The Best Hotels in Fort Lauderdale Are Nothing Like Your Old Spring Break Digs

Find oceanfront terraces and old-school luxury at these Fort Lauderdale hotels.

Fort Lauderdale has come a long way since its beginnings as the birthplace of spring break. The city may be slowly transforming itself into a world-class family beach and luxury destination with plenty of cool things to do. But make no mistake, Miami’s immediate neighbor to the north still has its Broward County grit, and unlike Miami it’s held on to its landmark colorful dives like Elbo Room and Dirty Blonde’s. Yeah, it’s got classy restaurants and cocktail bars now too, but a trip to Fort Lauderdale can now be equal parts oceanfront luxury and Florida Man funk.

The big upside to all Fort Lauderdale’s development is that the city’s hotel options stretch far beyond spring break shack spots. So whether you want a quiet staycation, a place for kids, or a spot to ball out for a weekend getaway, you can find a perfect fit. Hop on 95 (or Brightline), head a little east, and check out the best hotels in Fort Lauderdale.

B Ocean Resort
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Though it’s been known by many names since it first opened in 1956 as the Yankee Clipper, the B Ocean is still probably best known as “that hotel that looks like a cruise ship.” But the unique maritime architecture might not even be the most famous feature of the Lauderdale Beach landmark. That distinction belongs to the Wreck Bar, which in addition to giving the impression of drinking in the bottom of shipwreck also has mermaids swimming past portholes behind the bar. The B Ocean’s mermaid show has become a destination unto itself, and is an absolute must when visiting the city.

The Diplomat Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of The Diplomat Beach Resort

The Diplomat
Hollywood Beach
There is absolutely nothing subtle about this 1,000-room behemoth set on the shores of Hollywood Beach. But that’s precisely the point of staying at the Diplomat, where giant rooms, 1,000 feet of beach, a lagoon pool, and four restaurants create a city within a resort. A giant entrance atrium serves as the heartbeat of the hotel, leading out to a lush multi-level pool deck that’s stood in for the Fontainebleau in TV and movies. You can enjoy a drink or lunch at Playa, the Diplomat’s beachside restaurant, or put on your Sunday best and delve into a filet at Diplomat Prime. The two-story gym and spa ensures you can burn all of those calories off, which is especially important when you’ve got over half a mile of secluded beach to strut. Room rates are usually pretty reasonable too, as the Diplomat’s abundance of inventory means supply stays high no matter the demand.

Hillsboro Beach Resort
Deerfield Beach
Set a bit north of the action on Fort Lauderdale Beach, this 73-room high rise near opulent Hillsboro Mile is the undisputed champion when it comes to seaside peace and quiet. The Hillsborough Beach Resort is in a residential neighborhood of mostly affluent retirees, which means the stretch of sand in front of the beach is as quiet and empty as you’ll find anywhere outside a state park. Rooms are sleek and modern, with suites so large they feel almost like private oceanfront apartments. Every room has a balcony with at least a partial ocean view, so you can enjoy your morning coffee with a warm sea breeze. And if you’re only going for the weekend, you won’t need to touch your car, as the onsite restaurant ROI offers seaside dining three meals a day.

Hyatt Centric Las Olas
Las Olas
A well-versed hotel connoisseur might scoff at the inclusion of a Hyatt Centric on a list of interesting and alluring hotels. But this property on the west end of bustling Las Olas Boulevard is unlike any other in the chain, with big glass windows from the lobby to the top floor that immerse you in the energy of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Rooms are big and bright with light wood floors and ocean-inspired art, bringing a bit of the coast to the urban core. The Hyatt Centric is walking distance from pretty much everything but the beach, whether you want to bar hop along Las Olas or culture yourself at the NSU Art Museum or Broward Center for Performing Arts. It’s also home to Rm. 901, one of South Florida’s coolest cocktail bars carved out of a nondescript room on the ninth floor.

Kimpton Shorebreak Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Shorebreak Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort

Kimpton Shorebreak
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Back in 1949, this art-deco, three-building gem opened as the Escape Hotel, the first year-round accommodation in Fort Lauderdale Beach. A few years back, Kimpton took the space over and reopened it as a modern boutique anchoring North Beach Village. It feels every bit the mid-century winter escape that it was in its heyday, as rooms surround the lush courtyard pool beckoning guests to come relax by the water. Those who like their dips with a view can opt for the rooftop pool, which offers an elevated view of the Intracoastal. La Fuga sits right next to the courtyard pool, and offers coastal Italian options like light pastas and seafood that fit perfectly into the updated, time-capsule surroundings. The beach is less than 10 minutes away, too, though the Shorebreak is far enough removed you’ll feel miles from the chaos.

Pelican Grand Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Pelican Grand Beach Resort

Pelican Grand Beach Resort
Fort Lauderdale Beach
The strip along Fort Lauderdale Beach boasts some pretty impressive properties, but most of them require you to cross A1A if you’re planning to post up on the sand. All but the Pelican Grand, a stately resort set right on the beach just north of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. The lobby and rooms are inspired by the grand Florida destination hotels of yesteryear, done up in white pillars and wicker with views of the Atlantic at every turn. But the Pelican Grand’s real draw is what’s outside, namely a lazy river where guests can spend their entire vacation lounging in a tube if they so desire. The resort’s zero-entry pool feels almost as if you can step out of the chlorine and into the ocean, and works well as a heated alternative to the saltwater across the fence. And the onsite restaurant Ocean 2000 isn’t just a place for dinner with a view as it regularly appears on lists of Fort Lauderdale’s best restaurants.

The Pillars Hotel and Club
Fort Lauderdale Beach
The Pillars doesn’t so much feel like a hotel, but an opulent, turn-of-the-20th-century beach retreat where some gilded age millionaire has invited 18 of his closest friends. The small hotel set on the Intracoastal is carved out an old Caribbean Colonial home, where a couple floors of rooms look out on a stone pool deck lined with palm trees and tropical foliage. The setup gives the Pillars a community feel not often found in luxury properties, where you’ll spy your neighbors lounging by the pool as you step out of your second story abode, then invite them to join you for impromptu drinks at the Secret Garden Dining Club. The Pillars also owns The Birch House just down the street, another pastel home that can be rented out for large parties and events by those needing more privacy than the main house provides.

Plunge Beach Resort
Photo courtesy of Plunge Beach Resort

Plunge Beach Resort
Staycationing South Floridians won’t find a better destination than Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a small town set right on the Atlantic where the sense of community makes it feel like home almost immediately. Posting up at the Plunge Beach Resort gives you easy access to LBTS’s walkable downtown, with spacious ocean view rooms and a bar right on the sand. Play a couple of games of beach cornhole before enjoying a meal at Backflip, or head inside to Octopus Gastro Pub, a beer-and-breakfast spot surrounded by a gallery of rotating works form local artists. Plunge is perfect for families, but if you want space away from children you can opt for its adults-only bungalows, a sort of hotel-within-a-hotel with a private pool and no kids allowed.

The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
Photo courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale

The Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach
You can’t really ever go wrong with a Ritz-Carlton, so it should come as no surprise that the best bet for old school luxury in Lauderdale is its outpost on A1A. Every room comes with an ocean view, a guarantee strong enough to justify the hotel’s hefty price tag. The furnishings and service are the upscale, detailed variety one expects in a Ritz, with little beachy accents like light wood beds and sand colored couches. The pool deck stands a few stories above the street, with an infinity pool stretching to the horizon. Downstairs, Burlock Coast slings the best rum cocktails in Broward, with a pretty solid seafood menu to go along with them.

W Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale Beach
For sweeping views, nothing beats the W, where the terraced ocean-facing balconies make even small rooms feel like penthouses for the King of Spring Break. In true W style, the hotel has a party vibe without descending into chaos, as even the parties that once dominated its infinity pool deck had a decidedly upscale crowd. The W’s poolside soirees haven’t been a thing for a while, and its new focus on laid-back luxury has made it a top destination for couples and solo travelers, enjoying the spa and pool bar by day and feast at Steak 954 at night. The W is also home to the best margaritas on Fort Lauderdale Beach, which you’ll find at El Vez alongside an impressive assortment of tacos and other Mexican beach favorites.

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Matt Meltzer is a Miami-based contributor for Thrillist, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, former pageant judge in the Miss Florida America system, and past contributor to Cosmopolitan magazine. Matt graduated with a BBA from University of Miami and holds a master’s in journalism from the University of Florida. He currently lives in Miami with his Betta fish, Bob.