Here are TEN Reasons You Will Love Staying at the Don Cesar, aka the “Pink Palace!”
# 1. The Don Cesar is beautiful and full of detail!
The “Pink Palace, as it is sometimes called, is an E-shaped hotel that has been renovated over the years to provide much detail. The hotel has 277 rooms, including 36 suites! It may have been built in the 1920s, but it has kept up with today’s standards.
2. It is located on a top beach.
Located in St. Pete Beach, the Don Cesar has a prime location at the end of the St. Pete Beach area. The area is quiet, providing a relaxing atmosphere. The sand feels like powder beneath your feet, and closer to the water you will find an abundance of tiny sea shells.
3. The Don Cesar offers many activities.
If you are interested, there are many activities available, some for free. Water sports, such as kayaking and paddle boarding, are available in the mornings. There was a man singing with a guitar when we were there; and other times beachy type music. Free wifi and fitness classes are available. Yoga, Zumba, and other fitness classes are offered, as well as the normal gym equipment. The gym, open 24 hours a day, is one of the best I have seen while traveling.
4. The employees are hardworking and polite.
I think the employees’ attitude towards the hotel was my favorite part of the stay at the Don Cesar. They were all so friendly and willing to help with anything needed. Some employees have worked there over 20 years and you can feel the passion they have for the hotel.
5. The spa has something for everyone!
There is a long list of services available in the 11,000 square foot spa. I loved the deep tissue massage and use of the spa’s sauna and shower services while there. And if you book a spa service, you can go to the top deck and relax with a glass of wine, or whatever your choice, as you watch the waves come crashing in. But, this is only available to those who use the spa!
6. The restaurants on site are wonderful.
The food at all the restaurants were delicious and not overly priced. We loved getting to sit by the pool as our lunch was brought to us to enjoy. Also, there is an ice cream parlor downstairs that has coffee and breakfast items, as well. Definitely check it out, as that entrance used to be the main entrance before the hotel’s renovation. Actually, part of the floor is the original floor! And, if you ask an employee, they may open the door behind the ice cream counter to show you the rest of the entrance way.
7. If you want to see a ghost, the Don Cesar MAY be the place to stay!
There are rumors the hotel may be haunted by the ghost of Thomas Rowe himself. His apparition has been seen by guests as he smiles at them. And some (supposedly lazy) employees have left to never return because of seeing him. It is like he is still there trying to look after his dream hotel.
8. There is a great kids program.
I watched as the children played games and made jewelry out of beads in the Camp Cesar kid’s zone. While there, I joined the kids on the wildlife tour. The tour, tailored to the kids, is about the wildlife in the area, such as the manatees and sea turtles. You can do this on your own by reading the information plaques located around the pool area.
There are set times, by appointment, that the kids’ camp is available. Also, for a fee, there is a “Kids Night Out” available on the weekend!
9. Pets are welcome!
There are dog walking routes and areas provided for your pets. There is even gourmet room service and massages available for your pet! The list of amenities provided for your pet is long, so check it out!
10. The hotel is full of history!
The Don Cesar was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and rightfully so! Thomas Rowe came to the St. Petersburg area and bought 80 acres along the beach in an unpopulated area. It was so far out of the way, that a dock was built nearby for ships to make deliveries.
The “Pink Palace” was opened in 1928 about 300% OVER budget! The rich and famous stayed here, such as Al Capone and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Many activities and three meals a day were included in the resort. The dining room was on a top floor for better views as they enjoyed their meals.
The end of a dream…
Then, the Depression happened. With only $100 in the cash register, Rowe worked out an agreement with his staff for room and board and half pay. He made an agreement to house the New York Yankees team during spring training for 3 years. By the end of the summer, he was able to pay everyone back full wages!
Unfortunately, Thomas Rowe died without a will. He had wanted to leave the hotel to all of his employees in exchange for them to take care of his wife at the hotel. There was only 1 person at the time of Rowe’s death that was not in conflict with the will and he did not feel comfortable signing as a witness. So, the hotel was left to his estranged wife.
In 1942, the Army bought the hotel for $450,000 and converted it into a military hospital. Supposedly, everything that was not needed by the military was destroyed. There is only one original plate left, and it is hanging in the downstairs hallway on display.
The history continues…
The Don Cesar was used as a U.S. Air Force convalescent center and then a Veterans Administration Regional office until it was left vacant in 1969. The hotel became an eye sore to the local residents as it was looking run down and covered in graffiti. William Bowman, Jr of Holiday Inn bought it in 1972 and it opened the next year. It has had multiple renovations over the years and is now a prominent location in the St. Pete Beach area. In fact, it is used as a maritime location for boaters.
Tours of the hotel are available free to guests. There are also pictures and history facts about the hotel located on the bottom floor of the hotel.
Here’s a video of our time at the Don Cesar. Some of the history of the hotel is included. For more details, book a stay at the hotel and take the guided history tour!
We enjoyed our relaxing stay at the Don Cesar. However, there were some disruptions due to the turnover of the property to Host Hotels the week we were there. Some of the activities did not take place, such as the food tastings and water sports. We were bummed that we got up early and did not get to kayak, as planned. Also, the computer systems were down in the gift shop. This is to be expected and we can’t wait to return again to see the changes that will be made with the new ownership!