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in Palm Beach
In some cities, what matters most is your zip code, in others it’s how you rock the night away or who you’re seen brunching with the morning after. Down in Palm Beach, it’s when you come that really counts–and we’re not talking what time your flight lands at Palm Beach International. Arrive in The Season (roughly November to April), and you’ll be greeted with sunshine, balmy temps (high 50s to low 80s), and, well, everyone who’s anyone. This is when snowbirds flock in their thousands, tripling the town’s population and filling up their social calendars with golf tournaments, trunk shows, and exclusive galas. Come the off-season, on the other hand, you’ll be met with temperatures that surge over 90 degrees, torrential showers (or even hurricanes), and enthusiastic delegations of mosquitoes. Not all bad news though: the steamy weather clears out Palm Beach’s fair weather friends, meaning you can easily score top tables at hot restaurants, primo beach seats, and fantastic hotel deals.
No matter the season, though, the first thing on your list will be getting in from the airport. If you’re making the 15-minute hop from Palm Beach International, simply snag a taxi or town car from the handy airport rank–no reservations necessary, so no matter how hot the temps, you can breeze into town. If you’re planning to scoot around the island or venture onto the mainland on a regular basis (particularly a consideration during off-season when some local venues are closed or run a limited schedule), it might be worth picking up a rental car. During The Season, dishing on the make and model you drop at the door is part of the game, so consider splurging on something fancy. Also, keep in mind that valets rule the parking scene (though street parking can be found) and liberal tips are expected, so you’ll need to keep plenty of cash on the dash.
Next stop, your oh-so-pampering hotel, where, no matter the season, just slip on some designer resort wear (bikini, shades, sandals, and a posh sundress (and have a back-up outfit or two for rain)) and you’re set. From here on in, the only “work” you’ll really need to do is on your tan.
It can be tough to detach from the all-inclusive indulgence, but if you want to get out, don the local preppy “uniform” epitomized by homegrown designer Lilly Pulitzer (or go dressier if you’re braving the fierce evening scene “in season”) and make straight for Worth Avenue. Though many of the glitziest mixers happen behind the immaculately clipped hedges of private clubs, Worth Avenue’s trendy shops and restaurants are always buzzing. Otherwise, put the “out” in outing and bike around the island’s scenic paths (rentals available), enjoy classic resort pursuits like golf or tennis, or stroll the relatively crowd-free public beaches. Really feeling adventurous? Zip across the Intracoastal Waterway to sister city West Palm Beach, or head further down the coast to destinations like Boca Raton, Miami, or the Keys. If you don’t fancy driving, take the water route–everything from day cruises to round-the-world yacht charters is available. Just remember as you head out on your adventures, though: it’s not where you go, it’s when you come that matters…
In general, Palm Beachers tend to be very generous tippers. That said, do note that many upscale restaurants and resorts (like The Breakers) already include a generous service charge in their prices; tipping beyond that is not required, but if you feel like the service merits it, then a couple of dollars on top is fine. Otherwise, a tip of 20% is standard for spas, restaurants, and taxis. For bellhops, room service delivery, housekeeping staff, pool attendants, valets, and the like, give smaller tips (between USD 3-10) as you deem appropriate. The hotel concierge can either be tipped at the end of the trip or on a service-by-service basis.
With a crime rate that barely even registers on the scale, Palm Beach is pretty much as safe as they come. The most common crimes are white-collar (a certain Mr. Madoff used to live here) and house robberies (so make sure those heirlooms and diamonds are insured). Otherwise, the biggest dangers in town are sunburn, summertime mosquitoes, and the occasional riptide or undertow.
Etiquette, Customs, and Culture
The epitome of beachside posh. These 10 square miles of oh-so-ritzy resorts and villas attract a distinctly well-off crowd, including a handful of influential celebs. The scene tends to be older (the median resident age here is 67), but that doesn’t seem to have slowed it down much. Once winter sets in and snowbirds start flocking down from the north, the town’s population swells from 10,000 to 30,000, the scene trends younger, and the social calendar fills up. Private clubs lie at the heart of the social scene (a downer for visitors who don’t have connections on the inside), but restaurants and clubs still offer plenty of opportunity for drinking in the vibe. By day, the de facto dress code is preppy upscale casual (Lilly Pulitzer and Polo fashions are lynchpins of the look), but things can get downright dressy after the sun goes down. Although being beachside relaxes some social rules (for instance, socks are not de rigueur even in dressy establishments), manners and etiquette are very important, especially at ritzier locales.
Gyms: Most hotels on the island offer ultra-well-stocked gyms, so you should have no need to look further than the onsite fitness center. If for some reason you are still on the hunt for workout facilities, try West Palm Beach’s Ultima Fitness Downtown (400 Clematis St.; (1) 561-659-1724; www.ultimadowntown.com), which offers a variety of short-term options (day passes and one-week memberships, among others).
Yoga and Pilates: Most hotels, notably The Omphoy Ocean Resort (which houses the yoga-centric exhale Spa, open to non-guests), offer a range of yoga and pilates classes. Otherwise, yoga studio Parasutra (340 Royal Poinciana Way; (1) 561-835-2006; www.parasutra.com) offers Ashtanga yoga classes (walk-ins are welcome). A single class costs USD 25, and a 10-class pass costs USD 200.
Running/Biking/Rollerblading: The Palm Beach Lake Trail and paved paths along the beaches are great spots for working out alfresco. Bike and rollerblade rentals are available from the Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop (233 Sunrise Ave.; (1) 561-659-4583; www.palmbeachbicycle.com) from USD 15/hour and USD 39/day. Many hotels on the island also offer in-house bike rental services.
Golf: Palm Beach County has more golf courses than any other county in the country, so it’s certainly not hard to find a place to hit the links. Most resorts on the island either have their own courses or offer exclusive access to some of the top courses in the area. Otherwise, there are well-appointed public courses in the area. See our Golf guide for more information.
Other Key Information
Insurance: Before you go, it’s worth checking which healthcare providers your insurance will allow you to use in Palm Beach. If you’re not a US resident, definitely make sure you have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies, as hospital bills can run over USD 10,000 for a single treatment.
Medical Assistance: There are no hospitals in Palm Beach, but options abound in West Palm Beach, including Columbia Hospital ((1) 561-842-6141; columbiahospital.com), Good Samaritan Medical Center ((1) 561-655-5511; goodsamaritanmc.com), and St. Mary’s Medical Center ((1) 561-844-6300; stmarysmc.com). The nearest 24-hour pharmacy is CVS at 6800 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach ((1) 561-586-4054). Green’s Pharmacy is a more convenient option if you are in need during business hours.
Banking and Currency: Although most banks on the island have restricted hours, 24-hour ATMs from most major banks are available. Most are clustered on Royal Palm Way. If you don’t use a bank with branches nationwide, or if you are coming from abroad, check with your bank about ATM fees before you travel.
Opening Hours: Many establishments in Palm Beach (shops, banks, etc.) have shorter opening hours than in other cities (hours are generally Monday-Saturday: 10:00am-6:00pm; Sunday: 12:00pm-5:00pm or Closed). If you need something after hours, try nearby West Palm Beach, where businesses tend to be open later (for example, CityPlace is a great option for extended shopping hours).
Visas and Consular Info: Non-US citizens may require a visa to enter the country, and even those from countries with visa waiver agreements may need to file their details with the US authorities before they travel. Visit www.uscis.gov for the most up-to-date info. For foreign visitors seeking consular assistance, Miami is home to consulates from most major countries.
Smoking and Alcohol: The drinking age in the US is 21. Drinking on beaches in Palm Beach is not permitted. Smoking is not permitted in most public places in Florida.
Language: English is spoken in Palm Beach.
Winter: The Season really kicks off around Christmas time with a host of festive events. Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s Eve bring a bevy of lavish galas; most are hosted by private clubs, though some events, like the Foreverglades charity ball at The Breakers (in January or February) are open to the public. As things quiet down to “normal” in January and snowbirds start to settle into their nests, a slew of art and antique shows, like the Palm Beach Winter Antiques Show and the Palm Beach Art & Antiques Fair, roll into town–perfect for stocking your villa, if you’ve got one.
Spring: Spring brings around a plethora of cultural events, from lectures to concerts to film screenings. One of the most high profile events is the Palm Beach International Film Festival (in March or April), which supplements its busy screening schedule with seminars and parties. This is also a season for sport: many major league baseball teams start their spring training in the area, and PGA golf comes to town with the Honda Classic in nearby Palm Beach Gardens (in March).
Summer: Come summer, things get pretty quiet. To liven up the lackluster scene, West Palm Beach runs “Summer in the City” promotions and events, the highlight being a slew of deals at Clematis Street bars and restaurants. Otherwise, local Fourth of July celebrations are really one of the only things going on.
Autumn: Things start to pick up again with a series of athletic and dining events when fall sets in. For tennis lovers, the Chris Evert Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic (in November) brings big name tennis stars to town. Golfers should check out the ADT Championship (in November), which showcases the top 30 LPGA players. If you prefer wining and dining over sweating on the courts (or course), check out the Palm Beach Wine and Food Classic in October, which mixes celeb chef performances and samplings of various world cuisines with cooking courses and seminars. For those feeling a bit more festive, Palm Beach’s Oktoberfest is one of the nation’s largest (expect lots of authentic lederhosen and traditional Bavarian brews).
Best Way in from the Airport
Palm Beach International: Small, sunny Palm Beach International (which, by the way, is actually in West Palm Beach) is a snap to navigate and only 15 minutes from the island. Definitely our top choice of airports.
• Rental Car: Unless you’re going to be staying at a resort and don’t plan on ever leaving, or you are staying at The Colony, The Brazilian Court, or The Chesterfield and are comfortable hanging out on Worth Avenue and surrounds, having a car is important. Most major rental car companies have an outlet at Palm Beach International and, should you be looking for snazzier wheels, most luxury rental companies deliver to the airport. (See Rental Cars section below for more info.)
• Town Car or Taxi: Palm Beach International has partnered with Southeastern Florida Transportation Group ((1) 561-689-2222) to provide town car and taxi service from the airport. It’s a good choice if you’re not renting a car because the island is only a short drive away. You don’t need to book in advance; just follow the taxi signs and line up. Rates vary between USD 20-50 (depending on where in Palm Beach you are going and if you select taxi or town car).
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International: Located about an hour south of Palm Beach and one of the largest airports in the state, Fort Lauderdale International is a good choice if you’re flying in from a far-flung destination that doesn’t have easy connections with Palm Beach International.
• Tri-Rail: This convenient regional rail system can deliver you to West Palm Beach in under an hour, and for the bargain price of USD 6.25 to boot. (From the West Palm Beach station, you will then need to take a taxi, limo, shuttle, or rental car to the island.)
• Rental Car: Most major rental companies have outlets here, and most luxury rental companies deliver (advance arrangements may be required). (See Rental Cars section below for more info.)
• Town Car or Taxi: Town car fares to Palm Beach hover around USD 150+, and taxi fares around USD 125+. If you are planning to take a town car, it’s a good idea to book in advance. (See Town Cars section below for more info.)
Miami international Airport: Although it’s the farthest away (about 1.5 hours from Palm Beach), being one of the busiest international airports in the world makes Miami the easiest place to arrive if you’re flying in from abroad.
• Tri-Rail: The trip to West Palm Beach costs USD 6.90 and takes about 1.5 hours. (From the West Palm Beach station, you will then need to take a taxi, limo, shuttle, or rental car to the island.)
• Rental Car: Most major rental companies have outlets here, and most luxury rental companies deliver (advance arrangements may be required). (See Rental Cars section below for more info.)
• Town Car: Although there is no need to pre-book, prices from Miami to Palm Beach can be steep if you just snag one from the ground transportation desk. If you book in advance, it should cost USD 150-200+. (See Town Cars section below for more info.)
• Hotel Shuttle: This needs to be arranged in advance. Not all Palm Beach hotels offer pickup in Miami.
• Super Shuttle: Door-to-door shared shuttle service. Available 24 hours with no need to pre-book. Rates vary but are generally around USD 20+ per person to destinations in Palm Beach.
Tri-Rail Commuter Rail: This local rail service runs along the east coast of Florida from West Palm Beach to Miami and offers convenient stops at the Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami airports. Tickets can be purchased in any station (they must be purchased before boarding) and are only valid on the day purchased. Fares work on a zone system. Discount fares are available on weekends and holidays (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). On weekdays, trains depart from Palm Beach hourly, 4:00am-8:40pm (extra trains are available during rush hour); on weekends and holidays trains depart every two hours, 6:00am-8:30pm. From Miami, trains depart every 30 minutes-hour on weekdays, 4:15am-9:40pm; on weekends and holidays trains depart every two hours, 6:00am-8:30pm.
West Palm Beach Trolley: The city of West Palm Beach runs a free trolley service between Clematis Street and the Cultural Center, Sunday-Wednesday: 11:00am-9:00pm and Thursday-Saturday: 11:00am-11:00pm.
PRICE: Tri-Rail: One-way fare: USD 2.50-6.90 (USD 1.25-3.45 with discount), monthly pass: USD 100; West Palm Beach trolley: Free
Palm Tran: This public Palm Beach County service runs buses around the greater West Palm Beach area. Bus 41 makes stops on Palm Beach island six days a week; it starts at the Intermodal Transit Center and stops at the Palm Beach Publix, the intersection of Seminole Avenue and North County Road, and Palm Beach Inlet. On weekdays, buses leave the Intermodal Transit Center from 6:35am to 4:35pm, and they leave the Palm Beach Publix from 7:15am to 5:15pm. On Saturdays, buses leave West Palm Beach from 7:35am to 3:35pm, and they leave the Palm Beach Publix from 8:15am to 4:15pm. There is no Sunday service.
Tickets can be purchased from automated kiosks on board. Exact change is recommended because no change is given, but the ticket machine will provide a fare card for any overpayment over USD 1. No transfers allowed. Reduced price tickets are available for seniors (65+) and students (under 21) with ID. Monthly passes are available from Palm Tran sales outlets.
PRICE: One-way ticket: USD 1.50 (USD 0.75 with discount); QUIK PASS one-day pass: USD 4 (USD 2.75 with discount); Children under 8: Free
CLICK HERE FOR MAP: www.pbcgov.com/palmtran/maps_schedules/
The popularity of town cars in Palm Beach has made taxis a rare breed on the island, although you can sometimes hail one outside of popular nightlife spots at peak hours. If you absolutely need one, it’s a good idea to book in advance.
YELLOW CAB PRICE: USD 2.64/mile, meter starts at USD 2.50; additional passenger fees may apply
If you’re not going to rent your car, town cars offer a great way to get around Palm Beach in style.
Selected town car companies in Palm Beach:
Metro Cars Luxury Sedan Service: (1) 561-689-9900; yellowcabfla.com
Park Limousine: (1) 561-832-2222; www.parklimo.net
A2Z Limousine: (1) 877-743-3229; www.a2z-limo.com
Everglades Limousine Service: (1) 561-655-6551
Abes Limousine Service: (1) 561-547-7773
Palm Beach Chauffeur Services: (1) 561-832-1858
Dav El Chauffeur Transport Network: (1) 561-659-4206
PRICE: varies by service; contact companies directly for quotes
Provided you’ve got a driver's license (if you’re coming from abroad, it needs to be valid for the US) and a credit card, renting a car is the best way to get around town, and convenient transport links with I-95 make it a snap to scoot up and down the coast to destinations like Boca Raton, Miami, and the Keys, too. Palm Beach is known for its high concentration of luxury cars (no one even blinks at the sight of a Bentley or Jag here), so if you want to roll with the in-crowd, fancy wheels are recommended (and if you really want the full experience, a convertible is not a bad idea). Before you hit the road in your hot rod of choice, keep in mind that most parking in Palm Beach, including at most hotels, is valet-only; some places (like certain restaurants) provide this service for free, but usually you’ll need to pay. Paid public lots and a mix of limited free parking and metered street parking are available near Worth Avenue.
Major rental car companies at Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami airports:
Alamo: (1) 800-327-9075; www.alamo.com
Avis: (1) 800-230-4898; www.avis.com
Enterprise: (1) 800-261-7331; www.enterprise.com
Hertz: (1) 800-654-3131; www.hertz.com
National: (1) 877-222-9058; www.nationalcar.com
Select luxury car rental companies in the Palm Beach area:
Chariots of Palm Beach: (1) 561-640-1090; www.chariotsofpb.com
Gotham Dream Cars: (1) 561-992-8700; www.gothamdreamcars.com
Excellence Luxury Car Rental: (1) 305-526-0000; www.excellenceluxury.com
Rollerblading, Biking, and Scooters
Because Palm Beach is a very compact city with lots of lovely scenery and bike-friendly trails and roads (particularly the Palm Beach Lake Trail and South and North Ocean Boulevards), it’s a great spot to try more outdoorsy modes of transport. The Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop (223 Sunrise Ave.; (1) 561-659-4583; palmbeachbicycle.com) offers bike, rollerblade, and scooter rentals, as well as hard-to-find items like tandems, kids’ bikes, and baby joggers. (Must be 21 years old for scooter rental.) Many hotels (The Colony and The Brazilian Court, among others) offer bike rentals on site, too, so ask before renting off-property.
PRICE: Bikes and rollerblades: from USD 15/hour, USD 39/day; Scooters: from USD 100/day
Yacht Docking: If you’re arriving in your own boat, the Palm Beach Yacht Center ((1) 561-588-9911; www.palmbeachyacht.com), which is located just down the coast from Palm Beach, offers docking, service, and storage facilities. (They’ve also got boats for sale, in case you’re interested.)
Yacht and Boat Charters: If you’d like to charter (or perhaps even buy) a boat or yacht, the following companies offer such services in the Palm Beach area:
Camper and Nicholsons (www.camperandnicholsons.com): luxury yacht charters and sales (for long and short journeys)
Palm Beach Yachts International ((1) 561-863-0082; www.yachtcrew.com): yacht sales, crew arrangements, and luxury charters (for long and short trips)
Windridge Yacht Charters ((1) 800-636-9910; www.windridgeyachts.com): short term charters for private events
Biscayne Lady Yacht Charters ((1) 800-910-5119; www.biscaynelady.com/palm-beach): yacht charters and boat rentals (for private events or short trips)
Blue Water Power Boat Rentals ((1) 561-840-7470; www.bluewaterboatrental.com): power boat and jet ski rentals
Cruises: Miami and Fort Lauderdale are both busy ports used by major cruise lines (especially those that specialize in Caribbean tours).
Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) runs trains along the East Coast from Portland, Maine, in the north to Miami in the south, and connections are available across the country. It also runs an auto train service from Lorton, Virginia, all the way down to Sanford, Florida (in case you want to bring your car but you don’t want to drive down). The nearest Amtrak stop to Palm Beach is in West Palm Beach.
Best Time to Go
Most places in the world have four seasons. Palm Beach has two: The Season and everything else. The Season, which runs roughly between Thanksgiving and Easter, is not just a force of nature (although its cloudless blue skies and deliciously not-too-hot, not-too-cool temps do stand out), it’s a force of society’s most sparkling dames. Once things start to get chilly in the north, flocks of snowbirds flee to this tiny island’s elegant homes, swelling its population from 10,000 to 30,000 and transforming it from sleepy village to cosmopolitan hotspot. Chichi boutiques and restaurants reopen in full after spending the summer on limited hours, luxury resorts hire armies of pool attendants and towel boys, and glitzy galas abound in the gated enclaves of private beach (and tennis and golf) clubs.
But that doesn’t mean that any season but The Season is a poor relation. Sure, the months from May to October may be short of glamour and heavy on stiflingly hot, muggy weather and hurricanes (we prefer to think of them as “refreshing afternoon showers”), but they also come with empty beaches and excellent deals at swanky hotels and restaurants.
Either way, be it for The Season or off-season, packing for Palm Beach is a snap: sunscreen, shades, sandals, designer bikinis, tennis whites or golf duds (if you’re feeling sporty), all the Lilly Pulitzer items you own, and a couple of chic getups for hitting the town in style after the sun goes down.
Spring’s mild temperatures (average high of 82F and low of 66F) make it a close runner-up to winter as The Season’s best season, but reasonably heavy rainfall (average of about 6.5 inches a month, which translates into a heavy afternoon shower every day or so), a slowdown on society scene action, and heaving crowds during school spring breaks all take it down a peg.
Summer’s steamy temps (ranging from an average high of 90F to an average low of 75F), swarms of mosquitoes, and heavy rainstorms (average monthly rainfall is close to seven inches) have earned it (surprise, surprise) a bad rap. So bad, in fact, that by the time June rolls around, two-thirds of the town’s residents have scrammed and many of its businesses have limited schedules. However, if you can appreciate the way the frequent showers cool the air and clear out the humidity (ok, AND if you pack a lot of bug spray), then summer isn’t a bad time to come. No, we’re not crazy, we’re just in love with the awesome deals we can score at posh hotels and the feeling of having the town to ourselves.
Though officially placed smack dab at the heart of hurricane season (September is the worst month), things really start to pick up around here come autumn. Temperatures cool back down to the realm of reasonable (average highs of 85F and lows of 71F), and while rainfall remains high at the beginning of the season (about 6.3 inches a month), it peters out to a lot less than that by late November. The moderate weather starts bringing in early arrivals from the chilly north and the social calendar begins to fill up.
Hello, The Season. Winter temps are perfect (average high of 76F and low of 58F), rainfall calms down to a mere three inches per month, and, most importantly, the scene is kicking. Pack some sweaters (or plan to shop the many, many cashmere boutiques in town because, in a cold snap, temperatures can dip down into the 40s) and bring along your smartest little cocktail dresses, too–trust us, you’ll need them.