking tub, premium spa products, yoga wellness packs, and a nearby private elevator that goes directly to—you guessed it— the spa. If outdoor activities are your passion, hit the beach for complimentary morning and sunset beach yoga classes or join one of the guided fitness walks. Or simply kick back and relax in a cabana at the adults-only pool. You can also rent bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards, and hikers will love the beach nature trail at nearby Henderson Beach State ParkCheck availability >>
Personal Pampering at One Ocean Resort, Atlantic Beach
At One Ocean Resort & Spa on Atlantic Beach, you’ll get the V.I.C. (Very Important Couple) treatment from the minute you arrive. Your personal docent will greet you in the stunning lobby beneath the magnificent chandelier of glass orbs and escort you to your room or suite. Turn off your cell phone and reconnect with your significant other with the Digital DeTox Romance package, which includes turndown service with champagne and strawberries, a spa credit—think tandem beachside massage—and a dinner for two.
Even out your tan on tandem beach loungers or rent bikes to explore the shops and restaurants of Atlantic Beach Town Center or cruise along the coastline. If you’re heading out for a night on the town, your docent services include steam pressing and shoe shining.