Spa and Travel Review: PGA National Resort & Spa (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)

By on January 16, 2013

By Michele McIntyre –

After two days in a heavily air conditioned conference center near Orlando, I nearly sprint to my rental car to make the two plus hour drive to the PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. It’s an easy drive – nearly the entire trip is via the Florida Turnpike – but it’s a snoozer. Miles and miles roll by with few exits and little evidence that I’m even in Florida! But the moment my trusty GPS guides me off the highway and I turn onto the Avenue of the Champions, I’m rewarded by the true Florida: pristinely manicured lawns and gardens, palm trees and a deep blue sky. What’s notably absent is the oppressive humidity I left behind in Central Florida.

The vibe: Noticeably high energy. Karen Cantor, the Public Relations Manager at PGA National, tells me that a generous portion of the resorts business comes from group sales meetings and other business functions. Sales meeting? These guests are having FUN! How could you not in this absolutely paradisiacal setting? The cocktail-serviced pool scene was the place to be on a recent hopping Tuesday afternoon. Still, you can find quieter nooks if poolside peace and relaxation is more your thing.

natural sunscreen with zinc oxide

Each week, the resort hosts fun events for guests and locals like the popular Girls Night Out at IBAR, lively happy hours and sports-themed events.

PGA National Resort & Spa RoomThe room: I’m spending one all too short night in room 4049, a 364 square foot deluxe junior suite with a generous spa view balcony. There is nothing feminine about this decidedly masculine space that has been recently renovated and is decorated with contemporary furnishings in an eye-popping color palette of chocolates, camels and red. My suite features a leather sectional, optimal storage and lighting and appealing textures. The bathroom area is smartly designed with a full bath inside a pocket door with an additional sink/vanity area.

PGA National Resort & Spa Ironwood Restaurant

Photo Credits: PGA National

The food: Ironwood Steak and Seafood, PGA National’s premier restaurant, is known for simply seasoned prime steaks broiled under the Vulcan 1200 before being brushed with herbed butter and shallots. But the seared diver scallops with dulce de leche (shown in slideshow), creamy grits, popcorn rice and chili oil catches my eye and doesn’t let go, mainly because of the chef’s use of bold and unexpected ingredients. Meals begin with a tempting trio of breads and spreads that you’ll have to push yourself away from because there is much more to come. First, a round of irresistible roasted beet salad with heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese coated in chopped pistachios in a tangerine dressing. Shared appetizers of jumbo shrimp cocktail and creamy crab set the tone for a meal that isn’t for the diet conscious. Handcrafted inventive cocktails fuse classic with modern while rich, dreamy desserts polish off the culinary offerings.

PGA National Resort & Spa spa areaThe spa: A Mediterranean-style women’s relaxation lounge, large locker room, steam room and indoor whirlpool are nice enough, but the piece de’ resistance – and what sets The Spa at PGA National apart from other luxury spas – is the Waters of the World (shown in photo, below left). A chance to get outside while still ensconced in the womb-like bubble of a spa is an all too rare treat. So when my soothing and hydrating Noni Body Treatment ends, I make a beeline for the lush, private outdoor space that is available to spa guests only. The Waters of the World are a series of four pools heated to varying temperatures and surrounded by lush tropical landscaping, trickling fountains, relaxing music and comfortable seating and lounge chairs. My first soak is in Salies-de-Béarn, the French mineral pool known for reducing stress and a host of other ailments. Next, a soak in a pool modeled after the Dead Sea in Israel, where travelers have bathed in mineral-rich waters famed for having positive effects on irritated skin and anxious minds.

When lunch arrives, I nibble on a generous Mediterranean platter of hummus, tapenade, tabbouleh accompanied by pita wedges, crispy flatbread and tangy olives. Perfect! Poolside! Lunch! Dessert is a popular frozen yogurt parfait layered with berries, granola and dried fruit. The poolside service is an impressive and memorable trifecta of friendly, efficient and attentive. I’m in heaven and I never want to leave.

Renovations: The PGA National Resort & Spa has recently undergone $100 million in renovations to bring the resort up-to-date and ahead of the curve. Guest room renovations are complete and there is a definite WOW! factor in the rooms and public spaces. This is more than just your standard freshening up.

Worth Mentioning:

  • The Lakeside Lawn – a new waterfront outdoor venue for celebrations and special events

Specialty suites:

  • Lush bridal suites
  • Tranquil spa retreat suites conveniently located with prime access to the spa
  • Fully loaded media/game suites
  • Renovations to the restaurants and golf courses

The golf: My experience with golf is limited to a few lessons with my girlfriends in my early 20’s, followed by a few cocktail-infused rounds on amateur courses. One particularly memorable golf outing was characterized by bees following us and our sweet pink lemonade with vodka all over the course. You get the idea. Even a non-golfer would be hard pressed not to notice that PGA National is at its core a premier golf resort. With 4 onsite courses and 1 nearby, you can mix it up on the fairways with a different course every day of your stay. The problem? PGA National does everything so well (dining, bars, the spa, the pool scene), that even a hard-core golfer might be tempted to stray a bit.

If you go:

PGA National Resort & Spa

400 Avenue of the Champions, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. 33418 – (800) 863-2819

About Michele McIntyre

Michele McIntyre is a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness, beauty and healthy living/eating. She is happiest when lying face up on the treatment table, writing about her spa and travel experiences or testing new products to share with her readers. She lives near Syracuse, NY with her husband and son. Michele is a regular travel contributor to LivingBetterat50+ and has written for Today’s Central New York Woman Magazine and online at Tripology, TripAtlas, and Splash Magazines Worldwide. Michele blogs about the spa and travel industry, and anything else she can think of, at When she isn't writing about or visiting spas, Michele loves traveling, hiking, skiing, camping, yoga and reading. If any of these pursuits can be combined with a visit to the spa, even better! Michele can be reached at [email protected]

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Spa and Travel Review: PGA National Resort & Spa (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)