San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lago Mar: 3-day escape to Ft. Lauderdale

“Even those who live in paradise need a change every now and then.” I overheard this line a few weeks back while waiting to check out at the grocery store. For those of us transplants from the U.S., Canada and other foreign parts, sometimes it’s necessary to escape our little paradise of Costa Rica for a new perspective and a much-needed vacation.    

When my family needs a break, we often jet to the U.S. city of Ft. Lauderdale, in Florida, for a few days of sun, fun, shopping, dining and relaxation. After staying at several hotels that didn’t quite hit the mark for us, we stumbled upon a quiet upscale resort on the beach with an interesting Costa Rica connection.  

The Lago Mar Club and Resort offers the perfect combination of a beach-resort experience with a country-club feel. Luxurious rooms, a family-friendly environment, huge outdoor pools, fully appointed spa, gourmet dining and private beach are just a few of the charms that set this hotel apart from the rest. Located within a mile of the cruise port, the resort is also a great place to relax before starting or ending a cruise. Visitors can even gaze the cruise ships leaving the port near sunset – an amazing and memorable sight.  

Even without the elegant accommodations, gourmet dining and full-service spa, Lago Mar would still be a special place. That’s because of the wonderful team of employees – from the owner to the housekeeping and restaurant waitstaff. Owner Walter Banks – whose son, Lee, owns the Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal and the Poas Peace Lodge, both in Costa Rica – believes in treating his employees as family. They in turn treat guests in the same way, making Lago Mar a truly welcoming resort. 

“People come to Lago Mar the first time because of our incredible beach location and wonderful resort amenities,” says Walter Banks. “But they return year after year because of our staff, who work to make every guest feel at home. We’ve got a wonderful group of employees who really enjoy their work at Lago Mar. Because so many guests return every year, we have become good friends with them and look forward to their return. It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and really get to know the families.” 

Ft. Lauderdale can be an affordable location for a three-to-five-day getaway. Low-cost airlines will get you there for under $200, depending on your departure dates. Catch a taxi ride from the airport to Lago Mar for around $17 and let your vacation begin. 

While there are hundreds of hotels in the Ft. Lauderdale area, only a couple boast a privileged position directly on the beach. Lago Mar is one of them. This beautiful, unassuming resort offers all the amenities of a four-star hotel with the comfort and personalized service of a bed and breakfast, and an envious location on a stunning white sand beach.

In addition to 150 meters of private beach, families can enjoy nearby attractions including the Museum of Discovery and Science, Butterfly World and the Flamingo Gardens. For the adventurous, Sawgrass Air Boat Tours allows visitors to experience the Everglades up close and personal. Restaurants and shops, from boutiques to department stores, offer something for everyone, minutes from your home base at Lago Mar.

With 164 suites and oversized guest rooms, Lago Mar offers accommodations to suit all guests. Executive suites have one bedroom, living room with sofa bed and wet bar. Poolside suites – one bedroom, one bedroom deluxe and two bedrooms – feature a full kitchen and wet bar, living room with pullout sofa and spectacular ocean views. Penthouse suites include two full bedrooms, two full baths, living room with sofa bed, wet bar and more.

Whether guests are looking for a pizza or a three-course meal, Lago Mar impresses.  While beach food generally fails to excite, burgers and calamari at the Ocean Grill stand out. For fine evening dining, Executive Chef Philip Damien creates shrimp and mussel garganelli at the resort’s Acquario American bistro, or guests can enjoy one of his three-course dinners for under $30. Before or after dinner, the Old World charm of the Wine Cellar Lounge helps one unwind and soak in the old Florida ambiance. 

No matter where you wander at Lago Mar, what becomes evident is that employees take pride in offering first-class service to all guests, young and old. During our recent visit, our dining room waiter Eden made dining an incredible experience for all of us. With his wonderful Romanian accent, he remembered each of our names and befriended my children in an instant. On every trip to the dining room, our children would look for Eden with anticipation. Whether it was an extra chocolate, a big scoop of ice cream or a special napkin design, Eden captured our children’s hearts and won their parents over in the process.   

The Spa at Lago Mar is ideal for those who desire personalized service, unique amenities and an exceptional atmosphere. Relaxing and therapeutic treatments, including massage, facials, wraps, waxing and more are offered at affordable prices to revitalize and rejuvenate body and spirit. Too much sun? Try the Water Lily After-Sun Soothing Wrap to ease the burn and sting of sunburn. Follow up with a Sun Lover’s facial, or choose one of nine other specialty facials. Relax further with one of six different massage styles including hot stone, Swedish, reflexology and deep tissue. Other services include wraps, salt glows, waxing and manicures. The spa also sells an incredible sugar scrub that makes a perfect gift for those you left behind.  

A number of two-night “specials” are available for discriminating guests including the Reserve Wine Package (accommodations in a one-bedroom suite, breakfast buffet and three-course dinner with wine to accompany each course), the Romance Package (accommodations in an executive one-bedroom suite, bottle of sparkling wine on arrival and a candlelight dinner for two) or the Spa Package (accommodations in an executive one-bedroom suite, lunch for two and four spa treatments of 50 minutes each). Prices are based on double occupancy and vary by date. 

–Patrick Goodness

Lago Mar has been awarded the prestigious Four Diamond Award by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and is consistently rated as one of Ft. Lauderdale’s Best Resorts by Zagat’s. For more, see Contact the author at

Comments are closed.