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Florida Resorts: Summer in the sun

Facing months of heat and humidity, why not take advantage of the discounted summer rates at Florida's top resorts? Each one listed here rates at least four stars and four diamonds _ out of five _ awarded by the Mobil Travel Guide and AAA TourBook. We've added a couple of venerable Tampa Bay hotels, for a shorter trip.

For readers who prefer more intimate accommodations, we tell you about some fine small hotels and B&Bs.

1. THE BILTMORE HOTEL CORAL GABLES

1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, FL 33134

(305) 445-1926 or (800) 727-1926

Web site: http://www.biltmorehotel.com

Built in 1926, the Biltmore is a Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond National Historic Landmark luxury hotel featuring an 18-hole golf course, 10 lighted tennis courts and the Biltmore Fitness Center and Spa. It boasts the largest hotel swimming pool in the continental United States. The 278-room Mediterranean-revival style building has large stone columns, decorative hand-painted ceilings, Italian marble floors and an open-air courtyard with fountains. Conde Nast Traveler voted it one of the "Best Places to Stay in the World" in 1999.

The Biltmore's Summer Splash package includes deluxe accommodations, breakfast and lunch for two, pool and fitness center privileges, complimentary membership at the hotel's popular Cellar Club wine bar, unlimited local phone calls and a morning newspaper. The package is $239 per night double occupancy and is available July 1 through Aug. 31. A room-only special is available for $139 per night.

2. THE BREAKERS

1 South County Road, Palm Beach, FL 33480

(561) 655-6611 or (888) BREAKERS

Web site: http://www.thebreakers.com

The award-winning Breakers Palm Beach is a Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond resort recognized as one of the finest in the world. The 569-room Italian Renaissance-style hotel resides on 140 acres of oceanfront property. Built in 1896, the hotel recently completed a $100-million revitalization and expansion and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Amenities include two 18-hole golf courses, 14 tennis courts, four ocean-side pools and a luxury spa.

The Summer Breakaway package, priced at $250 per night, includes luxurious accommodations for two and a full breakfast in the Circle Dining Room. Tax and gratuities are included and children 12 and under eat free when ordering from the children's menu. On a space-available basis Sunday through Thursday from June 1 through Sept. 15.

3. DISNEY'S YACHT & BEACH RESORT

1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Orlando, FL 32830

(407) 934-7000

Web site: http://www.disney.com

Oak floors, antique chandeliers and rich millwork evoke memories of New England summer days at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, two fantasy-themed hotels at Walt Disney World Resort. The rambling 1,215-room complex (630 rooms at the Yacht, 583 at the Beach) is situated on the shores of 25-acre Crescent Lake. Amenities include a heated pool, sauna, two lighted tennis courts and a playground. Stormalong Bay, a 2{-acre water recreation area, features a life-size shipwreck with waterslides, snorkeling in a sandy lagoon and a swimming area. Guests can walk or take a tram from the resort to Epcot International Gateway or travel by water taxi to Disney-MGM Studios.

Accommodations-only price for the Yacht or Beach Club is $269-$435 per night from July 4 to Sept. 27 for single or double occupancy. Children under 17 stay free in room with parents.

4. THE DON CESAR BEACH RESORT & SPA

3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

(727) 360-1881 or (800) 282-1116

Web site: http://www.doncesar.com

Opened in 1928, the legendary "pink palace" is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. Often touted as the finest beachfront location in Florida, the Don features 275 guest rooms, including two luxury penthouses and 43 spacious suites. In addition to the hotel's majestic archways, elegant furnishings and soaring ceilings, amenities include two large, heated outdoor pools, three restaurants and four lounges.

Several summer packages are available June 1 through Sept. 30, including a four-day, three-night Family Fun on the Beach package. It includes a gulf-side room, choice of breakfast or lunch for four at the Seaporch Cafe, five free Kid's Limited supervised program activities and a cabana or non-motorized watercraft rental each day. All taxes and gratuities are included for $969.

The four-day, three-night Pink Palace Refresher package is $956. It includes a gulf-side room, a fruit and cheese welcome basket, choice of breakfast or lunch for two at the Seaporch Cafe and a sea scrub and soothing back massage for two at the hotel spa.

Sunday through Thursday accommodations-only summer rates are $119 to $169 per night based on availability.

5. THE FOUR SEASONS RESORT PALM BEACH

2800 S Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL 33480

(561) 582-2800 or (800) 432-2335

Web site: http://www.fourseasons.com

Located on 6 beautifully landscaped acres overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach offers 210 spacious guest rooms, all with a private balcony, marble bathroom and private bar. The resort boasts a large, heated swimming pool and oceanfront whirlpool, a full service 6,000-square-foot health and beauty spa, three tennis courts and a complimentary, full-day Kids for All Seasons program. Among the recreational offerings are catamarans, kayaks, windsurfers and bicycle rentals.

The Four Seasons' Under the Sun package features a complimentary night's stay when preceded by two paid nights through Oct. 31. From June 1 through Sept. 30, room rates for a garden room are discounted to $265 per night; premier rooms are $480.

6. WYNDHAM GRAND BAY HOTEL-COCONUT GROVE

2669 S Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove, FL 33133

(305) 858-9600 or (800) 996-3426

Web site: http://www.wyndham.com

Rated one of the most luxurious hotels in the country, this 177-room Mobil Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond boutique hotel overlooks Biscayne Bay and is minutes from Miami's South Beach. Amenities include a fitness center, pool and sauna and an elegant afternoon tea. Golf, tennis and a jogging parcourse are nearby and sport fishing and charters are available across the street at Dinner Key Marina.

A Florida Residents Special is offered through Sept. 5 for $160 per night, single or double occupancy, based on availability.

7. LODGE & CLUB AT PONTE VEDRA BEACH

607 Ponte Vedra Blvd., Ponte Vedra, FL 32082

(904) 273-9500 or (800) 243-4304

Web site: http://www.pvresorts.com

Framed by palm trees and sand dunes, the Lodge & Club at Ponte Vedra Beach sparkles as one of Florida's most elegant oceanfront resorts. The 66-room, Mediterranean-style resort features a beach-side fountain courtyard, classic archways, ornamental turrets, awnings, trellises and balconies. Amenities include three pools, a state-of-the-art fitness center with certified personal trainers and massage therapists, an oceanfront Jacuzzi and youth recreation activities. Riding stables, championship golf and nationally rated Ponte Vedra Racquet Club are nearby.

Summer specials include a five-day, four-night Fourth of July House Party July 1-5 starting at $296 per night double occupancy. The package includes deluxe accommodations, a daily breakfast, unlimited golf and tennis and an ocean-front cookout. A four-day, three-night family package is available for $250 per night double occupancy featuring deluxe accommodations, a welcome fruit basket, unlimited golf and tennis and selected complimentary beach equipment. Children under 18 stay free in room with parents.

8. PEABODY ORLANDO

9801 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819

(407) 352-4000 or (800) 732-2639

Long known for the ducks that reside in the lobby fountain and parade twice daily on a red carpet on their way to and from the $100,000 royal duck palace, the Peabody Orlando is rapidly becoming recognized as the hotel of choice for lovers who want to enjoy quality time together in the lap of luxury. A special package, Romance Romance, offers the ideal getaway for couples on their way to a honeymoon cruise, celebrating an anniversary, or just seeking a weekend getaway. The $499 package includes a one-night stay for two in an executive guest room, dinner at Capriccio's restaurant and breakfast in the B-Line Diner. The price includes chilled champagne on arrival, complimentary valet parking and use of the Peabody Athletic Club.

Other amenities at the 891-room high-rise hotel include spa treatments, a large heated pool, 24-hour child care, four lighted tennis courts, golf privileges and transportation to nearby Walt Disney World.

9. RENAISSANCE VINOY RESORT

501 Fifth Ave. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

(727) 894-1000

Web site: http://www.renaissancehotels.com

The Renaissance Vinoy Resort, located on Tampa Bay's sparkling waterfront, is one of Florida's premier luxury resorts. Originally built in 1925, a $93-million restoration in 1992 put the 360-room hotel on the National Register of Historic Places. Amenities include an 18-hole golf course, a 12-court tennis complex, a 74-slip marina, two swimming pools, five restaurants, a full-service health club and a salon and day spa.

Several special summer packages are available from May 28 through Sept. 29, including a Renaissance Rendezvous. Guests enjoy a beautifully appointed deluxe guest room for $175 per night or a deluxe bay-view guest room for $205 per night. Breakfast for two in the Terrace Room restaurant is included. A Tennis Getaway package includes luxurious guest accommodations, two hours of guaranteed court time per day on the resort's Har-Tru courts and one hour of practice on the ball machine per day. Cost for the tennis getaway is $155 double occupancy for a deluxe room and $185 for a bay-view room.

10. THE RESORT AT LONGBOAT KEY CLUB

301 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, FL 34228

(941) 383-8821 or (800) 237-8821

Web site: http://www.longboatkeyclub.com

Located on a barrier island just off the coast of Sarasota in the Gulf of Mexico, the Resort at Longboat Key Club was recently named one of the top 25 resorts in North America by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler. The 232-suite resort offers 45 holes of championship golf, a golf school, 38 Har-Tru tennis courts, four restaurants and a fully equipped fitness center.

Summer packages include the Gulf-to-Bay Golf package, featuring unlimited golf and tennis in addition to luxury accommodations for two starting at $460. A Mid-Week Memories package offers guests arriving on Sunday or Monday a third night's stay at a 50 percent discount, or a fourth night free. Both packages are available through mid-December.

11. THE RITZ-CARLTON, AMELIA ISLAND

4750 Amelia Island Parkway, Amelia Island, FL 32034

(904) 277-1100 or (800) 241-3333

Nestled on a secluded, historic island, the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, offers rest and relaxation in a Victorian setting. Winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award, the hotel features an 18-hole golf course, 11 lighted tennis courts, two restaurants and an extensive antiques and art collection. Kayaking and horseback riding are available off-property on the beach. All 449 rooms have Atlantic Ocean views.

A special summer Bed-and-Breakfast package is available from $279 to $399 per night and includes accommodations for two in either a coastal-view room or oceanfront suite, a Southern breakfast buffet for two, valet parking, use of the fitness and recreation center and the morning newspaper. A Special Occasion package is offered from $399 to $449 per night double occupancy and includes choice of coastal-view or oceanside suite, a bottle of champagne and two keepsake champagne flutes served with strawberries on arrival night, a full American breakfast for two, valet parking, use of the fitness and recreation center and morning newspaper delivery. Both packages are available from June 1 through Nov. 18.

12. THE RITZ-CARLTON, NAPLES

280 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, FL 34108

(941) 598-3300 or (888) 856-4372

Web site: http://www.ritzcarlton.com

The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, is a Mobil Five-Star, AAA Five-Diamond resort that skillfully blends Old World elegance and a lush tropical setting. The hotel's 463 guest rooms feature balconies with breathtaking views of the gulf. Resort amenities include a heated pool with sun deck and whirlpool, use of the fitness center, 3 miles of pristine sandy beach and a variety of water sports. Championship golf is available at the nearby Tiburon, a Greg Norman-designed course.

The 2000 Summer American Express Offer available May 29 through Sept. 4 (subject to availability) allows guests to treat themselves to the Ritz-Carlton's luxury for only $129 per night, double occupancy, Sunday through Wednesday, and $200 per night double occupancy Thursday through Saturday. Guests wishing to take advantage of this offer can use their American Express cards to book reservations. Rates are not applicable to groups, are subject to change and cannot be combined with any other offer.

13. SANIBEL HARBOUR RESORT & SPA

17260 Harbour Pointe Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33908

(941) 466-4000 or (800) 767-7777

Recently named one of the top five family friendly resorts in the Southeast by Family Fun magazine, Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa caters to parents and children alike. A Kid's Klub program designed for children 5-12 is packed with playful, educational adventures for kids _ beach games, treasure hunts, pool games, nature hikes and picnics. Adults can indulge in some pampering with more than 60 beauty and body-care treatments available at the 40,000-square-foot world-class spa. Additional amenities include water sports, six pools, a championship tennis complex boasting eight clay courts and a 5,000-seat stadium, sunset cruises aboard the Sanibel Harbour Princess, a 100-foot luxury yacht, and a four-Diamond award-winning gourmet restaurant, Chez le Bear.

The Sanibel Spectacular package starts at $129 per night double occupancy and includes a breakfast buffet and a coupon book valued at $200 offering discounts on restaurants, recreation and more. Valid Sunday through Thursday through Sept. 30.

14. SUNSET BAY INN

635 Bay St. NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701

(727) 896-6701

Web site: http://www.sunsetbayinn.com

The only bed-and-breakfast on the west coast of Florida to receive the AAA Four-Diamond Award, Sunset Bay Inn is a jewel of a property, located in the Old Northeast district of downtown St. Petersburg. The 1911 structure has been restored to its original grandeur and has been designated a historic landmark. Each of the six beautifully restored guest rooms is named for a place that has been a special part of the owners' lives. Each is tastefully decorated and has a private bath. A full continental breakfast is served every morning and complimentary beverages and baked goods are available 24 hours.

Summer rates, in effect through Sept. 30, start at $140 per night on weeknights and $150 per night on weekends, single or double occupancy. Additional guests may stay in rooms that can accommodate them at an additional rate of $25 per night for adults and $20 per night for children. A two-night minimum stay is required on weekends.

15. TRADEWINDS ISLAND RESORTS

5600 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, FL 33706

(727) 562-1212 or (800) 237-0707

Web site: http://www.tradewindsresort.com

Built on 35 acres of sugary white beach, TradeWinds Island Resorts is the largest resort complex on Florida's Gulf Coast. The complex offers access to three resorts in one with limitless beachfront recreation, sumptuous dining and exclusive golf privileges at a private area country club. Additional amenities include paddleboats and gondolas, beach cabanas, tennis courts, a children's program, water trikes and a fitness center.

One of the TradeWinds' special summer offerings is the Gotta Getaway package, which allows Florida residents to pay for two nights' accommodations through Sept. 30 and get the third night free. Rates start at $135 per night double occupancy. Additionally, a very special summer package is available to Florida educators. The TradeWinds' Teacher Appreciation package offers teachers 40 percent off room rates June 1 through Aug. 31. School employees may choose deluxe accommodations at either the TradeWinds Sandpiper Hotel & Suites, the TradeWinds Sirata Beach Resort or the TradeWinds Island Grand.

16. TURNBERRY ISLE RESORT & CLUB

19999 W Country Club Drive, Aventura, FL 33180

(305) 932-6200 or (800) 327-7028

Web site: http://www.turnberryisle.com

Rated one of the world's best resorts by Conde Nast Traveler in 1999, Turnberry Isle is a Mediterranean-style resort located on 300 acres in the exclusive Aventura enclave. This tropical paradise has 395 grand deluxe rooms and suites, two Robert Trent Jones Sr. championship golf courses, two tennis clubs, two heated pools, a spa and fitness center, a 117-slip marina, a private Ocean Club and nine restaurants and lounges.

Turnberry Isle's Summer Elegant Escape starts at $119 per person per night double occupancy/$174 single. It is available from June 7 through Sept. 9 and includes accommodations in one of the luxurious country club wings, a welcome cocktail, sumptuous breakfast daily, unlimited golf (excluding cart) and tennis, gourmet dinner each evening, admission to the Spa at Turnberry (excluding services), unlimited privileges at the resort's private Ocean Club and shuttle service throughout the resort.

_ Compiled by DONNA WINCHESTER of the Times Staff

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