Thirty-nine diverse cities and towns make up the Palm Beaches, spanning more than 2,300 square miles across 47 miles of beautiful Atlantic Ocean beaches. In addition to the beach, there’s 125 miles of the Intracoastal Waterway. With so much water, swimming, boating, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, paddleboarding and myriad other activities on the beach are all right there for the asking.
“The Palm Beaches offer so many unique teambuilding opportunities, such as yoga on the beach, which gives conference organizers the ability to create unique experiences that go outside of the meeting space,” said Kelly Cavers, senior vice president of group sales for Discover The Palm Beaches.
“The destination also offers truly exceptional scuba diving and snorkeling with underwater experiences that are truly unique to our destination,” she added.
For snorkelers and scuba divers, Phil Foster Park’s underwater sculptures in Riviera Beach, a city in Palm Beach, can be viewed at its manmade snorkel trail reef filled with sea turtles, various fish species, rays and octopus. The Palm Beaches have a collection of more than 160 manmade reefs, many created from old ships. One artificial reef, called the Triangle, has a deteriorated Rolls Royce 80 feet below the surface.
Five miles north of Jupiter, the northernmost town in Palm Beach, Jonathan Dickinson State Park is home of the Loxahatchee River, which runs through the park.
Boating, canoeing and kayaking along the river through mangroves or under a canopy of cypress trees are highlights. The Loxahatchee Queen III, for up to 60 passengers, takes visitors on a tour of the river, with a stop at the restored 1930s camp of Trapper Nelson, the “Wildman of the Loxahatchee.”
For wanna-be surfers, groups staying at Boca Resort & Club will be amazed at the on-site FlowRider, a surfing simulator. Located at the Shaka Bar & Grill, Flow House Boca, the dual-sided wave simulator is great for groups that want a fun surf-on-land experience.
It’s also a great intro to “real” surf lessons offered at the resort on the Atlantic.
Lessons start with the basics, standing on the board, and then move on to catching and riding waves.
The hotel also offers stand-up paddleboarding at the Tower Pool Marina with Paddle Diva’s Gina Bradley, who helps groups learn the fine art of paddleboarding.
“I work with people who sit at their desks all day and when I take people out, there’s laughing, falling in the water, interacting with each other,” Bradley said. “It forges bonds you can’t create on land.”
Also in Boca Raton, the Waterstone Resort & Marina welcomes guests with one-of-a-kind experiences on Lake Boca and the Intracoastal Waterway. Waterstone Resort offers fishing, diving, paddleboarding from the private marina and takes groups to the South Inlet Beach via complimentary shuttle. Water lovers can cruise Boca Raton’s blue waters with sailing excursions and boat, kayak and jet ski rentals.
“Our unique waterfront location appeals to our corporate guests,” said Jennifer Graham, director of sales and marketing for Waterstone Resort & Marina. “Whether overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway from our penthouse meeting space or taking a group on unique teambuilding sessions on our paddleboards, or catamaran sailing for up to 49 people, Waterstone Resort & Marina provides an experience immersed in water.”
The luxurious Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa—in the small but elite beachside Palm Beach community of Manalapan—counts Tony Robbins and Billy Joel as neighbors.
Surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the resort’s private oceanfront cabanas are the perfect spots to relax. The resort is also a jumping off point for several activities on the water, said Michael Oakes, director of sales and marketing.
“At the Forbes Five-Star Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa we offer our guests a wide array of water sports activities, including boogie boards, paddleboards and snorkel gear,” he said. “With our location here in Palm Beach—America’s first resort destination—we have the ability to also offer our guests anything from the use of President Kennedy’s yacht, the Honey Fitz, to the use of wave runners, jet skis, fishing boats and more.”
In Palm Beach, The Breakers includes amenities such as 36 holes of championship golf and a variety of water sports. There’s everything from paddleboards, kayaks, sailboats and snorkeling gear to banana boat rides, scuba and guided reef snorkeling tours. Boat trips are also available on the Keylypso catamaran for sunset cruises, seasonal manatee watching or private charters.
“The appeal of The Breakers as a multifaceted oceanfront resort is having a variety of leisure activities all on-site,” said Jim Mostad, vice president of sales. “Groups can enjoy water sports recreation at the same destination where they convene. Planners can enlist our expertise to create teambuilding activities, classes and instruction as the means for attendees to bond, learn, relax and have fun.
“Whether a snorkeling excursion on The Breakers’ Reef, paddleboard classes or private yacht charters for fishing, sailing or cruising the Atlantic, on-site resort watersports provide excellent ways to bolster participants’ enjoyment,” he added.
The Seagate Hotel & Spa has the only private oceanfront club in Delray Beach, The Seagate Beach Club. This newly constructed British Colonial-style structure has a distinctly Bahamian feel. Hotel guests receive all the benefits of membership, plus complimentary transportation to and from the hotel.
Membership includes beach access, water sport rentals for scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking directly behind the club.
There’s also Movie Night on the beach and under the stars every Friday evening.
South of Palm Beach is the Treasure Coast, named for the gold from sunken ships found off the coastline. The area consists of three counties: Martin County, St. Lucie County and Indian River County. Like Palm Beach it also has beautiful beaches and 77 parks, many in which to experience activities on the water.
“It’s here where incorporating work-life balance into meetings is becoming more prevalent as wellness becomes more important to everyone,” said Nerissa Okiye, tourism and marketing manager, Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing.
“A few unique water-based activities are becoming popular like group yoga on the beach to start the day, kite surfing, catamaran tours and sailing lessons,” she added. “These are just a few activities we have in Martin County that allow groups to take part in interactive immersive water activities.”
Also popular for groups are sightseeing tours with Island Princess Cruises, Sunshine Wildlife Tours in Stuart to see dolphins and Treasure Coast Sailing Adventures, also in Stuart, to sail on the historic wooden schooner Lily.
In St. Lucie there’s an abundance of natural resources, including 21 miles of beaches, the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie River and many more miles of waterways that allow for water recreation.
Home to the historic city of Fort Pierce, the vibrant city of Port St. Lucie and the beautiful beaches of Hutchinson Island, there are also several hotels with direct access to activities on the water, said Charlotte Lombard Bireley, director of tourism and marketing, Visit St. Lucie.
“There are also many hotel properties that feature direct access to kayaking and sailing. One of our largest properties, Club Med Sandpiper in Port St. Lucie is nestled along the St. Lucie River offering wildlife boat tours and water jet packs,” she said.
At the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina in Stuart, guests have direct access to a private marina where groups can charter boats for fishing or just tooling around.
The resort also offers jet skis and paddleboards for rent. And the first new hotel to be built on Hutchinson Island in 20 years, the Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa, on Jensen Beach, is ideal for swimming, fishing and sailing—or making sand castles—and is close to the charming downtown of Stuart.
Indian River County is home to an endless array of water-sport activities, said Allison McNeal, director of tourism for the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce.
“For those looking for an adventurous experience, a seaplane tour will guide you over our waterways and give you a birds-eye view of over 100,000 acres of our conservation land,” she said.
MAKING WAVES AT BOCA RATON RESORT & CLUB
Founder and CEO of Paddle Diva, Gina Bradley works closely with the Boca Raton Hotel & Club to offer individuals and groups an exceptional stand-up experience on the water while offering a special mind-body connection.
As a fitness instructor, a professional windsurfer, surfer and PADI-certified scuba instructor, Bradley became motivated by her love for the water and today crafts experiences according to the group’s objectives.
“We generally set out in the morning when Mother Earth is the calmest and teach people how to get up on the board, look out on the horizon for balance,” Bradley said. “If they don’t want to get up on the board, they can sit on the board and paddle like a kayak and still participate.”
At the resort, there are 24 boards for groups to use and several instructors on hand. Bradley said there are several places around the resort to paddleboard, either staying close to shore, paddling off the marina or on Lake Boca. She has even created an obstacle course for a bit of competitive teambuilding.
“I’ve taken whole law firms out to paddle and people don’t have to worry about what to wear in front of their coworkers,” Bradley said. “You can wear a cover-up or shorts; whatever you’d wear to a workout class. Many of the groups give out logoed hats, sunglasses, baseball caps and tank tops for their groups before they go out.”
Bradley sees several advantages for groups offering a paddleboarding excursion.
“I think the biggest benefit is it gently pushes everyone outside their comfort zone and builds a bond like nothing else,” she explained. “I’ve never had a group outing that isn’t completely filled with laughter. Peoples’ personalities come out, and the worst thing that can happen is you fall in the water.”
LATEST + GREATEST: WHAT’S NEW IN PALM BEACH/TREASURE COAST
The Palm Beach Convention Center added new LED lighting through the Exhibit Hall as well as an eight-story connected parking garage. The convention center also added a direct hotel connection with the Hilton West Palm Beach, just 25 steps away from door-to-door, making it the only convention center in South Florida to be connected to a hotel via an enclosed walkway.
Brightline, an express inter-city passenger rail service, recently debuted routes from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale in 30 minutes and to Miami in about 60 minutes. Phase Two of Brightline will connect West Palm Beach directly to Orlando International Airport in just two hours.
Aloft Delray Beach broke ground in the city’s SofA (South of Atlantic) district in 2017. Developers expect the 121-room hotel to open in 2019.
Canopy by Hilton Hotels is scheduled to open in West Palm Beach in late 2018. The brand’s concept is touted as an energized and natural extension of its neighborhood, with local design, food and drink, and culture. The 150-room, 14-story hotel will be built two blocks from CityPlace.
The Boca Raton Mandarin Oriental is set to debut in downtown Boca Raton in 2020. The 118-room property will include two adjacent towers that will form part of an upscale mixed-use development. The property will feature 65,000 square feet of retail as well as a world-class private club, spa and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course.
The PGA National Resort & Spa refreshed the 40,000-square-foot European-style spa in 2017. Changes include the addition of new bamboo massage treatment, more luxury spa retail items and enhanced gourmet spa cuisine options at the poolside cafe. In addition to the spa refresh, The Palmer Course layout has gone through revitalization from tee to green.
Star Suites by Riverside Theatre is slated to be an all-suite property adjacent to the Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach. Riverside Theatre will build the $8.5 million hotel to house performers and the public when it opens January 2019.
The 178-room Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa opened in October 2017 and is part of the high-end OPAL Collection. It has 8,000 square feet of meeting space.
The 274-room Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina has newly renovated meeting space and will be undergoing a renovation of its beachside rooms. The hotel has more than 30,000 square feet of total event space.
The 111-room Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa recently refurbished its White Orchid Spa, which was completed in November 2017. The hotel has a combined indoor and outdoor meeting space of 3,000 square feet.
PALM BEACH/TREASURE COAST CVB CONTACT INFORMATION
Indian River County Chamber of Commerce
Martin County Office of Tourism & Marketing
Palm Beach County CVB (Discover the Palm Beaches)
St. Lucie County TDC