Stylish beachfront getaway: A review of the W Fort Lauderdale
There's no shortage of Marriott properties in South Florida. Within the W brand alone there are three properties to choose from: the W Miami, the W South Beach and the W Fort Lauderdale.
After a relaxing two nights at the W Miami, I drove an hour north to check out the Fort Lauderdale property. The hotel underwent a major renovation in 2017 and is much bigger than the Miami property, with a whopping 517 rooms and suites, as well as a separate residential tower.
Here's how my stay went.
View this post on Instagram
Rooms at the W Fort Lauderdale start at $240 per night, but often hover around $350 — or more during peak times. It's one of the pricier hotels in the area, but is usually still cheaper than the other South Florida Ws.
Alternatively, as a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy property, you can book your stay at the W for 40,000 points on an off-peak night, 50,000 on a standard night and 60,000 on a peak night. As such, it's also eligible for the annual up to 85,000-point free-night certificates at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program (certain hotels have resort fees) that come with the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card.
Ready to book or just looking? Take our one-question survey.
Whether you pay for your stay with cash or points, you'll be on the hook for a hefty $40 daily resort fee ($45.20 with taxes). In turn, you get two beach chairs and one umbrella, two bottles of water (available at the welcome desk), daily fitness classes, two-hour bicycle rentals, a free in-room movie and high-speed Wi-Fi. Marriott Gold Elites and above already receive complimentary enhanced internet as an elite benefit so they can inquire about a replacement benefit.
Related: The best hotel credit cards
The W has an ideal beachfront location at the corner of Bayshore Drive and North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard. Las Olas Boulevard, which is home to lots of high-fashion boutiques and restaurants, is a five-minute ride away. While there are still plenty of nightlife options, overall it's a quieter area than South Beach.
It's about 20 minutes away from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and about an hour from Miami International Airport, depending on the traffic.
Related: Florida’s top 10 vacation regions for different types of travelers
Check-in and lobby
Upon pulling up to the W, I was immediately struck by just how large the property was. There was a friendly bellman waiting to greet me and direct me to the East Tower, which housed the hotel. From there, I needed to take an elevator to the fourth floor to get to the main lobby.
I arrived at the hotel at 1:30 p.m. — 2 1/2 hours earlier than the standard check-in time — and was able to get a room right away. The check-in process was quick and painless, with just two guests ahead of me in line. Along with my set of keys, I was given a card that listed out all of the resort fee inclusions.
When stepping off the elevator on the 12th floor, I was immediately attracted to the hallways. They were well lit and even had some natural light flowing in — a rarity for the W brand.
The bright blue and white beach-inspired color scheme continued into the rooms — in my case, a Spectacular room with two queen beds. The difference between my room and a standard Wonderful room was that it had a partial ocean view and was guaranteed a balcony.
The bathroom was to the right by the door. If you plan on sharing the room with friends, you'll want to note that there's no door to the bathroom — just a curtain. Also, there's a glass wall between the bathroom and bedroom, though the glass is partially frosted.
The bathroom was relatively simple, though spacious enough and well lit. There was a single vanity with sufficient counter space and a shower/tub combo. Toiletries were by the brands Davines and Skin Regimen.
On the opposite side of the bathroom was a decently sized sliding-door closet with drawers, shelves and hanging areas. It was equipped with a safe, luggage rack and iron and ironing board, while robes and slippers were only available upon request.
As is normally the case at Ws, the beds were comfortable and the pillows were fluffy. The white linens were beautifully offset by a light, wood headboard and rich blue accent wall. That said, the rest of the room felt a little bland with no artwork on the walls.
Between the beds was a nightstand with built-in power outlets and USB ports on each side, an alarm clock and Bluetooth speaker. There was also a small pack of disinfectant wipes.
Opposite the beds was a large desk. It had easily accessible power outlets and wasn't crowded with unnecessary items — likely because most were removed due to the pandemic — but the chair didn't seem comfortable to sit in for long periods.
The minibar was empty due to the pandemic and there initially wasn't a coffee maker in the room, but I got a Nespresso machine delivered upon request.
My favorite part of the room was definitely the balcony. It was spacious and furnished with two chairs and a small table. It offered great views of both the ocean and the bay.
The W’s main attraction was the fifth-floor oceanfront "Wet East" pool deck. It had a very lively atmosphere, with a DJ spinning Saturday afternoons. It was the place to see and be seen — literally.
That's because in the center of the pool was a glass-enclosed staircase that connected to the lobby. It proved to be a great (Instagram-worthy) photo opportunity.
There were many loungers set up around this pool, as well as daybeds and cabanas available for $50-$500 per day (plus food and beverage minimums).
If you wanted a more quiet atmosphere, there was another pool, Wet West, located in the back of the second tower. It seemed geared more toward residential guests and was shadier due to the position of the other tower.
Next to Wet East, on the fifth floor, was the 24-hour fitness center. It was equipped with everything you would need, including two Pelotons. Some pieces of equipment were closed to promote social distancing, but it still got uncomfortably crowded in the morning.
Back on the fourth floor, right by the lobby, was the signature Away Spa. I didn't indulge in any services, but it was open on the weekends and appeared to follow enhanced cleaning protocols.
The beach was directly across the street. It was clean and quiet with an attendant to help set up lounge chairs and umbrellas. There were towels available but no food or beverage service.
Food and beverage
While some had reduced hours due to the pandemic, there were several bars and restaurants on the property.
The hotel's signature restaurant was Steak 954, from the James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr. It was located on the ground floor and offered both indoor and outdoor seating with views of the ocean.
This was the only restaurant open all day, every day during the time of my visit. I came here for breakfast one morning and had a delicious mushroom omelet ($14) and Greek yogurt parfait ($8).
Next to Steak 954 was the hotel's Mexican eatery, El Vez. Although more casual, I thought the restaurant's indoor-outdoor space was a lot more inviting.
During the time of my visit, the restaurant was only open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze in dinner here Sunday evening.
I sampled the chopped salad with vegetables like chayote squash and golden beets ($12), the tuna tostadas ($14) and a side of grilled corn. The food was light and delicious and the service was friendly. I'd certainly return here.
Right outside El Vez was a grab-and-go station open every morning from 7 to 11 a.m.
There was a bar with snacks and drinks at Wet East that was open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. There was also a smaller bar at Wet West, though that one didn't look open during my visit.
I ordered a poolside frozen cocktail ($15) and guacamole ($10) one day. Both were tasty and the service was efficient, though I thought the chips-to-guacamole ratio was a bit off.
There was another bar in the lobby — aka the living room. It was open nightly and had light bites available on the weekend. As is typically the case with W bars, it seemed like a cool spot to elbow up for a drink or two.
On the other side of the lobby was what would be a sushi bar, but it was temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
Finally, although technically not a part of the hotel, on the street level of the residential tower was a casual vegan restaurant, SoBe Vegan.
My interactions with all of the staff were fine. I made requests for a coffee maker in my room and extra toiletries, and they were delivered promptly. My only real qualm was that the room didn't feel adequately cleaned as I found some hair and a piece of trash from the previous guests. This was disappointing given Marriott's enhanced cleaning protocols, but fortunately, there were disinfectant wipes for me to wipe everything down again.
All things considered, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the W Fort Lauderdale. The hotel had a great overall aesthetic and I appreciated that it was brighter than most Ws I've stayed at. The beachfront location was also hard to beat.
While the resort fee was high, the property offered a lot of perks for it. I'd certainly book another stay here, but would likely avoid peak periods. The hotel already felt pretty crowded when I was there so I could only imagine what it's like in non-COVID times. Put another way, look elsewhere if you want a purely relaxing retreat.