Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Everything -- and everyone -- under the sun (both literally and figuratively). Families with young children, buddies on golf trips, girlfriends on spa retreats, and businesspeople at week-long conferences all come together at the Doral.
With 693 rooms, several restaurants, multiple shops, an enormous staff, and dozens of amenities -- all spread out across 650 acres -- the Doral is a veritable city-within-a-city. And they do everything they can to keep you and your money within those city limits, an effort made easier by the resort's location 30 minutes from the ocean in a town, Doral, that offers nothing in the way of sites or cuisine. (See location section, below.)
It says a lot about the Doral's versatility, not to mention its quality, that it garners accolades every year not just for its golf courses and spa, but also as a top family destination and meetings and conventions site. The resort is quite active, playing host to a number of conferences. A sampling: a Bank of America retreat, the Eighth Annual Stars & Stripes Summit, and the Royal Bank of Scotland International Series Luncheon. (Presumably there weren't any good golf locales in Scotland to convene at -- or maybe the execs just needed to get out of town.)
In 2012, celeb hotelier Donald Trump added the Doral to his expansive portfolio. Along with the acquisition is a $200 million renovation of nearly every corner of the resort, including all rooms, restaurants, meeting spaces, spa facilities, and golf courses. The hotel will remain open throughout the revamp, which is scheduled through early 2014.
The Doral is pretty, but it's neither gorgeous nor particularly romantic. (It loses a lot of points on those fronts for being in Florida but not on the beach.) Cheesy soft rock plays on the radio at Champions restaurant ("If You Don't Know Me by Now", anyone?). Little kids chase each other through the lobby as middle-aged suits discuss cutbacks in Java, the coffee shop. And the airplanes roaring into Miami International every 10 or 15 minutes don't help the ambience.
It's a 15-minute, $25 to $30 cab ride from Miami International to the Doral (the resort does not offer a shuttle). But since it's west of the airport, that means it's about 30 minutes (and $40 to $50 by taxi) to the coast. Some guests do take day trips to the beach or head to South Beach for the nightlife, but most, understandably, just stay on campus and take advantage of everything the Doral has to offer.
As for what to see, do, or eat in the immediate vicinity ... not much. A walk along the busy six-lane road takes you to a strip mall and a nearby Hooters. Sweet!
Mediocre. They're spacious and comfortable, with some nice features -- balconies, black marble countertops, bedside reading lights. But the decor is generic, and many of the rooms lack decent views and ample natural light.
You have two basic options at the Doral: standard rooms in the main part of the resort or villas at the spa. The standard rooms are situated in 10 three-story buildings that form a horseshoe around the resort's centerpiece, the Blue Lagoon and its pools; the spa villas are off to the side, by the first tee of the Gold Course.
With the exception of the views from their respective balconies, the three room types in the main resort -- golf-view rooms, partial golf-view rooms, and garden-view rooms -- are more or less the same. They range in size from 440 to 490 square feet, and feature identical layouts and furniture. But rooms are undergoing renovations until 2014. Desinged by Ivanka Trump, rooms will have a neutral palatte of ivory and light browns, and have mahogany and gold accents.
More than 100 different treatments, 52 treatment rooms, three pools, and a luxe fitness center. The spa is a destination unto itself. Renovations were completed in 2010, which included a remodeled entrance, new treatment rooms, and a new pool.
The spa, which was named the Best Spa in Miami by the Miami Herald in 2007, offers private and group fitness classes, in addition to all the standard spa services.
The links here are are exceptional. Winner of numerous honors, including being named one of the 75 Best Golf Resorts in North America by Golf Digest, the Doral features five world-class courses, including the Blue Monster (named for the oversize lake in the middle of it), Greg Norman's Great White, and Raymond Floyd's gold course.
The Doral also hosts a Jim McLean golf school.
Even if you're not at the Doral to take advantage of the golf or spa, you'll still have plenty to do.
Note: The gym listed in this section is different from the gym mentioned in the Luxury Spa section. Ditto for the pools. If you're staying at the "regular" resort (as opposed to a villa at the spa), you need to purchase a day pass to access the spa and its gym; treatments and classes are extra.
Also Note: The website mentions that tennis is available, but the courts are located 10 to 15 minutes away by car, and it costs an additional per person fee to use them.
We need not, but I will anyway:
The good news about the food situation at the Doral: You won't lack for options. There are several restaurants on-site, each with a different style and price range, plus a coffee shop, golf snack shacks, and several poolside drink stands.
The bad news is that the food situation is entirely at the Doral. In other words, don't bother leaving campus, cause there isn't much -- just a strip mall and a Hooters down the street.
It's far from a beach and the food can be costly, but the grounds are beautiful and the bar is reasonably priced. Plus, this is one of the few hotels with a kosher kitchen.
Something for everyone: a world-class golf; a full-service spa; a 125-foot waterslide. And it's all graced with warm, friendly service in a scenic resort setting. Just know that you're isolated on-site, you're nowhere near the beach, and everything costs extra -- often quite a bit extra. Expect prices to rise even more after a $200 million renovation in Fall 2013.