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What Becomes a Legend Most

A $200 million facelift has transformed the century-old Boca Raton, which was purchased by tech billionaire Michael Dell in 2019.

In terms of South Florida’s legacy resorts, the Boca Raton is to its town what The Breakers is to Palm Beach and the Biltmore is to Miami: a palm-lined retreat boasting sprawling grounds; a lively social hub atmosphere; and a richly amenitized, self-contained environment that you don’t have to (or want to) leave between check-in and check-out. The resort contains more than 15 dining venues and lounges (the Flamingo Grill is a top-notch steakhouse), plus golf, tennis, pickleball and high-end retail.

The Boca Raton has also fully embraced the hotel-within-the-hotel concept, which should be familiar to well-heeled travelers who have experienced the Club Level at a Ritz-Carlton (it was the Ritz-Carlton chain that introduced and branded the exclusive concept) or the Flagler Club at The Breakers Palm Beach.

I stayed in the Boca Raton’s Yacht Club, which did indeed feel like a boutique, and, as part of owner Michael Dell’s $200 million redo, had been reintroduced to the property shortly before my December stay. Dell, recall, is the founder of Dell Technologies, and reportedly the 15th wealthiest person in the world. (“When we set out to define Yacht Club as a distinct hotel destination, bespoke luxury experiences were paramount,” says Daniel A. Hostettler, president and CEO of The Boca Raton. “So, we thoughtfully curated lifestyle brand collaborations and elevated our services to complement our guests’ passions.” One such brand collaboration is with Aston Martin; the Yacht Club offers drive experiences and house cars.)

But the Boca Raton has taken the hotel-within-the-hotel idea a step further, as it features five distinct hotels—including the Yacht Club. Though the modern Tower Suite Collection garners much of the attention, I appreciated the privacy, quiet (adults only) and residential feel of the all-suite Yacht Club (there are 112 accommodations). While it was easily accessible from the Boca Raton’s main entrance, you need your key card to access its discrete—and discreet—lobby.

The Yacht Club boasts a dedicated restaurant—Flybridge, overseen by Executive Chef Peter Annewanter—with a bountiful European-style continental breakfast that’s complimentary (you can also opt for an uncommonly flavorful and well-presented cooked-to-order breakfast). Annewanter came to the Boca Raton less than three years ago, directly from Austria’s lauded Vortuna Gesundheitsresort, where he was chef de cuisine. Both my suite and Flybridge were distinctive for their 32-slip marina views, the masts of the yachts rising outside the balconies.

In contrast to The Breakers, one thing the Boca Raton is not is contiguous. In order to spend time at the Beach Club (which is available only to club members and hotel guests—and is arguably more famous than the Boca Raton itself), a private water taxi awaits. And once you’ve been ferried across Lake Boca Raton to the sandy site—the Beach Club counts as one the resort’s five hotels, with 212 rooms—you’re privy to one of South Florida’s most exclusive experiences, with several dining options, a high-tech fitness center, two pools and the pristine beach at the ready. (When I return, the Beach Club is where I’ll hole up.) I spent hours there each day of my stay, and once, on the way back, I caught a spectacular orange sunset from the water taxi.

If any description of the five hotel-Boca Raton must attend to the resort’s complexity (as I’ve done above), I’ll leave you with something lyrical and transporting: the 50,000-square-foot Spa Palmera. (It’s located in the Cloister, the resort’s original hotel, which dates from 1926.) The heavily awarded spa, inspired by Spain’s Alhambra Palace, is magical. I committed to a ritual water treatment, a circuit in which I was accompanied by a friendly attendant who led me from sauna to steam before he unveiled the main event: the ornate inner sanctum of the spa.

Bedecked with mosaic walls and Moorish arches, the grand room had a tranquil pool in the center and elaborate showers and baths around the perimeter. In the bath, I was equipped with bowls containing a mud mask and a lavender scrub, while the shower featured a pleasingly pounding waterfall to massage my shoulders. Along the route, my attendant plied me with fruit and water. After completing the water ritual, I luxuriated at the spa’s dedicated pool and lush courtyard, with its Italian cypress trees and its waterfalls set within niches. (For well-traveled visitors, Spa Palmera is like a Moorish version of the former iconic spa at the Grand Wailea in Maui, which is currently being reimagined.)

An unfathomable amount of design and concept work (as well as resources) has gone into Spa Palmera, but it makes the guests feel like royalty effortlessly.

By Drew Limsky | Photos by Boca Raton

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Drew Limsky

Drew Limsky

Editor-in-Chief

BIOGRAPHY

Drew Limsky joined Lifestyle Media Group in August 2020 as Editor-in-Chief of South Florida Business & Wealth. His first issue of SFBW, October 2020, heralded a reimagined structure, with new content categories and a slew of fresh visual themes. “As sort of a cross between Forbes and Robb Report, with a dash of GQ and Vogue,” Limsky says, “SFBW reflects South Florida’s increasingly sophisticated and dynamic business and cultural landscape.”

Limsky, an avid traveler, swimmer and film buff who holds a law degree and Ph.D. from New York University, likes to say, “I’m a doctor, but I can’t operate—except on your brand.” He wrote his dissertation on the nonfiction work of Joan Didion. Prior to that, Limsky received his B.A. in English, summa cum laude, from Emory University and earned his M.A. in literature at American University in connection with a Masters Scholar Award fellowship.

Limsky came to SFBW at the apex of a storied career in journalism and publishing that includes six previous lead editorial roles, including for some of the world’s best-known brands. He served as global editor-in-chief of Lexus magazine, founding editor-in-chief of custom lifestyle magazines for Cadillac and Holland America Line, and was the founding editor-in-chief of Modern Luxury Interiors South Florida. He also was the executive editor for B2B magazines for Acura and Honda Financial Services, and he served as travel editor for Conde Nast. Magazines under Limsky’s editorship have garnered more than 75 industry awards.

He has also written for many of the country’s top newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, USA Today, Worth, Robb Report, Afar, Time Out New York, National Geographic Traveler, Men’s Journal, Ritz-Carlton, Elite Traveler, Florida Design, Metropolis and Architectural Digest Mexico. His other clients have included Four Seasons, Acqualina Resort & Residences, Yahoo!, American Airlines, Wynn, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. As an adjunct assistant professor, Limsky has taught journalism, film and creative writing at the City University of New York, Pace University, American University and other colleges.