10 Best South Beach Hotels: From Boutique to Showcase

With entire blocks of hotels on Ocean Drive and nearly every other lodging in South Beach within a few blocks walking distance of the water, the question comes down to this: How much do you need?

For instance, how much British Colonial interior design do you require? If the answer is enough to fill an issue of Architectural Digest, then you'll want to check in at The Betsy Hotel. Or, how much happy hour? If there's never too many two-for-one cocktails and tasty little bites to share, then The Pelican Hotel & Cafe, the first boutique lodging on Ocean Drive to be renovated, is the place for you.

How much pet-friendliness do you want? Stay at the W South Beach or Surfcomber Miami/South Beach, A Kimpton Hotel to find out. How much celebrity-spotting? Hotel hop, beginning with The Setai Miami Beach and Shore Club South Beach.

How much grandeur and opulence? That's something to investigate at the all-suite King & Grove Tides Hotel South Beach, a refurbished beauty from 1936 located on Ocean Drive. How much modern sophistication and poolside fabulousness? Query the tanning butler at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach. And on the west side of SoBe, there's the Mondrian South Beach, overlooking the sparkling waters of Biscayne Bay.

As for, how much peace and quiet? Well, that's what you might want to visit Coral Gables for.

10 The Standard Miami
Emphasizing beauty and simple pleasures, this hotel, set just off the eastern end of the Venetian Causeway in Biscayne Bay, provides a soothing place of retreat. White walls and linens and blond wood accents characterize the guest rooms, which are equipped with flat-screen TVs, high speed Internet, bathrobes, "Kiss My Face" bath products, robes, a mini-bar filled with organic snack foods and outdoor living room with a soaking tub. Without doubt, the spa facilities are the highlight of the hotel. Calling itself a "hydrotherapy playground," the Standard takes "the ritual of bathing, which enlives both mind and spirit," seriously. To that end, there are steam rooms, cold rain showers, a Roman waterfall hot tub, a mud lounge, a falling water column, Arctic plunge, a sound shower and an Infiniti pool, among other dripping devices. Integrated wellness is also offered via workshops and retreats, fitness services including yoga, pilates and paddle boarding classes, a gym, acupuncture, juice cleanses and self care clinics. Among other amenities are a waterside restaurant, the Lido Restaurant & Bayside Grill, where executive chef Mark Zeitouni's organic, unprocessed and wholesome fare wholly impresses, and lounge and 24-hour room service. Meeting space available. Parking valet: $22/day.

9 The Angler's Boutique Resort
Located on bustling Washington Avenue, this hotel is decidedly reserved, and yet it manages to stand out completely. The tiny nightclubs and restaurants surrounding the property seem shockingly out of place next to the classic facade and deep landscaping of the Angler's Boutique. While this is hardly the place for pin-dropping quietude, it is instantly relaxing and charming in a completely understated way. With only 45 suites, this classically chic hotel is a welcome break from the fluorescent trance of the Art Deco District. The last property to be renovated and developed commercially, the Angler's is not even Art Deco, actually. Nor was it eve one property. Rather, it was two Mediterranean Revival buildings designed by Henry Maloney. Back in the day, it was a haunt for Ernest Hemingway, among others. Today it's a favorite for guests who prefer an understated but luxurious suite life featuring 455 square feet of living room space with a full-size sofa, two armchairs, a coffee table and books; 400 thread count Egyptian cotton bed linens; an entertainment center and surround sound system including state-of-the-art audio-video system and plasma TVs; DVD Player; iPod docking station; and wet bar area with a stainless steel sink, refrigerator and mini-bar. The signature restaurant, 660 at The Angler, makes wonderful use of fresh, seasonal and local Florida ingredients, weaving them all together with a Mediterranean influence. Dinner and weekend brunches tend to be popular with nearby residents, so you might want to reserve a table ahead of time.

8 The Raleigh Hotel
This immaculately restored Art Deco hotel opened in 1940, and retains the original terrazzo floors and updated period decor. In keeping with the restoration, rooms and main seating areas are furnished with vintage-style wicker and teak furniture. Many state-of-the-art amenities have been incorporated into the rooms, including bedside remote controls with programming in 6 different languages, VCR, CD player, multiple phone lines and dataports. The hotel is rightfully famous for its swimming pool, oft-called the most beautiful in America, starting in 1947 by Life Magazine. Completely enclosed by tropical foliage, the Raleigh Pool is where many of Esther Williams's swim scenes were filmed, and it's so tempting many guests never leave it, despite the fact the hotel is situated right on the beach. A fitness center and on-site restaurant, opened in the fall of 2012 under the auspices of James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Schwartz, accompany a coffee bar and lounge. Suites and conference facility with multimedia presentation equipment. 104 rooms and suites. Valet parking $30/day.

7 Shore Club
This trendy Ian Schrager-managed property has a super-hip pool and bar scene. Skybar, the umbrella for several indoor-outdoor settings that include Redroom, Redroom Garden and Rumbar (as well as the private Sandbar), is so celebrated, along with signature restaurant Nobu, that it's easy to forget that the Shore Club is actually a boutique hotel as well. Decor, both inside and out, ranges widely, covering many ethnicities: French Antique Napoleon III slipper chairs covered in silk jostle Italian tables on Mexican tile, complemented by African throw pillows. Lots of billowing white curtains and metal lanterns lighten everything up. Meanwhile, tropical landscaping, featuring flowering bougainvilleas, and throbbing beats from world-renowned DJs add an exotic feel. With all this going on, and the beach, too, you probably won't want to spend much time in your room, but here's a rundown - all rooms and suites are comfortably austere and equipped with high-speed Internet access, BOSE Wave CD player, mini-bar and Egyptian cotton linens. 384 rooms, suites and bungalows. Event space for 250. Valet parking only, $34/day.

6 Delano Hotel
This unique landmark South Beach hotel, an Ian Schrager property, is memorable as one of Miami Beach's first design hotels to open, and remains as one of its best. The lofty indoor-outdoor lobby is as stunning as it is surreal, dotted with out-of-proportion and out-of-scenario furniture (such as a patio cafe table with two chairs in the pool). Philippe Starck elements highlight the room decor as well - the color scheme is mostly his signature white, with one or two flags of color, and are furnished with the appropriate upscale amenities. Outside, the infamous pool, wired with underwater sound and featured in hundreds of photo shoots, is surrounded by what Starck calls the "Orchard" - a lush tropical garden that winds around his "vignettes:" a lifesize chessboard, an antique daybed. The renowned Agua Bathhouse is a fantastic rooftop spa retreat, and the private beach has plenty of lounge chairs. Inside, the ever-popular Rose Bar, named for the attractive lighting that pinkens the complexion, pours the tastiest kir royale in town. Bianca, an award-winning Italian restaurant situated on the terrace, round out the offerings. 238 rooms, suites and poolside bungalows. Event space for 80. Valet parking $34/night.

5 The Setai
Overlooking the oceanfront on South Beach, this stylish hotel, easily one of the most stunning designs on South Beach, is flanked by a 40-foot tower and beautiful Asian-inspired courtyard. Very exclusive, private, serene and sedate, The Setai does not air a constant party atmosphere like much of South Beach; this is a hotel for adults. Especially adults who enjoy spa treatments. Awarded a slew of honors from national magazines and outfits, The Spa at the Setai specializes in Pacific Rim-influenced treatments. Ancient Balinese Massage and Thai foot reflexology are only two addictive examples. Luxurious rooms come equipped with flat-screen TVs, espresso machines, bar, and Acqua di Parma bath products. Impressive on-site dining venues, the Restaurant with a showcase kitchen and The Grill at the Setai, boast spectacular global (French, Mediterranean and a touch of Asian) cuisine and an expansive bar, and the beach bar provides cocktails by the pool and beach. 24-hour room and concierge service, a fitness center, oceanfront swimming pools, yoga and tai chi add to guests' comfort and pleasures. 75 rooms. Valet parking: $40.

4 The Tides South Beach
The King & Grove Tides Hotel South Beach, the tallest of the area's Art Deco hotels, is also considered the most luxurious. Built in 1936, the twelve-story building offers 50 rooms, including three penthouse suites. Each guest room is formed from what were once two rooms, and each boasts an ocean view and a telescope. Indeed, these are the largest standard rooms in any lodgings on the beach, and the monochromatic palette in which they're decorated - a style that says beach cottage-meets-city sophisticate - make them seem even more spacious. The glass-topped Coral Bar inside the lobby is one of the most glamorous places in town to have a martini. Alternately, the elevated Terrace offers unparalleled views of the sun dipping into the Atlantic during happy hour, or rising from its depths in the early morning hours. The restaurant's quality, Mediterranean-influenced fare is served for three meals per day, and everything is prepared in-house, even the fresh-pressed juices. A second restaurant and poolside bar are also available. Entertainment Tuesdays through Saturdays. Valet parking only, $32/day.

3 The Betsy Hotel
Amidst the Art Deco landmarks of South Beach, this unique landmark hotel immediately stands apart, given its stately British Colonial architecture. The 61 rooms and suites are serenely white, with one or two splashes of color, and are furnished with the appropriate upscale amenities. Located on the rooftop, The Deck offers expansive ocean views as well as a Wellness Garden and Spa, featuring a Zen-like setting created by bamboo, wood, stone and natural fibers. Private cabanas and giant sails provide both shade and privacy for luxurious, creative and paraben-free spa treatments, provided by Miami City Massage; the concierge can help you arrange everything from a pedicure to a Coconut Hot Towel Facial or Wood Stone Ritual Treatment with chilled stones. The Betsy's owners are philanthropists who are heavily involved in the local and national arts scene, and they sponsor poets, writers, artists and musicians 365/24/7. One of the highlights here is heading downstairs to the speakeasy-style B Bar to catch the latest reading or viewing from an artist-in-residence, sipping the bartender's carefully crafted mojito. Following such a double blast of art with a steak and a popover at Laurent Tourondel's BLT Steak, located in the lobby, is simply divine. Valet parking $34/night.

2 Loews Miami Beach Hotel
personnel don't barge in without warning. With the beach on one side and busy Collins Avenue on the other, you'll never be far from the action. An oceanfront pool and private beach are big draws, highlighted by the Loews's SOAK cabana program, which comes with personalized butler service, sunbeds, an air-conditioned suite with more technology than your home, and so many luxuries you might choose to spend the night here instead of your room. Facilities and services are top-notch, as you'd expect, including the hotel's three restaurants - Sushi Sobe and the Floribbean-style Preston's among them - and cocktail lounges. 790 rooms. Event space for 3000. Valet parking only, $31/night.

1 Ritz-Carlton South Beach
The Art Moderne-style Ritz-Carlton is a gorgeous 1950s-era oceanfront property, highlighted by a stunning pool and an innovative full-service spa. The resort offers cheeky amenities such as a tanning butler - a nice-looking young man with a holster of sprays and lotions draped around his Speedo - and there's always something going on here, whether it's a fashion show for Swim Week or a party to celebrate one of the local magazine issues. Elegant rooms feature an array of amenities such as a fully stocked mini-bar, marble bathrooms, luxury linens, and specialized hangers for different types of clothing. Schedule an exclusive, Latin-themed "Rhythm Massage" in the spa, recognized by Allure magazine as one of the best day spas in Miami, then retire to cushion your head on the special goose down pillows for the best night's sleep you've had in ages. Guests can enjoy three upscale restaurants - one of which, the DiLido Beach Club, offers beachside dining, a rarity here, oddly enough - and three lounges, including the Lapidus Lounge, named for famed Art Deco architect Morris Lapidus, who designed the original building. Bistro One LR, featuring fare inspired by the Spanish Riviera, is a draw for patrons outside the hotel as well, so be sure to make a reservation. Plus there's 24-hour room service, and the South Beach dining and entertainment scene is just steps away. 376 rooms and suites. Event space for 500. Valet parking only, $34/day.


Jen has lived and written in Miami for more than two decades. She works as the dining critic for MIAMI Magazine, part of the Modern Luxury Group; a columnist for the newspaper Biscayne Time; and the Creative Writing Director for Miami Arts Charter School. The author/editor of nine books, including Mango: Tour de Force (forthcoming from University Press of Florida) and three poetry collections, Jen has work appearing widely in publications including Florida Travel & Life, Southern Living and Vegas Player. Jen lives in Miami Shores with her husband, two children, three dogs, four cats and fifteen mango trees.

Read more about Jen Karetnick here.

Connect with Jen via: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Google+

Maps and Directions

5
6
The Setai 10Best List Arrow
Neighborhood: South Beach
COST: $$$$