A Mother's Getaway at the Acqualina Resort & Spa in Sunny Isles
By Jill Martin
Sometimes, a mama just has to escape. For a luxurious retreat from a hectic life, check out the Acqualina Resort and Spa in Sunny Isles Beach, near Miami.
I know I’m no different than other moms out there - meaning I maintain a home (cooking, cleaning, laundry…), I nurture two boys, I work full time, and some days, I don’t even get to shower. So when I was asked if I could escape on a “mom’s getaway” to Sunny Isles Beach, Florida (nicknamed Millionaire Row), and spend two glorious days and nights away from my sons and spouse, well, honestly I jumped at the chance (OK, who wouldn’t?)
My accomplice for the next two days would be my long-time friend, Michele (also the mother of two boys). We would meet in Sunny Isles Beach, which is north of Miami and south of Fort Lauderdale. Acqualina Resort and Spa was our chosen destination, and as I drove through the ornate gates to valet park my Element amongst the Rolls’ and Bentleys, I knew the weekend would be nothing short of spectacular.
Rooms a Mother Could Love
From the moment we arrived, we were treated like royalty. Upon check-in, we were offered a welcoming beverage then personally escorted to our room; along the way, we were given a brief tour and shown where we could find the spa, fitness center, kids club, four pools, cabanas, bars, restaurants and the concierge desk. Acqualina Resort and Spa offers 54 hotel rooms and 43 hotel suites - and all are havens of elegance. We were lucky enough to stay in their one-bedroom suite, and to say the accommodations were comfortable would be quite the understatement.
We had everything that two mommies needed and more: a king-size bed, separate living room and den, two flat-screen TVs, a gourmet kitchen (with Sub-Zero built-in refrigerator/freezer, granite countertops and Italian cabinets), a breakfast room and one-and-a-half bathrooms – in all, more than 1,400 square feet of bliss.
The main bathroom was bigger than my entire bedroom at home and outfitted with imported marble flooring, custom vanity areas, a Jacuzzi tub and separate shower.
And did I mention the terrace overlooking the Atlantic? That added another 200 square feet of WOW. We worked up an appetite unpacking so we headed downstairs for dinner.
Acqualina offers several onsite dining choices from a casual lunch at the Costa Grill to fine dining of IL Mulino (whose Greenwich Village location in New York has been Zagat rated “#1 Italian Restaurant” a whopping 20 years in a row) and Piazetta Marketplace and Restaurant. All of them perfect for a mother's day dinner.
From the antipasti beginnings with huge chunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, dried beef, spicy fried zucchini and fresh bruschetta to our entrees of Scampi Fra Diavolo and Filetto Di Manzo Alla Romana, our evening at IL Mulino did not disappoint, although our wallets took quite a hit. For dessert, we opted for their legendary Grand Marnier-soaked oranges, which the waiter sectioned by hand, tableside. It was both impressive and delightful.
Acqualina Spa by ESPA
If our room and dinner were this good, we could hardly wait for our spa appointments in the morning.
We were encouraged to arrive an hour early at Acqualina Spa by ESPA, so we could begin to partake its many pleasures. We took their advice and arrived promptly at 9 a.m. (our internal mom-clocks don’t allow us to sleep in anyway).
I’m glad we did because we discovered that Acqualina Spa by ESPA is 20,000 square feet of holistic heaven – it’s also the U.S. flagship of the British-based spa company. The luxurious facilities incorporate many natural materials in keeping with the property’s beachfront location, from sea grass and mother-of-pearl wall coverings, to beach-glass reflective tiles and sconces that resemble sea urchins. Spa amenities include European heat experience areas including a Finnish Sauna, Crystal Steam Room, Ice Fountains and an Experience Shower with Cool Arctic and Warm Caribbean mists.
Our favorite was the Crystal Steam room, where as you’re relaxing in the mist and pinpoints of multi-colored lights from the ceiling mystically glow through the vapors and aid in your achievement of total relaxation. (It works!)
ESPA offers a series of innovative, personalized treatments inspired by the ancient traditions of Chinese, Ayurvedic, European, Balinese and Thai cultures. After a dizzying array of choices, Michele and I opted for a “Two-Hour Journey” ($295); our treatment time was completely personalized to our preferences. We parted ways in the relaxation room while sipping on Tea Forte and nibbling on freshly baked lemon and lavender cookies.
The next 120 minutes is somewhat of a blur as I nearly fell asleep while enjoying an exfoliation and glow treatment, a head-to-toe hot stone massage and a pink clay hair mask and scalp massage. We topped off our two-hour journey with lunch by the spa’s private pool, overlooking the sparkling Atlantic.
What to do with rest of the day? Shopping, of course!
Sunny Isles is a shopper’s dream as the upscale Bal Harbour Shops, Loehmann’s Fashion Island and Aventura Mall are within a few miles of each other. We began our quest at Bal Harbour. This tropical, open-air shopping mall, anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, is haute couture paradise. With names like Harry Winston, Cartier, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Hermès and Louis Vuitton (to name a few), you’re certain to find what you seek.
Since spa cuisine isn’t that filling and we had already walked a mile, we sat down for a bite to eat at Carpaccio. Adjacent to the entrance of Bal Harbour Shops, Carpaccio is the place to see and be seen. We figured with the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show happening around the corner on Miami Beach that weekend, we would see someone, but no luck. At least the food was good and the service very attentive.
From the high fashion of Bal Harbor, we headed in search of a store I had recently seen on the Travel Channel, C. Madeleine’s. This place is an amazing find, in fact, Vogue called it “Miami’s Best Kept Secret.” A cross between a vintage clothing shop and a museum, C Madeleine’s will bring back memories of your own closet from yesteryear. Check your purse into a locker at the front then wander through 100 years of fashion marvels and mishaps. I was expecting consignment store prices so I was kind of shocked (even after being at Bal Harbour), but boy was it fun!
I swear I saw my prom gown from the 1980s, and Madeleine Kirsh, the owner, was even trying on clothing herself. It’s obvious she loves her work; she personally chooses each item that comes in the store. You can find the fashions of C. Madeleine’s in Vogue, Ocean Drive, Elle and on Sex and the City – and that’s the short list.
Kid-friendly Activities, Just in Case
We also scouted the area for fun things to do with kids (in case we decided to bring them along next time). The Aquamarine Program at Acqualina is especially designed for children ages 5 to 12 and offers a unique marine biology-based program. Kids can learn about the Coast Guard in Acqua Patrol; make their own wave in Whimsical Waves; and in City Under The Sea, they can learn about reefs and their delicate ecosystem.
Oleta River State Park is also minutes away and offers all kinds of family entertainment, such as camping, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and picnicking. Keep your eyes open for manatees and ospreys.
After a day of indulgent pampering, marathon shopping and endless chatting, all we wanted to do was … you guessed it, chat some more. We spent our final evening lounging on our terrace as the full moon lit up the sky. Three shooting stars later, I climbed into the plush bed, turned on the flat screen and enjoyed full ownership of the remote control, for once.