Boca Raton’s Rebirth
A city and a 1920s-era grand dame get their glamorous groove back.
It’s a quintessential South Florida dusk with a coral sunset sky against palm-shaded greens and links. A grapefruit and Zacapa rum Hemingway Daiquiri is served on a patio of one of the country-club lifestyle options available to guests at The Boca Raton in the swanky eastern end of the ritzy enclave. The nearly century-old property, formerly known as the Boca Raton Resort & Club, catered to business executives until 2019, when tech billionaire Michael Dell’s MSD Partners bought the iconic resort—which doubles as a private club—and launched a multi-year, $200 million overhaul.
Dell’s team is reconfiguring and reimagining the marquee property as five distinct themed hotels (called Beach Club, Yacht Club, Bungalows, Cloister, and Tower) to appeal to different guest demographics. The objective is to lure luxury leisure travelers with a unifying concept: glamour. Says Daniel Hostettler, The Boca Raton’s president and CEO, “it is our goal by 2026 to be one of the top-end resorts in the United States ... but with a modern view toward what the luxury traveler is looking for, which is a highly curated, highly personalized level of service. The real goal is to go back to when the hotel was in its heyday in the ’30s and ’40s. It was the place to see and be seen. And to me, that’s what the experience needs to feel like once again.” Famed developer Addison Mizner built the resort in 1926 as an oasis for wintering old-money wealth and society. It later attracted nouveau riche IBM whizzes who, at the technology conglomerate’s Boca campus, unveiled the world’s first personal computer decades later.
For years, Wall Street’s top players convened here for an annual summit that lured industry titans like former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Richard Grasso and motivational speakers such as former New York Yankees Manager Joe Torre. In 1999, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan gave a speech on the 70th anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash.
But by the time Dell’s team stepped in, the business model of booking convention-sized groups filling 1,000 rooms seemed anachronistic and the property’s overall appeal was dated, if not stale. That was a feeling magnified as surrounding Boca Raton buzzed to a chic, trendy vibe.
New condominiums, restaurants, and shops reenergized the city’s downtown and attracted thousands of new residents from Manhattan, the Tri-State region, Chicago, and California, says real estate veteran Bonnie Heatzig.
“I think they feel a breath of fresh air,” Heatzig says. “They see Boca Raton and South Florida as a place for a fresh start.”
The result, a boom—as sales of estate homes and mansions in the neighborhoods along the hotel’s East Camino Real Road address (already valued in the seven- and eight-figure range) sizzled. Same for the adjacent Royal Palm Yacht & Country Club community. And Heatzig says, she is booked solid with prospective clients interested in a $6 million unit she has listed at the Mizner Grand condominium complex nearby.
Since renovations began and the main hotel reopened in December, The Boca Raton has been another draw. “The transformation of this 200-acre, dreamy resort into a world-class destination is just a magnet,” says Heatzig.
“That’s what people want in a luxury market. They want lifestyle.” Hostettler says he is conscious of the juxtaposition of The Boca Raton with the city’s newfound energy. “There is an entire renaissance and sort of a shift in the city toward a more modern interpretation of luxury,” he says.
According to Hostettler, the unique and interwoven history of the resort to the city required extra care in handling The Boca Raton’s makeover to achieve a balanced merging of past and present in a way that remains competitive and relevant into the future.
“You have to pay close attention to the history, especially since the entire city of Boca rose up around this phenomenal property,” he says. “But at the same time, we wanted to bring up the service level and interiors for the modern traveler. It is a gentle balance. We’re trying to be historic, however, on trend with what the modern luxury traveler is looking for.”
The answer, at least in part, are the five distinct lodging choices and the complimentary amenities.
The resort’s hub is the Cloister, 294 rooms in the historic center, which appeals to families, conference attendees, and history buffs—as well as for those looking for more bustle, since it’s close to restaurants and connected to the 50,000-square-foot spa. Guests are welcomed to a grand entrance by a 1929 bronze statue of a young girl postured in a nevertheless-she-persisted demeanor against the property’s main façade in warm coastal white, creamy tones.
Adjacent is the iconic, flamingo-pink, family-oriented Tower: 28 stories high, where guests enjoy butler-concierge elite service. Rooms are limited to 12 per floor, each with expansive views, and connect so families can contour up to three-bedroom corner suites.
Those looking for longer stays will be at home in the Bungalows that once catered to the IBM techies. Today, they’ve been refurbished with a mid-century modern—“think Mad Men,” Hostettler says—and residential feel provided by full living rooms, kitchens, and patios.
The Yacht Club sports 112 adults-only suites with sleek European elegance, and terraces overlooking a 34-slip marina able to comfortably fit vessels up to 150 feet. The Beach Club reaches for a hipper, younger vibe and is the resort’s oceanside locale.
It’s a five-minute water-taxi ride from the main resort site across the Intracoastal. It features the Marisol restaurant and exotic seafood specials such as harissa-rubbed pumpkin local swordfish on a bed of tomato salsa and Greek yogurt potatoes.
The hotel’s amenities are also open to locals who purchase club memberships. Those include access to basics like fitness centers, the golf course, tennis and pickleball courts, and croquet on the lawn.
But the gems are the restaurants and recreational facilities. One is the four-acre Harborside Pool Club that counts three swimming pools (including one just for adults), a lazy river, two slides, cabanas, chair-side service, and firepits.
A very different feel is at the recuperative Spa Palmera, nestled among palms and a 100-year-old-plus banyan tree. The therapies include a deep-tissue Sensory Awakening Massage with aromatic peppermint, eucalyptus, and basil, plus an inhalation bowl of rose petals. The contrast therapy has alternating heated basalt stones and cold marble in circular motions to soothe and restore aching muscles.
Two other must-dos on the property are the MB Supper Club and The Flamingo Grill. MB Supper Club is a throwback to the former Monkey Bar at the resort. Set in a speakeasy cardroom from a century ago, the decadent décor sports whimsical wallpaper with monkeys smoking cigars, monkey sconces, plateware from the 1940s, and vintage black-and-white photos procured from the local historical society.
The Supper Club’s classic menu lists beef Wellington, crab Louie, and oysters Rockefeller, with explanations on the history of the dishes—the onion soup dates back to 1867, for example. Dinner is price-fixed with a choice of appetizer, main course, and dessert. The bar serves up legendary cocktails like sidecars and sloe gin fizz. Nightly entertainment ranges from Latin to jazz.
The Flamingo Grill overlooks the golf course. It’s an airy, breezy, and sunlit Florida room motif with pastel pinks—including the felt on the pool table—and greens on velvety furnishings and a chandelier made of Murano glass with more than 50 pink-and-white lattimo glass petals. Entrées include cajun snapper and veal Milanesa—and a banana split flambéed tableside.
Two other hot spots are Sadelle’s at The Boca Raton, serving its famous bagels, and the next-door, European-themed Palm Court, which offers cocktails, charcuterie, caviar, and light bites. The resort’s extensive renovation isn’t quite complete; Hostettler placed it at 80 percent done in late January.
Two more signature restaurants, one Italian and one Japanese, are on the way. Like Flamingo Grill, they are being created in partnership with Major Food Group from New York. And the latest must-have, a surf rider pool, is also slated for the pool club.
More is coming, says Hostettler, but all building toward a uniform, alluring objective. thebocaraton.com