I absolutely love the ocean. And yet, staying at a luxurious oceanfront spa hotel was a bit of a departure for me. Most of my trips to the beach are simply day trips with the dogs and kids. Sometimes we go camping near the ocean. And any trip at all for our family is more likely to be a rental house or home exchange than a hotel stay.
But one of my best friends, who lives in Florida, loves One Ocean Resort & Spa, and has wanted to share it for years. So when we decided that Thanksgiving weekend would be a great time for a girls’ getaway, we quickly agreed on One Ocean as the destination. My friend made sure we got a room with a balcony, because what is staying right on the beach all about? Obviously, staring out at the surf and sleeping with the doors open.
Our group of three women and three teen daughters booked two rooms at One Ocean: An “limited view” room with two double beds for the teens, and an opulent corner Oceanfront Balcony Suite for the adults. Technically, the corner suite only allows two people, so I was an official resident of the double room with the kids. More on that below.
Before we arrived, we also tried to book spa appointments for ourselves and our daughters. My 14-year-old, Pebbles, was excited to be treated to a facial in a fancy spa. Unfortunately, it turns out that no one under 18 was allowed in the spa. So we booked massages for the adults ($174 including 20% gratuity for 60 minutes), and bought the kids some facial masks to enjoy in their room.
The day we were scheduled to arrive at the resort, I got an email letting me know the kids’ limited view double room had been upgraded to deluxe view. Great! The hotel also let me know I could download the OpenKey app and get my room key on my phone. I was excited to do so, and added a note via the app letting them know I was hoping to get into our room (the kids’ room) before the 4 p.m. check-in time.
Pebbles and I arrived by Lyft at 11 a.m. The doormen who met our taxi were nice, but — like most people in Florida as of November 2021, including service people — they were not wearing masks. The hotel lobby is elegantly beachy, with some nice sitting areas and a fancy fountain. Off to one side is a little shop and a fancy self-service espresso/hot cocoa machine that is free to guests. To get to the rooms from the lobby, you need to go up a grand-looking but short staircase, or take the freight elevator to the mezzanine, where you find the spa and the elevator to the guest rooms.
The woman at the front desk told me that she is fully vaccinated and that I could remove my mask if I wanted. She also told me that the majority of the guests at this hotel were fully vaccinated, although I don’t think she would have any way of knowing that. At any rate, she was able to get us into a room right away, which we appreciated.
However, once we walked into our fourth floor room, I realized that I had forgotten to ask for a room near the suite that the adults would be staying in. Besides that, although our room was pretty, there was a construction site right outside the window, which sort of marred the side view of the ocean.
I called the front desk and the kind lady there switched us to a fifth floor room that was near the suite. The OpenKey app on my phone immediately updated, so we were able to go right to our new room without returning to the front desk.
The new room was on the other side of the hall, so no construction view. It was lovely, although not huge. The real drawback of the double rooms isn’t the size though: it’s that they don’t have balconies. The windows don’t even open. So although this room was great as the secondary room for a group, I wouldn’t book one on my own because I’d be missing out on those fresh sea breezes.
We put down our things, sent our friends keys via OpenKey so they could get into this room as well, and headed out to explore. The hotel says it’s in Atlantic Beach, but some of the restaurants just steps away say they’re in Neptune Beach. Both are supposedly “quasi-independent” towns, separate from Jacksonville. Whatever it was called, the area around the hotel was full of restaurants and shops, and we never needed a car the whole time we stayed.
First we checked out the shops, which were mostly cute clothing boutiques. Some were quite expensive, but there were also some Black Friday sales going on. We were looking to buy new bathing suits, which I thought would always be on offer at the beach in Florida. But actually, we found relatively little swimwear, and mostly in clearance bins. Even Florida has seasonal retail changes, apparently.
Beyond the first couple blocks of vacation-type shopping are more serious shops, like Walgreens and grocery store Publix, that could also be walked to or accessed with a very short taxi ride.
After shopping and a quick stop back at the room, Pebbles and I headed out on a long beach walk. We accessed the beach via the pool area, which has a locked gate that leads to a narrow boardwalk to the broad beach.
The sand was white and fine, the waves gentle, and the beach stretched out for what seemed like infinity in each direction. Florida’s Atlantic Coast is so different from California beaches, in that there are no cliffs and few outcroppings to separate one beach from the next. The weather was mild and sunny, in the high 60s. We collected a few shells, admired beach houses, and talked and talked.
When our friends arrived around 4 p.m., there was a momentary flutter of confusion caused by the OpenKey app. Apparently, when my friend accepted my invite, that linked her phone number to the kids’ room. In order to get the key to the suite, which she was checking into, the staff had to help her unlink her number from the other room.
The suite was spectacular! Just the entryway would have provided plenty of space for a rollaway bed, which makes it funny that they don’t allow even a child as a third guest in this room. The wide entrway had marble tiles, and a half bath on one wall. Then you come to a little table where you can dump your things. It would have been nice if they’d put some hooks on the wall in the entry for jackets and beach towels. But I always wish hotels and rental houses had more hooks!
The suite’s main room had a full-sized couch, which I immediately claimed as my bed, a big comfy chair, coffee table and TV, and a fridge cabinet with the ice bucket and a Keurig for coffee on top. The bedroom had a king sized bed and a chaise lounge, and another TV. The main bathroom was of course in the bedroom, and the vanity area was outside the bathroom, as it should be. The highlight of the corner suite, aside from the ridiculous amount of space: There are two balconies. The balconies are of equal size, each with a couple chairs and a small table. Slightly annoyingly, a concrete wall separates them, so you can’t see or hear your friends on the other balcony. Still, though. Two balconies! Luxury!
And the view from those balconies was perfect. With no road between the hotel and the waves, we felt like we were right on the beach, even though we were on the fifth floor. We watched the sun rise every morning from these balconies. One morning, we saw a pod of dolphins frolicking in the surf for hours. If I ever come back here, I’m bringing binoculars so I can enjoy the ocean life even more.
So far, our brief interactions with the staff had already given us a clue that the service is one of the best parts of One Ocean. Throughout the weekend, that impression was cemented as new people came on duty who were just as kind and accommodating as those who had checked us in. One thing I loved is that they have a text number that is monitored by whoever’s on duty, day or night, so that you can get service to your room without having to actually call. Throughout the weekend, I texted to request extra pillows and blankets (for my couch bed), room service and late checkout (granted). Maybe because of the OneKey mixup, my friend never ended up getting the initial welcome text that you can reply to for service. She used the room phone to request service which was also promptly answered. The staff never said anything about the fact that we were obviously breaking the rules by having a third person sleep in the suite. In addition, our maid brought us tons of bottles of water and left us notes every day.
Friday night we strolled to one of the nearby restaurants — Hawkers Asian Street Food, yum! — and then whiled away the evening sipping sparkling wine in our room, to the sound of ocean waves.
Saturday morning, it was time for our spa visit. We told our kids not to expect us to emerge for hours, because this spa has many amenities and they welcome you to linger.
First, we were shown the ladies’ locker room, which has a hot tub and several shower rooms. We were given plush robes and slippers, and then invited to wait for our appointments in the lounge area, which has a glass wall looking out on the pool and beach. There was a coffee bar with pastries and tiny jars of Bonne Mama brand honey. The pastries didn’t look tempting enough for me to break my morning fast, but I will admit pocketing the adorable honey jar to bring home, much to my family’s delight.
The massage rooms themselves were pretty standard, with heated massage beds. My massage therapist was initially not masked, but when she saw I was wearing mine, she asked if I would prefer she wear one. Of course I said yes, so she put on a mask. She gave me one of the best massages I can remember. Maybe it’s just that due to Covid, I haven’t had a massage in about two years, but I really loved it.
After the massage, my therapist asked if I’d like a water or a mimosa, and you can bet I chose the mimosa. When I was ready, she met me at the door with the drink and we were invited to relax in the lounge as long as we wanted. We saw our kids strolling down the beach from our chairs, which was funny. We were shushed once by the staff and reminded that people were getting their treatments right on the other side of the wall. But they shushed us pretty nicely.
After awhile, a couple of us decided to use the hot tub. The hotel doesn’t have an outdoor hot tub, which is too bad since the weather was cool. The indoor one was large, hot, and powerful, which are all great qualities in a hot tub. One thing that made it a little awkward, though, was the fact that the nail area of the salon is basically in the locker room, with a glass wall. So anyone getting their nails done can see you getting in and out of the tub, nude. Writing this, I’m now wondering: Does that mean only women can get nail service here? I’m not sure.
One of my friends opted to use one of the showers instead, which she reported was an incredibly luxurious, powerful shower.
You can even order lunch in the spa lounge area if you want. Or poolside. Our kids actually took their lunch in the pretty hotel dining room and charged it to their room. Funny how quickly kids can get used to resort life!
When we finally left the spa in the early afternoon, we ladies lunched at North Beach Fish Camp — local shrimp with grits, yes please! Then Pebbles and I took a dip in the pool, even though she had already gone in earlier with the kids. They keep the pool at 80 degrees, so swimming felt nice, but since it was in the 60s outside, getting out of the pool didn’t feel as good. I warmed up in the shower as soon as I got back to the suite.
On our departure day, the staff granted my request for a late checkout, giving us until 1 p.m. (regular checkout noon). We appreciated this, since our flight back to California didn’t take off until 6. Our local friends departed, and Pebbles and I relaxed on the balcony. Around noon, I wanted to eat my restaurant leftovers for lunch, but I didn’t have anything for Pebbles to eat, so I texted the staff line again and asked if it was too late to order room service. No, it wasn’t! Pebbles enjoyed a chicken salad sandwich for lunch on the balcony with me. I only wish they had a microwave in the suite so I could have warmed up my food.
Before we left the area, the staff kindly put our bags into the luggage room for us so we could return to the shops to buy something we’d had our eye on. The ladies at the front desk even helped me decide what to do with the hours before our flight. I had wanted to visit the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve nearby, but since we didn’t have our own car and that destination is a bit sprawling, the staff pointed me to the Jacksonville Arboretum and Botannical Gardens instead. The name makes that place sound more grand than it is, but it was a lovely and inexpensive place to stroll around and see some local inland wildlife. Best of all, it was on the way to the airport.
All in all, this property lived up to my friend’s descriptions of it. The only thing I wish I could change would be the way the hotel uses its available space. It’s too bad they didn’t give every room a balcony, instead of allocating two balconies to the corner suites. Or at least make it possible to open all the windows to let in the sea air. And instead of having such gigantic suites and relatively tight double rooms, it would have been nice to spread the space around a little.
Overall, I would definitely recommend One Ocean Resort & Spa, especially the spa part of the experience. If you go, book a room with a balcony!
Property: One Ocean Resort & Spa
Atlantic Beach (Jacksonville), Florida
What I paid: The double room was $269 a night on this holiday weekend, plus $53.76 per night resort fee. I paid with 27,276 Chase Ultimate Rewards points plus $377.19 for two nights. Sadly, I don’t think you can currently book the suites using Chase Rewards.