As most visitors to Fort Lauderdale have discovered, a large number of hotels and resorts are located ‘across the road’ from the beach, as opposed to being built directly on it. Of course, there are a few exceptions to this rule, such as The Sheraton, The Marriott, Lago Mar, and Ocean Sky, but the majority are, in fact, separated from the beach by a boulevard. A number of hotels in Miami (picture South Beach) are set up the same way. Though this might be a deterrent for some travelers who prefer their beachfront just beyond the pool deck for the sake of proximity, there indeed is a reason for this ‘across the road’ design – ACCESS. Not everyone that visits the beach is staying at nearby hotels; for example, locals as well as tourists that might have opted for inland accommodations. By setting the majority of the hotels back from the beach, it allows these folks widespread access to the ocean without the fear of trespassing on hotel properties that are planted shoulder to shoulder on the beachfront. Makes sense, right?
When you get down to it, hotels across the road are really no different than those on the beach. The view from an oceanfront or oceanview room basically remains the same, and access to the beach isn’t much further away. Not to mention that the properties are every bit as beautiful and well-appointed.
Take, for example, The Sonesta, which is situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, so no matter where your room is located within the hotel, you are guaranteed a scenic view. It is also close to Bonnet Gardens, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, and the famed Las Olas Boulevard for shopping, dining, and nightlife, all of which are within walking distance. As for driving distances, downtown Fort Lauderdale is only 10 minutes away, the airport is approximately 15 minutes, and a mere 30 minutes behind the wheel will put you in Miami if you’re looking for a change of pace.
Formerly the B Ocean, The Sonesta is a beautiful and well-maintained property though decidedly on the modest side, with noticeably compact accommodations. Rooms are typically Florida in design, with lots of white furniture and bedding offset with blue and turquoise accents. The size and look are reminiscent of the now-defunct Sonesta that was located on Key Biscayne, Miami. Having stayed at both properties, with the Miami trip several years ago and the Fort Lauderdale trip more recently, we can safely say the accommodations looked and felt virtually interchangeable.
Rooms come with different bed sizes and a variety of configurations, from standard rooms to suites that feature 42″ LCD TVs, in-room safes, Keurig coffee makers, ironing boards, mini-fridges, and free wi-fi. The rooms are very clean (with so much crisp ‘white’ in plain view, it tends to make the room look even cleaner) and surely they are modern and comfortable.
That said, they’re fairly basic. And given the compact size, there isn’t a lot of room for luggage. Families of 3 or 4 will certainly feel as though they’re on top of one another. The absence of a balcony makes the room feel even smaller and is a shame considering the beautiful view and the fact that most travelers would enjoy sitting outside.
Bathrooms are clean but stark with little room to unpack toiletries onto the counter or into the shower stall. So that aspect is a bit inconvenient. There is a shelf below the sink; however, for the most part, it is already occupied with spare towels and facecloths.
Also on the compact side are the pool and sundeck, which are tucked to the side of the hotel. Private cabanas and a poolside bar help to upgrade the otherwise plain and simple area but there is no getting away from the fact that the pool itself is very small — perhaps not much larger than a backyard installment.
The hotel features a nice fitness center and a spa, a perfunctory business center, and a full-service restaurant called Bistro, which offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner of primarily American fare. It’s plain but it’s good. Plus, there is a lobby bar and pool bar. The lobby, adjacent bar, and business center are a tad overblown in neon blue with a large ocean wave design, making it look like there’s more water in the lobby than there is in the understated pool (sorry, couldn’t resist).
For those readers that remember an iconic 80s show called Miami Vice, you might understand how this particular atmosphere would look right at home on any given episode. This area of the hotel might be a bit hard on the eyes, but it’s attractive, clean, and completely in keeping with the beach location.
PROS: Location is ideal. Beautiful views. Rates are reasonable.
CONS: Rooms are compact. Very little room to unpack belongings, particularly in the bathroom. No balconies. The pool is very small. The extra fees add up quickly.