Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites (Credit: Inn on Fifth)

Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites (Credit: Inn on Fifth)

How famous is Art Smith? Well, former first lady Michelle Obama calls him when she needs a personal chef for an extended weekend. That’s how famous.

If Smith makes a move of any substance, the culinary world tends to take notice. So, when the two-time James Beard Award winner opened 1500 South in Naples, Florida, in March 2016, the dining industry turned its collective head in the Gulf of Mexico’s direction.

A gorgeous area, for sure, but Naples isn’t exactly the first (or fifth) city you think about when it comes to food in the Sunshine State. But Smith saw something in the scene, so he deemed his global takes on Southern cuisine a good fit for the market.

But Obama’s top toque isn’t the only person betting big on Naples these days. Other restaurants are buzzing while local hotels are spending exorbitant amounts on enhancements. Knowing all of this, Forbes Travel Guide ventured down to Florida’s west coast just to see (and sample) what all the fuss was about.

A Suite View (Credit: Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites)

A Suite View (Credit: Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites)

The hotels

Naples’ beaches are some of Florida’s — dare we say America’s? — finest. That likely explains why waterfront properties such as Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Naples and LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort have cult-like followings. But a fun fact about the city: Good times can be had a bit more inland, too.

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Four-Star Inn on Fifth and Club Level Suites, aptly named for its position on bustling Fifth Avenue, sits seven blocks from the nearest waves, but it more than makes up for any sandy shortcomings by going overboard with luxuriousness. The inn itself is an 87-room showstopper that, in 2012, was enhanced with new chairs, custom art, fresh drapes and more.

Across the street are the Club Suites, a set of impressive units that was also introduced during the 2012 makeover. Not only do these comfortable, cream-colored spaces (550 to 1,160 square feet) have separate living areas and contemporary touches, but they also come with furnished balconies that look out onto the buzzy, boutique-filled street.

As a Club Suite guest, you have access to the rooftop sundeck, whirlpool spa and lounge. At some hotels, the latter would be a yawn-inducing amenity only good for pastries or a complimentary New York Times, but here, club entry affords you a continental breakfast, afternoon snacks, evening hors d’oeuvres and a concierge who’s hungry to take care of any other needs you might have during your stay.

Not 20 miles from the Inn you’ll find JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, the esteemed brand’s first beachfront address in the continental United States. The property has long captured travelers’ hearts with its stunning location (it was formerly the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort), but after a $320 million re-envisioning is completed later this year, the buildings