This past August, my wife and I visited different cities throughout Southern Florida. One of our destinations was Naples, Florida. Its located about an hour and a half from Fort Lauderdale, around a half an hour from Fort Myers, and an hour from Marco Island. Separating Naples from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Boca Raton are the Everglades.
First let me tell you a bit about Naples. Its not a huge city whatsoever. Its actually very small, and its not too well known. If you want to fly to Naples, you can fly to the Naples Airport. The airport is only served by US Airways Express and other really, really small planes. The closest major airport would be Fort Myers Southwestern Florida Airport.
The Naples on-season is in the winter. The off season is in the summer. Weird? Not for Florida! There are literally hundreds of condos going up the Naples Beach - Vanderbilt Beach. When we went in August, all of the condos were boarded up. The beaches were practically isolated, and so were the roads! Get this - the only hotels/resorts open along the strip where we were was our resort - Gulf Pointe, another resort next to us, and the Ritz-Carlton.
I dont understand why Naples is isolated in the summer. Yes, its very hot and extremely humid, but its also a beautiful city. The people there are very friendly, and its richness is expressed by the well paved roads, brilliant palm trees, and the general clean atmosphere of the small city. Of course, I havent been to Naples in the winter, but in the summer its beautiful.
The Ritz-Carlton was where we spent one night of our vacation in Naples. Let me just tell you - this hotel is magnificent! Its shaped like an E without the middle line, and its Italian architecture and personable service shows high quality. It really does stand out from the condos along the beach, but the price also stands out. I would recommend the Ritz-Carlton if youre looking for a relaxing and pampering hotel, but only if you arent worried about the price tag.
The hotel is home to a marble floor lobby, lush colors, and beautiful gardens in the back. Sitting right behind the gardens is a wooden path leading you to one of the many restaurants, then from there right onto the white sand of the beach. This is the ideal location for beach go-ers, but any resort or hotel along the beach is always perfect.
The rooms at the Ritz-Carlton are gorgeous. Ours was very spacious and clean. It was very well decorated, revolving around only certain elegant colors: a golden brown and a very relaxed and dark green. Everything in the room was prepared perfectly. The furniture was flawless, and nothing compares to the Ritz-Carlton soaps and shampoos which they offer...for free! You can read about my complete experience here.
Gulf Pointe Resort, Naples
This is even more romantic than the Ritz-Carlton. Gulf Pointe Resort, Naples, sits on Vanderbilt Beach - the same beach the Ritz overlooks. Gulf Pointe offers its guests with free floating things for the beach. This includes a blow-up beach bed, a tube, and little surf boards. We rented a kayak one day for $10, and we had so much fun going up and down the coast.
The resort has only 15 rooms. Its a very private resort, but since so few guests can stay there at one time, the service is very personable. The owners were there from the morning to the evening on most days, and they were very friendly. We talked to them about buying a timeshare there, and they had some very good rates for us. Were still considering on buying there.
The rooms are well taken care of and have a nice decor. Our room was actually a unit. All rooms are units. We were given a 2-bedroom (by mistake), and it was very spacious and clean. We had a full sized kitchen, a dining room, a living room, two bedrooms, a balcony, and a bathroom. The furniture was in good condition, and there were extra towels and blankets in one of the closets.
Downtown Naples isnt downtown as metro-city residents know it. No, there are no skyscrapers or anything like that. Its just stores, stores, and more stores. For several blocks, theres a chain of different shops and restaurants. You can spend the whole day there. The sidewalks are nice and wide, there are plenty of benches, and there are a lot of palm trees, flowers and other plants.
So what types of stores are there? Any type of store. We found several shops with little decorations, yet they were very expensive. Peoples Pottery, a chain, has its newest store in downtown. In Peoples Pottery, there are some very unique and colorful items. I liked the different types of door knockers they offered, and we bought a very pretty piece of stained glass for $79.
If this really isnt your thing, there are other places to go. There are quite a few clothing stores, jewelry stores, book shops, and some small businesses. This really is a great way to spend the day since there are endless places to visit. I have to tell you that the shops and stores there are very expensive. Be prepared with a major credit card or a lot of cash.
Vanderbilt Beach, Naples
Now for the beach, the most popular attraction in Naples, Florida. Vanderbilt Beach is the largest beach on the Naples coastline, and it stretches past many hotels and points of interest. Since the beach is on the Gulf of Mexico, the water is very calm. There were really no waves there except for small 2 ones. The biggest wave was 6, but that was after a yacht passed by.
So hows the water? Its so warm. Naples naturally has beautiful and warm weather, so the water is very warm. I was able to get used to the temperature of the water in under ten seconds. We went to the beach several times at night, and it was just as warm. I should note that the depth of the water changes. On one day, I walked about ten feet in and the water was at my ankles. The next day I walked in the same length, and the water was at my chest!
So hows the water life? There are literally thousands of sand dollars on the sand on the bottom of the water. They werent bothersome at all, and their shells really arent rough at all. Theyre also pretty small, so you can easily pick them up and look at them. They wont hurt you - I actually saw some people mistake them for shells.
And theres more sea life. We saw a large amount of dolphins swimming everyday we were there. They traveled in a pact and went back and forth up the coast. They were relatively near the sand - around 50 feet. When we went kayaking, two dolphins jumped up right next to us! We actually got to pet them and they were so friendly.
How about the sand? On sunny days, the sun beats down on the sand all day. On these days, I found it that I would have to run as quickly as possibly to the beach or else my feet would fall off. I thought that I was literally standing on an iron. The sand is pure white and very clean. On rainy days, the rain drops sunk into the sand, and it looked like someone just went and poked the sand a thousand times.
Why I LOVE Naples
Well, you can see why Naples is a place that I love. Its such a gorgeous little city with very friendly people. Its also in a really clean and rich area, and the beach is perfect. Though the waters are very calm, its nice for those days that you dont want to put up with the huge crowds and waves. I also like downtown a lot, and the hotels and resorts I stayed at were excellent. If youre looking to go to Naples, Id say go for it!
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Jun - Aug