A paradise oasis awaited with two pools and a private beach fulfilled all my beach bunny dreams.
- I stayed at the Trump International Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, for two nights in March.
- The Trump brand’s image of luxury has attracted many wealthy Russians to the area.
- The resort was full of flashy status symbols, which made me rethink how we view luxury.
Driving south on Collins Avenue in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida, it’s impossible to miss the tall, imposing condos that flank the road to the left. Three of these buildings sit side by side, a set of triplets matching in both design and an all white exterior. These are the Trump towers, a brand that has reeled in many wealthy Russians to the area.
The small city situated between Fort Lauderdale and Miami originated as a quaint strip of motels in the 1950s and 1960s. Over time, it became a destination for both tourists as well as immigrants fleeing Communism in the former Soviet Union. But a luxury development boom that began in the late 1990s and took off in the 2000s revitalized the city’s economy, which began to see an influx of wealth.
Trump doesn’t actually own the buildings but licensed the use of his name there, The Washington Post reported. The brand has held a huge appeal among Russian investors looking to move their money in the post-Soviet economy. Real-estate agents told the Post in 2016 that Trump’s image of luxury carries weight among the European, South American, and Asian elite, but especially among Russian oligarchs.
“When Russians get here, the first thing they ask is, ‘Where is the Trump building?'” Ilya Masarsky, real-estate developer who has worked with Russian investors in the US, told The Post.
Jose Lima, a salesperson for the company that developed the region’s Trump Towers, said at the time that Russian speakers bought about one-third of the 500 units he sold.
While I didn’t have access to the residential Trump Towers, I was able to stay two nights in the Trump International Resort that’s just up the road. It’s a place where conspicuous consumption is alive and well in the form of designer logos and flashy cars. As a millennial, who has come to see luxury as a more minimal, curated style, it made me think a lot about status symbols and how there are different ways to signal one’s class standing.
The Trump International Resort in Sunny Isles Beach is a four-star resort that stands at 32 stories high, situated between the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway.
Rates for April range from $348 to $957 a night, depending on the day and room available. But my bill (which was covered by Insider) included a number of additional fees, including a $35 resort fee. According to the resort’s website, that includes perks such as access to the fitness center and lounge chairs at the beach and pool.
Walking in, I was impressed with the elegance of the spacious lobby, which was decked out in a palette of creams, black, and metallics.
It was a sharp contrast from the Marriott hotel I’d stayed at for the past few nights.
Thick copper columns towered over the lobby, creating a sense of luxury. I immediately felt like I was at a resort, which I suppose was the whole point.
The floors gleamed so much that they reflected the room. I noticed three different types of clientele while I roamed the lobby and other parts of the resort: American families, spring breakers, and wealthy foreigners.
I noticed three different types of clientele while I roamed the lobby and other parts of the resort: American families, spring breakers, and wealthy foreigners.
I often noticed a flashy display of wealth: a Valentino belt cinching a black blazer, a Gucci scarf thrown over one’s shoulders, or an Alexander McQueen jacket slung over an arm. One guest even completed their look with the ultimate accessory: a tiny toy dog.
Once, I walked out of the resort to see a Rolls-Royce parked outside.
There was plenty of seating throughout the lobby, from where I contemplated different forms of luxury as I people-watched.
Over time, discreet wealth has come to replace flashy status symbols, displayed through immaterial means that only those in the know can acknowledge.
But that’s not quite the case at the Trump International Resort, where people flock to because of its recognizable name and because it’s a place where you can flaunt your Christian Dior bag. It makes sense why foreigners like Russians see it is a form of luxury.
True to my millennial generation, I prefer more subtle luxuries — like a boutique resort with well-designed rooms and customized cocktails.
My room was on the 19th floor. Stepping out of the elevators, I was greeted with a corner view of Sunny Isles Beach in the hallway.
Even as a Florida native, I’m still taken with a view of blue skies and water blending together. I can imagine that someone who didn’t grow up with such sights would be even more enamored.
Once inside my room, I was pleased with the spaciousness of my junior suite, which the website says is 664 square-feet. I don’t know the square footage of my studio apartment in New York City, but I know it’s smaller than that.
The suite fit a king-sized bed, a loveseat, a chair, a desk, and a table for two.
Source: Trump International Resort
The kitchen was bigger than necessary considering I wouldn’t be cooking. It was well-stocked with a coffee machine and a wet bar.
In the bathroom, there was a logo-emblazoned robe with matching slippers. I felt some serious spa vibes.
As a 5’2″ shortie, I like that the robe enveloped my whole frame.
The mirrors here doubled as a closet. Waiting inside was, you guessed it, another robe and slipper set for my imaginary partner.
There was also room to move in the bathroom, which featured both a tub and walk-in shower as well as a magnifying mirror — not something I see in every hotel.
The style felt “very Florida” — an attempt to mimic the colors of the ocean with a sandy color scheme and pops of blue.
While I was impressed with the size, I found the style lacking for a luxury resort. The beige carpets and thick mahogany furniture all felt a bit outdated, like they’d been there since the resort was built in 2003.
I realized after leaving that I never took a photo of the dresser and large desk, which sat across the bed. I had been so unimpressed with the aesthetic that it didn’t even occur to me to document it.
I couldn’t help but think of the Williamsburg Hotel in Brooklyn I enjoyed for a staycation earlier this year. The room was much smaller and it lacked the number of activities the Trump International Resort provided. But it had a gorgeous teal-tiled bathroom with brass fixtures and Art Deco inspired furniture. It was an aesthetic that felt much more luxurious to me.
Matching beige walls and tile in the hallway between the kitchen and bathroom felt the same.
The walls also happened to be thin. I could hear the family next door in the adjoining suite arguing throughout my stay, which was not very relaxing.
But a private balcony made up for a bland aesthetic. It overlooked the Intracoastal, which meant I was facing west and could watch the sun set.
Just look at those glittering city lights!
On my first night, I dined at Neomi’s Grill, one of the resort’s four restaurants. It serves Italian for dinner.
I ordered Cacio y Pepe, my go-to Italian dish that’s easy to compare across restaurants. I thought it was good and would order it again, but don’t think it was worth the high price point of $39. I’ve had better elsewhere at a lower cost.
There’s also a Japanese fusion restaurant in the lobby, Saka Mori, where you can dine on sushi and ramen.
The best part of the resort were its amenities, which were mostly found on the second floor.
An 8,000 square foot spa called Aquanox features six treatment rooms.
Massages start at $150 for an hour, and facials start at $156 for an hour. Both top out at $264 for individual service, unless you’re getting a couples massage. That can cost as much $504 for 90 minutes.
Right next door is the gym. I was pleasantly surprised by the offerings here. There was a full weight set, more weight machines than I expected, and several cardio machines, complete with palm tree views.
There was even a mini fridge with cold refreshment towels.
However, the style did remind me of an old YMCA with its brown floors, orange paint, and fluorescent lighting, staying in tune with the outdated style I noticed in my room.
The top level featured a massive pool that mimicked a grotto with a wade-in entrance, small waterfalls, and rock installations.
The pool took up the entire top level of the outdoor grounds, but it wasn’t big enough for all the guests at the resort. When I first visited the pool on a late Friday afternoon, there were hardly any empty lounge chairs to be found — at least, in the sun.
There was also a spa overlooking the beach and private air-conditioned cabanas that start at $350 to rent for the day, per the resort’s website.
And there was a poolside bar for light bites. I didn’t even have to get up to use it, as a waiter came around and asked me if I wanted a drink. Now, that’s what I call luxury.
On the lower level there was a second, smaller lap pool.
I considered this level the fitness grounds because there was also a court for sports like soccer and tennis.
There was also a turf center. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what it was for. More recreational sports? A place to take your dog? There were a few sunbathers when I went by at one point.
Down on the ground floor, you’ll find yourself at the beach. Here there’s a restaurant on the sand, Gili’s Beach Club.
I grabbed lunch there, which came in a wicker platter that complemented the views of paradise that stretched before me.
The menu offered basic bar lunch fare with a seafood influence, from chicken burgers and hot dogs to tuna wraps and a shrimp crab roll, as well as some healthier salad options. My coworker, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, often makes fun of me for always ordering a burger when I’m out to eat. I had to stay on brand.
And then there was the beach, my happy place. The resort offers chair and umbrella service.
But, like the pool, it was too busy the first time I visited. I ended up sitting on my towel with my book. But I was just thrilled to get some Vitamin D, so I didn’t mind.
Overall, the resort made me think of how luxury and its status symbols have evolved over time. Depending on how you define luxury, this could very well be the place for you, with a lot to offer below a $1,000 price tag.The Trump International Resort is on the right.
If you’re looking for something rich in function and service, the resort has that. In addition to all the amenities I listed, there are plenty of other offerings that can help customize your experience such as tennis lessons, discounts for water sports, and a special menu for those who keep Kosher.
The service was also great all around; an elevator operator even helped me find a place where I could sit and charge my phone in the lobby after finding me standing next to a wall outlet.
It’s hard to discount the luxury of experience, which the resort provided. But that the resort is a place where conspicuous consumption runs big is partly where I found fault with it. Like many millennials, brand names aren’t something that impresses me, but a curated, standout aesthetic does.
Personally, conspicuous consumption isn’t my form of luxury, but I’m probably not the resort’s target audience either.
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