by Terry Ward
The ocean in Naples is a beautiful thing for beach-loving families. Calm as a lake most of the year and often rippling with the wakes of the area’s ever present dolphins, the blue waters along Florida’s southwestern coastline make for one of the state’s finest beach getaways. And a stay at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club puts you front and center on a pretty stretch of sand, with two pools and whirlpools, an 18-hole golf course and a large grassy lawn that hosts alfresco movie nights and impromptu Frisbee-throwing sessions all just steps from your room.
The property has 317 rooms and suites scattered in several different buildings spread across 125 acres. It’s a big resort, to be sure, but the assemblage of six Old-Florida-style buildings linked by pathways buffered by tropical foliage lends a Florida Keys feel to the place and makes the resort feel pleasantly removed from the crowded concrete jungle of Miami Beach, just across the state on Florida’s east coast.
The resort was originally built in the 1880’s, and was known as the Naples Hotel. The hotel went through several owners (including the heir to the Jergen’s hand lotion fortune) up until the 1940’s, when it was bought by the Watkins family, whose descendants retain ownership today. The property was last updated in 2013 to the tune of $5 million. The renovation included the new Gulf-view ballroom, the rest of the guestrooms that were not renovated in the last update in 2010, and the meeting spaces.
Calling a resort with 317 rooms a family hotel is a bit of a stretch, but it’s no exaggeration to say there’s a familial feel to the place. Families can be seen picnicking on the Watkins lawn — a big grassy expanse overlooking the ocean — posing in all-white ensembles for their requisite oceanfront family portraits and stooped over tidal pools in search of shells on the beach. Naples might be known for its aging, well-heeled population, but for a family-oriented Florida beach vacation that’s casual and welcoming, it can’t be beat.
Our Editor Loves
- Oceanfront location on very calm beach
- Suites with kitchenette features
- Separate family pool
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The resort itself spans both sides of the gulf-front road, but all of the 317 rooms and suites are spread among six different beachfront buildings on the water side of the street. In each building, there are views of both the resort and ocean views, so be specific about your preference when you book. You'll be impressed with the room size here -- whether you're in a standard room or efficiency suite, there's a good deal of space to spread out in, and the tropical color scheme and patio or balcony make for a bright and airy feel. Since all of the rooms and suites were updated between 2010 and 2013, a standard decor theme prevails: light wood furniture; blue, white and green textiles; and wooden-plantation shutters to block out the bright Florida sun when you need a break from all the rays.
All rooms come with refrigerators, coffeemakers, flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi access for a fee. All rooms also have balconies.There's no charge for cribs, but you'll need to reserve one in advance.
Cabana Rooms, Tower Rooms and Patio Rooms offer one king bed and a small sitting area and they sleep two guests. Florida Rooms feature two double beds, while Watkins Rooms have one king bed and one sofa bed; both can sleep up to four.
Cabana Suites have one bedroom with one king bed, plist two sitting areas with sofa beds; they can sleep up to six. Florida Suites have one king bed and one sofa bed, with the two areas separate from each other; they can sleep four. Tower Suites have one king bed and one sofa bed, plus an extra large balcony space that extends into the bedroom. Watkins Suites have one king bed in a separate bedroom with its own bathroom and balcony, plus a sitting area with a sofa bed and its own bathroom and balcony; they sleep up to four. The Penthouse Room has one king bed and one sofa bed to sleep up to four.
Great beach location bar at this hotel - non residents welcome. Usual beers/ wines etc & food on offer.
Visited a few times for lunch over multiple years, always a warm welcome. Understand live music on weekend evenings.
by Natalia N
We stayed at this resort for one night and we really enjoyed the views and the beach, the atmosphere was great. Unfortunately, the room looked like it’d seen better days and the pool.... well we have children of our own and we certainly like to relax by the pool with a cocktail but what we faced put us off even going into water. The pool was full of pretty tipsy parents who’s children were running wild , eating ( and dropping) crisps/chips in the pool... one of our children saw a cherry at the bottom of the pool, which obviously got there when someone had their cocktail in the pool. Like I said I am all for having a good relaxing time but it felt like ( if you’re from the UK) Butlins. No disrespect to Butlins but you know what to expect and the prices are nothing compared to this resort, hence it was slightly disappointing having paid over £330 for one night ( no breakfast) ....
On the plus side , the breakfast we had ( that’s extra) was fantastic with the lovely views over the golf course.
Overall, if it wasn’t for the family pool and the general tired look of the rest of the hotel, it’d definitely give it full marks as their customer service was great.
The convenience of staying just steps from the beach is what attracts most families to this hotel. And the fact that the waves in Naples rarely get larger than knee-high (in fact, the water usually resembles a lake more than an ocean) makes it all the more appealing to spend a day with kids of all ages splashing in the calm, warm waters. At low tide, there's often a wide, shallow lagoon between the resort and the ocean made by standing water left by the retreating tide -- a great place to dig for sand fleas and shells, and splash in puddles that are more contained than the open ocean. On the beach there's a daily charge for lounge chairs and umbrellas (if you're staying a while, you're better off buying beach gear at Target or Walmart and toting it along rather than paying the rental fees).
The resort's two pools include a family pool, which is open from 8 a.m. to sunset every day (lifeguards are not on duty) and an adults-only pool that makes for a nice respite from the inevitable splashing and horseplay. The maximum depth is 3.5 feet in the family pool. And while there's no zero-entry or sloping access for small kids, a wide-stepped, shallow entry is a nice place to keep your smaller children safe while the older ones do their Marco Polo thing in the deeper water. Pool chairs and towels are complimentary for guests when you're poolside.
The hotel's complimentary (yes, you read that correctly) Kids Club is open to ages 5 to 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and children must be potty trained to participate. While the program is free, there's a charge for lunch and some seasonal activities.
The kids' club does not have a dedicated room. Instead, activities are planned around the resort property throughout the day and might include walks along the beach to look for seashells, supervised swimming sessions in the family pool, face painting, and arts and crafts activities. During holiday periods, special events are planned such as Easter egg hunts and appearances by Santa. During the busy winter and spring season, special family-nights-out are hosted on the Watkins Lawn, with movies shown al fresco and complimentary popcorn for all.
There's no dedicated area for teens at the resort, but between the beach and pool they'll stay entertained. Additionally, the resort organizes teen volleyball tournaments and beach Olympics to get kids together in a social environment and help friendships along. You can also enroll your children in private or group tennis or golf lessons at the hotel.
When it comes to family activities around town, don't let Naples' sleepy snowbird reputation make you think there's not a lot for younger people to enjoy here. Head out on an eco-cruise aboard the Dolphin Explorer to spend the day searching for shells and spotting dolphins (kids under 2 years old are free), visit the water park at Sun-n-Fun Lagoon or go for a sunset stroll to the Naples Pier, where you can toss a fishing line off the side and watch dolphins frolicking in the glassy water.
The Seminole Store
For a casual family dinner, consider ordering a pizza to go from The Seminole Store and enjoying slices with the whole gang on the Watkins Lawn or down on the beach. The Seminole Store is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to midnight.
The most popular place for families eating together for lunch is the poolside grill which serves chicken fingers, salads, hot dogs, hamburgers, fish sandwiches, French fries, smoothies and the like (apart from the salads, there aren't a whole lot of healthy options on the menu). The Poolside Grill is open daily from 11 a.m. to sunset. Highchairs along with crayons and paper to keep the kids occupied can be provided here and in all restaurants.
Sunset Beach Bar & Grill
The Sunset Beach Bar & Grill, on the gulf front, is one of the most popular watering holes in Naples for oceanfront dining, and is open for lunch and dinner every day. The menu here is pretty much the same as the poolside restaurant's, and there's a big open grill where burgers sizzle that adds to the party barbecue vibe. Again, the main offerings for kids here are burgers, fries and hot dogs. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to midnight.
HB's On the Gulf
HB's on the Gulf, open for lunch and dinner, is a more upscale alternative and touted as Naples only oceanfront restaurant, with tables set directly behind the dunes. It's a fine place for a date-night, with menu items such as Florida snapper and grouper, but not really a place to take the kids since the atmosphere is more serene and prices are premium. HB's is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and then from 5:30 to 10 p.m. for dinner.
Start your day at Broadwell's for breakfast, with views of the golf course. A la carte, buffet and continental breakfast is served from 7 to 10:30 a.m. daily.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There are no public laundry facilities at the hotel, but in-house dry cleaning services are available every day and you'll get your clothing back the same day as long as you leave it with bell services before 8:45 a.m. (there are laundry bags and pricing slips in all rooms). Alternatively, about 2 miles away you'll find self-service facilities at the Creech Road Laundry, available 24 hours per day seven days a week.
Babysitting services can be arranged through the hotel's Concierge, and kids ages 5 to 12 can participate in the Kids Club every day for free -- a huge perk for parents looking to keep their children entertained without breaking the bank. The hotel's spa and gym are only open to children 16 years and older, but if you have younger children (from 12 years old and up) who would like salon services (manicures, pedicures, haircuts) they are welcome.
The hotel's gym, free for guests to use, is an excellent facility with onsite trainers to walk you through the aerobic equipment and free weights. A range of yoga classes are offered daily, including classes for kids.
The resort's spa is a fine facility with all the standard massages, body treatments and facials on offer, as well as Vichy shower treatments and hydrotherapy baths that incorporate minerals from the sea into treatments. Kids ages 16 and up are welcome to book treatments.
The Seminole Store
A good place to put on your radar for small purchases is The Seminole Store, a convenience store right on property that sells everything from sunscreen and bottled water to pizzas (by the pie or slice) for a laid-back dinner on the lawn, and bottles of wine and snacks that you can take back to your room to enjoy on your balcony.
Onsite parking is complimentary.
The Art of Smart Timing
The hotel is open year-round but you'll find yourself sharing the resort with boatloads of people during the busy holiday season leading up to and after Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as around spring break in March and April. Summer in Florida is notoriously steamy, but the Gulf of Mexico usually offers a breeze, so even during these months it's a pleasant time to be outside playing on the beach and frolicking in the sea. You'll find the best prices during the shoulder season in September, when school is back in session, as well as during the period after spring break and before summer break.
The closet major airport is the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, about 45 minutes north of the hotel. Flights are usually cheaper, however, into the Tampa (2.5 hours away) and Miami airports (a bit over an hour away). You can find all of the major car rental companies at all of the airports, and since parking is free at the resort, it's a good idea to rent a car so you can easily get around during your stay.
Families looking to explore outside the resort should rent a car for easy access. Plus, onsite parking is free.
For Mom and Dad
Naples has some fine restaurants, so for the best night out on you own, head off property for a dinner along posh Fifth Avenue, lined with quaint shops, restaurants with outdoor dining, wine bars, and boutique hotels. Even during the hot summer months, evening temperatures invite sitting outside along the avenue, taking in some people watching with your meal. Book a candlelit table on the terrace at Bistro 821 to dine on fresh Gulf of Mexico snapper encrusted with coconut and lemon grass, seafood paella or a hearty steak. For a nightcap, head to Avenue Wine Cafe for live music and wine, or cocktails on the outdoor patio or inside the cozy lounge.