A World Away: The Grand Experience on Fort Lauderdale Beach

Troy Maillis
Mark's List
Life is an interesting journey. Jobs, relationships, working out and eating right consume our weeks—and oftentimes our weekends. Whether it’s traveling around the country or staying right in your own area, sometimes a little mini-vacation is all you need to decompress and press reset.

After seven years of living in South Florida, I decided it was finally time to take a well-deserved Staycation on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Although I had experienced many of the popular restaurants and mingled with a who’s who of Fort Lauderdale’s LGBT community at nearby Sebastian Beach, I had never stayed at one of the guesthouses or hotels. 

A friend of mine recommended The Grand Resort and Spa, a gay-owned South Florida men’s resort featuring spa treatments and clothing optional areas. I was intrigued about the clothing optional part and definitely excited about having some treatments. As a former competitive gymnast, my muscles and joints needed all the TLC they could get!

As I loaded my overnight bag into the back seat of my car for the quick ten minute drive from Wilton Manors to Fort Lauderdale Beach, I reminisced about growing up in the Bahamas and feeling that sense of serenity every time I knew I was heading near the ocean.  It must be the Scorpio in me—a water sign.

With the address populated in google maps, I headed for The Grand Resort and Spa for an evening of R&R. Check in was at 3 pm, so I knew I’d still have a few hours to soak up the warm sun. My boyfriend, Kris, had to work that day and wouldn’t arrive until 7 pm. Although I was excited to spend some quality time with him, it was nice to have a few hours to myself.

(The Grand Resort and Spa celebrates 15th Anniversary)

October weather in South Florida is perfect, so I decided to wind down my car windows once I got to A1A to take in some of that fresh ocean breeze. The salty smell of the Atlantic was exhilarating!  While jamming to Rihanna’s “Disturbia,” I looked at Fort Lauderdale Beach a little differently this time around.  It dawned on me that I hadn’t been to the beach at all in 2016.  After living in South Florida for so long, I took for granted that the beach was only a few miles away. It certainly reminded that life is already here and not to take anything for granted. Carpe diem, baby!

My iTunes switched to another Rihanna song, “This is What You Came For,” the perfect song to start out my Staycation. I made the final turn onto Birch Road and followed it all the way to the resort, which was incredibly easy to find. The giant rainbow flag made parking, which is complimentary, easy to spot. Luckily, I was able to find a parking spot right in front, but I learned later that there is also parking available in the back. Finding parking always made me nervous for as long as I can remember, so I was relieved by the convenience.

(View from the sundeck before breakfast)

The first thing you see when you enter The Grand Resort and Spa is the large pool and surrounding patio furniture. There were lounge chairs for tanning, tables for sipping cocktails and white-cushioned seating for hanging out. I said hello to the group of guys swimming in the pool as I made my way to the office for check in. This area was not the clothing optional portion of the resort—that section was located in the more private back area.

Chilled eucalyptus-scented towels and a nifty, navy-blue tote bag awaited me at the front desk.  The tote came in handy when I ventured out into the resort. Zippers and tie strings made for a convenient, safe space for my iPhone, room key and wallet.

(Casey Koslowski (center) at The Grand Resort and Spa Anniversary)

Since first opening in 1999, The Grand’s Proprietor, Casey Koslowski, has built a tremendous vacation experience featuring 33 well-appointed rooms and suites. My fabulous Courtyard Guest Room was located on the second floor overlooking the pool.

When I walked inside, I was pleasantly surprised to find a personalized note waiting for me. Looking out of the main window I could actually see the ocean just a few blocks away! The streamlined, modern rooms feature free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, as well as minifridges, microwaves and coffeemakers. Upgraded rooms add pool views and chic, minimalist decor. One and two bedroom suites offer kitchens, dining areas and living rooms; some include furnished patios or balconies.

(King Size Bed and Luxurious Suite)

After I settled into my room, The Spa Director, JD Greene, gave me a private tour of the resort. His infectious personality literally made me laugh out loud—I felt like I’d known him for years. We joked and laughed the entire time while touring the gym, sundeck, the clothing-optional Tropical Courtyard, and The Spa, where I scheduled a pedicure and a warm mud massage for the following day.

Now it was time for the adventure to really begin. I knew beforehand this was going to be an experience of firsts, so I decided to let it all out—literally!  I was slightly apprehensive about going full frontal at first, but now that my boyfriend had arrived it made it a little easier to be comfortable in my own skin. Oh—the wine from the mini-bar helped too! While enjoying the heat and strong jets in the hot tub, we chatted with out-of-towners from Vegas and Boston, as well as a few locals who were also enjoying a Staycation.

(Nature Path Leading to Tropical Courtyard)

After drying off and changing, we enjoyed a brisk 4-minute walk out to the Fort Lauderdale Beach strip and decided to eat at Casablanca Cafe—a very popular restaurant frequented by locals and visitors. There is a wide array of restaurants in the area to satisfy every palate, so you will definitely be able to find a restaurant to please everyone in your party. In addition to the beach and restaurants, visitors can check out Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and the plantation-style Bonnet House, which dates from the 1920s.
The rest of our evening included some alone time on the beach, more relaxation in the hot tub and some personal selfies in front of the large closet mirror in our hotel room. What’s a vacation without a detailed collection of selfies?

(Enjoying a Relaxing #Staycation)

The next morning after an amazing night of rest in our king size bed, I headed to The Spa for a few treatments. I mentioned earlier that I scheduled a mud massage and a pedicure—more first-time experiences! I also made sure to stop by the Club Room to enjoy the complimentary breakfast, which featured coffee, muffins, yogurt, bagels, cereals, eggs, breakfast meats and pancakes.
After breakfast, I started my treatments with the Nourishing Sea Mud Therapy in the wet room with Sebastian. I’ve had massages before, but nothing compared to this. While enjoying the scent of customized oil aromas, I could feel the tension being released from my lats, quads and glutes—problematic areas for anyone who works out regularly. The warm mud relaxed my muscles and nourished my skin. After a full body massage, the mud was rinsed off with warm water and I was patted dry.  I could seriously wake up to that every day.

(The Spa)
Next up was the pedicure. After years of training in gymnastics, my feet definitely took a beating. Paula, who is originally from Columbia, greeted me and immediately asked if she could get me a cup of coffee. It was still early in the morning, so I could not say no to more caffeine. She started my treatment with a warm soak followed by removing the dead skin from my feet, a salt scrub, pumice, eucalyptus and peppermint lotion massage, hot towel wrap and nail buff—heaven!  My feet had never looked better. If you have any issues with your feet or hands—go see Paula!

Before checkout I did one more walk around the property and thought about all the therapies I wanted to try at The Spa during my next visit—perhaps the Ultra Calming Facial or the Reflexology Massage. I drove away feeling refreshed and eager to start my week. When you work hard you get to play hard! My staycation at The Grand Resort and Spa exceeded my expectations. I truly did feel like I was a world away.

Find out more about The Grand Resort and Spa on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

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