(Pictured) The beaches of Florida's southwest region are a sight to behold
Southwest Florida has been winning a lot of accolades lately. The Naples and Fort Myers regions may not be as big or well known as the Atlantic's Gold Coast strip of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach, but the Gulf Coast beaches have been getting the attention they deserve lately.
The Naples, Marco Island, and Everglades region was ranked No. 3 on the Travel + Leisure list of "Favorite Beach Towns in America." And Fort Myers and Sanibel came in at No. 4 on that list. In addition, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index released last year ranked Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island as the U.S. community with the highest well-being score, out of 190 surveyed. Closer to Tampa, Sarasota's lovely Siesta Key Beach was ranked the second-best beach in America by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman -- better known as Dr. Beach -- while TripAdvisor's 2016 Travelers' Choice Awards placed it at No. 3.
Nor should the waters offshore be ignored: SCUBA divers will delight at the news that 36 new artificial reefs, each one made up of 500 tons of concrete, were created in a half dozen spots off Naples and Marco Island in the past two years.
In Naples, the 319-room Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club wrapped several years of renovations with the mid-November reopening of its 71-hole championship golf course after a major overhaul by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. It will feature a new 300-yard practice and teaching range and GPS-enabled golf carts. The 125-acre, AAA Four-Diamond property includes more than 34,000 square feet of event space.
The Naples Grande Beach Resort completed an $18 million renovation at the beginning of the year, after reflagging from the Waldorf Astoria Naples. It has 83,000 square feet of event space. The LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort just renovated its 189 rooms, redoing the bathrooms, guest rooms, and balconies, while the new Hyatt House Naples/Fifth Avenue, an extended-stay property with 183 guest rooms -- 120 of them suites -- opened last year.
The luxury, 125-suite Edgewater Beach Hotel finished up a major renovation last year, while the 119-room boutique Inn on Fifth in downtown Naples underwent a renovation that included its pool deck, landscaping, Spa on Fifth, and its 700-square-foot executive boardroom. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has added a 99-room hotel to its casino. The Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee now has 99 rooms, a 51,000-square-foot casino and 10,000 square feet of event space accommodating up to 750 guests.
The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa rebranded as the first JW Marriott Beach Resort in the continental U.S. earlier this year. That comes as part of a $320 million expansion and renewal that left it with 726 rooms, and 94 more coming this fall, adults-only tower with a rooftop pool, a restaurant, meeting space, and a 12,000-square-foot indoor entertainment center.
The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa reopened in early January after a $40 million renovation that included new oversized luxury family suites with connecting room options on the rooftop level, as well as poolside suites, a redesigned pool area, and a new restaurant.
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This article appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Incentive.