By Ron Bernthal
The view from my 21st floor balcony is nothing short of spectacular. The winter sun rises over the ocean’s horizon with a calming, but shattering brightness. Fishing boats move southward towards Miami, hulls filled with fresh grouper, sea bass and snapper. In a few hours the sun will move directly overhead, the ocean will turn from grey to blue, and the ever-present sea breeze will feel sultry to the sunbathers and swimmers on the beach far below. By sunset the sky is streaked with fuchsia and departing cruise ships heading to Grand Bahama ply the edge of the Atlantic, deck lights glowing like hundreds of pale yellow discs.
Fresh off a $100 million transformation, the 36-story Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, offers 1,000 guestrooms and suites, 10 different dining venues, two pools, 26 poolside cabanas, a large spa and fitness center, and 209,000 square-feet of meetings and event space in the adjacent Convention Center, the largest hotel convention space in South Florida.
One would think that such a large convention-style property would be too business-like for the leisure visitor, but it’s just the opposite. With a spacious, live foliage-filled lobby, easy access to the pools, beach area and nearby Intracoastal Waterway, it seems like the adjacent Convention Center is, emotionally, a world away, yet physically just steps away if an exhibition or meeting is part your agenda.
Each dining venue within the hotel creates its own distinct space and décor, from noted chef Michael Schulson’s award-winning, Japanese-inspired Monkitail and its hidden Nokku bar Karaoke lounge to celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Point Royal, a coastal American restaurant and raw bar.
Executive chef Nicolay Adinaguev’s luxury boutique steak restaurant Diplomat Prime, the poolside/beachfront Playa, Counterpoint’s morning pastries, Canteen convenience food market, and The Landing’s Bristol Burgers provide additional dining venues. Guests can recharge at the resort’s newly renovated 24-hour fitness center, and at the full-service, 24 hour, 14,000 square-foot Diplomat Spa + Wellness area overlooking the Atlantic.
Other recreational hotel amenities include jet skiing, ocean kayaking, paddleboard rentals, and a new Dip + Slide water play area. There are off-site lighted tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course managed by Troon Golf, and The Marina at Diplomat Landing, a secure docking space for yachts and mega-yachts.
The current Diplomat Resort is a relatively new building (2002), the former Diplomat Hotel opened on the same site in 1958, as a 750-room property that became a celebrity destination in the years to follow. The 1960’s were the former hotel’s prime years, starting with Lawrence Welk filming his first TV shows from Florida at the hotel in 1962, and continuing through the decade with visits from Sen. Robert Kennedy and family, and Arthur Godfrey in 1965; Judy Garland played the hotel’s Café Crystal in 1966; Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli performed here in 1967.
The property closed in 1983 for a $20 million renovation, reopening in 1984 with Ronald Reagan addressing the International Longshoremen’s Association. Bob Hope performed at the hotel’s 1984 New Year’s Eve event. During the late 1980’s the Diplomat struggled financially and closed for good in 1991. The property was imploded in 1998, and under new ownership the Diplomat was redesigned and opened in stages in the early 2000’s becoming the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in 2002. The hotel was acquired in 2014 by the Thayer Lodging Group, and joined Curio – A Collection by Hilton brand that year as well, at the same time announcing the $100 million property enhancement project, which was completed in 2017.
My room, like half the rooms in the hotel, features an unobstructed view of the ocean, the others face westward, overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. All guestrooms have luxurious, beachy, midcentury-style furnishings, with hand tufted rugs and white bedding backed by driftwood headboards and nautical touches. The design theme for the east-facing rooms is Sunrise, with modern, vibrant earthy tones that, as the property describes, “provide a soothing, calm atmosphere accented with blue ocean colors.” Room amenities include a spacious, granite and marble appointed bathroom with glass-enclosed shower; Bose CD player/radio; high-speed Internet connection (throughout the hotel), and in-room fridge.
The Diplomat is within a 10-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport and 30 minutes from Miami International Airport.