by Terry Ward
Fort Lauderdale, much like Miami, is full of glitzy oceanfront hotels. And also much like Miami, some of the country’s finest Mid Century Modern architecture can be found along Fort Lauderdale’s palm-lined streets. But if you don’t mind lowering the glitz factor a bit and being two blocks back from the beach (instead of right across from it), or not being on A1A in one of the big chain hotels, the Aqua Hotel, a 39-room boutique property in a beautifully restored mid-century modern building, makes for a fashionable and wonderfully affordable family-friendly stay.
The property is situated in a residential area just north of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, along a stretch of A1A and beachfront that’s a bit less congested than what you find in the main part of Fort Lauderdale Beach to the south, where Las Olas Boulevard intersects with the beach. And the undeveloped stretch of beach and tropical hardwood hammocks of pretty Hugh Taylor Birch State Park are just a short stroll north of Aqua. Stay here for the laid-back neighborhood setting and a property that offers almost all the amenities of the nearby luxury chain hotels — and more, and for free! — for well below their room rates. Aqua is one of the signature properties in North Beach Village, a development project with a Swedish investor at the helm; it is steadily revitalizing the northern stretches of Fort Lauderdale Beach into a more walkable environment, brimming with boutique hotels that are rising from the ashes and being refurbished. Where you’ll easily pay upward of $20 per night to park and the same for Internet at Fort Lauderdale’s larger nearby chain hotels, amenities like these are happily free of charge at Aqua.
The very modern and fashionable rooms here are split between two low buildings, painted a blinding white, and a courtyard between the buildings has been fashioned into an outdoor living room of sorts, where families gather to cook meals on the free-for-all gas barbecue grill. There are two pools that allow plenty of swimming space for guests, and the beach is just a short walk east across A1A. All of the rooms have a minimum of a mini fridge and microwave, so you can prepare simple meals and easily store your own snacks. And many suites have better equipped kitchenettes with all the utensils you need for cooking. For a relaxing family stay in a setting that feels far more like the Fort Lauderdale of yesteryear (and we mean Florida’s golden age — not the Fort Lauderdale of the Spring Break crazed 1980’s!), you really can’t go wrong here.
Our Editor Loves
- Outdoor garden grills and tables
- Two pools with rafts for guests to use
- Short walk to beach and restaurants
- Free Wi-Fi
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Aqua's 39 pretty rooms and suites are split between two separate buildings, located in an area of low-rise apartment buildings and houses in North Fort Lauderdale Beach. Each room or suite has an individual air conditioning wall unit (which runs very quietly), manufactured blonde-wood floors and a decidedly Scandinavian dÃƒÂ©cor (the main investor, afterall, hails from the land of Ikea). Flat-screen TV's, desks and tiled bathrooms (some with tub-in-shower configurations and others with glass showers) are standard throughout all rooms and suites. There are no elevators in the hotel, which has three stories, but handicapped accessible rooms are available on the first floor.
The standard studios, with one queen bed, are the smallest of the room types and have minimal kitchenette facilities that include a mini-fridge, microwave and coffeemaker. It's enough to get by if you're a small family of three (rollaways can be requested and cribs are also available). But if your gang is larger, you can upgrade to a Deluxe Studio or the one-bedroom Studio Suite.
The deluxe studios have two queen beds, with room for a rollaway or two, and a kitchenette nook equipped with all necessary pots, pans and utensils, as well as a full-sized fridge/freezer and a stovetop (in addition to the standard microwave and coffee pot offerings of the standard suites). Deluxe studios also have a desk, as well as a small table for in-room dining.
In the next room category, the one-bedroom suites give you more space to spread out, including a separated bedroom with a king bed and a queen pullout sofa in the living room. The kitchens here are more spacious, too, and some of the suites have private balcony areas. The penthouse is located on the third floor and connects to another room to provide three king beds and two pullout sleepers for a configuration that can sleep eight people. There's a full kitchen and a large private outdoor deck attached to the penthouse, too. Throughout all of the rooms and studios, the dÃƒÂ©cor is very clean-lined and modern, with a white and blue (aqua!) color scheme and fun touches (like surfboards and vintage Florida photos) for wall decorations.
As soon as I arrived to the Aqua hotel I knew it was the place to be. Entrance of the place looks neat just a block from the ocean. I arrived around 10 pm and waited less than 2 minutes for a young beautiful lady to check me in and walked me to my room, Marcia, very kind. A comfortable bed, clean bathroom and fresh smells, usually when you stay in a hotel room they have that classic smell, this one didn’t. Just 2 blocks from the Aqua there’s a wine garden, loved it for dinner. Maggie, the manager, show me more of the North Beach Village Collection which seems to be a great add to Fort Lauderdale Beach. Will definitely come back!
Our Room was spacious clean and very comfortable close by warm swimming pool jacuzzi. Great beds great shower even a Laundery. Maggie & team did a Excellent Job. they do everything that YOU can ENJOY
We are coming already more often because WE LOVE This place
Between the two onsite swimming pools and easy access to nearby Fort Lauderdale Beach, your family's stay here is likely to revolve around shuttling in and out of the sun, sand and water. The hotel is too small to offer its own kid's club, but with the beach as your diversion, along with all the other family-friendly attractions in Fort Lauderdale, you'll hardly miss that.
The beach is just a two-minute walk from the hotel. The hotel provides a range of beach chairs, boogie boards and beach toys (most "donated" by previous guests) that you can bring along to the beach. Beach umbrellas are also available free of charge.
The pool is equipped with oversized plush rafts for lounging in the water and lined with plenty of lounge chairs, too.
There's also a a great range of nearly brand new beach cruisers you can rent directly from the hotel by the hour or for the day. Kid's sizes are available and helmets provided free of charge. The best place to bike is anywhere along the beachfront promenade, which stretches for over seven uninterrupted miles (no sidewalks to jump on and off or traffic lights to traverse) along A1A.
While there is no onsite dining at Aqua Hotel, there are a few good family-friendly restaurants within walking distance, and you can also, of course, plan to cook in your room (a Publix supermarket is located a short five-minute drive north in the Galleria Mall shopping area).
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
You'll be offered wine or a cold beverage upon arrival, and you're free to come back for more whenever you'd like. A nice touch offered during the day by the pool comes in the form of frozen grape snacks and chilled towels.
Wireless Internet is complimentary and works well everywhere on the property, from the outdoor areas to inside the suites.
There are no public laundry facilities at the hotel, but coin-operated washers and dryers are free for guests of Aqua to use at the hotel's nearby sister properties, Tranquilo and TropiRock (within walking distance).
Parking in streetside spaces reserved for hotel guests is located right in front of the property and requires a fee.
Babysitting can be arranged through reception, and prices vary depending on the sitter and number of children to be watched.
The Art of Smart Timing
Fort Lauderdale is a year-round destination with extremely agreeable weather. And while the summer months do get hot, ocean breezes keep things quite comfortable when you're not cooling off in the water or afloat in the hotel's pool. Prices and crowds are at a premium during the busiest times, around Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. But don't let Spring Break, another busy time (basically the entire month of March), scare you away. Fort Lauderdale still has a rowdy party scene, but the Aqua attracts mostly families, and you won't likely find spring break revelry interfering with your relaxation on the property. Some of the most pleasant times of the year to visit are during the shoulder season months of late April into May, before school gets out for the summer, and also in October. Keep in mind that hurricane season runs from June through November in Florida. And during the annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat show, held in late-October, the whole town is an absolute zoo.
If traveling by car, Fort Lauderdale is located about 40 minutes north of Miami. There's an international airport in Fort Lauderdale (15 minutes from the hotel) that's serviced by most major airlines. You can also consider flying into Miami or West Palm Beach International Airport.
All of the major car rental companies have outposts at the Fort Lauderdale airport, and it makes sense to rent a car during your stay if you plan to venture beyond Las Olas Boulevard and the main drag along the beach. If you're content to stay within that area, you'll be fine grabbing a taxi from the airport and using the water taxi and trolley system to get around once you arrive at the hotel. The nearest water taxi stop is about 10 blocks south of the hotel. It's a good way to explore the area and ogle the mansions and yachts lining the canals.
For Mom and Dad
There's no spa at Aqua, but you can find one of the best in Fort Lauderdale just a few blocks away at Bliss at the W Fort Lauderdale. Or book a babysitter for the night through the hotel reception and plan an evening out with just the two of you.