The Best 'Secret' Things to Do in Palm Beach, Florida, According to a Local

Whispered secrets, massive fortunes, billionaires, heiresses, and presidential retreats.

Arches and a waterfront view at the Breakers
Photo: Getty Images

One of the most moneyed zip codes in America, Palm Beach is the destination of choice for thousands of the world's wealthiest snowbirds. A secluded sanctuary for the jet set and around 40 billionaires, Palm Beach is geographically separated from sultry, anything-goes Miami by a mere two hours — and only one on the Brightline — but in reality, it's worlds away.

The barrier island making up Palm Beach proper is notoriously hard to penetrate, but peeking behind the shimmering and seemingly untouchable curtain is half the fun of visiting.

Unravel the island's web of intrigue for yourself and explore these nine hidden gems of Palm Beach that will immediately elevate your status from tourist to in-the-know insider.

Find the only two gravestones in Palm Beach.

It's odd for an island to hold just two gravestones, and it's odder still that they're located side by side in the palm-shaded, bougainvillea-shrouded courtyard of Worth Avenue's swankiest pizza place. Strange as it is, the tiny tombstones of Johnnie Brown and Laddie are hidden amidst the outdoor elegance of Pizza Al Fresco.

It's a bit less bizarre, however, when you consider the fact that Johnnie Brown was a monkey. (Or does that make it more bizarre?) Addison Mizner, eccentric architect of Palm Beach's signature Mediterranean Revival style, carried his pet spider monkey everywhere and even hand-stitched him a silk-lined sombrero with a chin strap, so it's only appropriate that Johnnie Brown received a prominent burial site. His gravestone reads, "Johnnie Brown. The Human Monkey. Died April 30, 1927."

Socialites Rose and Morton Sachs, who later purchased Mizner's iconic villa and lived there for nearly 50 years, sought and received special permission from the town to bury their dog, Laddie, next to Johnnie Brown.

Go celebrity spotting at Palm Beach mainstays.

Dining tables at Green's pharmacy luncheonette

Rub elbows with the glitterati at island favorites. At Green's Pharmacy & Luncheonette, every social standing finds equal footing over thick milkshakes and clunky plates of diner-style comfort food — the same way it's been since 1938. A classic soda fountain, Green's is more than just a nod to nostalgia; it's still a working pharmacy with house accounts and a drugstore. Inside, you might see a celebrity eating alongside blue-collar workers and beach bums. John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, and Jimmy Buffett are some of the clientele past and present.

Another in-town go-to of the rich and the famous is Sprinkles Ice Cream. The old-timey scoop shop's walls are adorned with photos of celebs like Michael Jackson, Brooke Shields, and Tony Robbins, who've all stopped in for a sweet treat.

Pretend you're a guest at Palm Beach's ritziest resorts.

Here's one of Palm Beach's best-kept secrets: You don't have to be the guest of a ritzy resort to enjoy some of its most alluring amenities. For example, at The Breakers, the undisputed icon of Palm Beach, even non-guests can waltz in and claim a seat at the oceanfront Seafood Bar, where an elongated aquarium with live fish serves as the bar's countertop. (Ask to self-park upon arrival to avoid the $30 valet fee.)

A mainstay of quintessential Palm Beach, The Colony has been a hideaway for the rich and respected ever since its 1947 debut. Dressed in a pale pink façade, the hotel is now equally appealing to the Instagram set. Its modern verve carries through to the backyard pool, which is surrounded by tropical foliage, a lush carpet of mown grass, and the upscale poolside eatery that is Swifty's. You don't have to be a guest to book an umbrella-topped table. When you arrive, notice how the pool is ever-so-slightly Florida-shaped.

In addition, you can snag a day pass to Eau Palm Beach's opulent Eau Spa for just $200. The pass grants you access to a garden, bath lounge, sauna, steam shower, and relaxation lounge (not the resort pools, though, which are reserved for hotel guests). Pro tip: If you book a spa treatment, the price of your day pass goes down to $100.

Hit late-night, high-brow hotspots.

Census data shows the median age for Palm Beach residents is about 70 years old, which means it certainly doesn't pack the sizzle of Miami nightlife. Still, there are places to grab a nightcap or cut a rug.

At Cucina, free pizza used to circulate around 2 a.m. to keep you going 'til the break of dawn. That tradition has quietly died, but flaming sparkler-topped bottles of Yellow Label Veuve — Cucina's take on bottle service — are also rumored to do the trick.

If you're looking for something more low key, swing by HMF at The Breakers to experience an ode to Gilded-Age glamour. Short for Henry Morrison Flagler, legendary real estate baron and the hotel's founder, HMF specializes in cocktails inspired by the prohibition era, and its posh appointments, blanketed in dimmed lights, feels exactly how you'd imagine a stylish 1920s speakeasy would. There may not be hair-down dancing, but the clinking of crystal and the murmur of secrets being spilled over fussily poured Redheads will nonetheless transport you elsewhere.

Bike the 5.5-mile Lake Trail.

Paved, hedge-lined lake trail
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Tour around on two wheels by biking the 5.5-mile Lake Trail, which runs parallel to the Intracoastal Waterway and delivers views of Palm Beach estates on one side and the West Palm Beach skyline on the other. Along the way you'll spot natural wonders including a sprawling kapok tree lovingly nicknamed "Big Tree," as well as the otherworldly coral cut, where coral cliffs tower high on both sides of the passage where North Lake Trail meets Country Club Road. The nondescript barred window cut into the coral along the road — a bit reminiscent of the Bastille — has spawned many an urban legend. (In reality, it's just a water department door. Or so they say.)

Pro tip: If your resort doesn't provide bicycle access as a courtesy — and many do — rentals are available by the hour or by the day at Top Cycle, which also gives private tours of the trail.

Uncover the secrets of Worth Avenue.

Shoppers crossing the street on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach
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While Worth Avenue is an undisputed highlight of Palm Beach, few take time to fully explore the enchanting "vias" that wind around and behind the avenue's high-fashion storefronts. You'll have to dig deeper to uncover Worth Avenue's hidden layer.

Alleys like Via Amore hide garden patios, playful sculptures, and shady sitting areas, while Via Mizner is imbued with historical significance as the former home of famed Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner. You'll even find a tiny Starbucks and a gelato shop if you look hard enough.

On the main drag, smaller, winsome shops like Raptis Rare Books — don't miss its collection of signed first editions by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and J.K. Rowling — are worth tucking into when you tire of all the Louis, Gucci, and Tiffany.

Charter John F. Kennedy’s presidential yacht.

For a new perspective on this notoriously tight-lipped island (and waterfront mansion views you can't get from the hedge-lined streets), explore Palm Beach by water. You can do it in style with up to 70 of your closest friends by chartering the late President John F. Kennedy's own yacht, the famed Honey Fitz, which is stored at Lots of Yachts in West Palm Beach.

Renamed for JFK's grandfather, the Honey Fitz is a 93-foot wooden yacht that has been used by five U.S. presidents since its construction in 1931. A day aboard the Honey Fitz gives cruisers a chance to tour Palm Beach and relive Kennedy's Camelot-era golden days in the same way he would have done.

Shop the Royal Poinciana Plaza.

Sculpture, pool, and palms with shopping center in background

Considered Worth Avenue's hipper little sister, the Royal Poinciana Plaza is known for having pilates and yoga studios, an organic Celis Produce mini-market, high-end boutiques, the first TooJay's Deli, a wine academy, and more. The plaza has emerged as a hub for Palm Beach's cool kids. Walk its checkerboard-tiled corridors and stop for an espresso at Sant Ambroeus when you tire — there's a wallpapered coffee bar off the dining room.

Visit hush-hush public gardens and lushly cloaked courtyards.

Sculpture of two men sitting on bench at sculpture garden
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Little-known gardens dot the island — uncrowded havens offering semi-private views of the tropics' flashiest foliage. Fountains, sculptures, and bright-pink bougainvillea-laden pergolas are tucked into The Philip Hulitar Sculpture Garden, and a bronze statue of Pan of Rohallion graces the entrance pool at the half-acre Pan's Garden, where 300 species of native trees and wildflowers thrive. At The Brazilian Court Hotel, a discreet enclave dating back to the 1920s, visitors will find one of the most intimate courtyards on the island.

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