Travel

Boston Traveler: Experience the Fresh New Vibe of Palm Beach This Spring

What’s old is new again in one of Boston’s most beloved spring-break destinations.


Palm trees line the sunny shores of Palm Beach. / Photo via Anouchka/Getty Images

Ah, Palm Beach. The destination has long been a favorite of Bostonians seeking off-season sun and sand, up to and including the Kennedy family. In fact, over the past few decades, a prominent circuit has developed among people who summer on Nantucket and winter on this elongated sandbar that oilman Henry Flagler and architect Addison Mizner transformed into Florida’s aristocrat playground back in the early 1900s. It’s no surprise, then, that two new additions to the scene this year—the boutique hotel White Elephant and its in-house restaurant, sushi sensation Lola 41—are both outposts of their ACK siblings.

What is surprising is that after decades of the same old same old, a fresh new vibe is now rustling Palm Beach’s coconut trees. Swifty’s, a reincarnation of the New York society hangout, opened at the Colony, the landmark hotel currently undergoing a stunning restoration. Two other New York haunts of the rich and famous—restaurants La Goulue and Le Bilboquet—also debuted this winter, while longtime Palm Beach dining staple L’Europe underwent a facelift, giving it a younger, more casual feel. Borrowing a page from Miami’s playbook, Palm Beach now boasts pop-up versions of famed art galleries such as Pace and Acquavella, and the refurbished Norton Museum of Art offers a cultural oasis among all the sybaritic temptations.

Not that return visitors won’t recognize the place. Retail fantasylands, including the outdoor arcade of luxury brands at Royal Poinciana Plaza and along Worth Avenue, remain relatively unchanged. Beyond Worth Avenue’s unparalleled people-watching, everyone will be pleased to know that the street’s greatest luminary—Mona Lisa, the pot-bellied pig—is still thriving. Meanwhile, casual breakfast and lunch spots like the Surfside Diner and the luncheonette at Green’s Pharmacy are as quintessentially Americana as ever.

If you’re new to the area, you won’t want to miss biking on the Palm Beach Lake Trail, with a stop to admire the giant kapok tree in front of the Flagler Museum; marveling at the koi pond behind Bethesda-by-the-Sea (the Gothic revival church where a certain ex-president married his current wife); or seeking tranquility in the Four Arts’ Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden. Otherwise, the mansions are as manicured as ever, the Everglades and Bath & Tennis clubs remain bastions of old money, and the beach itself is pristine. In short, while this may not be your granddaddy’s Palm Beach, it still retains all of the old magic.

A view of the White Elephant Palm Beach’s glamorous pool. / Photo by Chi-Thien Nguyen/Elkus Manfredi Architects

Getting There

Lots of demand means ample supply, and Delta, JetBlue, United, and Spirit are just a handful of the airlines that offer nonstop service between Logan and Palm Beach International Airport (roughly a three-and-a-half-hour flight). Those still concerned about flying commercial can charter a private jet through the app Wheels Up with a few taps on your smartphone.

Staying There

While there’s always the grand dame of resorts, the Breakers, we recommend the new White Elephant Palm Beach. Located 15 minutes from the airport and a mere two blocks from the water, the hotel boasts an intimate pool area and BMW house cars to ferry you wherever your heart desires.