9891 Gulf Shore Drive
by BILL & BARBARA SCARDUZZIO
Maybe it’s the weather (they do refer to Florida as “The Sunshine State”). Or maybe it’s the 860 miles of beaches, or perhaps it’s the 1250 golf courses. Whatever the reason, some 80 million people visit this great State every year, and they keep coming back year in and year out. It’s hardly surprising that Florida has a plethora of stunning hotels and resorts as well as some of the most beautiful cities and towns in the world. Naples is one of those great destinations and the LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort is just one of those amazing spots where one can stay and play while visiting Florida.
Naples is located on the Gulf of Mexico and is widely considered the crown jewel of Southwest Florida. It’s one of those rare places in the world where the word “beautiful” is not nearly strong enough, and Naples might be the most stunning destination in all of Florida. When you combine the “beauty” of Naples with the white- sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico and the picturesque Vanderbilt Bay, one can appreciate the location and the award-winning success of the “beautiful” LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort.
Scot Hamilton is their Director of Sales and Marketing, and he reminds us that it’s important to note that LaPlaya is the only resort in Naples located directly on the Gulf and for those who haven’t visited the resort in recent years, an extensive transformation and enhancement project ($50 million) has made this resort all the more dramatic.
And Naples, with its world-class shopping and restaurants is a major golf destination with some 35 courses in the immediate area. One of the classic golf courses has to be the championship Bob Cupp designed 18-hole links course which is a key part of the LaPlaya presentation. The lush fairways are flanked by mangroves and colorful bougainvillea. The meticulously manicured greens wind around fourteen lakes making this golf experience a scenic masterpiece. There is a complete practice facility and driving range as well as a 15,000 square-foot clubhouse.
For the many fans of outdoor dining, it’s just another reason to visit Florida, and when it comes to restaurants, the award-winning Baleen at LaPlaya is clearly one of Naple’s best dining experiences (inside or outside). The ambiance cannot be replicated when you start with a magnificent beach on the Gulf. Guests enjoy three daily seatings at Baleen that starts your day with a breakfast menu (7AM to 11AM) with a Gulf Coast twist on traditional favorites. The crab cake eggs benedict and baked lobster frittata with asparagus include eggs and brie, grilled pineapple and crème fraiche. The lunch menu (11:30 to 2:30 during the week and 12 to 2:30 on the weekends) features gourmet sandwiches and salads such as the chopped BLT salad with crumbly bacon, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce and specialty cream dressing.
Dinner is served daily from 5:30 to 10:30, and of course, seafood is the big feature here (fresh from the Gulf) as well as a host of exceptional non-seafood entrees. Baleen’s Restaurant Manager (David Vesely) recommends the Seared Asian Spiced Tuna served with tempura scallions & honey wasabi, or the Roasted Natural Chicken with goat cheese dumplings, wild mushrooms and tomatoes. Every evening, the intimate beach fire pit and Baleen Bar feature a fantastic wine-by-the-glass program, as well as an extensive list of martinis and classic cocktails.
The Resort is a special experience and a visit to their incredible Spa Terre has to be part of the process with seven private treatment rooms inspired by exotic rituals from Thailand and Indonesia in a 4500 Square Foot Spa and Fitness Center.
& Golf Resort
LaPlaya is a short drive from the Everglades National Park and Ft. Myers International Airport.
Most Excellent Resort – Condé Nast Johansens
Gold List – Condé Nast Traveler
Top 500 Hotels in the World – Travel & Leisure Magazine
Naples, Florida, Best Beach in the United States
– Travel Channel
Top 100 Golf Resorts – Condé Nast