I’ve been traveling to the city of Naples, FL since the average age of its populace was nearly 104. Now, over 20 years later, that number has come down quite a bit and Naples has truly become one of the greatest American cities for luxurious, tropical getaways. Seriously, where else can you find clear blue, Caribbean-style waters and a Whole Foods within a 10-mile radius? This place is pure gold.
Whether you’re looking to travel over a long weekend or finally use the vacation days you’ve been hoarding since 2007, this is a trip worth making. Naples is peculiar (and brilliant, might I add) in the sense that there is so much to do and so little to see at the same time. Unlike other destinations that house Wonders of the World or remnants of the Roman Empire or houses of parliament, there is nothing about the city of Naples, in my opinion, that boasts such significant historical value so as to leave you utterly despondent if you happen not to see it. Thus, you can literally spend your days however you see fit; even if that means falling asleep under a palm tree, Miami Vice in hand, for 17 hours. There are no worries in Naples. If you do, however, choose to spend your days among the living, you have options.
And so, I’ve compiled a guide of my favorite things to do, eat, and see in this wonderful city on the beach. I hope that this makes your travel experience the most optimal and flawless that it could be. And, if you do decide to do absolutely nothing with your time, no judgment. That’s what vacation is for. Behold, the Naples City Guide.
1. For Coffee: Bad Ass Coffee, 1307 3rd Street South
Admittedly, I don’t drink coffee. It ravages my stomach. But, I thought it might be nice to tell you where everyone else I know gets coffee from. Get an iced coffee and they’ll drop a couple ice cubes in there, which are also made of iced coffee. Genius. It’s also located in the heart of Olde Naples, so grab your morning latte and head straight to the beach with ease.
Other coffee/pastry options: Tony’s Off Third (grab a bunch of pastries for breakfast at home, or dine outside and people watch on 3rd Street).
2. For Breakfast/Brunch: Jane’s, 1209 3rd Street South
Jane’s is quintessential Naples. You can wear your bathing suit and a beach coverup or go full-on-New-York-City-brunchwear and still feel like you fit in. They serve breakfast all day (so don’t worry if you’re running late), but they’re always jam-packed (so send a member of your party ahead to put in your name). The menu is so extensive, and even has a couple true vegan dishes. Order the: mimosa special of the day and the Vegan Ranchero Veggies (or, for non-vegans, everyone loves the Fabulous French Toast and the Shrimp Tacos).
Other breakfast options: The Café on 5th Ave (see below), Three60 Market (health food & breakfast favorites; think avocado toast/buckwheat groats and breakfast sandwiches), Sunburst Cafe (for traditional diner-ish breakfast).
So here’s the deal: these are two restaurants combined into one really, really good block of food. If you sit down at The Cafe, you can order off the Delicious Raw menu. Or, you can walk up to the Delicious Raw counter and order on-the-go or sit at The Cafe tables. The bottom line is that they’ve made this a really easy and enjoyable eating experience for their customers. The Cafe has lots of healthy options (paleo, etc.) and classic staples. It also serves amazing breakfast (all day), so you have that option, too. Order the: Florida Glow, Green Machine or Tropic Bowl at Delicious Raw; and order the Ironman Oatmeal (it’s made with beet juice so it has an amazing red color) or the Turkey Club or the Chipotle Chicken Sandwich) from The Café.
Other lunch options: Food & Thought (smoothies! vegan food! this place is great for a quick bite on the go; order the raw special of the day); Body & Soul Cafe (plant-based food and smoothies on the go, you can also get meal delivery from this amazing place); Dolce & Salato (it feels like you’re eating in LA), Molto (family-owned, good, old-fashioned American and Italian basics), Sea Salt (beautiful plates, both seafood and land food, and purportedly the best burger in town).
It wouldn’t be a Relevance Report city guide if I didn’t include the trendiest places to grab the trendiest single food item: the açaí bowl. This one is a three-way tie. So, in no particular order, here it goes. The Bowl is basically a temporary pop-up shop. Serving up the creamiest açaí blend in four signature styles, you can find The Bowl camped out at Body & Soul Cafe (Monday – Friday), numerous farmers markets (Saturdays on Third Street is the best), and soon at its very own brick-and-mortar on Pine Ridge. Die hard açaí fans will find no flaws in their masterfully crafted bowls.
The Café on 5th Avenue also serves açaí bowls and pitaya bowls. They can be ordered to go or to stay, but, for some reason, cannot be ordered at the Delicious Raw counter. Pro tip: whether you’re dining in or getting takeout, ask for the açaí bowl to go. For some reason, they make the blend thicker that way, which, in my opinion, is tastier.
Delicious Raw on Pine Ridge also serves amazing açaí bowls. This one is sort of “out of the way” if you’re spending a majority of your time in Olde Naples, but it’s worth it if you’re in the area. What’s close by? The Waterside Shops and Target. Sounds like a pretty fun day to me.
4. For Dinner: Dusk at The Ritz Carlton, 280 Vanderbilt Beach Road
Again, as you all probably know, I am vegan, so I don’t eat regular person sushi. I do, however, eat vegan sushi and for that, this place is divine. It also has regular person sushi, don’t worry. Dusk at The Ritz is truly an experience. Whether you order bar food or sushi, the offerings are incredible. The seating is casual and cozy, usually a couple of couches around a small table. Each area also has its own personal television so, if you’re like me and travel with people who can’t miss a single game, this is your spot for an uptown feel with downtown amenities. Order: anything. It’s all amazing. Go early and watch the sunset at Gumbo Limbo and grab a few before dinner drinks to make things a little more fun.
Other dinner options: The Continental (go for the ambiance and the dancing), Bricktop’s at The Waterside Shops (if you’re a rib person, order them; plus, it’s located right at the shopping center), Barbatella (Italian/American and vegan pizza, yahtzee; also, it’s beautiful), Alberto’s (authentic Italian and the most friendly waitstaff; get the Moscow Mule, unquestionably), Baleen (dine on the beach and die happily).
1. Beach or Pool (or both!): The Edgewater Beach Hotel, 1901 Gulf Shore Boulevard North
Head to the Edgewater for classic vacation vibes, piña colada and poolside grub included. Double pools provide for optimal swimming room, and direct beach access provides for the most amazing view. It’s also a pretty incredible place to call home during your trip to sunny, southwestern Florida if you’re looking for more of a boutique, low key atmosphere. Luckily, it seems like school vacation weeks are (finally) over, and thus, you’re bound to find a more adult-friendly, calm ambience here. Order the: Fresh Pressed Fruit Punch cocktail for a trendy and less body-conscious substitute for your daily green juice. Go on, let loose. Pro tip: get there early and save your seats, i.e., do what effectively became illegal in Boston this winter and throw your “space saver” onto a lounge chair.
2. Beach: Naples Beach, 12th Avenue and 17th Avenue entrances
Naples Beach pretty much spans the entire “good part” of Naples, as I like to cheekily call it. It runs from 21st Avenue South to 7th Avenue North. Now, each and every entrance to the beach brings with it a different feel. Personally, my two favorites are the 12th and 17th Avenue entrances. For a more touristy feel (i.e., grab a hot dog and an unidentifiable red slushy drink – which is actually rather tasty – while watching old men fish for dinner as dolphins pass by), head to 12th Avenue and walk the Naples Pier. Then, stake your claim to the beach among the other out-of-towners. Or, if you’re into a more solitary scene, head to the 17th Avenue entrance, where you’ll find wide open spaces of white sand and a local crowd.
1. Mall Shopping: The Waterside Shops, 5415 Tamiami Trail North
If you’re in the mood for upscale department stores (Nordstom, Saks Fifth Avenue) and high-end staples (Louis Vuitton, Van Cleef & Arpels, Ferragamo, Burberry) sprinkled with some everyday must-haves (lululemon athletica, Calypso St. Barth, Anthropologie, J.Crew), The Waterside Shops are going to be your heaven on earth. Here’s what I love about this place: it’s an outdoor mall, so you don’t feel like you’ve completely wasted your life savings by going on vacation just to spend your time at an indoor shopping center. There are also a handful of not-your-average-mall-restaurants, so if you get hungry but want to continue shopping (it’s an everyday struggle), you can stop into a joint that people actually purposefully travel to The Waterside Shops for (see Bricktop’s above).
You can also go the route of shopping for the “experience,” that is to say, shopping not for the purpose of buying sought-after items. Now, I shouldn’t say that there aren’t any sought-after items on Fifth Avenue or Third Street, because I’m sure there are, but these two locales are an acquired taste; to be blunt, the shopping here is directed at an older crowd. There are a few small boutiques here and there (my favorites are Tickled Pink and Marissa Collections, both on Third), but for the most part, this is where locals go to do their taxes, meet with their financial advisors, and primarily, eat. Unless, of course, you’re a Tommy Bahama fan; then by all means, shop away.
Where to Workout
1. For Group Cycling and One-on-One TRX Training: Time Trial Cycle, 3080 Tamiami Trial North
This place is a city girl’s dream. It’s a little slice of endorphin-boosting heaven in what is already by itself complete paradise. Time Trial Cycle, as you can deduce, offers indoor cycling classes to fresh, up-to-date beats that motivate you to push your body and your mind. I rode with Claire, who was both galvanizing and encouraging, and even periodically misted us with icy cool water, for which I was eternally grateful. I was also lucky enough to experience a personal TRX training session with Time Trial’s owner, Charla Goodnight. Admittedly, TRX is incredibly challenging and undeniably fun. I will absolutely continue with this workout in the future. More importantly, Charla is a doll and a total babe. She is a mom of three too-cute-for-words little boys (she showed me their picture), and she is also an incredibly strong and independent woman. Really, she’s everything you would want in a fitness instructor/spiritual guider/friend. I ended up chatting with her after my workouts about veganism/health and fitness/life generally for about 40 minutes, so I say that with confidence. Some other need to know facts about the studio: they sell juice (crucial) and they have an assortment of lust-worthy athleisure wear, including a personal favorite of mine, Spiritual Gangster. All things considered, this spot is a must-see.
2. Straight-Up Gym: Briggs Wellness Center, 399 9th Street North
If you’re in the mood to do your own, unmoderated thing at a gym, head here. Don’t forget to ask about any specials they’re running for visitors; otherwise, its $10 per visit.
The Naples Checklist
1. Walk Fifth Avenue and Third Street, either during the day or at night (the palm trees have year-round Christmas lights).
2. Rent a bike and cruise along Gulf Shore Boulevard to admire (and lust after) the incredible homes. Search for Steven Spielberg’s.
3. Rent a pontoon boat and do the same by way of the on-water driveways (aka channels).
4. Bring a champagne-only picnic to the beach to watch the sunset. You’ll be joined by a host of locals who do this every night. Oh, what a life.
5. Visit the Third Street Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings from 7:30-11:30.
6. Find cool colored walls to take photos against (#bloglife).
7. Visit Whole Foods and bring back ingredients to make your own poolside açaí bowl.
8. See a movie at Silverspot at Mercato. It’s probably the most incredible movie theatre I’ve ever been to (think plush leather couches, a full menu and adult beverages). Go early and eat at Mercato’s MASA.
9. Yearning for some spa time? Visit the Naples Grande Spa, an all natural and organic day spa. Pure bliss.
11. Just want to dance? Try HB’s on the Gulf.
13. Explore. Even though I’ve visited Naples countless times, I find something new to do every time. Been to Naples and have any suggestions? Let me know!
Did you enjoy this post/find it helpful? Let me know if you’d like to see travel guides to other cities!