Acqualina Resort & Spa

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Just a short drive from Florida’s trendy South Beach area, there’s a strip of opulent high-rise beachside resorts that exude a perfectly delightful combination of relaxation and luxury, minus all the SoBe craziness. And after a recent stay at the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles, along this very strip, this might just be one of this editor’s new favorite spots in South Florida.

Boasting the charm of a Mediterranean villa, with its porte cochere cobblestoned entrance lined with perfectly manicured palm trees, majestic fountains and dramatic outdoor curtains, the Acqualina could have very well been plucked from somewhere on the French Riviera. It’s no wonder this property is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, and has earned top accolades such as the AAA five-diamond award for two consecutive years (2010 and 2011).

“We pride ourselves on offering luxury, comfort and exceptional service to ensure we provide our guests with the most enjoyable experience possible,” says Sase Gjorsovski, general manager, Acqualina Resort & Spa.

Indeed, once you’ve stepped into the lobby, the elegance gets even headier with renaissance-inspired furnishings, grand chandeliers and more dramatic curtains. As an attentive front desk staff greets guests with a glass of champagne (or other beverage of choice), it’s clear this resort definitely takes the luxury experience to operatic heights.

gorgeous guestrooms Situated on 4.5 beachfront acres with 400 ft. of pristine Atlantic Ocean coastline, Acqualina features 54 spacious guestrooms and 43 suites (as well as additional residences) complete with private terraces; flat-screen TVs; large bathrooms with double sinks, glass-enclosed shower and bathtub; fully stocked bar; and high-speed Internet access.

Guestrooms offer Intracoastal Waterway vistas or oceanfront views, and feature a king-sized bed and sitting area, while all suites boast ocean views, a bedroom and separate living space. Full kitchens are included in many suites with sub-zero refrigerators, microwave, dishwashers and granite countertops.

spa splendors A visit to Acqualina is not complete without a visit to its spa, ESPA at Acqualina. The recipient of various awards, including Allure magazine’s “Best Day Spa in Miami” for 2009, and Conde Nast Traveller’s “Top Spas in the Americas and Caribbean” for 2008, this spa is the first-ever ESPA-branded spa in the U.S., meaning they use only ESPA products in all treatments. This 20,000-sq.-ft., 2-story facility overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and features his and hers locker rooms and separate relaxation lounges, as well as an outdoor spa verandah with private pool, jacuzzi, Roman waterfall and sundeck.

Spa-goers should arrive at the spa 60 minutes before scheduled treatments to enjoy welcome refreshments of fresh smoothies, tea and organic snacks. There are also plenty of amenities to enjoy, including his and hers crystal steam rooms, ice fountains, and experience showers, with more water features than a traditional shower.

The ESPA at Acqualina is simply divine and with its extensive menu of treatments, we found it difficult to choose just one, so here are a few of our favorites: the hot stone therapy massage, available in 50- or 80-minute sessions, the reiki massage, and the traditional Swedish massage, as well as the indulgent ESPA Refining Enzyme Facial—providing deep cleaning and skin brightening treatments to liven dull skin; the Salt and Oil Scrub—blending sea salt and essential oils to help remove dead skin cells; and the Chakra Balancing With Volcanic Stones—using skin brushing, exfoliation and a facial cleanse to relieve tension and muscle stress.

the dish on dining As with most high-end resorts, Acqualina offers a few choice gourmet dining options, such as the acclaimed Italian restaurant, Il Mulino New York, whipping up fried calamari, chicken marsala, eggplant rollatini and veal scallopini, as well as a selection of fine Italian wines. Il Mulino also serves breakfast in the resort’s Aaria Lounge and on the Aaria Veranda. For a more casual fare, there’s Costa Grill, open for lunch and for the Beachfront Grill Nights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Here, guests can order signature cocktails, and nibble on hors d’oeuvres and small plates, including offerings from the locally popular Hiro Yakko Sushi.

For lighter fare, or for pre- or post-dinner cocktails, guests can check out Aaria Bar & Lounge, with a 20-seat bar and separate lounge area, and serving light fare, including sushi, sashimi and other Japanese culinary offerings from Hiro Yakko Sushi.