Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
This chandeliered, historic estate attracts affluent families, conventioneers, and those who don’t mind following a dress code.
This luxurious, Italian Renaissance-inspired hotel is a world unto itself. With nine restaurants and 1,800 employees catering to every need, guests rarely need to venture off the 140-acre property.
Originally built in 1896 (but reconstructed in 1926 after a devastating fire), The Breakers has retained its old-world -- if somewhat stuffy -- charm. A "resort casual" dress code is required in the restaurants and most public spaces; this generally means no T-shirts, tank tops, flip-flops, cut-offs, torn jeans, swimwear, or exercise clothes.
The sprawling estate almost never feels crowded, thanks in part to its sheer size. The pool area, known simply as “The Beach Club,” has five distinct pools that effectively keep screaming children away from relaxing adults. The private beach has a more rugged feel than the gentle, sandy beaches at nearby hotels, largely due to the rocks and breaking waves, or breakers (which give the hotel its name). Waves are often big enough to surf on, and guests can be sprayed by sea mist on windy days. But the beach is generally pleasant.
The beach, pools, and most of the restaurants close around sunset, so the nightlife scene is limited. A cocktail lounge, HMF, and a bar inside the seafood restaurant, Seafood Bar, stay open until 2 a.m.
Travelers sticking to a budget may want to consider visiting the hotel in the summer, during the off-season. Rooms are nearly half off and discounts are given for valet parking, meals, poolside bungalows, and spa services. Kids’ meals, the Kids Camp, and daily breakfasts are also free.
Located on 140 acres of oceanfront property on Palm Beach Island
The Breakers is located on a sprawling oceanfront estate in central Palm Beach. The area immediately surrounding the property is filled with private homes, luxury apartment complexes, and a handful of small businesses.
Palm Beach is an enclave of the uber-rich. The town is filled with grade-A golf courses, high-end shops, upscale restaurants, and beautiful beaches.
A good deal of shopping outlets, restaurants, and two museums are all within 10 minutes of the hotel. Guests tired of paying for costly meals at The Breakers should head to CityPlace, a shopping area with a Cheesecake Factory, Thai restaurant, pizza parlor, and more.
Smallish rooms have old-fashioned charm and modern perks
Most of The Breakers’ 540 guestrooms feature understated beach decor and classic, simple furnishings. The standard guest rooms are on the small side for a property of this caliber, at 300 square feet, and fit a maximum of two people. Every room includes a minibar, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV, DVD player, and a stereo with an iPod dock.
For accommodations over 460 square feet, guests need to upgrade to suites, which run from 525 to 1,700 square feet. The largest suites have only one bedroom, but connecting rooms are available and can sleep up to eight people.
Club Level rooms are on the sixth and seventh floors. They include access to The Flagler Club, which offers freebies like afternoon tea, cookies, beverages, deserts, and buffet breakfast.
Less than half the rooms fully face the ocean, so guests that care about the view should be sure to book early.
Private beach with free lounge chairs and snorkeling
The Breakers sits on a lovely stretch of private beach, easily accessed by walking past the pool area. The beach feels a bit rugged due to large rocks and breaking waves, or “breakers,” which give the hotel its name. Those who like wading in gentle waters may be deterred by the waves here, which are often large enough to surf on. Sunbathing guests may also find themselves spritzed with seawater on windy days.
When the sea is calm, the beach is a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the view. Chairs and umbrellas are available free of charge, and beach attendants bring drink orders from the poolside bar. Shaded cabanas, or “cabinettes,” are also available for rent. Unfortunately, the lounge chairs have hard rubber slats and no cushions -- unusual at such a high-end resort.
The sand is soft and relatively clean, with the exception of some dried kelp and seaweed at the waterline. Paddleboards, floats, kayaks, and snorkels can be rented on the beach. A nearby reef and sunken pier are great places to snorkel, and guided snorkel tours are offered regularly.
Lifeguards monitor the beach from 9 a.m. to sunset. No food is allowed.
Five oceanfront pools with rental bungalows and drink service
The Active Pool and Children’s Pool are designed mainly for kids, while the other three pools are intended to be more peaceful, adult areas. Guests who want extra privacy can rent pricey “beach bungalows,” which feature daybeds, living rooms, wet bars with refrigerators, flat-screen TVs, PS3 video game consoles, Wi-Fi, personal safes, and full bathrooms with showers.
Two well-equipped fitness centers
Pricey spa with a nail salon and makeup service
Kids' Camp, activities galore, and summer perks for families
The Breakers offers an impressive number of children’s activities. Its Family Entertainment Center has a playroom, arcade, mini-movie theater, Xbox game room, arts and crafts room, pet tortoises, outdoor playground, and a basketball court. Parents can send their children (ages three to 12) to Kids' Camp for morning, afternoon, or night sessions -- all of which include meals.
Kids can also sign up for a number of activities, including golf lessons, kids’ zumba, and guided snorkel tours. Rental kayaks, floats, paddleboards, and two kid-friendly pools are also available to keep children entertained.
Families on a budget may want to consider visiting during the summer months, when the Kids Camp and kids’ meals are free. Rooms are also about half the regular rate. The Kids Camp and food aren’t cheap, so the summer rates add up to significant savings.
During the holidays, The Breakers has seasonal activities such as ice-skating and photos with Santa Clause.
Nine expensive restaurants with dress codes
The Breakers has nine restaurants that serve nearly a dozen types of cuisine, from Thai to Italian to Japanese. Most of the food is delicious, but all of it is expensive. With a compulsory 20 percent gratuity, glasses of apple juice end up costing $10, hamburgers are $20, and brunches are $110. A family of four could easily spend more on meals than on their room. A cheaper alternative is to visit during the summer, when continental breakfasts and kids’ meals are free.
Every restaurant also has its own dress code, so guests should remember to dress accordingly. Most don’t allow T-shirts, tank tops, flip-flops, cut-offs, torn jeans, swimwear, or exercise clothes.
Two hotel restaurants, Echo and Top of the Point, are located in town and can be accessed via a free (very short) shuttle ride. The Flagler Steakhouse is also a couple minutes from the hotel, at the golf course.
Guests looking for cheaper meals should head to CityPlace, a shopping area a seven-minute drive away with a Cheesecake Factory, Thai restaurant, pizza parlor, and more.
Plenty of wine and cocktails to go around
Most of the hotel’s restaurants have some sort of bar, and all serve alcohol. The Breakers keeps 1,600 different types of wine in their cellar.
Frozen drinks, cocktails, juice, and wine are available at the pools and beach from The Beach Club Bar, which closes around sunset. The Seafood Bar and HMF (a cocktail lounge) are the only bars open past 9 p.m. (they stay open until 2 a.m.).
HMF opened next to the main lobby in 2012 and is easily the trendiest bar at the hotel. It serves traditional and original cocktails, beer, whiskey, wine, cigars, coffee, and small plates of food.
The Seafood Bar serves a similar drink menu, plus a few creative cocktails such as bacon-infused Bloody Marys and jalapeno margaritas. The best part about The Seafood Bar is the bar itself, which is a see-through fish tank, full of tropical fish and eels.
Ten boutique shops, business center, and 24-hour room service
Two 18-hole championship golf courses, lessons, and a pro shop
The Breakers has two 18-hole championship golf courses -- one is next to the hotel (Ocean Course), and the other is inconveniently located 11 miles away (Rees Jones Course).
The famous golf course architect, Alexander H. Findlay, built the Ocean Course in 1896. It is believed to be the oldest 18-hole course in Florida. A golf pro shop and the Flagler Steakhouse are located at the Ocean Course.
Bicycle tours, snorkeling, scuba diving, and free fitness classes
The Breakers offers an array of outdoor activities, including snorkeling at a natural reef and sunken pier, located just off shore. Free group fitness classes are offered in yoga, Pilates, zumba, and water conditioning.
Dozens of meeting rooms and three lovely ballrooms
A dozen lovely locations for ceremonies and receptions
Staff is careful to guard the identities of celebrity clientele.
Celebrities are rumored to frequent the hotel, but The Breakers staff can only give a handful of names.
Green coffee, toiletry donations, and local produce
Founded in 1896 by millionaire Henry Flagler
The Breakers was founded in 1896 by Henry Morrison Flagler, a wealthy oil and railroad tycoon. The original hotel, named The Palm Beach Inn, burned to the ground in 1903. Flagler rebuilt The Breakers the following year, and it was destroyed by fire yet again in 1925. The second fire was supposedly the fault of a politician’s wife, who was still growing accustomed to her newly invented beauty device -- the curling iron.
The current version of the Breakers was built in 1925 by the architectural firm Schultze and Weaver, which also built the famous Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. It took just under a year to build and cost $7 million.
Today, The Breakers is privately owned and controlled by the descendants of Flagler’s wife, Mary Kenan. The hotel is believed to be the only large, historic luxury resort that is still in the hands of its original owners.
An elderly historian who has worked at The Breakers since 1952 gives weekly walking tours.
$20 million is spent annually to maintain the hotel.
Between 2002 and 2012, The Breakers invested over $250 million to renew the property. This included $80 million of renovations to the guestrooms, which were completed in 2011. Two boutique shops and five beach bungalows were also added in 2011.
Basic ADA services, plus accessible pool bungalows
This sprawling 140-acre resort feels more like a Renaissance palace than a hotel. The oceanfront grounds are defined by historic architecture and elegant landscaping, and the extensive features include five swimming pools, two 18-hole golf courses, 10 tennis courts, 9 restaurants, and 10 boutique shops. The Breakers’ 540 rooms include all of the modern amenities -- minibars, flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and iPod stereos -- but most feel a bit cramped for the price. The only major downside of The Breakers is its expensive, albeit delicious, on-site dining: A family of four could easily spend $350 a day on food, without ordering anything special. As far as competing hotels in Palm Beach go, nothing compares to the luxury found at this iconic property.
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