We've been staying in this hotel for the last 14 years, so I know it well. We've also seen it in various stages of repair/disrepair, but they're finally getting their act together and fixing what needs to be fixed. So ignore some of those reviews from 2004 or 2005, because it's improved quite a bit since then.
First of all, it's a historic hotel, built in the 1920s, and things were different then. If you're looking for huge rooms, spa baths, giant closets, and tons of gee-whiz modern amenities, you're not going to be happy. I heard one girl sitting in the lobby w-h-i-n-i-n-g incessantly about how horrible the hotel was. Take it on the arches and hit a chain hotel, sister!
So what's the deal? This hotel is ideally located. There are all kinds of restaurants, clubs and shops a short walk down the block. Go one direction and you'll hit the beach, the other takes you by Pineapple Grove. Some people were saying the hotel doesn't offer coffee or tea after 10 am but there's a Starbucks right across the street and a couple more nearby if you need that caffeine fix. If you have a car, there's a parking lot in the back.
They've redecorated a bit and repainted the whole place, but retained the Old Florida charm. I love the bright colors (aqua, lime green, bright oranges) and rattan furniture. They even have the original switchboard and telephone booths in the lobby area. On the main floor there's a great front patio where you can eat breakfast, hang out, have a drink or listen to music (they have live music on the weekends). There are also shops lining the lower floor and you can enter them from the hotel lobby.
The lobby itself is quite large, with plenty of seating. They serve breakfast there in the morning. The breakfast has improved over the years. I remember being annoyed because they constantly ran out of basics and never had enough silverware, bowls, or teabags. They've finally figured that one out, I am glad to report. The breakfast is included in the room rate and it's not extensive, but it's enough for most people. It includes coffee or tea, water, choice of juices, cereal, granola, fruit, various breads and muffins, oatmeal, and generally some sort of eggs and bacon or sausage.
One negative about the lobby: there's no A/C and it's a total sweat festival in summer. I try not to visit in summer but sometimes it's unavoidable. Since the whole lobby is open to the front of the building, small birds fly in looking for breakfast crumbs. This doesn't bother me, but some of you might be grossed out by the birdies, so I dutifully report it.
There are some lovely downstairs rooms that used to be the ballroom and music room. When we first visited they used to serve a giant Sunday brunch in the ballroom (it was very good, btw). Now they seem to use the rooms for an endless array of yoga classes, which is OK but kind of annoying as the yoga-ites take us a lot of the hotel's parking spaces and wander around the place in their tights. I suppose it's good revenue for the hotel, though. If you're into yoga, it's a plus, since you can't walk around downstairs without colliding with a yoga class. I'd prefer a nice high tea at 4, with little sandwiches, but (sigh) it appears there's no hope of that.
The hotel isn't huge but does have an elevator. It's completely vintage, which means it's creaky and tiny and you need to nab a staff member to operate it. We usually walk instead. If you're handicapped or have problems with stairs this might be an issue.
There's a cabana club, and if you're a hotel guest you automatically become a member. I love the place and am glad they're upgrading it. It's about 2 miles away on the ocean, though. It's a 5-minute drive, no big deal, and there's lots of parking. They also have a shuttle from the hotel. I love the salt water pool. We didn't go there on this trip because the pool was closed for repair, unfortunately. The cabana club also has long-term members so if you're at the pool in the morning you'll meet them. Most of them are really nice people and I enjoy chatting with them as we splash around in the pool, although there's one woman who talks incessantly. Bring your earplugs if she's there yammering away. There are tons of chairs, chaises and umbrellas by the pool, and they've upgraded/repainted the changing rooms, which used to be a total disaster. There's a lunch place near the pool if you want to make a day of it. The food is pretty good, not cheap, but very convenient. The private beach is gorgeous, too. It's pretty rare that you get the chance to roam a huge expanse of private beach, so take advantage of it.
OK, so I've covered most of the hotel but haven't talked about the rooms. Try to avoid rooms at the front of the hotel as they're right on the street in the heart of the traffic. It gets very busy on E. Atlantic now on weekends (those young 'uns and their partying ways!), and as it's an old hotel, you will hear some noise. It wafts up from the street, the parking lot, and the front porch when they're having live music. You can also hear people stomping down the hallways (they have lovely wood floors throughout). It doesn't bother me, but I know some people go crazy if they have to deal with any noise. I lived in NYC for too long to let random noise deprive me of my sleep. I just close the curtains, crank the air conditioner, and set the overhead fan a-whirring and I'm set.
The rooms are not huge (this is a 1920s hotel, people didn't know about supersizing then). The Superior King rooms are great, though, quite large. We were upgraded to a Superior King this visit and I loved it. Some of the older Queen rooms are pretty small, though. The bathrooms are pure 1920s, which I love, with pedestal sinks and tiny octagonal floor tiles, but I know some people don't feel the same. The furniture is also original, mahogany pieces from the 20s. (I looked inside a dresser and found the original tag.) Again, I love antiques, other people could care less. The walls are painted bright tropical colors with paintings or photos by local photographers. The windows have big wood slat blinds with 40s-style tropical-leaf- patterned curtains. There's window a/c units and they work quite well. (There's also a/c in the hallways and stairway). Usually each room has a bed, 2 nightstands, a dresser, a desk and chair, and in some rooms there's a bench and a couple more chairs and tables. They have ceiling fans, an adequate closet, never enough hangers (what? Is there a shortage??), plus an iron and ironing board. They've upgraded from the crappy TVs that I hated, so now have decent-size flat screens, and there's also Wifi and even a modern alarm clock. Cruising to the 21st century, woo hoo!! There's a hair dryer and they also leave you toiletries plus shampoo, etc. in a dispenser in the tub area. We've also stayed in the old-school setup: 2 separate rooms with a bathroom in the middle. It's good for families and close friends, and it's cheaper than paying for 2 separate rooms. You can wander back and forth and hang out, although they should put decent locks on the two bathroom doors to prevent those "oops!" moments.
I almost forget to comment on the staff. I saw quite a few reviews saying that they're not helpful or are filled with snarkitude, but we've never experienced that. They've always been pleasant and helpful to us.
One more thing: the place is supposed to be haunted. Take a look at that big mirror downstairs over the mantel. People claim to have had sightings there. The place does have a slight "Overlook Hotel" vibe (minus the snow), so who knows?
To sum up: I love staying at the Colony, it's like time travel for me. It has its flaws, but most of them are due to the nature of the hotel itself. If you like antiques, historic buildings, Old Florida style, the 1920s and unique experiences in general, you'll love The Colony Hotel.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- historic Florida charm in a select service downtown hotel with a private oceanfront beach club ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Colony Hotel And Cabana