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
Tucked two blocks away from the beach, but still in a beautiful bay-front setting, the casually elegant Angler's Boutique Resort takes up two Mediterranean-Revival buildings from the 1930s. An indoor-outdoor bar and sidewalk cafe gives The Angler's the complete South Florida vibe. You won't find standard rooms here, but rather will choose between their suites or their villas, all of which are spacious and luxurious, with the latter also including additional amenities such as private sundecks and immediate pool access. Guests also enjoy in-room and poolside spa services, a complimentary evening wine hour and the ability to bring along furry friends (pets). The award-winning 660 Restaurant is also on site for whenever a craving kicks in. In short, this heart-of-South Beach hotel has it all.
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
Built in the mid 1930's, the Setai's handsome, modern look is consistent throughout this gorgeous hotel. A pared-down Asian design sensibility gives guests room to breathe. The landmark Art Deco building is a touch of the classic in comparison to the Ocean Suites at the Setai. This modern, residential, glass building towers over the north end of Miami Beach and is near the convention center, Lincoln Road, shopping, lounges and restaurants. You might have a hard time forcing yourself to leave the property, where your every whim can be indulged, from world-class amenities and private verandas in your suite to blissful pampering at the hotel's spa and the divine nourishment at the Setai's restaurant and grill.
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
A lot of bang for the buck, The Betsy offers a SoBe home base that's right on the beach, but also within walking distance of bars, restaurants and entertainment. Although just a short walk from busy Lincoln Road, the Betsy's tranquil, cool environment helps guests forget work stresses and the clutter of everyday home life. Get grounded during one of their complimentary sunrise yoga classes, relax with a rooftop spa treatment, take in some sun on the private pool deck or jump into the Atlantic, found right in the Betsy's front yard. You won't want to leave the Betsy when you find out about their arts and culture programming, including rotating art exhibitions, the best live jazz on all of South Beach, and continuous literary events, including the only writing studio on South Beach, the Betsy's Writer's Room.
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.
About Jen Karetnick
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.