From Marco Island north to Fort Myers, a string of picturesque towns, beautiful beaches, meetings-friendly hotels and fun attractions (like world-class golf courses in Naples, above) make this strip of Florida's Gulf Coast a top draw for planners.Bikers Rejoice
Completion of the Cape Coral Bike-Ped (capecoralbikeped.org
) is expected by the end of this year. The project will connect more than 90 miles of bicycle and pedestrian pathways throughout the area.Don't Pet the Gators
Attendees will be awed by all the wildlife they'll encounter (including some of the area's 200,000 alligators) on an airboat tour through the expansive Everglades National Park. Captain Jack's is one operator that supplies all the fixings. captainjacksairboattours.com
• The 454-room Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa
has introduced some new "guest greeters" at the front desk: two 140-pound Newfoundland pups named Hoss and Honey Bear. On 26 acres overlooking Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in Bonita Springs, the resort includes an on-site spa, the Championship Raptor Bay golf course, tennis and rock-climbing facilities, a 24-hour fitness center, and 75,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space.
• On Captiva Island, the South Seas Island Resort
recently completed a renovation of 106 of its 460 guest rooms, all of which feature private balconies with views of the Marina and Yacht Harbour. Also updated was the property's conference center, part of a total 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Currently, the resort is undertaking a soft-goods revamp of its Beach, Bayside and Tennis Villas, a total of 125 units, including the addition of new carpeting, upholstery, flat-screen televisions and more.
• The 49-room Island Inn
on Sanibel Island recently completed a $3 million renovation that preserved the 119-year-old property's historic look but added larger bathrooms, fresh décor, a tiled rooftop deck at the Kimball Lodge and screened lanais at the Starky Lodge. For meetings, the property can accommodate groups of up to 100 people.
• The Lee County Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium
in Fort Myers has broken ground on a $48.5 million renovation. Phase one, to be completed this spring, will include new athletic fields, expanded seating capacity, a new parking lot and renovations to the clubhouse. Further upgrades in phase two will be completed by February 2015.
• The 450-room Ritz-Carlton, Naples,
last October unveiled the results of an extensive renovation, including guest rooms transformed to resemble those of a luxurious residential beach home and three restaurants fully revamped by New York City-based design agency Blue Plate. The hotel has a tri-level spa with more than 30 treatment rooms, as well as 42,000 square feet of meeting space spread among 20 rooms, including a 10,194-square-foot ballroom.
• The 319-room Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club
recently wrapped up a $5 million renovation of guest rooms in the Florida Wing and Gulfside meeting rooms and prefunction space. In all, the property has 34,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting space, including a 6,283-square-foot ballroom and a beachfront lawn overlooking the Gulf that can host up to 800 people.
• The 474-room Waldorf Astoria Naples
will begin a renovation of its tower guest rooms this summer, and plans are under way for a new fine-dining concept to debut next year. The hotel has a spa, a 24-hour fitness center, and more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
• In downtown Naples, the 119-room Inn on Fifth
has expanded into a new three-story building directly across the street housing 32 new club-level suites. The addition offers guests separate check-in, a private rooftop hot tub and sunbathing area, a buffet breakfast and more. The new building also features a 1,000-square-foot boardroom, which increases the Inn's meeting space to nearly 9,000 square feet. The inn also has opened a new upscale restaurant, Avenue 5, with a private dining room for up to 80 guests.
• The Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort & Spa
has completed renovations to its 297 guest rooms, adding luxurious Hilton Serenity beds, 32-inch LCD TVs, Cuisinart coffee makers, adjustable work desks with a digital panel to connect and charge multiple devices at once, and showers with deluxe showerheads. The resort has more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,200-square-foot grand ballroom with 1,500-square-feet of prefunction space.
• The 726-room Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa
is undertaking a $4 million renovation of The Rookery, one of two on-site championship golf courses, with the work scheduled for completion by November 2014. The resort has a total of 65,000 square feet of meeting space divided among 33 meeting rooms.MEETING HOTELS:
In Fort Myers, properties include the 347-room Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, 228-room Crowne Plaza Fort Myers at Bell Tower Shops and 126-room Hilton Garden Inn Fort Myers.
In the greater Naples area, hotels include the 474-room Waldorf Astoria Naples; 454-room Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa; 450-room Ritz-Carlton, Naples; 319-room Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club; 189-room La Playa Beach & Golf Resort, and 119-room Inn on Fifth.
Captiva Island has the 460-room South Seas Island Resort. In Cape Coral, hotels include the 262-room Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village and 75-room Hampton Inn & Suites.
To find and compare properties, and to send RFPs, go to mcvenues.com
Harborside Event Center (Fort Myers); exhibit space, more than 30,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 14; (239) 321-8110; harborsideevents.com
Lee Civic Center (North Fort Myers); exhibit space, 90,000 square feet; number of meting rooms, four; (239) 543-8368; lcc.leeciviccenter.com
Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center (Punta Gorda); exhibit space, 44,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, nine; (941) 833-5444; charlotteharborecc.com
Southwest Florida International Airport, about 10 miles southwest of Fort Myers, 40 miles northwest of Naples. Transfer cost by taxi: to Fort Myers, $40; to Naples, $55TAXES:
Lee County: room tax, 5%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 11%
Fort Myers: room tax, 5%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 11%
Naples and Marco Island: room tax, 4%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 10%
Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau, (941) 743-1900; charlotteharbortravel.com
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, (239) 338-3500; fortmyers-sanibel.com
Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau, (239) 252-2379; paradisecoast.com