Where the crystal-quartz sand appears like the powdery white snow of climates closer to the poles, Floridians forgo winter break trips to ski resorts for beach resorts—taking the 30-to 40-degree temperature difference to skim down to their swimmies rather than bulk-up in down feather. And since we're more inclined than ever to forfeit flight booking and stay put this winter, we’re realizing just now how spoiled we are to be “stuck” in a locale with warm winter months, places to staycation that feel more like a tropical paradise than a hometown outing. Just up Gulf Drive and on the professional vacationers’ island of Anna Maria Island, Bali Hai Beach Resort exists for guests to dip their toes into some out-of-office/off-the-clock hedonism—making believe they’ve traveled to a distant land somewhere off the islands of Indo.

Here, find the weekend warriors recouping on dire relaxation. The pure pursuit of pleasure is sought with luxury spa services, cocktails that come in coconuts, waterfront suites and tropical oasis amenities. “Since purchasing the property in early 2019, we have already been renovating and transforming Bali Hai into an island-style sanctuary with a heavy focus on serenity and spaciousness, so we were quickly inclined to such additional adjustments,” says Director of Operations Ryan Schmidt. “Our new cabanas, beach and pool loungers/umbrellas are well spaced out and quite private. These are extraordinary times, privacy is an extraordinary amenity. An amenity our guests deserve.” With two acres of lush, tranquil paradise to stake its own, Bali Hai’s sun-drenched locale and property may actually trick you into thinking you’ve traveled to the exotic Indonesian archipelago, but, really, you’re likely within 5–30 miles of your driveway. 

Guests can start ticking off their to-dos at the on-site Sea & Sol Spa, tucked away in a quiet oasis near Bali Hai’s tropical pool. From a Seaweed Body Wrap with an aloe-based gel that combines three types of dehydrated seaweed and lavender oil to replenish and moisturize the body after a day in the sun to a full-body Island Scrub with exfoliating sugar or salt scrubs, soothing warm-towel wipe down and coconut oil massage, it’s easy to pretend you’re on PTO on a lavish, luxury trip far away. Meanwhile, the Face Glow basks hot towels on your face combined with a special facial massage that layers all-natural made-in-Florida products to gently clean and hydrate your skin and is combined with an aroma-scalp massage, while Reflexology treats your feet to luscious pure shea butter for hydration and an ancient technique of firm pressure used on reflex points to restore the entire body. And for the couples who prefer to unwind and unknot together, Shared Serenity allows you both to relax side by side while one highly skilled massage therapist floats back and forth between two of you with hot packs, essential oils and healing hands.

After you and your partner are all loosened up on the physical front, further unwind by loosening up mentally with a few signature cocktails at the Bali Hai Lounge. The Rum “Stumbler” mixes fresh pineapple, banana liquor, blackberry brandy, orange and cranberry dark rum in a glass to brazenly re-tox after your detoxifying massage. The Bali Hai Tai is the lounge’s version of the better-known Mai Tai vacation drink with Orgeat and Curaçao, and the Anna Maria Limeade is a refreshing libation of vodka, fresh lime, melon liqueur and a bubbly topper. The Under the Frangipani cocktail is a florally fantastic choice for gin, elderflower and prosecco lovers, while the Tropical Mojito Crush combines bursting flavors of Combier Liqueur d’Orange, lime, agave and mint. Meanwhile, Whiskey by the Pool, with smoked pineapple amaro and bourbon maraschino, and the Smoky Sunset Pineapple Margarita, with reposado tequila, mezcal, pineapple, agave, fresh lime and a “sunset” floater, make you equal parts relieved and stoked you have a room to stay the night.

Guests can also go into full-send vacation mode with a frozen daiquiri or piña colada, or even create their own mule with Bundaberg Ginger Beer and the spirit of their choice, “because we aren’t in Russia,” as the lounge menu cheekily states. After a fulfilling day of salt scrub massages, saltwater swims and salt-rimmed drinks, retreat to one of the brand-new Balinese-inspired guest room suites. “90 percent of our hotel accommodations are actually comprised of either one- or two- bedroom suites, which are just huge,” says Schmidt. “Their overall square footage cannot even be compared to a typical hotel room.” Fully furnished to include sliding, wooden-shutter glass doors that open to spacious balconies and blue views for days, enjoy king-size canopy beds with superior bedding, cypress root tables, carved wood accents, rattan hanging light fixtures, coastal-chic accents and all the comforts of home. Wood-grain tile and floating shelves adorn the newly designed kitchens, while full private bathrooms feature smart lighting, backlit LED mirrors and an impressive tub to soak any remaining stressors away.

And with over 300 feet of pristine beachfront—which may be soft and white, but it doesn’t give frostbite—head back down to catch a dreamy Gulf Coast sunset. Or, head onto the 5,500 square feet of verdant diamond turf courtyard to play cornhole in your open-toed sandals. While we extend our sincerest condolences to Northerners bundled up this winter with no escape from the snow, we’re happy to show some skin and soak in the sun-gracing AMI while we patiently wait to use our passports again for islands more international. SRQ

Bali Hai Beachfront Resort, 6900 Gulf Dr., Holmes Beach, 941-254-6609, balihaibeachresort.com, @balihaibeachfrontresort