The Breakers in Palm Beach somehow feels like it’s an ocean away

The family-owned Breakers Resort in Palm Beach reinvests $30 million into upgrading its property every year.
The family-owned Breakers Resort in Palm Beach reinvests $30 million into upgrading its property every year.

Age-old wisdom tells us that the sea is good for us. We’re sold luxe spa treatments with marine-based ingredients that we’re told can heal maladies. Maybe they can. But there’s no doubt that enveloping yourself in the sights, sounds and scents of the sea by cocooning up at a 140-acre island resort can do wonders for the soul. This is what you’ll find at The Breakers, an ocean-themed paradise in Palm Beach that even takes its name from its proximity to the sea, where the waves gently crash and spray.

The moment you check in, your phone will ping with a text from the concierge, welcoming you to reply with any and all requests. The modern amenities have certainly evolved since the hotel opened in 1896, but the sense of history is still present through old photographs and detailed restorations dotting the property. Nothing here feels tired.

And that isn’t only because the hotel burned to the ground twice, once in 1903 and again in 1925. In an era of corporate-owned hotels that change hands faster than you can say renovation, The Breakers is still in the loving care of the heirs of its founder, Henry Morrison Flagler. Every year, the Kenan family reinvests a minimum of $30 million to stay fresh and relevant.

The Breakers Palm Beach
Rees Jones Golf Course at The Breakers. Photograph by Lila Photo.

The Breakers’ newest upgrades

The latest revamp is the Seafood Bar, which reopened its doors in September. Designed to feel as if you’re stepping onto a luxury yacht, the restaurant at times feels like you’ve taken a dive off that yacht and into the great blue beyond. Belly up to the bar for a pineapple-infused martini and literally drink with the fish. That’s right – the bar counter is an aquarium, little fishies swimming under your drink napkin. Same goes for the communal dining table. Make new friends while digging into fresh crab cakes — as clownfish, cardinalfish, dottybacks and damselfish carry on beneath glass.

When the spa transformed in 2015 with an $8 million face-lift, designers harnessed the sea motif. One highlight is Christa Wilm’s shell-covered sculpture of Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health. Try a customized massage atop vibrating quartz sand, or the Deep Sea Signature Facial with Gigartina algae. Don’t leave without heading to the salon for a mani-pedi featuring “Sea You at the Breakers,” a teal hue that Essie created for the resort.

Lots of polished resorts say they’re family-friendly, but The Breakers really is. Don’t be intimidated by the refined main lobby, complete with a 200-foot-long fresco ceiling modeled after the Villa Medici in Rome and painted in the 1920s by a crew of 75 artisans from Italy. One little girl was recently overheard asking an employee if she was, in fact, in Elsa’s castle. The resort draws a fair amount of intergenerational families, and there is plenty to do with the kids. Just head to the Family Entertainment Center and consult the daily activity schedule, jammed with sessions for glitter tattoos and tie-dye making.

And when grown-up time beckons, there’s the ocean-themed Camp Breakers to the rescue. There, the littlest adventurers can create art projects, go on scavenger hunts, and venture to the hotel arcade and playground. Both daytime and evening sessions include a meal at The Italian Restaurant, where the highlight for my 7-year-old was the monogrammed butter that came with her dinner rolls. “Is the B for Breakers or Butter?” she wanted to know. “It’s so fancy!”

The Breakers
A rack of Colorado lamb served at The Breakers in Palm Beach. Photograph by Lila Photo.

Snacks, sports and the sea

In the mood to kick back? Head to HMF (after the founder’s initials) and choose from a 2,200-bottle wine list with the guidance of a master sommelier. Or save your indulgence for the celebrated Sunday buffet, held in The Circle under soaring 30-foot frescoed ceilings and murals of Renaissance landscapes.

Work off treats from the dessert bar (30 options!), the raw bar (Alaskan king crab!) and the cheese bar (imported brie!) at the golf courses, tennis courts or indoor-outdoor fitness center. Complimentary classes include spinning on the terrace at sunset. The equipment rivals top gyms, with Hock dumbbells and Fluid Rowers that make whooshing sounds as you go. “It gives you the sound of the ocean as you’re looking at the ocean!” spokeswoman Shannon O’Malley said. Of course it does.

Yoga session at The Breakers. Photograph by Lila Photo.

Don’t forget to carve out time for a dip in the actual ocean. You can wade in along the half-mile private beach, schedule a guided snorkeling tour, or stay on top of the water with a banana boat ride, kayaks or paddleboards. Four pools, each with its own personality, shouldn’t be missed either.

For an extra treat, reserve one of the poolside bungalows, complete with a dedicated concierge, flatscreen TVs and full bathrooms, open-sky showers and all. Because in the end, with the ocean stretching to the horizon, the sky is the limit on this soul-refreshing weekend.

The Breakers, One South County Road, Palm Beach; 561-655-6611;