Cabanas that cost more than hotel rooms?
Snitz to only a Cabana-only resort on the Vegas Strip. Guess what I'm going to call it? Who's the only entertainer that will grace the poolside stage each night?
OMG, I got dancing feet!
The Hotel Cabanas That Cost More Than Most Rooms
Poolside shade at luxury resorts is now going for $500 or even $1,000 before food and drink—and often selling out
The Phoenician resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., where cabanas cost as much as $600 to rent in peak season.
Dawn Gilbertson, WSJ
March 8, 2023 5:30 am ET
The priciest item on your next hotel bill might not be the room but a posh slice of poolside shade and privacy.
Cabanas, those curtained-off retreats with TVs, padded lounge chairs, couches, trendy sunscreen and other perks, are fetching eye-popping prices as the travel boom stokes demand. Vacationers are shelling out for them, hoteliers say, often because they are still splurging on all things travel to make up for getaways put off in recent years.
For an Easter weekend getaway, the Phoenician resort at the base of Arizona’s Camelback Mountain will set you up in a poolside cabana for $550 to $600 a day depending on location. (The kid-free zone costs the most.) At the beachfront Hotel del Coronado just outside San Diego, a premium cabana goes for $400 a day. Loews Miami Beach Hotel is renting its two-story cabanas with air conditioning, showers and an ocean-view deck for $1,200 a day. Food, drink and tips are extra.
Veteran hotelier Mutluhan Kucuk, managing director at Loews Miami Beach, says cabana prices at the resort’s cabanas are up about 15% to 20% from a year ago and still regularly sell out. The guests renting them spend 35% to 40% more on food and drinks than other pool-goers.
“I wish I had more cabanas,” he says.
Renting cabanas has long been a vacation splurge.
Add in a slew of cabana upgrades—Great Wolf Lodge this summer will offer cabanas designed by HGTV star Nate Berkus at its Poconos hotel—and you have the recipe for higher prices. The industry’s move to online reservations and dynamic pricing has upped the ante during peak travel periods.
SevenRooms, the hospitality tech company behind cabana reservation systems at hotels including the Venetian and Cosmopolitan hotels in Las Vegas, says cabana prices rose between 5% and 50% last year depending on location and season and show no signs of easing this year.
“If you’re taking the trip now, we’re finding people more and more often are willing to spend when they’re on property,” says Joel Montaniel, chief executive and co-founder of the company.
The 645-room Phoenician has 20 cabanas at its three-level pool complex. This year they top out at $600 a day from mid-March through Easter break, its peak season for vacationers. Travelers are reserving them further in advance than they used to. And business groups are booking them more than they did prepandemic, leaving few last-minute choices, says Michelle Wrobel, assistant director of food and beverage.
“It’s very rare that we’ll have one or two available,” she says of same-day reservations.
Loews Miami Beach Hotel’s pool and beach operations bring in more revenue than its restaurants.
The resort’s cabanas feature a TV, couch, carpet, bathrobes, Sun Bum sunscreen and lip balm, a water cooler and a minifridge stocked with bottled water and, beginning this month, the sports drink Coco5 from Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker.
Hotels don’t disclose how much ancillary revenue pool and beach rentals and food and drink orders bring in. But it is sizable, executives say. At the Phoenician, Mrs. Wrobel says the pool complex generates nearly as much revenue as the hotel’s signature restaurant, J&G Steakhouse, where a 30-ounce Wagyu tomahawk rib-eye is on the menu for $155.
Loews’s Mr. Kucuk says the hotel’s pool and beach operations bring in more revenue than the hotel restaurants.
Cabanas are a critical piece of the pie. They are popular for special events such as bachelor, bachelorette and milestone birthday parties. (Did it happen if you don’t post photos of Veuve Clicquot toasts on Instagram?)
Guests of luxury hotels have come to expect them and get very specific in their requests. Last week, a family from Malibu, Calif., called the Phoenician to make sure their cabana captain, Rich Whalen, will be working during their next visit this summer, Mrs. Wrobel says. Mr. Whalen, who was showered with gifts from cabana regulars when his son was born nine years ago, says he will be there. He oversees 10 cabanas at one of the pools.
During the year-end holiday season, when Loews cabanas command as much as $2,500 a day, guests reserve next year’s cabana before they check out, Mr. Kucuk says.
The hotel spent $2 million to add eight luxury cabanas and eight daybeds in 2011, targeting big-spending guests who book its suites and oceanfront rooms, he says. The goal: Extend the comfort of their room to the pool.
Cabana prices at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel are up about 15% to 20% from a year ago and still regularly sell out.
Cabana rentals aren’t always exclusive to hotel guests. An increasing number of hotels and resorts offer day passes through companies such as ResortPass. They target locals and vacationers staying elsewhere, like an Airbnb. Listings in the Miami area for Saturday, March 18, include a $750 cabana rental at Eden Roc Miami Beach and SLS Brickell, $500 at Trump International Beach Resort and $400 at the Sagamore Hotel South Beach.
In some cases, day-pass buyers are willing to spend more than overnight hotel guests on food and drinks at the pool, says ResortPass chief executive Michael Wolf. They are ready to splurge.
Greg Willhite, a retired building materials buyer who lives in Fayetteville, Ark., is no VIP. But come July 4th week he and his wife will join two other couples in a cabana along the lazy river at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
He reserved the cabana in late February, paying $550 for the day, excluding gratuity. (Some hotels charge automatic gratuities of as much as 25% for cabanas.) Mr. Willhite, 54, estimates they will spend another $100 a person on food and drinks. The cabana comes with some water and soft drinks in a minifridge.
This marks the second time he has reserved a cabana, having spent $750 for one at Caesars Palace for his 50th birthday. He calls cabana prices “outrageous” but says he wouldn’t spend a day at the pool in Las Vegas any other way.
“Without shade in July, you’re going to die,” he says. “It’s that simple.”
Write to Dawn Gilbertson at email@example.com