Overview: A highly refined, luxury beach-front resort
Strengths: Service, dining, beach, views, quality of rooms
Drawbacks: Limited number of suites
Notable: The beach is much improved compared to a few years ago
After trips to South Africa, Australia, Kona, the Persian Gulf and Costa Rica over the past five Christmases, at the
demand strong suggestion of my wife, this year, we made our 2016 Christmas trip a quick and easy one to Palm Beach. Short, non-stop flights from New York, weather that has a good chance (but no guarantee) of being very nice and consistently good service make the Four Seasons in Palm Beach an excellent good choice for Christmas for those based on the East Coast.
I’ve stayed at this property easily a dozen times over the past twenty years and have never had a bad experience. A prior review of the Four Seasons Palm Beach can be found here. (I’ve also stayed at the Breakers and the Ritz Carlton (n/k/a as “The Eau”); but the Four Seasons remains my top choice in Palm Beach.) Like my prior visits to the property, this stay was excellent.
Earlier this year, somewhat unexpectedly, I received an invitation-only Four Seasons Elite Guest Card. This was my first family stay since having the card and it certainly made the pre-arrival setup of parts of our stay easier. I made bookings for our dinners and activities in advance by contacting the Elite Guest concierge (based in Toronto). I was immediately connected with a member of the hotel’s management staff who was tasked with looking after the stays of guests in the program. Every request I made was met with a more polite version of “no problem.” Usually, working with the concierge desk at Four Seasons properties is relatively seamless – this, however, was even easier.
Despite arriving in a rental car, when we pulled up to the hotel, the bellmen greeted us with, “You must be the XYZ party. Welcome.” Since they didn’t know our transportation details and only a range of potential arrival times, I am not quite sure how they pulled this off. Perhaps they have my photo in my profile? In any event, our arrival was seamless and the bellmen (which were plentiful, unlike the Chicago Waldorf) looked after all of our bags and parked our vehicle.
Check-in was also very quick. While not quite VIP check-in (where no ID or credit card is needed), they had half a dozen keys pre-made and all of our details waiting. The FSPP benefits were quickly explained to us.
The young lady from the management office who had helped me prior to arrival with the on-property bookings was also on hand and personally escorted us to our suite.
This is how arrival should be.
We booked a One Bedroom Oceanfront Suite as well as a connecting traditional guestroom. This set up cost about $1,000 less per night than moving to a straight two-bedroom oceanfront suite. While the 2 bedroom suite has a nicer and larger feel (I’ve stayed in a two-bedroom suite previously here), because the one bedroom suites are set up with a two-stage entry vestibule (where there is a lockable door before the two room doors), our connecting room setup felt much closer to a natural two bedroom suite than a traditional connection. The hotel also has a number of options using the same vestibule concept for connecting two regular rooms.
The hotel is shaped in a “U,” with the two points at the top of the U closest to the Ocean. Nearly all of the suites are at these points. This makes them direct oceanfront (which is great), but not plentiful (less great).
There are also a small number of suites (called “Premier” suites, versus “Oceanfront” that we were in) at the inside corners of the U – I find these rooms less appealing due to their distance from the water and inside-corner location (read: people can look out at you on your balcony from other rooms in pretty much all directions).
The suite itself, and the connecting room, were lovely. All of the furnishings were of very good quality. Perhaps the pillows on the sofa were a insufficient (the sofa looked nice but was not really designed for relaxing on), but beyond that, we had no complaints with any aspect of the suite.
Though I didn’t photograph it, champagne (not sparkling wine) and some other goodies were waiting for us in our room with a personal note from the manager.
Being directly oceanfront, the only obstructions to the ocean views were a few palm trees.
The beds were traditional Four Seasons beds and were very comfortable. The suite bedroom is hexagonal in shape, which allows for the angled balconies outside. (Sorry for the dirty room in the photos – I didn’t snap any before we were settled in.)
Some mornings, kite surfers were out in the waters in front of our suite.
Pool and Beach
This property has only one pool and a few people I’ve talked to who were considering stays here had remarked that they were concerned about the pool situation. In all my stays, I’ve never had problem getting seats (unlike FS Kona and FS Costa Rica) or with poolside service here.
The pool water was cool upon entry, but the sort of temperature that within a few seconds you were easily acclimated to.
Periodically, staff came around with little frozen do-dads or water spritzes. Also, a waiter would come around with an eyeglass cleaning kit and offer to clean sunglasses. I’ve probably grown past being interested in these sorts of services, but for many they surely make a nice treat. The staff tasked with these duties were consistently very friendly.
After a series of hurricanes in 2005, the beach in much of Palm Beach had been significantly eroded. In the past few years, what appeared to be the Army Corps of Engineers undertook a beach restoration project. While some could debate the environmental merits of moving sand from the ocean floor to the beach, the result for vacationers at least has been wonderful. The sand is soft and the beach is very deep, allowing for amply spaced seating areas and plenty of areas for the kids (and grown ups) to play.
The water isn’t warm at Christmas time, but it was still fine to go in. (We are used to Long Island Sound water in the summer – this was warmer than that.) We were in the minority actually going in the water. The water was moderately rough with some non-trivial undertow periodically, but the action of the waves made for some fun horsing around.
Food and drink service by the pool was good. Different teams handle chair setup and towel service versus the F&B team, but everything was handled nicely. It would have been nice to be able to order drinks with the person who was setting the chairs; instead she had to say, “I’ll get your server.”
This setup compares, in my opinion, unfavorably to Four Seasons Hualalai (Kona) where the pool staff were assigned sections and looked after towels, F&B and even sun block. A single point of contact is nearly always easier for the guest and I’d encourage management in Palm Beach to study the pool service approach in Kona.
The property has three dining venues: the fancy option, the regular option and the oceanfront casual option. (Room service is also available 24 hours – though surprisingly we did not order anything via room service this trip.)
Each of the fancy and regular options have indoor and outdoor seating.
The fancy option is called Jove. I’ve now eaten here perhaps ten times over the past two or three years and have been consistently impressed. (I find the dining at the FS PB to be meaningfully superior to the RC/Eau and perhaps all but one venue at the Breakers.) There is also a lounge area to one side of the restaurant where we had pre-dinner drinks on two nights. One night, we had a family dinner with the children. The servers were very accommodating of our fussy (spoiled?) children. (There were several families dining; one was quite loud – both the adults and kids, the others were all fine.) This is the only option (other than room service) open for dinner.
We also had a former colleague of mine and his wife join us for dinner and drinks one night. They seemed to enjoy their meals. Jove leaves you feeling that you’re not dining at a hotel (this is a good thing!).
The regular option is called Graze and is only open for breakfast and lunch. Breakfast was consistently very good. We had a combination of buffet and menu items and were consistently pleased.
We also partook in different mimosa options (prepared with non-traditional juices) each morning. All were very good.
We were assigned Todd as a waiter our first morning. He had that special knack to handle a table like ours and we requested him each day thereafter.
Booking via FSPP, Amex FHR or Virtuoso provides for a $77 per room daily breakfast credit. Having two rooms provided two credits which covered our breakfasts every day (except the day we had a fifth person join us for breakfast).
The casual oceanfront option is called AB&G and is what you’d expect for the casual oceanfront dining venue at a Four Seasons property. We ate here twice and found the food and service to be reasonably good. We lucked out on the weather during our trip and that made this a particularly pleasant venue.
A few years back, they made a fairly notable improvement to their spa (facilities and staff) and I’ve found it to be quite good since. Located in a subterranean part of the north side of the “U,” the spa is very nice by US hotel standards.
I enjoyed a massage one day and visited just the spa facilities another day (gratis for all house guests). They will allow massages for kids as young as 12 which allowed my son to try his first massage. He had long been curious about the experience and generally enjoyed it. The little snacks they offer in the waiting room was a bit too much of a highlight for him (in my opinion!).
My daughter visited the spa facilities with my wife one day (though didn’t get a massage). This, too, was her first time but reports from my wife suggested she was a bit too giggly in the water area. Maybe again in a few years?
The two $100 spa credits for our rooms (one for each room) helped (partially) defray the costs of the massages.
We took advantage of beachfront yoga classes offered on select mornings. The entire family was welcome and the instructor was very accommodating. Though I don’t regularly partake in yoga exercises, I do enjoy it and there is something particularly pleasant about starting the day with yoga by the beach. There was a nominal cost for the class.
There were a small number of other guests in the classes. One lady seemed a bit miffed that children were welcome and once asked my son to not move quite so fast as it was distracting her. I found that a bit off-putting but my son is pretty good at knowing when an adult is being a fuss and when he should get back into shape and doesn’t let the earlier category bother him.
The hotel now offers bicycles (I think for free) to take out for rides. We didn’t take them out (though we talked about it a few times). This is a nice option and is relatively new. (I don’t recall it from fifteen months ago.) Helmets and locks are provided.
I’m not a tennis player, but there are some courts and a small tennis house on the land-side of the main hotel.
While our children don’t partake much in the hotel kids’ or teens’ camps, this property has some nice options and in the past they did. One thing of note is that this hotel will take potty-trained children as young as three years old in the Kids for All Seasons program. Many other hotels in the US require the children to be five. If you have a three or four year old, this might be an important consideration in picking your venue.
As part of the teen camp, they have a small billiards room. We spent some time here during a brief rain. It was a nice little resource and I’m surprised more kids didn’t find it.
Compared to FS Kona or FS Costa Rica, there were fewer organized activities for kids at this property. Not that the kids were left bored on this trip, we thought there might be a few more “festive season” special activities on the docket. (I shared this feedback with the property.)
While it is rare to pick a hotel due to the interior (perhaps the FS Florence would warrant such a selection?), this property has what I find to be a very comfortable (yet high-end) feel for Florida. I’m often not particularly enamored by most “Floridian” architecture. The physical property, originally built as the Ocean Grande Resort, has a feel that I don’t recall finding in any other property in Florida.
Checkout was also uneventful. I made arrangements for a bellman to come to the room and we left all of our bags there. They were waiting for us in our rental car at the valet stand when we left.
I simply handed my keys to the reception desk when we were leaving and just asked for them to email me the bill. With one exception, all of our stay credits were properly handled. They did miss crediting the second room breakfast credit on one day. A short email while on the plane had that corrected within a few minutes.
* * * * *
While I wouldn’t categorize this property as being “over the top,” the property is a gem and I rank it amongst the best resorts in the continental United States. Service over two decades has been essentially flawless here. The beach is great again. Dining is very good; certainly at Jove you wouldn’t know you were at a hotel.
One drawback, particularly at Christmas, is the weather can go either way here. We were lucky with highs generally in the 80s and only a little rain during our trip. While not the norm, it can also be in the high-50s/low-60s here this time of year. Spring and fall are my favorite times to visit. Summer, while it can be hot, typically brings some very attractive room rates!
This was my first extended stay at a Four Seasons property since receiving my FS Elite card. Certainly, the pre-arrival interaction and the arrival itself. A few days after my stay, I received an email from the FS elite guest team in Toronto inquiring about my stay and seeking any feedback (which I provided).
Four Seasons Palm Beach
2800 South Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, FL 33480
+1 561 582 2800