If sipping on a tropical cocktail and gazing at the ocean is your idea of heaven, then this little holiday’s for you.
We all love our kids more than we could have ever imagined, but on occasion, wouldn’t it be nice to just have a little “me” time? In my circle of mom friends, we often debate (dream?) about what the ultimate getaway would be, and it always includes the ocean. Now, I’m not talking about a family vacation with the kiddos, but rather a mom escape, maybe for a long weekend, a quick overnight or just a day away with a gal pal or two — but no kids. Our getaway took shape at the lovely Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa on Florida’s Emerald Coast. You may think you know this 32-year-old resort, but look again: a $30 million renovation now complete, it’s swanky and brand new again. The Hilton’s got everything you need for a week- or weekend-long stay of your dreams, right down to Serenity Spa’s replenishing lotions. It’s time. Tell your family you’re planning a getaway to the beach in the not-so-distant future with girlfriends or sisters ... a core group of very dear friends ... and it’s going to happen! You have a full year to save up — and since you’ll be booking it in six months — it’s time to get started. Keep reading for the skinny (not to be confused with how I didn’t look in my swimsuit!).
The ultimate: A tranquil beach on a warm day in a place where I can feel relaxed.The Hilton Sandestin may sound far away, but mind you, it can be reached in a seven-hour road trip or a one-hour-and-15-minute flight from Nashville to Panama City Beach, Fla. (Southwest’s Wanna Get Away rate shows $69 one way today, but watch for specials). If you fly, reserve your rental car in advance and split the cost with your group (one of you should do the bookkeeping to keep things manageable and pleasant). The Hilton Sandestin is comprised of condos, beach clubs, tennis courts, a golf course, restaurants and a high-rise hotel where we stayed. Numerous online packages let you book the experience you want, and there are always specials. Book ocean-front suites in the Emerald Tower — yes, pay a bit more for the view! Every tower suite has either two double beds or a king-size bed in one room then a sitting room with a pull-out sofa, dining table, kitchenette and large-screen TV in another. Two full baths make primping easy, and, down the hall, a bunk-bed area for kids (when they come next time!) has yet another TV and area just for them. But back to YOU!
OPTIONS ARE YOURS
From the Hilton Sandestin’s entrance on Highway 98, you feel as though you are part of an exclusive club. We followed a beautiful, palm-tree lined drive surrounded by lush lagoons and an intertwining golf course. Bellmen greeted us with big welcomes, and the front desk reception staff was equally pleasant. Check-in was a breeze and our bellman, Jay, was very helpful settling us into our suite. What we loved most about our four-day getaway was that we had plenty of wonderful options, even when the sky was overcast. You can always go shopping, right, gals? Top-tier shopping is nearby with the Silver Sands Premium outlet just across 98 (premiumoutlets.com) and much more, but we liked our resort so much we rarely ventured away! The Hilton, situated to maximize ocean views, has décor with soothing beach tones, both comfortable and elegantly understated. Time and again we noticed top-notch service that was never in-our-face intrusive or excessive. The new full-service Serenity by the Sea spa is the icing on the cake for any girls’ getaway. Book a full massage, or choose from a generous menu of assorted wraps and facials or a peach-champagne pedicure. Opt for a spa day pass simply to bask in the regular amenities, which include a lovely and low-lit whirlpool, a large sauna, steam room, “waterfall” shower and more. We loved relaxing in the zero-gravity chairs while soothing our eyes and temples with cold cucumbers beneath icy cloths — ideal for any busy mom’s mind, body, soul and senses. The spa robes are super soft; we even loved the comfy, rubber sandals. But, of course, you also come to soak up the emerald coastline, the heavenly salt air and the overall vibe of vacationing. We took a couple of long strolls on the beach, chatting and laughing along the way with other moms who had also escaped for a brief respite. We took silly pictures of our pedicured tootsies, ordered quesadillas and drinks from an adorable beach waitress at our pre-set beach cabana and sat on the beach one night well past dark, thinking it incredibly special and wondering why others weren’t also down there at that time.
SANDESTIN WINE FESTIVAL
If you enjoy wine, consider planning a getaway so it coincides with the full-bodied and picture-perfect Sandestin Wine Festival (with live music), which is always in April — next year's is April 20 -23. Friendly folks put a wine glass in your hand and you’re off for tastings of all the chardonnay, pinot noir and pino grigio you could ever want brought in from wineries across the country. The mood is festive as you wind the paths of Baytown Wharf (an easy to-and-fro tram ride from the Hilton across the street).
OF COURSE ... FOOD!
Food is so important I saved it for last! We filled our mini fridge with hummus and cheese and other munchies picked up at Publix across the way, but we ate meals like royalty at the Hilton’s Sandcastle breakfast buffet (omelets can be made to order) and The Coffee Shop (yummy breakfast sandwiches and more to go ... have a chocolate ice cream cone for breakfast here!). We relished a pool-side lunch at Barefoot’s Beachside Bar & Grill (a craft beer and seared tuna salad!), and we devoured the most marvelous petite filets at Sandcastles Restaurant lounge. The Hilton is also home to Segar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood, Destin’s only AAA Four Diamond Restaurant (the highest designation possible for a restaurant), which means you’ll have to save a little more for THAT meal — or come back for an extra-special wedding anniversary — oh! That’s if you’re still married! How’s it possible to forget you’ve got a family waiting for you back home?! What a shame when your weekend ends in the sunshine, but it was marvelous, and now you get to go home and give everyone who missed you a great, big hug and thank you. Try not to notice the sticky kitchen counters ... hey, they were just fine without you!