When Bill Marriott Jr. retreats south for three months per year, he stays at Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa—his home away from home since 1984. How’s that for a ringing endorsement? The reason the luxurious property is not under the coveted JW Marriott brand is simple: It doesn’t need to be. With three ballrooms and 650 rooms, Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa is arguably most adept property in the Florida destination to host groups. Associations, corporations and professional sports teams are among the frequent guests. The hotel staff is certainly not above showing off the hotel’s private beach. Teambuilding activities in the sand include beach Olympics, a version of “Survivor” and build-a-boat competitions. Beach bonfires and branding in the sand are also among the options groups won’t find at just any hotel. Heck, the hotel’s dog is even named Sandy. That’s to say nothing of the spa, which includes 18 treatment rooms and is known for its hydrofacials. Donelle Zunker recently took over as the resort’s new general manager, one of several women in a leading role here. Executive Chef Adrienne Grenier, a “Chopped” champion, has turned the on-site 3030 restaurant into a foodie hot-spot for locals and visitors. A full-service Starbucks is on-site, but the real treasure is the beach-level HB Fresh, serving up refreshing and healthy fruit drinks.
The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Groups also can’t go wrong at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, which underwent a renovation completed in 2018. The same elements that draw tourists are also attractive to groups (it does a 50-50 mix of the two businesses). There’s a skywalk to the beach and the outdoor patio is an ideal setting for a reception. Groups will find a private entrance to the meeting space, a feature also available at Marriott Harbor Beach. If nothing else, you’ll want to try Lona, one of the best Mexican restaurants this reporter has ever dined in. The guacamole is a must, but then again, so is everything we tried at a memorable lunch.