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Palm Beach Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Eat, and More

palm beach hotel

Known locally as The Island, Palm Beach is a resort-driven town in South Florida home to fantastic weather, ample shopping opportunities, and sun-draped beaches.

On the surface, it’s a small town of about 9,000 residents (swelling to nearly three times that during the summer), packed with luxury shops and world-class golfing opportunities. Dig a bit deeper, and visitors can enjoy excellent food, a thriving arts scene including Broadway touring companies, as well as easy day trips to remarkable natural wonders like the Everglades.

From museum wandering to surfing, there’s plenty to do within walking distance of your temporary home along this thin, island-like strand off the Florida coast. And for the more adventurous, there’s fun to be had in nearby enclaves like West Palm Beach.

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Where to Stay

There’s ample lodging capacity in this tourist-loving town. But you don’t want to have the same vacation as everybody else. Here are some top options to call temporary headquarters, from well-appointed hotels to your very own condo.

Best South Florida Feel: The Colony

The Colony Hotel

A proud flamingo amid a somewhat modest skyline, The Colony is a magical hotel. A perfect coupling of chic and classic, it’s pretty much a Wes Anderson set if the famed indie director had been born and raised in South Florida. You’re treated to being housed in an old building while being awarded all the most modern creature comforts.

  • Nearest airport: Palm Beach International Airport
  • Time: 12 minutes via car
  • Distance: 4.9 miles

Best Yesteryear Charm: Palm Beach Historic Inn

Palm Beach Historic Inn

This welcoming inn got its start in 1923 and just enjoyed a remodel, without obstructing any of its many historic features. It’ll take a lot to pry you away from the many Old World comforts, but the access to bikes and passes to a neighboring gym will help you get out the door.

  • Nearest airport: Palm Beach International Airport
  • Time: 11 minutes via car
  • Distance: 4.6

Best New Lodging: The Ben by Marriott

The Ben Hotel Palm Beach

One of the newest hotels in Palm Beach is also one of the best. The Ben is remarkable, set a bit inland in West Palm but striking distance within all things Palm Beach. Many rooms are set with marina views and the accents throughout are breathtaking.

  • Nearest airport: Palm Beach International Airport
  • Time: 10 minutes via car
  • Distance: 4.0 miles

Best Loft: Tropical Blue

Appropriately named Tropical Blue, this centrally located flat is just a seven-minute walk from the beach. It boasts a vibrant interior, set in a historic landmark of a building erected in the 1920s. There are plenty of cool, aqua-toned features, and lots of details that the building at large delivers.

  • Nearest airport: Palm Beach International Airport
  • Time: 14 minutes via car
  • Distance: 5.6 miles

What to Eat

Most think of Cuban cuisine and seafood when they think of South Florida, and for good reason. But a tourist hub like Palm Beach has even more, from outposts of famous French-inspired New York restaurants to Italian joints to very Floridian bars and grills.

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
  • “$$”= average
  • “$$$”= expensive

Best Small Plates: Buccan

Buccan Palm Beach Dish

Buccan is where James Beard Award-winning chef Clay Conley plates up some fantastic work. The restaurant is home to a delightful bar with a fine cocktail program as well as the best small plate selection in town, including tasty empanadas, squid ink orecchiette, and many delicious seafood bites and pastas.

  • $$

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Best Italian: Renato’s

Renato's Palm Beach

The courtyard alone is reason to dine at this place but the food is equally inviting. The risottos and raviolis are superb and it’s a fine place to splurge on a NY strip or cut of veal (if that’s your thing). The wine and spirits list is solid, too, so arrive early for a glass of white and finish off the meal proper with some grappa or Moscato.

  • $$$

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Best Atmosphere: Palm Beach Grill

Palm Beach Grill
Palm Beach Illustrated

Even if you’ve had a great day, which you’re likely to have in Palm Beach, it’ll only improve once you set foot in Palm Beach Grill. The staff is warm, the food is comforting, and the atmosphere is ideal and seemingly effortless. Try some classic Americana like the house burger or go Creole with Florida Red Snapper served with rock shrimp and zydeco sauce.

  • $$

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Best Seafood: BrickTop’s

BrickTop's Palm Beach
Palm Beach Post

There’s seafood around just about every corner in Palm Beach but some is decidedly superior. BrickTop’s excels, turning out delicious crab, grouper, and shrimp dishes along with classic white tablecloth additions like lobster tail and Dover sole. The dinner spreads are great but so too are the bistro-style sandwiches, perfect for lunch.

  • $$

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Best Cuban: Havana

Havana Palm Beach

This 24-hour joint is something of an institution, just a skip across the pond in West Palm. The Cuban coffee and Cubano sandwiches are fantastic but also lookout for tasty tostones, chicharrones, and ropa viejo. And you’d be wise to stay for a slice of tres leches.

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Most Parisian: La Goulue

La Goulue Palm Beach

La Goulue has long wowed New Yorkers with its French-inspired cooking in the heart of Manhattan. Last year, it opened a second restaurant in Palm Beach and it has since become quite the hub. A meal here is a delectable lesson in French gastronomy, with dishes that are often rich, complex, and memorable. Play it safe and make reservations well ahead of time.

  • $$$

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Local Favorite: Bice

BiCE Palm Beach

You’ll feel less touristy at BiCE, a Palm Beach favorite among year-long residents. It’s easy to see why, with fresh salads and Italian pastas that are deftly assembled.

  • $$

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Best Poolside Meal: Ambassador Grill

Ambassador Grill Palm Beach

Chef Juan Pareja of the Ambassador arrived here from work in Michelin Star-winning kitchens elsewhere. It’s great al fresco fare, from cornbread fried oysters to brick chicken with herbed farro and a peach-saffon sauce. You can feel the nearby ocean as you dine at this beachfront hotel restaurant.

  • $$$

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Best Eclectic Menu: Stage

Stage Palm Beach
Palm Beach Illustrated

The broad-reaching menu at Stage is full of delicious discoveries, with a pronounced Indian streak throughout. Pop in for a creative cocktail and savor a delightful vindaloo or Spanish-style octopus.

  • $$

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Best Sunday Brunch: The Breakers

The Breakers Palm Beach Brunch
Palm Beach Illustrated

The Sunday brunch at The Breakers has become quite the production, an indulgent experience fit with Belgian waffles, fresh fruit, rare cheeses, fresh seafood, lamb chops, carved beef tenderloin, even caviar. It feels like a great Las Vegas buffet set in a tropical hotel. If you’re looking to splurge while on vacay, reserve a table here.

  • $$$

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Best Bargain Grub: Rivales

Rivales Palm Beach

This family Mexican restaurant in West Palm specializes in tacos, burritos, bowls, and more, all for cheap. Try the ceviche and wash it down with an ice-cold Pacifico. It’s a great stop to dine-in or grab some south of the border provisions to eat on the go or atop a beach towel in the sand.

  • $

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Outdoors

In the immediate vicinity, Palm Beach is greeted with tons of coastline, a good chunk of it accessible to the public. Visitors can stroll about, walking by celebrity houses (the late John Lennon’s former place just sold for $36 million) or bird-watching at the nearby Bingham Islands. If golf is your thing, head up to the North Palm Beach Country Club for an afternoon of links. The Lake Trail is a great way to soak it in, stretching more than five miles through town.

Much more is accessible within a short drive. Take in the stunning swamps and mangrove forests of Big Cypress National Preserve or push south into the Everglades to witness gators, incredible waterfowl, and amazing hiking and paddling opportunities in America’s largest tropical wilderness area. If you have the time and interest to push even farther south, the Keys are well worth a visit, great for self-guided stand-up paddle boarding and lazy visits to bars for some fresh seafood and a beer or two.

Indoors

Flagler Museum Interior
Flickr/photo-gator

Unsurprisingly given the tropical weather, even when you’re indoors you’re almost outdoors here. The town is full of balconies, rooftops, and other open-air settings that take full advantage of the favorable climate. Get cultured at The Society of the Four Arts, home to concerts, libraries, exhibitions and more. The Flagler Museum is another great outing, a stunning building often hosting exhibitions focused on Florida history. For a more contemporary feel, check out the Norton Museum across the water in West Palm, or the Kravis Center for Performing Arts, which brings in major acts and performers from all over.

For high-end shoppers, Palm Beach is heaven on earth. Worth Avenue is where it all goes down, where the likes of Gucci, Tiffany, Chanel, Saks Fifth Avenue, and more sell their wares. Another major hot spot for submitting to your inner consumer is the Royal Poinciana Plaza, an upscale lifestyle center of sorts featuring smaller boutiques and iconic names like Hermés and Oscar de la Renta.

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