By Craig Davis, Craigslegztravels.com
VERO BEACH, Fla.
How quickly does stress melt into full vacation mode at the Costa d’Este Beach Resort?
About the time it takes to stroll the length of the infinity pool, in step with the jaunty reggae beat on the outdoor sound system, past the hot tub to the first glimpse of ocean waves breaking on the beach beyond the dunes.
From that moment I felt as chill as the cluster of stone monkeys guarding the path to the beach.
The Costa d’Este stands out as something quite different and unexpected among beach accommodations in sleepy Vero Beach, where the Holiday Inn a block away is typical.
Here you are greeted by arte moderne styling evident in the bright white façade and portico covered by multiple cheese holes and the cursive type of the resort name. Soft, colorful lighting outside and in the lobby completes the deco styling.
The Miami Beach look is authentic and carefully fashioned by owners Gloria and Emilio Estefan. But the vibe is laidback Treasure Coast rather than SoBe frenetic.
Relax to rhythm of the beat
Thus, the music piped through speakers surrounding the pool area is a mix of reggae, Hawaiian and beachy tunes — none of the Latin rhythms that made the Estefans rich and famous.
When they opened the resort in 2008, Gloria Estefan explained that the couple had sought a second home in the Vero Beach area as a low-key retreat from their Miami lifestyle. They infused the same objective into the Costa d’Este.
“Psychologically, if you travel for two hours or more is when you feel like you’re on vacation. So we specifically looked for a place that was just over the two-hour mark from our home,” she said at the opening ceremony.
Costa d’Este, with 94 rooms spread over two five-story towers, fulfills that quest for Floridians seeking a weekend getaway from South Florida, Orlando or Tampa.
The chic appearance of the resort is appealing, but the attentive service, high-quality food and comfortable feel of the place will draw us back.
In the words of my wife, Fran: “It was a confection of a weekend. It was like a bonbon.”
For us, the island soundtrack, playing from late morning till evening, was a big part of the dreamy ambience. That may not appeal to every visitor, and some online reviews mention that. But when the music system crashed for a few hours on our third day, we felt the void.
Recognize that travelers’ tastes vary. The Historic Driftwood Resort, just to the south of the Costa d’Este Resort, has a loyal following. The rustic relic looks as if it indeed drifted onto the beach and that it could easily wash away.
Something for various tastes
We prefer the sophistication of the Costa d’Este, which makes an effort to appeal to an assortment of tastes. That was evident in a broad demographic of guests from a group of college singles to young couples, families and retirees.
The resort is dog friendly, and we saw quite a few guests with pets. (See below for more details about pet-friendly resorts in Florida.)
There is beachside yoga in the morning, and a full-service spa for pampering.
Guests can order from a half-dozen packages on the wellness turn-down menu to be delivered to their room. Among them, the Bedtime Story ($24) kit is intended to help get the kiddies settled, including a children’s book and a stuffed monkey to take home. The Passion package ($31) will enhance a romantic evening with seductive oils, massage cream, a soy candle and split of champagne.
There was a poolside singer on Saturday afternoon, which happened to be May 4. Not sure if he was misguided or being facetious when he wished everyone a happy “Cinco de Cuatro.”
What, five of the Four? Turns out Cinco de cuatro was a thing on the TV show “Arrested Development,” a fake holiday preempting Cinco de Mayo. Seems like it would be better celebrated on the 5th of April (the fourth month).
Clearly, the singer wasn’t from the Estefans’ Miami Sound Machine, and we weren’t in South Florida any more. He was a good singer, and we enjoyed him until an afternoon shower chased everyone inside.
By then, a crowd was jamming into the Wave Kitchen & Bar in anticipation of the Kentucky Derby, women sporting showy hats and men ordering mint juleps ala the Churchill Downs set. Just before the race went off, the storm knocked out the cable at the resort.
The crowd groaned. But when the picture came back 20 minutes later the race still wasn’t decided due to a claim of foul against would-be winner Maximum Security. We got to see the replay about 20 times before Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with other horses and Country House declared the winner.
“It was a bump. There was bumping,” the bartender said, neatly summing up the controversy.
Bon Appétit, inside or out
That was the cue to proceed to dinner. In true Cinco de Cuatro tradition, we ordered a mojito and the Lechon Asado (Cuban-roasted pork) – the two entrees would have been enough to feed four.
The owners’ Latin flavor is well represented on the menu at Costa d’Este, which features a half-dozen Cuban-style dishes from the Estefan Kitchen. It’s a nod to Gloria and Emilio’s first restaurant, Larios on the Beach, on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach.
There are two types of paella — traditional and vegetarian. There is also a Mojo Pork Benedict for breakfast.
All of the portions are ample, the ingredients fresh and well prepared. They serve the same menu on the pool deck as in the restaurant, so two of the three nights we opted for dinner outside.
We ended up eating every meal during our stay at the resort, and all of them excellent. Also memorable was the burger with locally raised Wagyu beef, and the black bean hummus appetizer with plantain chips made at the resort.
Mythology of the monkeys
We just never felt a compelling reason to leave the resort. So, for three days we were as much of a fixture at Costa d’Este as the stone monkeys, which are a quirky feature overlooking the beach. The website details a whole mythology about the monkeys, which now number six, each holding a basket of seashells.
“People go out on the beach and pick up shells. They come back, make a wish and put them in a monkey’s basket,” our poolside server explained. “Started out there were two monkeys. Now there’s a whole family.”
If you go
Be aware, the Costa d’Este is not a budget accommodation. It’s a four-star resort, but we found a deal through a discount booking service. The most favorable rates can be found for mid-week stays.
SoBe sister resort
For those who prefer the true Miami Beach experience, Estefan Enterprises is opening the redone Cordozo South Beach resort on May 15, 2019.
The Cordozo is among the iconic art deco hotel properties on Miami Beach, dating to 1939. It has appeared in several movies, including Something About Mary and Any Given Sunday.
The Costa d’Este Beach Resort is on the list of the Six Best Pet-Friendly Hotels in Florida according to Alltherooms.com.
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