Food and Drink in Palm Beach
With so many miles of coastline, it's no surprise that seafood is a highlight on any menu in Palm Beach. Local favorites include grouper, mahi mahi, coconut shrimp and Florida spiny lobster. Visitors shouldn't miss stone crab; during its season, from October through May, signs outside restaurants and markets announce that it has arrived. Alligator -- typically served as a fried appetizer -- can also grace menus in South Florida. Although the neighboring islands of the Bahamas made them famous, conch fritters are another irresistible appetizer.
Outside of the local dishes, the Palm Beach area has a strong Cuban culture and a happening foodie scene with plenty of fusion restaurants offering any combination of Thai, Japanese, Italian, French, new American and countless other cuisines.
The area is also home to a burgeoning craft beer scene. Check bar and restaurant menus for local brews, including everything from hard cider and fruity shandies to potent IPAs and the darkest of stouts. For a taste of the area's best, hop on the Damn Good Beer Bus, which offers three different tour options that run Friday through Sunday. (damngoodbeerbus.com; 561-906-7212)
Steps from Worth Avenue in The Brazilian Court hotel is Cafe Boulud, a highly acclaimed French-American restaurant that is part of the Daniel Boulud restaurant group. Whether ordering a premium wine off the extensive list, or a five-star entree off the breakfast, brunch, dinner or prix fixe menu, this restaurant delivers consistent quality. To enhance the dining experience, make a reservation and request courtyard seating. (301 Australian Avenue, Palm Beach; 561-655-6060; daily 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
The Alchemist Gastropub & Bar features a vast and varied menu of international and American cuisine prepared in modern and innovative ways. Patrons can choose from dishes including super-trendy poke and rice bowls, homemade chorizo with chimichurri and grilled bread, steaks and burgers, as well as dishes made from local ingredients like the Florida citrus and goat cheese appetizer, crab guacamole, lobster poppers and Himalayan salt brick-pressed organic chicken. Fabulous craft cocktails and a wide menu of local craft beers are also on offer. (223 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach; 561-355-0691; Sunday 11 a.m. to midnight; Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.)
RACKs Fish House and Oyster Bar offers a large variety of raw bar items, fish tacos, sandwiches, burgers, a selection of fresh fish filets and even lobster macaroni and cheese. Rack's is an upscale yet casual choice for lunch or dinner. (5 SE 2nd Avenue, Delray Beach; 561-450-6718; Sunday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to midnight)
Havana Restaurant is a two-story authentic Cuban restaurant in West Palm Beach that has been family-owned and operated for more than 20 years. From classics like ropa vieja (shredded beef stewed with peppers, tomatoes and onions) to shrimp enchiladas with Creole sauce and Cuban-style chicken fajitas, the menu offers a wide variety of lunch and dinner options. There's also a 24-hour walk-up window for cafe con leche and pastries. (6801 South Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-547-9799; Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
For not-so-traditional Italian cuisine, try Hullabaloo Italian Gastropub, a hip pub with a small storefront on the lesser-visited side of Clematis Street. Everything there has a craft twist to it, from appetizers like habanero garlic garbanzo beans and flame-roasted marrow bones with Florida orange marmalade to wood-fired pizzas and braised short rib ravioli. Hullabaloo serves lunch, Sunday brunch, dinner and a pared-down late-night menu. This is also a top choice for local and regional microbrews. (517 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach; 561-833-1033; Monday to Wednesday 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.; Thursday to Saturday11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.; and Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.)
By successfully blending Thai, sushi and tapas, Kabuki has established itself as a contender on competitive Clematis Street. Menu options include signatures like Thai tropical stir-fry and lobster teriyaki as well as a plentiful list of Asian-style tapas and sushi. Happy hour runs every day, and outdoor seating is available. (308 North Clematis Street, West Palm Beach; 561-833-6349; Monday to Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Saturday noon to 11:30 p.m.; Sunday noon to 10:30 p.m.)
Rocco's Tacos and Tequila Bar, a rapidly expanding Mexican restaurant, has been opening locations all over South Florida. Delicious guacamole is prepared tableside and the bar offers more than 400 varieties of tequila. In the evenings, it becomes a hot spot and offers a late-night menu as well as a weekend brunch menu. (224 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach; 561-650-1001; daily 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., late-night menu available from midnight to 1 a.m.)
Beaches in Palm Beach
Best for Privacy: To feel away from it all, head to Ocean Ridge Hammock Park, about 30 minutes south of the Port of Palm Beach (by car). Visitors will have this quiet stretch of sand to themselves, but there are no lifeguards on duty or bathroom facilities. Outdoor showers are available.
Best to Spend the Day: Pack a picnic lunch and hop on the water taxi to Peanut Island for a relaxing day away from the crowds. Camping is also available, and the water surrounding the island makes for excellent snorkeling -- but visitors must bring their own gear. The island also has a shaded observation deck, pavilions, walking trails, grills, restrooms and the Palm Beach Maritime Museum.
Best for Nature Lovers: Set on 438 acres between the Atlantic Ocean and the Lake Worth Lagoon, John D. MacArthur Beach State Park gives visitors a taste of Florida's natural environment without having to travel far. Munyon Island makes a quiet oasis for kayakers (rentals are available), or they can explore the shaded hammocks, coves, sand dunes and limestone rock reef. Some 22 endangered or threatened species of wildlife reside in the park. The park has a gift shop, picnic areas, a playground, and various nature and photography workshops -- including its "Sea Turtle Talks and Walks" -- are held throughout each week.
Most Convenient: The Town of Palm Beach Municipal Beach is just north of Worth Avenue and has a calm stretch of sand without the souvenir shops and cheesy attractions -- but don't expect to be the only one there. Bring beach equipment and prepare to pay hefty fees for nearby parking.
Best Family Beach: About 13 miles north of the Port of Palm Beach, in the city of Jupiter, is Carlin Park. At Carlin Park, the waters are calm and gentle and there is a slew of other activity options including volleyball, tennis and bocce ball. There's an onsite cafe, and grills are available for visitors to use. There's even an amphitheater where live musical performances are often held.
Don't Miss in Palm Beach
Water Sports on the Intracoastal: No visit to the Palm Beach area would be complete without spending time on the water and excursion providers offer a plethora of activities, including parasailing, kayak excursions to Peanut Island, Jet Ski rentals, snorkeling trips and catamaran cruises. On Sundays, the outgoing crew on Hakuna Matata (561-881-9757) fills the catamaran with water toys (noodles, kayaks, paddleboards) and sails down the Intracoastal before docking in a shallow cove for banana boat rides, swimming and water activities.
Clematis Street: This something-for-everyone street spills out onto the waterfront and is filled with shops, restaurants, ice cream shops and bars. Kids will love the centerpiece splash pad or riding the free trolley around the downtown area. On Thursday nights, the street transforms into a festival-like environment with live music and dancing. Every second Friday, there is an outdoor movie shown downtown.
Worth Avenue: While this is Palm Beach's version of Rodeo Drive, it's still a relaxing way to spend the day and a place to see and be seen. High-end shops abound, and the strip itself makes for a picturesque photo op.
Golfing: Home to Florida's first 18-hole course -- and more than 40 public courses -- Palm Beach is a golfer's "happy place." Those new to the sport can head to one of the learning centers like the John Webster Golf Academy, located at The Breakers resort. (2 South County Road, Palm Beach; 866-225-1457; daily 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Palm Beach International Raceway: Featuring a 2-mile road course, a drag strip, kart track and mud bog for side-by-side drag racing, the racetrack is a thrilling way for visitors to spend the day. Those feeling really adventurous can book a two-day sports car driving experience. (17047 Bee Line Highway, Jupiter; 561-622-1400; hours vary)
West Palm Beach Food Tours: Downtown West Palm Beach is brimming with delectable food options, including various cuisines from Cuban and tropical-inspired fare to modern American and vegan. There are so many options, it can be tough to choose. West Palm Beach Food Tours give visitors the opportunity to sample some of the best dishes from various restaurants -- including those beyond the tourist strip -- while learning about the local history and food scene (westpalmbeachfoodtour.com; 561-220-9880)
International Polo Club Palm Beach: From January through April, this club hosts a high-goal polo season and attracts visitors from all over the globe. Everyone dresses to the nines during Sunday mimosa brunches to watch the classic sport. The club also has a full-service spa and fitness center, tennis courts, croquet, pool and cabanas. (3667 120th Avenue South, Wellington; 561-204-5687; hours vary)
Scuba Diving: The region is home to a number of dive centers, including several near the Port of Palm Beach. On Singer Island, Pura Vida Divers offers rentals, three-day certification classes, one-day "discover scuba diving" experiences and regular dive trips to nearby sites like the Blue Heron Bridge and "the trench," a dredged-out, 7-foot-wide section with reef walls on either side. (2513 Beach Court, Riviera Beach; 561-840-8750; Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.)
Manatee Lagoon: Located right in Riviera Beach, just minutes from the cruise port, is Manatee Lagoon -- an eco-friendly, educational facility where visitors can observe wild manatees and learn more about their natural habitat. Manatee Lagoon offers both public and private tours, special programs and activities for children, and even free yoga classes. Admission and parking are free. (6000 North Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach; 561-626-2833; Tuesday to Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed Monday)
McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary: This animal rehabilitation center treats everything from bobcats and ligers to alligators and owls. Set on 5 acres surrounded by a tropical botanical garden, the sanctuary offers animal encounters and tours that go far behind those of a typical zoo. Advance reservations are required. (12943 61st Street North, West Palm Beach; 561-790-2116; Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday)
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: Delray Beach's hidden jewel is the center for Japanese arts and culture in South Florida. Resembling a Japanese villa, the museum houses more than 5,000 artifacts, including a 500-piece collection of tea ceremony items. Visitors can also explore a 225-seat theater, authentic tea house, library, cafe and lakeside terrace with stunning Japanese courtyard gardens. (4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach; 561-495-0233; daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Monday)
Lion Country Safari: For a family-friendly day trip, head to Lion Country Safari, Florida's only drive-thru African-style safari, with more than 1,000 animals such as rhinos, giraffes, zebras and lions. The park also features five amusement-style rides, a restaurant and a water "sprayground" to cool off. (2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee; 561-793-1084; daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)