Sea, Spa & Hilton Sandestin: The Showstoppers of South Walton
After a dreary winter, it’s always rewarding to escape from the white stuff (snow) and head south for a different version of the white stuff (sand)—so when Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa invited me for a mid-March visit to view the recent completion of its $30+-million renovation, I’m on a plane to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport faster than another snow flurry can hit. Upon arrival at the resort, I’m ready to discover this seaside property, where I realize not an inch is left untouched following the three-year makeover.
For starters, there’s the spacious new lobby, the hub for where all-things-relaxing begins. Lofty ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and light-hued floors and walls now deliver a bright, airy feel that leads into the expanded Sandcastle’s Restaurant & Lounge and Hadashi Sushi Bar, over to the revamped indoor pool and Jacuzzi area (where Florida rays beam in through a sunroof), and out onto the well-furnished terrace, complete with two pools, loungers, a bar, and space for oceanfront yoga. Wooden walkways steer to a stretch of the Emerald Coast (with that aforementioned spectacular white sand).
There are also the refurnished Spa Tower guest rooms; mine had a balcony overlooking the Gulf and, much to my delight, a bathroom stocked with Peter Thomas Roth products. Families, however, may be more comfortable reserving one of the deluxe junior suites, which have bunk beds for kids (charming details like this make it all the more apparent why 63 percent of resort clientele are returning customers).
An earlier $5.5-million makeover in 2013 included updates to the resort’s meeting space (carpeting now features a topographic map of the Gulf of Mexico) and to the AAA Four-Diamond Seagar’s Prime Steaks & Seafood. Tucked away on the lower lobby, the restaurant has received a modern facelift and enhanced menu (what I anticipate will never change is Seagar’s phenomenal cuisine—order the lump crap, tomato, and eggplant napoleon appetizer, followed by filet mignon, and bananas foster dessert; they’re divine).
My favorite spot at Hilton Sandestin is the spa (surprise, surprise). Serenity by the Sea, situated in the Spa Towers, is among the transformed spaces, encompassing a new salon with zero-gravity lounging pedicure chairs, plus, a relaxation room christened Serenity Lounge. The new lounge, with its floor-to-ceiling waterfall, dining section, and two cozy sitting areas complements the already ample seating found throughout the spa, including plush chairs around the hot tub, sauna, and steam room section. My spa visit helps me understand extra seating is necessary—here, you’re encouraged to linger as long as you please (and people do!).
A Serenity Sea Escape Facial, Serenity Ultimate Spa Manicure, and shampoo/blowout round out my spa itinerary, which offers me a nice perspective on what services the spa provides, along with its talent that provides it. My esthetician Melisa customizes my 50-minute skin-care service to my needs, then my nail technician Roger expertly swipes gel polish on my nails. Finally, my hair stylist David (whose charismatic wit rivals his hairstyling skills) keeps me in stitches as he washes and dries my strands. One thing is clear—Serenity by the Sea has one of the nicest spa staffs I’ve ever encountered, from its therapists to its front desk personnel to its attendants in the locker areas.
My Hilton Sandestin adventure—not to mention all of the beachfront resort’s elements combined—makes it just a little bit easier to return home to the cold.
Around town: We would be remiss not to mention the pleasantries the surrounding area has on offer. Highlights include the beaches of South Walton, glass art-making class at The Shard Shop, 723 Whiskey Bravo Restaurant & Rooftop Bar; and everything else lies along 30A…