PALM BEACH, Fla. — Most folks don’t have a gilded, 126-room seaside estate down here to escape to, but can still sample a cushy, Lilly Pulitzer-hued lifestyle, at least temporarily, at The Brazilian Court.
This 80-room landmark hotel is set on a residential street, so you’ll feel like you’re home — a home with lavish plantings, courtyards, a gallery of fine art, and food by Daniel Boulud and company. Opened in 1926 — making it the second oldest hotel in Palm Beach after The Breakers — The Brazilian Court is a perennial entry on Conde Nast Traveler’s gold list, Travel + Leisure’s list of world’s best hotels, a AAA four-diamond winner, and every other “best hotel’’ rating out there. Where else would Michael Jordan choose to show up every Sunday for brunch, Sophia Vergara host her pre-wedding rehearsal dinner, or pop singer Meghan Trainor opt to unwind while on tour?
And boy, do they make it easy to relax. Drive up from Palm Beach International Airport, and your car will be whisked away. You will then (if you wish) be outfitted with a beach bag with towels, water, magazines, and beach chairs, and be driven two blocks to the beach in a Mercedes. They’d probably apply your sunscreen, too, if you asked. It’s an easy walk to Palm Beach municipal beach. Or, explore the island on a bright-pink-painted, limited edition Lilly Pulitzer bicycle. Lilly is very big here; as one of the hotel’s partners, the brand often shoots its ad and catalog pages here, as does Jack Rogers (the preppy sandals brand).
Other than the Lilly bikes and lemon yellow shirts worn by hotel staff, the property feels un-Florida. Instead of white wicker, there’s lots of dark wood (mahogany and cypress). Settees in the lobby are swathed in purple velvet. Although the hotel had a $45 million facelift in 2008, they’ve retained the original character of the place, including the mirror at the end of the pool, which once reflected the images of guests like Garbo, Valentino, and Katherine Hepburn. The hotel is built around two courtyards, and is meant to mimic a private Palm Beach estate. You’ll use an actual key, not a key card, to open your door, and no two rooms are alike, but all have wine captains so you can store your wine appropriately. All the bathrooms have both tubs and showers. And, you can bring your pet.
Besides lounging around that palm-scaped pool, or lolling in the surf, you’ll want to indulge in that other treasured Palm Beach pastime: shopping (or window-shopping) on fabled Worth Avenue, just two blocks away. Look for designer names like Cartier, Chanel, and Valentino, and — less obvious — little alleyways called vias that lead to tiny courtyards, al fresco dining, and . . . a Starbucks. You’ll notice a Palm Beach look: Women are invariably slim and blonde, often garbed in linen with a cashmere wrap tossed over the shoulders, while the men are (as Worth Avenue magazine put it), decked out in “aging preppy style,’’ always in Gucci loafers.
The sticky Palm Beach climate is hellish on hair, alas, but they can remedy that at the Frederick Fekkai salon, located within the hotel. This full-service salon is a major draw for the local set, too, with 14 stations and full-on pampering, including a menu of shampoos. Book your appointment late in the day, so your ’do will look awesome at dinner. Of course you’ll go to Café Boulud, with its seasonal menu (much of the produce is grown nearby), a foodie favorite. With both indoor and outdoor seating, Café Boulud is open all day, so if you don’t wish to spring for, say, the sunflower-crusted loup de mer ($42 at dinner), you can opt for something less pricey earlier in the day (perhaps the Cafe Cobb salad, $22.) To give you a feel for the place, men tend to wear jackets at dinner.
In May, when high season ends, Palm Beach gets positively sleepy. On the plus side, rates at The Brazilian Court drop to their lowest, starting at around $229 per night.
THE BRAZILIAN COURT 301 Australian Ave., Palm Beach, Fla.; 561-655-7740; www.thebraziliancourt.com. Rates from $229 (May-September) to $529.