Cigar Aficionado

The Boca Raton Resort and Club, Boca Raton, Florida

Today, Mizner's Dream is a ferryboat, shuttling seemingly blessed hotel guests over the IntraCoastal Waterway to a pure white beach, shaded by majestic palms on the Atlantic Ocean shoreline. But in the 1920s, long before Boca Raton became a fashionable retreat reputed for its sun-kissed pleasures, eccentric architect Addison Mizner realized another sort of dream that's been charming vacationers for decades.

At a then-astounding cost of $1,250,000, and with the financial backing of such notables as Irving Berlin and Elizabeth Arden, Mizner built "the most expensive 100-room hotel ever." Complete with grand staircases and high-arched loggias, this Venetian-styled cloister became the talk of Palm Beach, as red-coated footmen darted past fountained courtyards to pamper the era's social register.

The playful Berlin is no longer helping guests with their luggage, and, along with the disappearance of Mizner's menagerie (monkeys would walk through the lobby with him), there have been other changes at the 356-acre estate over the years. A 27-story tower was added in 1969 to provide a wide range of accommodations, from presidential suites to equally plush rooms overlooking the ocean.

Only a short walk from the glittering tower, the 6,253-yard championship golf course has also been given a face-lift. Here golfers must brave doglegs framed by long, winding lakes, and if they encounter problems on the testy greens, they can find help a mere 9-iron shot away at Dave Pelz's internationally reputed Short Game school. A former NASA rocket scientist, Pelz offers three-day sessions with such teaching aids as Perfy the Putting Robot.

The resort's new owner, Wayne Huizenga, is leading the hotel into the twenty-first century with such contemporary flourishes as a revamped health and fitness center and a proposed spa, but the "Boca's" past grandeur of Roaring Twenties decadence lives on.

This "sit back and be spoiled" tradition is especially honored at The Patio, an airy, sun-lit dining room notorious for its breakfast buffets. While calorie watchers can enjoy the heaping mounds of tropical fruits, the better bet is to relish the dizzying array of freshly made breads, smoked fish, seafood crepes and Cuban omelets.

After a relaxing day, diners can choose between Nick's Fishmarket, a lively oceanside spot where three-pound lobsters and juicy filet mignons are punctuated with a fine assortment of cigars in an adjoining lounge, and the Top of the Tower restaurant, which specializes in northern Italian veal and seafood dishes. The stunning views from this 27th-story restaurant are an aerial show of twinkling lights and planes darting through the sky. But for real late-night fire and smoke there's the not-to-be-missed El Lago Lounge.

Though attractively situated next to the yacht basin on the IntraCoastal, amid a garden of stately palms and other tropical trees, this cozy, wood-beamed hideaway was long an after-thought to both guests and management. Now offering a wide selection of cigars from La Gloria Cabanas to Partagas and Montecristos, along with bimonthly appearances by cigar rollers, the El Lago has been transformed into a smoker's haven by Carlos Ferreira, Bogota, Colombia's answer to Rick of Casablanca fame. "After years of having this place go unnoticed, I wanted to create a club-like atmosphere where cigar smokers could enjoy a Cognac or after-dinner cappuccino, and just relax with a good cigar," says Ferreira. "The El Lago is beautiful, and I wanted to show guests its charms."

He has more than succeeded.--Edward Kiersh

Edward Kiersh, a Florida-based
writer, is a regular contributor to
Cigar Aficionado.

The Boca Raton Resort & Club
501 East Camino Real
Phone (800) 327-0101
or (561) 395-3000;
Fax (561) 447-3183
High-season rates range from $240 to $540