20 Best Hotels in Miami



Slide 1 of 20: Even if you don't plan to spend more than a few hours each night in your room (including sleep) both Miami and Miami Beach have a wide variety of top-tier accommodations for need and bank account. Budget-focused travelers will always be pleasantly surprised by the nicest hostel they've ever seen (complete with one of the best bars in the country). On the other end of the spectrum, there are thousands of square feet of private beaches at a number of ocean-front resorts. With so many hotels to choose from, the best way to approach booking one is to figure out what’s most important to you, whether that means serene surroundings, proximity to nightlife or a wooly mammoth skeleton that greets you upon arrival (yeah, Miami's got that). Read on to find your perfect Miami hotel.
Slide 2 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
When the Loews Miami Beach Hotel first opened in 1998, it bucked an of-the-moment trend by becoming the first new hotel to be built in Miami Beach in more than 30 years. (Other “new” hotels were merely renovated old hotels.) Yet they didn't start completely from scratch: a 17-story tower was built around the St. Moritz, a 1939 Art Deco gem, to create a new hotel with history. Though the hotel recently completed a $50 million renovation, it still elicits that feeling of having one foot planted in the past and the other moving quickly toward the future.
What’s the crowd like?
As one of Miami Beach’s biggest hotels (there are nearly 800 rooms), the Loews attracts as diverse a clientele as Miami welcomes as visitors. Families with kids, couples with dogs, business travelers with laptops—everyone happily coexists and gets what they need from the hotel.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Though any beachfront hotel worth its sand will give guests plenty of chances to gaze out at the ocean, it always seems to be worth the extra cost to choose an oceanfront room when you can—hence, our decision to book an Ocean Front Balcony Room. Overall, the room was pretty, with wood floors, ocean-inspired artwork, and a white and beige color scheme that doesn’t compete with the view. It’s a beach-chic design that’s elegant without trying too hard, though the furnished balcony is definitely the star of this show. The only issue we really had was that the walls seem pretty thin, so the noise level—while far from deafening—was a bit higher than we would have liked.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Like so many other Loews locations, the hotel delivers when it comes to the mattress (a plush Stearns & Foster pillowtop variety). Frette duvets up the ante.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
While the hotel’s design is steeped in old-school Art Deco elements, their in-room amenities are cutting-edge. In addition to smart TVs, rooms are equipped with a doorbell that lets you switch the "Do Not Disturb" sign on from inside the room. No futzing around with a plastic door sign—or getting out of bed—required.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The marble bathrooms with walk-in showers are appropriately fancy, but nothing over the top. The ultra-soft Ultimate Doeskin robe by Chadsworth & Haig is a nice change from the standard terrycloth you’ll find at other hotels. Celebrity hairstylist Julien Farel is the man behind the products you’ll put on your head and face; you’re in good hands.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
While the Wi-Fi is technically free, it’s part of what’s included in the $27-a-night resort fee you’ll pay upon arrival, so not quite “free” after all. The connection itself was decent most of the time, though we did have a couple of quick drop-offs in service, which can be slightly frustrating if you’re on a working vacation.
Room service: Worth it?
The in-room dining menu is pretty extensive, and the Continental Breakfast ($23) includes pastries, fruit, coffee, and juice. The hotel sources the bread for many of its dishes from Zak the Baker, a local bread artisan who works with many of the city’s best restaurants. A full kid’s menu is a great bonus for families, and the hotel also has a pet food menu...because your pooch deserves the Bow Wow Tenderloin of Beef with eggs and rice ($16).
Did the staff make an impression?
Given the size of the hotel, and the number of guests staying here at any moment, the speed of the in-room dining team is impressive. That they always have a smile on their face is gold medal-worthy.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
As part of its recent $50 million renovation, the hotel added a section of adults-only cabanas to its lavish SOAK pool club. Guests aged 21+ without kids in tow are welcome to reserve one of these poolside cabanas, which feature covered seating areas, a pair of lounge chairs, a round daybed, a dedicated concierge, and a large magazine section. Of the hotel’s six restaurant and bar areas, you won’t want to miss Lure Fishbar, a South Beach outpost of the popular Manhattan eatery—only this one’s designed to feel like you’re on a yacht, minus any seasickness. The seafood towers are a great way to share, and to taste a bit of everything.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
If you want to find a way to justify the cost of upgrading to an oceanfront room with a balcony, just think of it as an investment in your sanity. Being able to have a tiny bit of private space where we could soak up the sun and breathe fresh air was worth the added cost.
Bottom line: worth it?
For families with young children and guests traveling with four-legged friends, the Loews Miami Beach offers a beachfront location, ocean views, a wonderful beach club, and plenty of activities to keep every member of the family engaged. But it’s a large hotel, and often crowded—which is a good thing…unless total peace and quiet is the main thing on your to-do list.
Slide 3 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it may feel like to live in a big-budget Hollywood musical, this is your chance. Argentine hotelier Alan Faena enlisted the help of ‘The Great Gatsby’ director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, Oscar-winning, costume and production designer Catherine Martin, to give this 1940s building a properly theatrical makeover.
What’s the crowd like?
Travelers who have outgrown the South Beach scene (or at least don’t want to be sleeping just a few feet above the late-night revelry along Ocean Drive for this trip) are quickly finding their way just a few blocks farther north to Alan Faena’s newest hotel experiment.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Entering the Premier Oceanfront Room for the first time felt a little bit like stepping into the scene of a movie. The room is full of classic Art Deco design touches, like a bright red sofa with a fringed bottom, and the gold-tasseled tiebacks that keep the room’s rich, blue-green curtains in place. You’ll also likely find a pop of leopard print here and there. The highlight of the space, however, is the furnished balcony, which gives guests an unobstructed view of that vast ocean of blue—not to mention a killer sunset.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Goose-down bedding makes all the difference when it comes to comfort. But even more impressive than the bedding or pillows at Faena Miami Beach is the bed itself: the Art Deco-style wooden bed frame is its own piece of art, as are its matching nightstands. The delicate white and brass sconces, which are built into the headboard, are a nice additional touch.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
There’s a bit of an 'Alice in Wonderland' feel to the Faena, and this carries through into the rooms—particularly with the smaller accents and pieces of furniture you’ll find yourself “discovering” as your stay progresses. While there’s a mini-bar, there’s also a full bar—at least, that's the best way to describe the stockpile of liquor available for purchase in your room. The hotel even has its own brand of Malbec, which sells for $70 a bottle.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Restrained elegance is the best way to describe the bathrooms at Faena; ours paired Carrara marble with gorgeous Ann Stacks tilework for a bathroom that anyone would envy. That the bedroom’s bright prints and color scheme don’t follow you into the bathroom is a welcome surprise, though the high-tech toilet—which opens as it senses you walking toward it, and also flushes automatically—was a bit wild.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi, which is free, maintained a relatively solid signal throughout our beach adventures.
Room service: Worth it?
Breakfast on the balcony? Why not—I had no regrets after starting the day with a plate of blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes. Los Fuegos, Argentine super-chef Francis Mallman’s open-fire asado, also delivers the goods via its own in-room dining menu.
Was there anything memorable about the staff?
The art of the doorman is still alive and well at the Faena. Prepare to be graciously greeted upon arrival, and to never have to open the door yourself.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
The hotel makes the most of its 100,000 square feet of private white sand beach with the Faena Beach Club, which has adorable red-and-white candy-striped lounge chairs, plus a range of private cabanas that can accommodate large groups. Poolside butlers are there to indulge your every need or craving, while more active beachgoers can take part in a game of soccer on the sand. The Tierra Santa Healing House spa is home to all sorts of over-the-top amenities, including one of the largest hammams this side of the Mississippi and a marble Ice Parlor, which uses the power of ice and air to strengthen your immune system. If while wandering the grounds you find yourself asking, “Did I just see a golden woolly mammoth skeleton in a glass cage?” the answer is yes. (You can thank Damien Hirst for that one.)
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Browse the hotel’s website and social media channels all you want: even the most gorgeous photos can’t compare to what it’s like to inhabit this whimsical, colorful space in real life.
Bottom line: worth it, and why?
For travelers who like to remain as lazy as possible, the Faena is a great choice, as everything you could possibly need is right at your fingertips—and there’s an entire staff dedicated to making sure that you don’t even have to lift that very finger. It’s a true resort, and you could easily spend a few days here and still leave without having had a chance to experience every amenity the hotel has to offer.
Slide 4 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
Stepping into The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort feels a little bit like entering an abstract art gallery: the entryway is a largely empty room, save for an enormous metal sculpture hanging from the ceiling and a few tufted chairs and couches that you may or may not be allowed to sit on. Keep walking and you’ll find yourself in the lobby, which is equally artistic with its dark marble floors, massive chandeliers, and geometric, mirrored walls.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
I splurged on a butler-serviced Astor Oceanfront Junior Suite, which, at 675 square feet, was more than big enough for two people. It had a separate dining room, lounge area, and kitchenette. As is customary of design duo Yabu Pushelberg, the room was largely outfitted in a neutral palette, with pops of color throughout and a gold/mirrored headboard-slash-installation in the bedroom. The pièce de résistance, however, was the 210 square-foot balcony.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Climbing out of the fluffy king-sized bed each morning was no easy task. (Maybe I should have called the butler.)
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Not that you'll likely want to cook during your vacation, the kitchen does have a two-burner stove, dishwasher, and Subzero fridge. And the hotel has a "Delights Delivered" program, which lets you order anything from a dozen long-stem roses to a personalized birthday cake.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The bathroom was luxe: double vanity, deep deep soaking tub, dual-head rainshower, and a separate, frosted glass-fronted water closet for privacy. Toiletries come from the on-site Remède Spa.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
High-speed Wi-Fi is complimentary throughout the property; guest rooms also have wired internet connections.
Whats going on with food and drink here?
The St. Regis as four different restaurants, including a gourmet burger bar, a French café (go for afternoon tea), a mezze-focused Greek restaurant, and a wine bar. All of those specialties, plus more, can be ordered at any time of the day via your butler. Do yourselves a favor and start each day with the hotel's "Bloody Sunrise," a Florida twist on the Bloody Mary, with a surprising citrus zest.
Did the staff make an impression?
The St. Regis’s butlers are pros, proactive about anticipating your needs. I received an email a week before our trip asking if there was anything that they could do to prepare for our arrival.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
The adults-only Tranquility pool is a quiet haven. If you really want to treat yourself, book an Oceanfront Day Villa; the 600-square-foot beach cabana has air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, mini-fridge, and shower. If you’ve ever wanted to witness someone open a bottle of bubbly with a sword, make sure you’re in the St. Regis Bar and Wine Vault by 7:30 p.m., when a nightly sabering demonstration takes place.
Bottom line: worth it?
All of this luxury and personal attention doesn’t come cheap, so if you’re planning a stay here, take full advantage of the amenities. It's more “special occasion” than business hotel (though if it’s on the company, and the company doesn't mind, go for it). We met honeymooners, babymooners, and more than one couple celebrating an anniversary during our stay.
Slide 5 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
Everything old is new again at Nautilus, an expansive beachfront hotel that was originally designed in the 1950s by Morris Lapidus, the famed “Miami Modern” architect behind the Fontainebleau. While the hotel’s many stunning neo-Baroque features were preserved during its revamp, they've been carefully integrated to complement the SIXTY Hotels brand’s standard hip and sexy style. If Marilyn Monroe had had a Miami beach house, it probably would have looked a lot like this.
What’s the crowd like?
What the SIXTY Hotels group lacks in numbers (there are only five hotels; three of which are in New York City) it more than makes up for in hipness. The hotels are as well known for their retro-glam digs as they are the regular series of events they host, including weekend pool parties.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Whether you’re traveling with a significant other or a small group of friends, a little privacy is never a bad thing. We booked the King Junior Suite for this very reason. At 425 square feet, the room was a nice size, but the simple addition of a couple of sheer curtains helped to really separate the “bedroom” from the seating area. Though there were only two of us, a family or larger group crashing together would particularly appreciate that come bedtime, as the seating area comes with a sofa bed, making it almost like a second bedroom. Serious jet-setters will love the travel-themed décor, like the vintage steamer trunk-styled mini-bar. White marble floors are another classy touch.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The bed’s grey upholstered headboard with nailhead trim was glamorous, and the bed itself did not disappoint; down pillows and bedding with custom Sferra 400-thread count sheets lulled me right to sleep.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
The hotel room’s vintage touches—like the upholstered headboard and steamer trunk mini-bar—gave the space a much more homey feel, as you can imagine choosing some of these pieces for your own home. To call the mini-bar seems a bit of a slight, as it’s gigantic and filled with pretty much any kind of liquor, wine, fancy water, or gourmet snack you can imagine. (Resist the urge to pop that $45 half-bottle of wine—there are wine shops all around you if you just walk outside.)
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Given the size of the room, the bathroom is actually pretty small in comparison. But it’s well appointed—more of that gorgeous, grey-flecked white marble and walk-in glass shower. Maison Margiela products are a nice touch, as are the super fluffy towels.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Free Wi-Fi comes standard with every room, and the signal is strong enough to handle basic web surfing and email.
Room service: Worth it?
Given the hotel’s very hip tendencies, it should hardly be surprising that avocado toast ($15) is one of the most popular items on the in-room breakfast menu. Served on Zak the Baker sourdough, the perfectly ripened avocado, soft-poached eggs, pepitas, crispy capers, and radish made for a delicious—and somewhat healthful—meal.
Did the staff make an impression?
Nautilus guests love the nightlife, which is probably why the hotel makes sure that the p.m. staffers—especially the nighttime concierge—are up to the challenge of dealing with any late-night requests quickly and efficiently. Stop by the concierge desk or give them a call, and you’ll get what you need in seconds.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
In a city full of very cool hotel pools, Nautilus has one of the coolest: a nearly 2,000-square-foot heated, saltwater pool that overlooks the beach. Even if you generally prefer to just hang poolside, you’ll want to dive in—if only to catch a tune via the underground sound system.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Miami is no stranger to great pools, but the Nautilus has something special with its enormous, heated, saltwater version.
Bottom line: worth it?
As far as beachfront South Beach hotels go, Nautilus is pretty well-priced—and offers lots of deals during non-peak travel times. Even during the high season, the hotel’s central location, spacious rooms, glamorous vibes, and fabulous beachfront pool area make it a draw.
Slide 6 of 20: Why did this hotel catch your attention? What's the vibe?
Even amid the architectural exhibitionism of Miami Beach, the gleaming curved main tower of the 1,500-room Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a knockout. The design of this essentially launched the so-called Miami-Modern style, and the resort dominates its stretch of Miami Beach. It’s a clean and classic escape where contemporary vibes meets retro in a flash of glamour.
What's the backstory?
The original Fontainebleau opened in 1954 and was an immediate magnet for the celebrities of the day; the Rat Pack spent enough time there to make it the it-place to be. Its modern redevelopment began in the 1970s, with its current incarnation—rumored to have cost $1 billion—revealing itself to the public in 2008. The hotel has been the background to several movies and TV shows, notably the James Bond movie "Goldfinger."
Tell us all about the rooms. Any tips on what to book?
Our Deluxe Bay View Guestroom was bright and airy with discernibly urban design touches—particularly noticeable in a sea of coastal-chic South Beach hotels. Whites and earth tones gave it a clean, contemporary feel, and tan accents delivered a stylish flourish. The oversized leather armchairs felt especially luxurious, as did the marble bathroom. Rooms in towers like Versailles, Sorrento, and Tresor are all pretty quiet; Chateau, on the other hand, has a little more of a party vibe.
Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The Wifi is included in $36 resort fee, and it was suitably fast.
Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
The resort has a dozen dining options, with a few signature restaurants that are worth visiting in their own right, including Hakkasan, a famous Michelin-starred brand that presents high-end dim sum and Cantonese cuisine, and Scarpetta, a glitzy Italian affair with James Beard award-winner Scott Conant at the helm. Stripsteak and Pizza and Burger, meanwhile, deliver exactly what their names suggest, both with elevated twists. Five more casual spots promise everything from French pastries to contemporary Asian to all-America.
How was the service?
The sheer volume of rooms mean that things get busy, but the line at check-in was quick and professional. A plentiful staff takes care of everyone's needs.
What type of travelers will you find here?
It’s a real mixed bag here, with everyone from conference delegates to families to party crowds. But the hotel seemingly absorbs them effortlessly and delivers the experience everyone's looking for.
What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in?
You're on Millionaire’s Row, almost its own neighborhood, and you could easily stay here and not leave the property  grounds. That said, you're in reach of South Beach.
Any other hotel features worth noting?
There’s everything you could possibly need: Lapis, a luxurious spa with eucalyptus steam baths; a salon; a gym; a huge, freeform pool that spreads out among the gardens; and, of course, nightlife. The club LIV is a hotspot among the young, beautiful, and famous.
Bottom line: Worth it?
This hotel is an iconic part of South Beach, one that defined a style and an era. Although it has been upgraded at no small expense, guests still feel like they’re part of that history, and the hotel really does have everything you could need for a South Beach vacation.
Slide 7 of 20: Why did this hotel catch your attention? What's the vibe?
Any day you arrive at a hotel by boat is a good day, and the palms and lawns of The Fisher Island Club come into view as the ferry from Miami cruises ashore. With bright-orange terracotta roofs, the cluster of white cottages look like an island village, the larger buildings and villas peeping out from behind them.
What's the backstory?
The resort was built around an original 1920s-era mansion, once the winter estate of William K. Vanderbilt.
Tell us all about the rooms. Any tips on what to book?
Earth tones and warm textures dominated our Guest House Suite, a rare blend of luxury and coziness. The large bed was strewn with Italian Frette linens, and limestone walls and floors gave the space the feel of a Mediterranean villa. The room came with access to a golf cart for navigating the resort, and there was just the right level of technology to ensure convenience without sacrificing tranquility. Marble bathrooms, enhanced by Bulgari products, completed the experience.
Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The Wi-Fi is free and fast.
Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
Casual options include Beach Club and La Trattoria; the former has elevated bar food and the latter offers a comprehensive romp through all of your Italian favorites. There's also Porto Cervo, which serves Italian fare, The Library's classic steak menu, and Garwood Lounge, a 1930s space featuring a live pianist.
How did you find the service?
Service meets the high expectations. Needs are anticipated. and there’s a welcome level of discretion and mindfulness about intrusion.
What type of travelers will you find here?
Older couples in linen suits and chic beachwear and some families taking weekend breaks. Overall, it's a well-heeled crowd escaping the city.
What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in, make itself part of the scene?
The private island feels much farther removed than the few minutes it takes to get here from downtown Miami; it's really its own neighborhood.
Any other features worth noting?
The original saltwater pool built by the Vanderbilts is attached to a handsome beach club, which gets especially busy around sunset. There's also a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, a high-end fitness club with classes, and a spa. A beauty salon and a deli-style market complete the on-land amenities, and the island’s marina is poised to handle any nautical needs.
Bottom line: Worth it?
There’s no escaping the price tag here, but given the history of the mansion and the level of luxury and service, it feels right for a special occasion.
Slide 8 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
The bridge that connects Brickell Key to downtown Miami may not be a long one, but it’s enough to make guests of the Mandarin Oriental, Miami feel as if they’re entering their own little private sanctuary. Cutting a fanned shape into the skyline (an architectural element intended to evoke the brand’s logo), the hotel’s striking design and location set it apart as unique from the get-go.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Knowing that I would be spending a fair amount of time in my room, and that I’d have work to get through while I was there, I booked a Deluxe Veranda Room with the hope that I’d be able to spend much of my time “indoors” on the private veranda. It worked out well. Larger than a balcony but not quite as unwieldy as a patio, the furnished outdoor space offered an amazing little escape where I could work, but still feel like I was on vacation. (Potted plants are a nice way to create additional privacy.) The room's colors and accessories took their cue from the water, and included splashy bits of Asian-inspired art and design.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Having a king-sized bed all to oneself is a treat no matter where you are, but the Mandarin Oriental’s gloriously plush bed and linens were sumptuous enough to make getting up in the morning a bit of a challenge.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
With a large population of families as guests, Mandarin Oriental rooms are spacious, and designed to entertain. In addition to flat-screen TVs, guest rooms include DVD players and iPod sound docks.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Marble bathrooms offer both a deep soaking tub and a walk-in shower. Plush terry bathrobes are the kind you’ll want to pack away, prior (and future) guests be damned. High-fashion house Shanghai Tang provides the bath products, which leave you feeling invigorated and smelling good.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
High-speed Wi-Fi is free, and available on up to six devices at a time.
Room service: Worth it?
The in-room dining menu has an impressive (if expectedly pricey) selection, including a lobster roll ($27) and a spicy and crunchy tuna roll ($15). Everything was fresh.
Did anyone on the staff make an impression?
You don’t have to be a guest at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami to enjoy the range of globally-inspired wellness treatments on offer at the hotel’s three-story, waterfront spa. These massage therapists know how to work out the kinks, and deserve the many accolades they've received.
__Anything stand out about other services and features? __
There’s an intrepid sort of spirit that exists on (manmade) Brickell Key, which is evidenced by the hotel’s (also manmade) beach. With no pristine sun or sand to brag about, the hotel’s powers-that-be decided to build their own 20,000-square-foot private beachfront.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Even though it’s just a quick walk or drive to so many of Miami’s most bustling neighborhoods (including South Beach), the hotel's "world's away" vibe makes it a wonderful place for a romantic getaway, or even a staycation.
Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It’s kind of a miracle that one could feel so secluded so close to downtown Miami, but the Mandarin Oriental, Miami succeeds at just that. This makes it a great “best of both worlds” hotel for travelers who want to see more than just the beach.
Slide 9 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s impossible to miss The Betsy. Blink and you might think you mistakenly hopped a plane to Savannah instead of South Beach. But at the northernmost end of Ocean Drive, the hotel’s Florida-Georgia style of architecture sticks out like a colonial masterpiece in a sea of pastel-colored Art Deco gems. It also brings a bit of genteel Southern charm to a street that is otherwise drowning in neon-lit signs and two-for-one cocktail catastrophes. Stepping through the front door is an instant cure for stress.
What’s the crowd like?
While some people head to South Beach with only late nights out on their mind, The Betsy attracts a different, more erudite crowd. Yes, they love being in the thick of all that touristy mayhem, but prefer that it not happen right outside their window. And it’s not just the hotel’s quaint façade that seems to attract a different type of South Beach reveler; inside, the public spaces act as a sort of art gallery, with photo exhibitions rotating throughout the year. The Betsy also hosts a series of festivals and lectures, and prides itself on maintaining a mini library of books in each room.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Though the hotel offers several levels of rooms and suites, we opted for a Royal Suite to ensure maximum comfort and privacy—and it more than delivered. At 600 square feet, the room felt palatial, and its layout made it feel like a home away from home. Before you got to the room itself, a private hallway kept the bathroom, closet, and storage area away from the living space, and there was even a writing desk with a collection of interesting novels. We were lucky enough to land a corner suite, which overlooked Ocean Drive and Miami Beach. But the best part of the room was the heavy set of wooden doors that separated the master bedroom (which also looked out at the beach) from the living room.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
As if having a separate master bedroom weren’t enough to make you fall in love, the king-sized bed was grand—and its view right out onto the ocean made it that much easier to fall asleep.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
While the personal libraries in each room are a charming touch for any bibliophile, the fact that the desk was separated even from the master bedroom and living room made me never want to leave. Equally impressive: that the staff is able to keep a number of orchids blooming in each and every room.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The Betsy’s Thasos & Carrera marble bathrooms are big. Just how big? Well, ours was large enough to feature oversized double sinks, plus a walk-in glass shower that, on estimate, could easily fit a half-dozen or so of our best friends. Malin + Goetz products always get a big thumbs up.
We can all use some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi was powerful, whether it be on the front porch, by the pool, on the rooftop, or in the deepest recesses of our room. Even better? It was free.
Room service: Worth it?
Room service comes courtesy of LT Steak & Seafood, the popular lobby restaurant that some people might remember as BLT Steak (if you eat at the restaurant itself, prepare to start with what might be the world’s largest, and most delicious, popover). True to the eatery’s name, they’re happy to deliver a wide variety of steaks to your room—at $45, an 8-ounce filet mignon is the closest to a bargain choice. I opted for the $16 burrata salad with arugula, romesco, and grilled bread (be prepared to shell out more if you want to add grilled chicken, shrimp, steak, smoked salmon, or seared tuna).
How did you find the service?
As we arrived a couple hours earlier than check-in, our room wasn’t ready when we first walked in the door. But the front desk made it clear that this was not a problem, and even offered us a private space to change if we wanted to use the pool or sundeck while we waited. We opted to have a drink at the bar instead, and got an excellent rundown of the hotel, its amenities, and all the art happenings that were going on that week from the bartender. He got even more bonus points for mixing up a perfectly spicy Miami Margarita (the addition of jalapeño, kiwi, and orange bitters is what makes it “Miami”) and refilling our snack bowl about 30 times without even the hint of an eye roll.
Anything stand out about other hotel features?
Given its beachfront location, the hotel maintains its own staff of beach attendants to get you situated with chairs, umbrellas, and anything else you might need. If you’d like all the benefits of a salty ocean breeze but without the sand and limited walking, there’s a rooftop ocean deck loaded with beach chairs (and a bar), which is also where you’ll find the hotel’s spa and wellness garden. A recent renovation means that there are now two pools to enjoy: a courtyard one on the ground floor toward the back of the hotel doesn't get a ton of sun, while the new rooftop pool has sun-lovers rejoicing.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
As much fun as a stroll up and down Ocean Drive can be, there comes a point when being accosted by restaurant employees who want to sell you on their $5 breakfast deal or two-for-one happy hour special loses its charm. Because of its location at the tippity top of Ocean Drive, The Betsy is a couple of blocks removed from all that mayhem, yet still offers the same great beachfront address and all the wild people-watching you can handle.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
With its spacious accommodations, helpful staff, and breezy feel, The Betsy is really the only choice for someone who wants to be a part of the Ocean Drive action without being a part of the Ocean Drive craziness.
Slide 10 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
We’ve got a serious soft spot for any hotel that wears its eco-consciousness on its sleeve, and understands that it takes more than asking guests to reuse a bath towel to truly effect change. 1 Hotel South Beach’s entire brand is built around a fierce commitment to sustainability, which is apparent as soon as you pull up to the front door (the giant “1” that marks the spot was constructed out of 7,500 pounds of local Florida coral). Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows offer picturesque beach views, but also reduce the building’s energy footprint. You’ll spot lots of reclaimed wood on the walls and gorgeous pieces of driftwood furniture, not to mention a farmstand in the lobby. Even the room keys are made of various kinds of recycled wood. Environmentalism never looked so sexy.
What’s the crowd like?
Though the hotel’s beachfront location—and 600 square feet of private sand out front—certainly isn’t discouraging any guests from booking a room, it’s clear that the visitors to 1 Hotel are looking for something that goes beyond that. Sure, they expect all the amenities that any five-star hotel would offer, but they also want to feel like they’re giving back a bit, too. The hotel’s reliance on local vendors and artisans is one way guests know they’re helping the community, but they also love the hotel’s dedication to wellness. A regular schedule of events, including sunset meditation and terrarium-building workshops, are just the kind of thing that sell them on booking.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Mother Nature’s inspiration isn’t just for show in the lobby; her presence can be felt in all 425 of the hotel’s rooms and suites, which feature driftwood walls, recycled pine headboards, hemp blend-filled mattresses, 100 percent organic cotton sheets, clothes hangers made from recycled paper, and even your very own glass terrarium to bring the outdoors in. We opted for an Ocean View King With Balcony, as the chance to catch up on some reading or drink coffee with our very own sea breezes seemed too good to pass up. The room was stunning, and—at 650 square feet—unexpectedly large. Layout is notable, too; there are no walls that separate the sleeping area from the living area, and only a glass wall separates the shower from the bedroom, yet each area’s purpose is clear and distinct. The wraparound couch looked right out the balcony door (so in many ways, having that extra bit of outdoor space could be redundant for those who just want the views). Waking up to the sounds, and smells, of the ocean is not a feeling we’ll soon forget.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Like the rest of the furniture, the bed offered an ideal mix of comfort and eco-consciousness; the mattress, by Keetsa, is made of custom organic cotton, and the sheets are 100 percent organic cotton, too.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
You know that bottled water you’re always complaining about having to pay $10 for in a hotel room, but guzzling down anyway? There will be none of that here. All of the hotel’s taps, sinks, and showers are equipped with Triple Clear Water filters, so you can drink right from them—and even the glasses in your room are made from recycled glass.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
While the shower’s water filter may have been installed with conservation in mind, the hotel didn't skimp on the size of that shower. Most of the walk-in marble showers have an all-glass wall on one side, so you can lather up with an oceanfront view if you so choose (there are curtains if you’d rather leave something to the imagination). Products are custom designed for the hotel itself, and made with a range of natural ingredients, while the towels and robes are both made from natural cotton knits—as are the socks they leave in your room to forgo the waste pairs of slippers can bring.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi worked perfectly in every corner of the hotel, and it didn’t cost a penny.
What stuck out about the staff?
Not every hotel owns a slice of the beach, and 1 Hotel makes the most of that with a dedicated team of sandy-footed helpers who can fetch you everything from a lounge chair to a cocktail. This is what you’re here for; give them all a raise.
Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
While the hotel’s private beachfront is a surprisingly rare amenity in South Beach, Watr 1 at the Rooftop—a pool deck and bar located 18 stories up above the water—is yet another amenity worth taking advantage of. If you plan to keep active, there’s a SoulCycle onsite (just be sure to sign up for your class ASAP, as it’s open to the public, too).
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
1 Hotel’s eco-friendly stance was admittedly a big selling point on booking a room here, and it did not disappoint.
Bottom line: worth it, and why?
If leaving behind a tiny carbon footprint is important to you, it’s worth visiting 1 Hotel’s website to see the ways (many of them unexpectedly simple) they’re helping to give back to the community and environment they call home.
Slide 11 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
While your original list of hotel must-haves probably included “beachfront location,” the Four Seasons Hotel Miami will have you rethinking that priority in no time. It’s only a block away from Biscayne Bay, so still has all those gorgeous water views you’re craving, but the dazzling high-rise hotel does what many South Beach hotels cannot: offers a taste of city life with a tropical feel.
__ What’s the crowd like?__
Even among frequent travelers, Four Seasons guests—many of whom are business travelers—are a tribe unto themselves. They expect an unparalleled level of service and accommodation and trust the Four Seasons name to grant them just that.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
At a sizable 500 square feet, the Bay-View Room is actually the hotel’s smallest accommodation. The room itself is attractive—lots of wooden furniture with neutral tans and whites, with a few bright throw pillows strewn around—even if it’s not particularly distinctive. But it’s got a leg up on suites twice its size, thanks to views of Biscayne Bay. All Bay-View rooms are located somewhere between the 20th and 27th floors, which saves having to make the request of a high-floor room.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Four Seasons hotels are known for their comfy, cloud-like beds and down duvets pillows, and the Miami outpost is no exception.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
A window seat is a charming add-on no matter where you are, but when it allows you to sit for hours and gaze out peacefully at the water all around you, it’s even better. When you don’t want that water, or sun, shining in your eyes, just deploy the blackout curtains.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
While we’d be remiss to describe a perfectly pleasant marble bathroom with a separate glass-enclosed shower and deep-soaking tub as “standard,” there are no real standout features beyond what you’d expect from a five-star hotel. The bright white cotton towels and terry bathrobes are soft and fluffy, though we had to request more of the former. L’Occitane toiletries are a nice touch. One other notable bit luxury: twice-a-day housekeeping visits, to keep those marble floors sparkling.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Though it was late to the free Wi-Fi game, Four Seasons finally came around back in late 2015. Service was strong throughout the hotel.
Room service: Worth it?
Having checked in late, and being too tired to put on any real clothes and venture into a restaurant, the hotel’s in-room dining menu for night owls came in handy, especially when we realized we could feast on fried tostones with avocado chimchurri ($10), Colombian beef empanadas with spicy salsa ($12), and cheddar croquetas ($9) into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re in the mood to set up your own in-room caviar bar ($193-$219) at 3 a.m., staff can make that happen, too. And while the breakfast menu does technically have a time limit, all-day breakfast is available upon request.
Anything stand out about the staff?
While the sun is beating down and the guests are dipping their toes in the water, the hotel’s team of pool butlers is constantly on the move, delivering towels, water, food, cocktails, and warnings that you’re about to burn. Tip them well.
What did we miss?
The first and best reason to book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami is because of the two-acre "Main Pool" area, a glorious, palm tree-lined pool deck that sits on the hotel’s seventh floor and, as such, lets guests look down on the world around them. (In addition to those aforementioned Biscayne Bay vistas, you’ll get a clear view of South Beach and Downtown Miami.) The Palm Grove Pool also has its charms—specifically, the ability to wade into the water and hop up onto a palm tree-shaded hammock. The hotel succeeds with its dining options, too; Edge Steak & Bar’s indoor-outdoor setup, globally-inspired farm-to-table grub, and expansive, fire pit-filled terrace make for a memorable (late) night.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
While other hotels in the area can lay claim to their own stretches of sand or rooftop pools overlooking Miami Beach, the Four Seasons Hotel Miami’s manmade approach to paradise puts plenty of its competitors to shame.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
If you’re looking for a hotel with lots of personality and a bit of quirk, the Four Seasons Hotel Miami may not be it. That's not a knock on the hotel—just an observation that, in the quest to maintain a five-star level standard across an entire brand, there’s not always room left for a sense of whimsy. That said: if your ideal vacation includes lounging by the pool and, well, lounging by the pool, this elevated oasis is certainly a bit of paradise.
Slide 12 of 20: Why did this hotel catch your attention? What's the vibe?
With bright-yellow piping framing the tallest tower, there's something incredibly old school about the Royal Palm. The retro vibe continues as you walk up to the lobby building, a six-story affair with Art Deco charm and some wonderfully expressive topiary plantings out front.
What's the backstory?
The resort dates back to 1939 when it opened as a modest, four-story hotel. Expansion coincided with a deterioration that lasted through the 1990s and beyond, until it was bought by Starwood/Marriott as part of its new Tribute Portfolio, which includes a number of independent boutique hotels.
Tell us all about the accommodations. Any tips on what to book?
Our largely white Classic Room had pops of blues, greens, and yellows to really drive home that beach house-like ambience. The room felt modern and playful, with whimsical cushions, odd-shaped tables, and artwork depicting local flora and fauna. A white-tiled, modern bathroom topped things off.
Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
Fast WiFi is part of the $30-per-night resort fee.
Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
Byblos offers Mediterranean dishes in a casual, opulent setting, with succulent lamb and steak dishes streaming out of the wood-fired ovens. The Grove and Florida Cookery are slightly more casual; the former pays homage to the Art Deco roots of the resort and the latter is a bright and airy breakfast nook. The Compass Rose is a cocktail bar.
How was the service?
The service was as bright and breezy as the color scheme, with a cheery, efficient check-in that included the full rundown of the resort fee.
What type of travelers will you find here?
It’s a South Beach vibe, with most guests making a daily jaunt to the beach and maybe taking the odd day here or there just to laze around the resort. Given the location, you might expect a rowdy clientele; however, the property attracts thoughtful, low-key folks who really value relaxation.
What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in, make itself part of the scene?
You’re pretty much oceanfront here and just a couple of blocks south of Lincoln Avenue. Ocean Drive is right on the doorstep and you’re also in the heart of the action for all things South Beach.
Any other hotel features worth noting?
The Royal Palm is exceptionally well set up for sun seekers, with a pool complex that’s comprised of two pools, a plunge pool, and cabanas. The beach is also right there (with direct access), and there's ample staff on hand to help. The resort also has a serviceable gym, plus activities like a Sunday pool party and daily yoga and Zumba sessions.
Bottom line: Worth it?
This hotel is an interesting mix of revamped rooms and public spaces with striking original features from its Art Deco days. The central location, paired with direct beach access, makes it a desirable spot.
Slide 13 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
The main thing you need to know about booking a room at EAST, Miami—the 352-room hotel that occupies the top floors of the fabulous (and still-evolving) $1 billion Brickell City Centre—is that it’s not on the beach. Or anywhere near it. Rather than replicate the easy, breezy, sand-in-your-toes style of South Beach’s grand dames, the EAST, Miami offers a well-placed base from which to explore downtown Miami’s urban charms. You know you’re in for a unique experience as soon as you walk in the door; the lobby is vast and sleek with Asian-inspired touches (which makes sense, as the hotel is the brainchild of Hong Kong’s luxury Swire Hotels).
What’s the crowd like?
Booking a suite at the fanciest beachfront hotel you can find on South Beach is easy, and, as such, draws in a broad-based tourist crowd that doesn't always know much about the city; EAST, Miami caters to travelers who know that Miami’s beauty isn’t just skin-deep, and who are curious to live like a local.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.__
Regardless of the type of room you book, the first thing you’ll notice is also the thing that you’ll remember most: the views. Floor-to-ceiling windows in each room afford a variety of city and water views, depending on where you’re situated. The Corner King includes a wraparound balcony from which one can actually see the Everglades. At 410 square feet, the room is well-sized, but has the illusion of being even bigger, thanks to the high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, neutral color scheme, and gorgeous charcoal-gray wooden floors that let the view take center stage. The Jr. Residence Suite has views of Downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay; a well-stocked kitchenette with a dishwasher, wine fridge, and breakfast bar; a washer and dryer, and even a walk-in closet, which makes it a perfect option for longer stays. Even though each type of room is unique, they’re all super modern and take their feng shui seriously.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
In addition to being comfortable, the bed in our Corner King was placed right in that corner nook, giving us views from every angle.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
EAST, Miami also features a collection of residential spaces—and visiting guests can sometimes get in on that action. If you want to feel more like you’re staying in a friend’s very cool apartment, opt for a suite with “Residence” in the name. Those are the rooms where you’ll be treated to a host of extras that make the space feel like home—walk-in closets, washers and dryers, dishwashers, kitchens, and beyond.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
What’s better than a walk-in glass shower in the bathroom? A walk-in glass rain shower that does its best to make sure you still have those floor-to-ceiling window views of the outside world. APPELLES Apothecary & Lab’s essential oil-infused toiletries are a treat.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
No complaints about the strong, free Wi-Fi.
What's going on here for food and drinks?
In a city full of excellent hotel restaurants, EAST, Miami has set the bar even higher, particularly with Quinto La Huella, a rustic, wood-fired offshoot of Uruguay’s famed Parador La Huella. Sugar, the hotel’s rooftop bar and garden, is a magical spot located on the 40th floor. The lush vegetation and jungle-themed décor are a perfect setting for drinks that take a ride on the (slightly) wild side, like the Hakeo, which comprises Jameson, chai tea, blackberries, lemon juice, and absinthe
Did the staff treat you right?
In my hurry to catch an early-morning flight on the day of my departure, I ended up leaving an important-to-me item behind. Though I assumed nothing would come of it, I emailed the hotel on the plane home and heard back from the hotel manager in what seemed like an instant, informing me that the item had been located and asking for an address where they could send it.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
Just because you aren't on the beach doesn’t mean that you don’t want to enjoy the sunshine. The hotel’s giant pool deck offers four bodies of water from which to choose: lap pool, spa pool, cold plunge pool, or hot tub. Lounge chairs and poolside food and cocktail service make this easily an all-day affair. Even more magical, however, is Sugar, the hotel’s rooftop bar and garden: Located on the 40th floor, the lush vegetation and jungle-themed décor are a perfect setting for drinks that take a ride on the (slightly) wild side, like the Hakeo, which comprises Jameson, chai tea, blackberries, lemon juice, and absinthe
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
EAST, Miami also features a collection of residential spaces—and visiting guests can sometimes get in on that action. If you want to feel more like you’re staying in a friend’s very cool apartment, opt for a suite with “Residence” in the name. Those are the rooms where you’ll be treated to a host of extras that make the space feel like home—walk-in closets, washers and dryers, dishwashers, kitchens, and beyond.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
If you’re willing to forgo a trip spent lingering on the beach (you’ll have to grab a taxi or an Uber if you want to do that), being in the thick of Miami’s ever-changing downtown is almost like visiting a whole other city.
Slide 14 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
While Miami has its share of standout beachfront hotels, the sheer width of Miami Beach means that even if you get a room overlooking the ocean, you'll still have to spend a couple minutes walking across hot sand in order to dip your toes in the water. For travelers who don’t care about being in the heart of South Beach, and would rather not leave their hotel at all if it could be helped, there’s Acqualina Resort & Spa. Channeling a kind of Italian villa feel, the hotel has practically built itself into the water’s edge, to beautifully dramatic effect.
What’s the crowd like?
People who want to enjoy all the natural beauty and doses of vitamin D that Florida has to offer—without being beholden to the crowds in South Beach—are the ideal Acqualina guests. Families are also a frequent sight, as the resort rents large suites complete with full kitchens, which can be a blessing for families with young kids.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
With a grand total of 615 square feet of space (725 square feet, if you include the balcony), our Oceanfront Room—which carves out its own little seating area—was large enough to make us feel like we even had a bit of privacy from each other. White, tan, and grey tones let the water be the real pop of color, and the room’s smoked glass and bronze metal coffee tables add a little bit of an edge to its elegance.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
In addition to being both comfortable and elegant, with its metallic-like silver throw pillows, the bed’s positioning right in front of the floor-to-ceiling glass balcony door ensured that we woke up to a beautiful view.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
While the balcony—which added more than 100 square feet to the room’s size—was undoubtedly of the room’s most charming amenities, a small foyer and private bar area were unexpected touches that made the already-big room seem even bigger. A gorgeous wingback chair, which I would have been happy to carry back on to the plane, also added a bit of elegance to the living area.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Like the main room itself, the bathrooms at Acqualina are large and elegance, from the imported marble flooring to the separate bathtub and huge glass-enclosed shower, all of which encourage lingering while you ready for your day. Products come courtesy of ESPA, the hotel’s award-winning spa (which you should plan a separate visit to at some point).
Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free, and connectivity didn’t seem to be an issue anywhere within the hotel’s 4.5 acres.
Room service: Worth it?
Though room service is generally one of our favorite parts of the hotel experience, the onsite dining options here should get you out of the room and into the restaurants. Costa Grill serves up a great menu of snacks and light bites beachside. At night, Il Mulino New York brings a deeper taste of the Mediterranean to the resort, while AQ Chop House by Il Mulino puts a wonderful Italian spin on the modern steakhouse.
Did anyone on staff make an impression?
Deciding to stay a good 30-40 minute drive from South Beach (and some of our favorite restaurants) wasn’t an easy decision to make. But kudos to the reservation assistant I spoke with ahead of booking, who essentially listed the many pros that came with being an Uber ride away from the action—and she was absolutely right.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
While grabbing one of the hotel’s plush loungers (and a beach butler to bring you a cocktail) is never a bad idea, the resort is also home to three pools, each with its own temperament: the Beach Club Pool is the main event, where guests of all ages and activity levels lounge and lunge. More active types will love the Recreation Pool, where the staff regularly organizes games and fitness classes. If you’re traveling sans kids, you’ll want to head to the Tranquility Pool—the adults-only spot whose name says it all.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
It's natural to feel that if you’re coming to Miami, you’ll want to stay in the city or on Miami Beach. But the tranquility that came with being half-an-hour away from the velvet ropes and see-and-be-seen restaurants actually made for a more relaxing trip. The hotel is also rather self-contained, so if you’re the kind of traveler who likes to plant yourself somewhere and stay, plant away.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
Seclusion and tranquility are two of the hotel’s most hard-to-ignore amenities, and worth every penny.
Slide 15 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
Ian Schrager has a knack for being on the bleeding edge of what people want. He proved this back in the late ‘70s when, with Steve Rubell, he created New York City’s iconic Studio 54 nightclub. And he did it again in the mid-1990s, when he revamped the classic Delano hotel and helped turn South Beach into one of the world’s favorite beach destinations. For his latest trick, Schrager created a micro-city in the Miami Beach EDITION, where every amenity a person could want (or even know was possible) is there for the taking—ice skating rink included.
What’s the crowd like?
Style begets style at The Miami Beach EDITION, which has become a playground for fashion-forward types the world over. Drake threw a party for Rihanna here once, and Leonardo DiCaprio hosted three parties in a row for hundreds of his closest friends and strangers during one particularly celebratory edition of Art Basel.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
There’s something irresistible about the word “bungalow,” so booking one at the Miami Beach EDITION was a no-brainer. While there are seven varieties from which to choose, including a two-story ocean view penthouse bungalow with a private elevator and plunge pool (which rents for $10,000-plus a night), we went with the Bungalow Poolview King. It may not have had its own plunge pool, but it did offer an extra layer of privacy—not to mention separate sleeping, dining, and sitting areas, plus a spacious balcony. The bungalow’s light oak-paneled walls have a nature-inspired feel that complements the oceanfront setting.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
There’s no detail in these rooms that hasn't been scrutinized in an attempt to exceed guests’ every expectation, and the heavenly, low-slung bed—which sits atop a light oak frame that blends in with the walls, and is topped with a down comforter and pillows—is no exception.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
The EDITION delivered on an in-room Nespresso machine. Other nice touches include daily complimentary bottled water, a well-stocked minibar full of locally-sourced products, and twice-daily housekeeping services.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
You can keep your fancy heated floors and robo-toilets: give me a rainforest shower in my bathroom and I’m a happy guest—particularly when that shower is fully enclosed and just another cool part of a sleek, all-marble space. Le Labo bath products are customized with their very own (and very pleasant) EDITION scent.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Miami’s big on the whole “resort fee” thing, and the Miami Beach EDITION is no exception. In this case, it’s a not-totally-insane $35 per night, but part of what you’re paying for is “free” Wi-Fi. Go figure. That said, you’re not getting out of paying that resort fee, so at least the Wi-Fi is strong.
Room service: Worth it?
With five fabulous restaurants and bars, I only made use of its in-room dining menu once, when I ordered up a plate of rich and buttery pancakes with lavender ($15) just before heading back to the airport.
Did anything stand out about the staff?
As the majority of my time at the EDITION was spent by the pool, I got to know several of the servers and bar staff at Tropicale, the charming, al fresco café that handles all the beach and poolside food and drink deliveries. Even though the place was packed, they did a wonderful job of making it feel like you were their only customer.
Anything we missed?.
Whether you’re craving a juicy cheeseburger with mole and pickled chili or grilled cobia with habanero-lime sauce, Matador Room— Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s innovative Latin fusion restaurant—offers unexpected flavors in plush surroundings. Cocktails are sublime; order one (or three) with dinner, or make it a liquid meal by foregoing the restaurant altogether and just heading to Matador Bar. The hotel’s most talked-about amenity might very well be BASEMENT, a subterranean entertainment space that is home to what it deems a “micro-club,” a nightclub that’s reminiscent of Studio 54. Which is all well and good, but where it gets really bananas (in a good way) is at the bowling alley and ice skating rink—two nighttime activities you probably never thought you needed, but will hope for in every hotel after this one.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
As EDITION is part of the Marriott family, booking a room here is much simpler than at other boutique hotels of its ilk (note: Marriott Rewards can’t be used for the Bungalows). The hotel is totally self-contained, with everything you might need right at your fingertips.
Slide 16 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s hard not to feel a wave of relaxation wash over you as you walk through The Setai’s two-story, zen-inspired lobby, which uses elements like black granite floors and French limestone to create an environment that is at once quite sleek and modern, but somehow also timeless.
What’s the crowd like?
Even if your travel plans include getting a little wild, what happens outside the doors of The Setai stays outside the doors of The Setai. Guests come here (and then come back) specifically because of the serenity it offers at every turn—so use your inside voice.
ImportantlyTell us about your room.
Don’t let the name fool you: While the Art Deco Studio Suite City View pays tribute to South Beach’s famed architectural style—the building itself is an Art Deco gem, and you’ll spot many other prime examples of the style from your hotel windows—the more obvious interior aesthetic inspiration comes from Asia. (They call it Asian Style Deco.) The cleverly designed space mixes lots of dark woods and upholstery with beautiful Asian-inspired artifacts and artwork. It’s so centering that you almost feel bad that there’s a TV or Wi-Fi at all.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The hotel’s official style may be “Asian Deco,” but the bed—that big, glorious bed—is all Swedish. Specifically? It’s a handmade DUXIANA bed, a state-of-the-art sleep vessel that is scientifically designed to elicit the deepest sleep possible for its owner (or renter). The sheets, too, are prestigious: part of Frette’s iconic line of hotel linens.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Though the rooms come well-equipped with all sorts of gadgets and technology—flat-screen HD TVs, Nespresso coffee makers, Samsung sound bars, and Nest digital thermostats, to name a few—it almost feels like you’d be angering the relaxation gods to fool around with any of it. What left me feeling more sticky-fingered were the gorgeous (and authentic) Asian artifacts that were placed throughout the room.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Like everything else at The Setai, the bathroom evokes a feeling of deep calm, with its black granite accessories and rainfall shower that make any stresses you might be harboring go bye-bye. Bath and beauty products are courtesy of Acqua di Parma, so you’ll want to save a little extra room in your toiletry bag.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
It might feel weird to fire up the Wi-Fi while you’re sitting by the property’s serenity pond, but hey, it’s free.
Room service: Worth it?
Guests of The Setai have the option of dining at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Jaya, from the comfort of their suites. Their Thai beef salad ($19) proved a wonderful way to end the day.
Did the staff make an impression?
Checking into a hotel can be a fairly arduous task, especially if you arrive at the same time as a couple of other soon-to-be guests. The front desk here keeps a constant eye on who’s arriving and what they need, and shrink and grow the staff in an instant to make sure you’re not left standing in line or waiting for anything. (They also value their guests’ privacy.) This is efficiency at its most impressive.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
As you walk through the hotel lobby and outside toward the beach, a lush courtyard and serenity pond remind you that your only job right now is to relax. Want to do that on the beach? The hotel has its own private stretch of sand where you can chill out on a day bed and grab a bite from The Setai Beach Kitchen, a solar-powered culinary spot. If you’re itching to be a bit more adventurous, they’ve got Jet Skis for rent. And while the beach is impressive, it almost pales in comparison to the hotel’s trio of infinity pools, each one of which is maintained at a different temperature so that, like Goldilocks in a bathing suit, you can find the one that's just right.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
After years of drinking and dining at The Setai on any available occasion (in addition to Jaya, their beachfront Ocean Grill is a wonderful spot for a sunset glass of champagne), and swearing that I’d stay there “next time,” when “next time” finally came, the experience more than exceeded my expectations. If you think the lobby has a chill vibe, try spending a night in one of the Ocean Suites.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
Considering that Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Madonna are all fans of The Setai, it goes without saying that the hotel isn’t going to make any budget traveler’s list of top South Beach accommodations. But if you’re seeking a serious dose of deep serenity, you can rationalize the higher price tag by knowing that you’re paying for peace(fulness) of mind.
Slide 17 of 20: Why did this hotel catch your attention? What's the vibe?
As you approach Urbanica, you're struck with the foliage: a near-forest of trees at ground level, a copse on the top floor, and some very healthy windowboxes in between. Altogether the verdant explosion nearly covers the low-rise Art Deco architecture, itself a nod to Miami’s most recognizable style.
What's the backstory?
A converted condominium building, Urbanica is an annex to The Gale hotel across the street.
Tells us about the rooms?
A subtle nautical theme carries through to the rooms; a sailor’s rope is embroidered onto the white bedspread, for example. The style is understated, and there’s a minimalist, almost spa-like feel to the ambience, with a blue, white, and brown color scheme and low sight-lines. Marbles baths are a nice touch.
Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The $32 resort fee covers Wi-Fi; no issues.
Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
The hotel doesn’t have its own kitchen, although an all-day café is slated to open soon. Visit Dolce, well-regarded Italian restaurant at The Gale across the way.
How did the staff strike you?
The check-in staff were sincerely welcoming and helpful, and seemed genuinely interested—none of the scripted welcomes that some chain hotels rely on.
What type of travelers will you find here?
Guests seems to value the privacy, personal service, and attention to detail. It’s a relatively affluent spot and the clientele definitely skews well-to-do, but not at the expense of an independent and adventurous streak.
What about the neighborhood? What else is around here?
A location one block from the beach in South Beach usually brings some clamor, but the hotel has found a relatively tranquil little spot without being too far from the action. It’s easy to retreat here, find solitude and peace, then duck back into the fray when you're ready.
Any other hotel features worth noting?
The small boutique hotel is dedicated to privacy and quiet, and so there isn’t a huge laundry list of amenities. There’s a lovely rooftop deck and guests; guests can also use the pool and beach services over the road at The Gale, which also has a small fitness center.
Bottom line: Worth it?
The small boutique hotel is dedicated to privacy and quiet, and so there isn’t a huge laundry list of amenities. There’s a lovely rooftop deck and guests; guests can also use the pool and beach services over the road at The Gale, which also has a small fitness center.
Slide 18 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
Key Biscayne may only be located 15 miles from South Beach, but it may as well be its very own country. The picturesque barrier island is home to miles of pristine beachfront and two state parks, but only one hotel—and what a hotel it is. The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne has all the five-star amenities you’d expect from the high-end hotel chain, but also embraces the laid-back, beachy vibe of its neighborhood. In a way, it’s the place you’d want to go to escape Miami.
What’s the crowd like?
Though Ritz-Carlton devotees like to remain true to their brand, they have a handful of options—and hotel personalities—to choose from in the area, including outposts in South Beach, Bal Harbour, and Coconut Grove. The Key Biscayne crowd can be heavily weighted toward the family side, or couples who would rather not be in the heart of the city.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
In order to take advantage of the hotel’s slightly out-of-the-way location, we booked an Ocean View Studio, mainly because of its residential features, which make it feel more like your own little apartment than a stuffy hotel room. With 420 square feet of space, it’s a good size without being too big. And its clever layout allows for a kitchenette and other home-away-from-home features. The room is pretty—lots of light blues and beiges, plus light wood furniture and accessories replicate the colors of the sea—even if there’s no real statement piece or “wow” element. Even so, one could be perfectly content calling it home for even an extended stay. The balcony makes a pleasant addition, especially as a place to enjoy an evening cocktail or morning coffee.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The vast majority of the main floor space is taken up by the king-sized bed, which is topped with a luxurious feather comforter.
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Our main reason for opting for the Ocean View Studio was the added bonus of a kitchenette, which was well-equipped with a stove, stovetop, microwave and mini-fridge. It’s options like this that make the resort a popular choice for families, so that you’re not left dragging a sun-soaked and exhausted kid from one restaurant to the next.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
While not huge, the marble bathroom feels luxurious, not only because of its separate tub and shower, but because of its super plush towels, robes, and slippers, and the gorgeous mother-of-pearl wall covering near the vanity.
We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi is complimentary, and strong enough that I was able to download a couple of massive files without shutting the whole resort down (at least, not that I know of).
Did anyone on staff make an impression?
The Ritz-Carlton is known for employing all sorts of unique butlers and very specific concierges, and here you’ll find a Photography Concierge—a hospitality professional whose job it is to arrange (complimentary) 45-minute beach photo shoots with guests. It’s a lot of work, and there was a long line of people wanting to get in on that.
Anything stand out about other services and features?
Beach or pool? It’s a decision made even more difficult here, as the resort is home to a pair of pools—one of them a more family-oriented type (complete with waterfall), the other adults-only. If the resort didn’t already remind you of the last place you stayed in Cabo, Cantina Beach—its gorgeous, thatched palapa-roofed Mexican eatery—might get those memories back. Tiki torches and fire pits only add to the beachfront charm, and a dedicated tequilier—the tequila version of a sommelier—can help you choose the perfect tequila to match your meal for a night you won’t soon forget. The restaurant, which stocks more than 110 varieties of tequila, also hosts complimentary tastings at 6 p.m. nightly.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne is unique in that it lets you enjoy all the benefits and privacy of staying at a secluded resort, yet you’re always just a quick drive to the heart of South Beach—and just as close to the airport.
Bottom line: worth it?
While Miami is full of Instagram-worthy beaches and backdrops, Key Biscayne’s version of it is just a little less tainted by urban sprawl. Its proximity to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, home to one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches, puts you that much closer to yet another activity to check off your Miami bucket list.
Slide 19 of 20: How did it strike you on arrival?
One would have had a nearly impossible task convincing my 18-year-old self that I’d ever want to spend a night at a hostel. So imagine my surprise when the Freehand Miami utterly charmed my [redacted]-year-old self. To be clear: the Freehand is a “luxury” hostel, and it rents a range of private rooms, so you won’t have to share a bunk bed with a stranger—at least if you don’t want to (shared rooms that sleep four or eight, and are either co-ed or all female, are available at about a quarter of the price). But if you’re looking for a chic spot for a quick night or two in town, Freehand’s coziness make for an enjoyable evening—especially if you’re traveling solo.
What’s the crowd like?
With most hostels, you’d probably think that what links the guests on any given day is the desire to save their hard-earned cash. But the Freehand is different in that the decision to stay here seems to go beyond budget; there’s a deep feeling of kinship among the (largely younger) guests, and it’s that sense of community that seems to be the Freehand's greatest ally.
Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Though I was staying for just a night, and knew that I probably wouldn’t spend more than a couple of hours in the room (including sleeping), I still opted for a standard king—if only to save myself from the possibility of a snoring stranger sleeping nearby. I was more than a little impressed: The room was plenty spacious for my solo jaunt, and really no different than a standard hotel room. Though the furniture reminded me slightly of IKEA furniture—without actually being IKEA furniture—the overall effect was fun.
We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
This isn't a place where you remember the thread count of your sheets, but I can confirm that everything was comfortable enough to lull me right to sleep (a cocktail or two at Broken Shaker may have helped induce that slumber).
How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Other hostels might leave the little things like toiletries up to you, but the Freehand—at least as far as its private rooms are concerned—does that for you, making it virtually indistinguishable from the kind of service you’d get at a proper hotel. A retro-looking mini-fridge was a fun touch, and the artwork, all done by Miami-based artists, was a cut above some of the stuff I’ve seen in much pricier digs.
Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The bathroom and its many accouterments—including the towels—was a pretty standard affair, but the fact that the bathroom was private at all is worth something.
We can all use some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi is password-less and free for all at the Freehand, which is good news for those locals sipping cocktails at the Broken Shaker bar, but not as great a development for guests forking over their cold, hard cash to stay here, as the number of people on their iPhones at any given time could create a slow-down for everyone around them.
Room service: Worth it?
While there’s no room service to speak of, there are two standout places to grab a bite: 27 Restaurant and the Broken Shaker bar. There’s also a guest kitchen, which is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Just make sure you remembered to bring your own food and don’t try to steal someone else’s.
Did anyone on the staff make an impression?
It may not be fair to hand the trophy over to team Broken Shaker for mixing up some of the most innovative libations around, but have you tasted their cocktails?
Anything stand out about other services and features?
Like the general public, guests at the Freehand have access to the Broken Shaker and 27 Restaurant. But being so near to both of them can almost guarantee that you and the bartender will be on a first-name basis by the end of your stay.
What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
In addition to generous pricing, the outgoing attitude of everyone here, including the guests, created a genuine sense of community that I’ve yet to see replicated elsewhere.
Bottom line: Is it worth it?
If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t want to do the Airbnb thing or, heaven forbid, get stuck staying at some motel near the airport, the Freehand isn’t your only choice of an inexpensive place to stay in South Beach—but it’s absolutely the best.
Slide 20 of 20: Give us an establishing shot.
Imagine a cool, calm hacienda owned by a fabulous South American aunt. So classy and well-proportioned, every touch here is on point. Some of the best restaurants in town, the most elegant bars, it's feels like a breath of elegant air in a sometimes clubby Miami scene. Ascend the coral stone steps and enter its palm-filled, beamed lobby, and it might still be 1931—except that the buzz from the bar is a signal that prohibition has clearly been lifted.
Sounds like there's a backstory here...
Back in the day, rum runners from Cuba and the Bahamas ensured the Surf Club rarely ran dry, so there was always a party in the cabanas here, drawing the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gary Cooper, Henry Ford, and John Harvey Kellogg. (Later, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner honeymooned here.) So put away the idea that Four Seasons is a faceless Canadian brand of business hotels; this place is practically a national landmark that has been transformed into a 21st century beacon of high-rise living by Richard Meier, with interiors by Joseph Dirand.
Importantly: Tell us about your room?
Exquisitely minimalist, calm and beautiful and so thoughtfully designed that you can see the sea from the shower. The category to choose is an Oceanfront room; they’re even lovelier than those in the double-aspect Premier category. The less expensive city-view category is great, too: they look across Biscayne Bay to mainland Miami, which offers the opportunity to see some striking sunsets.
What do we have for food and drink here?
Calabrian by birth, Antonio Mermolia oversees the kitchen of Le Sirenuse Miami, sister restaurant to the Michelin-starred La Sponda in Positano. The cooking is therefore full-flavored southern Italian (the Gragnano pasta is served super al dente). The crab may be Alaskan, but your first mouthful of terrina di granchio, served with slivers of intensely sweet tomato, will take you straight back to Amalfi. It’s always busy, so reserve a table when you book your room.
How did you find the service?
Unexpectedly international (my breakfast was brought by a Russian on Four Seasons’ fast-track management program) and reassuringly slick, as one has come to expect from the brand.
Who else is staying here?
Despite three swimming pools and direct access to the beach, one senses the polished, well-heeled, outwardly conservative ‘business-casual’ clientele are mostly in town for meetings, at least midweek. (It may be less preppy on weekends.) The restaurant crowd—much of it local—glams up in the evening, but the Faena it isn’t.
What about the neighborhood? Are we in a notable location?
Compared with South Beach (20 minutes south in an Uber), the Surfside area of northern Miami Beach is fairly dull, residential and lacking in shops and restaurants.
What's the one thing you'd change?
They shouldn’t—as they did when I stayed—levy a 20 percent service charge on the ‘admin fee’ of a room-service order as well as the food, bringing the cost of a modest breakfast (coffee, orange juice, and granola) to an astonishing $43.80, including sales tax (at least they didn’t add service to that), excluding the further ‘gratuity’ they solicit below.
Anything else of note?
If you’re waiting in the lobby, the photo-filled vitrines are an intriguing visual history of the place.
Bottom line: worth it?
As long as you don’t use room service, it’s a real treat. Glamorous, gorgeous, and the spa is heaven.

Even if you don’t plan to spend more than a few hours each night in your room (including sleep) both Miami and Miami Beach have a wide variety of top-tier accommodations for need and bank account. Budget-focused travelers will always be pleasantly surprised by the nicest hostel they’ve ever seen (complete with one of the best bars in the country). On the other end of the spectrum, there are thousands of square feet of private beaches at a number of ocean-front resorts. With so many hotels to choose from, the best way to approach booking one is to figure out what’s most important to you, whether that means serene surroundings, proximity to nightlife or a wooly mammoth skeleton that greets you upon arrival (yeah, Miami’s got that). Read on to find your perfect Miami hotel.

Loews Miami Beach Hotel

How did it strike you on arrival?
When the Loews Miami Beach Hotel first opened in 1998, it bucked an of-the-moment trend by becoming the first new hotel to be built in Miami Beach in more than 30 years. (Other “new” hotels were merely renovated old hotels.) Yet they didn’t start completely from scratch: a 17-story tower was built around the St. Moritz, a 1939 Art Deco gem, to create a new hotel with history. Though the hotel recently completed a $50 million renovation, it still elicits that feeling of having one foot planted in the past and the other moving quickly toward the future.

What’s the crowd like?
As one of Miami Beach’s biggest hotels (there are nearly 800 rooms), the Loews attracts as diverse a clientele as Miami welcomes as visitors. Families with kids, couples with dogs, business travelers with laptops—everyone happily coexists and gets what they need from the hotel.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Though any beachfront hotel worth its sand will give guests plenty of chances to gaze out at the ocean, it always seems to be worth the extra cost to choose an oceanfront room when you can—hence, our decision to book an Ocean Front Balcony Room. Overall, the room was pretty, with wood floors, ocean-inspired artwork, and a white and beige color scheme that doesn’t compete with the view. It’s a beach-chic design that’s elegant without trying too hard, though the furnished balcony is definitely the star of this show. The only issue we really had was that the walls seem pretty thin, so the noise level—while far from deafening—was a bit higher than we would have liked.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Like so many other Loews locations, the hotel delivers when it comes to the mattress (a plush Stearns & Foster pillowtop variety). Frette duvets up the ante.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
While the hotel’s design is steeped in old-school Art Deco elements, their in-room amenities are cutting-edge. In addition to smart TVs, rooms are equipped with a doorbell that lets you switch the “Do Not Disturb” sign on from inside the room. No futzing around with a plastic door sign—or getting out of bed—required.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The marble bathrooms with walk-in showers are appropriately fancy, but nothing over the top. The ultra-soft Ultimate Doeskin robe by Chadsworth & Haig is a nice change from the standard terrycloth you’ll find at other hotels. Celebrity hairstylist Julien Farel is the man behind the products you’ll put on your head and face; you’re in good hands.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
While the Wi-Fi is technically free, it’s part of what’s included in the $27-a-night resort fee you’ll pay upon arrival, so not quite “free” after all. The connection itself was decent most of the time, though we did have a couple of quick drop-offs in service, which can be slightly frustrating if you’re on a working vacation.

Room service: Worth it?
The in-room dining menu is pretty extensive, and the Continental Breakfast ($23) includes pastries, fruit, coffee, and juice. The hotel sources the bread for many of its dishes from Zak the Baker, a local bread artisan who works with many of the city’s best restaurants. A full kid’s menu is a great bonus for families, and the hotel also has a pet food menu…because your pooch deserves the Bow Wow Tenderloin of Beef with eggs and rice ($16).

Did the staff make an impression?
Given the size of the hotel, and the number of guests staying here at any moment, the speed of the in-room dining team is impressive. That they always have a smile on their face is gold medal-worthy.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
As part of its recent $50 million renovation, the hotel added a section of adults-only cabanas to its lavish SOAK pool club. Guests aged 21+ without kids in tow are welcome to reserve one of these poolside cabanas, which feature covered seating areas, a pair of lounge chairs, a round daybed, a dedicated concierge, and a large magazine section. Of the hotel’s six restaurant and bar areas, you won’t want to miss Lure Fishbar, a South Beach outpost of the popular Manhattan eatery—only this one’s designed to feel like you’re on a yacht, minus any seasickness. The seafood towers are a great way to share, and to taste a bit of everything.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
If you want to find a way to justify the cost of upgrading to an oceanfront room with a balcony, just think of it as an investment in your sanity. Being able to have a tiny bit of private space where we could soak up the sun and breathe fresh air was worth the added cost.

Bottom line: worth it?
For families with young children and guests traveling with four-legged friends, the Loews Miami Beach offers a beachfront location, ocean views, a wonderful beach club, and plenty of activities to keep every member of the family engaged. But it’s a large hotel, and often crowded—which is a good thing…unless total peace and quiet is the main thing on your to-do list.

Faena Hotel Miami Beach

How did it strike you on arrival?
If you’ve ever wanted to know what it may feel like to live in a big-budget Hollywood musical, this is your chance. Argentine hotelier Alan Faena enlisted the help of ‘The Great Gatsby’ director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, Oscar-winning, costume and production designer Catherine Martin, to give this 1940s building a properly theatrical makeover.

What’s the crowd like?
Travelers who have outgrown the South Beach scene (or at least don’t want to be sleeping just a few feet above the late-night revelry along Ocean Drive for this trip) are quickly finding their way just a few blocks farther north to Alan Faena’s newest hotel experiment.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Entering the Premier Oceanfront Room for the first time felt a little bit like stepping into the scene of a movie. The room is full of classic Art Deco design touches, like a bright red sofa with a fringed bottom, and the gold-tasseled tiebacks that keep the room’s rich, blue-green curtains in place. You’ll also likely find a pop of leopard print here and there. The highlight of the space, however, is the furnished balcony, which gives guests an unobstructed view of that vast ocean of blue—not to mention a killer sunset.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Goose-down bedding makes all the difference when it comes to comfort. But even more impressive than the bedding or pillows at Faena Miami Beach is the bed itself: the Art Deco-style wooden bed frame is its own piece of art, as are its matching nightstands. The delicate white and brass sconces, which are built into the headboard, are a nice additional touch.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
There’s a bit of an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel to the Faena, and this carries through into the rooms—particularly with the smaller accents and pieces of furniture you’ll find yourself “discovering” as your stay progresses. While there’s a mini-bar, there’s also a full bar—at least, that’s the best way to describe the stockpile of liquor available for purchase in your room. The hotel even has its own brand of Malbec, which sells for $70 a bottle.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Restrained elegance is the best way to describe the bathrooms at Faena; ours paired Carrara marble with gorgeous Ann Stacks tilework for a bathroom that anyone would envy. That the bedroom’s bright prints and color scheme don’t follow you into the bathroom is a welcome surprise, though the high-tech toilet—which opens as it senses you walking toward it, and also flushes automatically—was a bit wild.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi, which is free, maintained a relatively solid signal throughout our beach adventures.

Room service: Worth it?
Breakfast on the balcony? Why not—I had no regrets after starting the day with a plate of blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes. Los Fuegos, Argentine super-chef Francis Mallman’s open-fire asado, also delivers the goods via its own in-room dining menu.

Was there anything memorable about the staff?
The art of the doorman is still alive and well at the Faena. Prepare to be graciously greeted upon arrival, and to never have to open the door yourself.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
The hotel makes the most of its 100,000 square feet of private white sand beach with the Faena Beach Club, which has adorable red-and-white candy-striped lounge chairs, plus a range of private cabanas that can accommodate large groups. Poolside butlers are there to indulge your every need or craving, while more active beachgoers can take part in a game of soccer on the sand. The Tierra Santa Healing House spa is home to all sorts of over-the-top amenities, including one of the largest hammams this side of the Mississippi and a marble Ice Parlor, which uses the power of ice and air to strengthen your immune system. If while wandering the grounds you find yourself asking, “Did I just see a golden woolly mammoth skeleton in a glass cage?” the answer is yes. (You can thank Damien Hirst for that one.)

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Browse the hotel’s website and social media channels all you want: even the most gorgeous photos can’t compare to what it’s like to inhabit this whimsical, colorful space in real life.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
For travelers who like to remain as lazy as possible, the Faena is a great choice, as everything you could possibly need is right at your fingertips—and there’s an entire staff dedicated to making sure that you don’t even have to lift that very finger. It’s a true resort, and you could easily spend a few days here and still leave without having had a chance to experience every amenity the hotel has to offer.

The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

How did it strike you on arrival?
Stepping into The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort feels a little bit like entering an abstract art gallery: the entryway is a largely empty room, save for an enormous metal sculpture hanging from the ceiling and a few tufted chairs and couches that you may or may not be allowed to sit on. Keep walking and you’ll find yourself in the lobby, which is equally artistic with its dark marble floors, massive chandeliers, and geometric, mirrored walls.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
I splurged on a butler-serviced Astor Oceanfront Junior Suite, which, at 675 square feet, was more than big enough for two people. It had a separate dining room, lounge area, and kitchenette. As is customary of design duo Yabu Pushelberg, the room was largely outfitted in a neutral palette, with pops of color throughout and a gold/mirrored headboard-slash-installation in the bedroom. The pièce de résistance, however, was the 210 square-foot balcony.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Climbing out of the fluffy king-sized bed each morning was no easy task. (Maybe I should have called the butler.)

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Not that you’ll likely want to cook during your vacation, the kitchen does have a two-burner stove, dishwasher, and Subzero fridge. And the hotel has a “Delights Delivered” program, which lets you order anything from a dozen long-stem roses to a personalized birthday cake.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The bathroom was luxe: double vanity, deep deep soaking tub, dual-head rainshower, and a separate, frosted glass-fronted water closet for privacy. Toiletries come from the on-site Remède Spa.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
High-speed Wi-Fi is complimentary throughout the property; guest rooms also have wired internet connections.

Whats going on with food and drink here?
The St. Regis as four different restaurants, including a gourmet burger bar, a French café (go for afternoon tea), a mezze-focused Greek restaurant, and a wine bar. All of those specialties, plus more, can be ordered at any time of the day via your butler. Do yourselves a favor and start each day with the hotel’s “Bloody Sunrise,” a Florida twist on the Bloody Mary, with a surprising citrus zest.

Did the staff make an impression?
The St. Regis’s butlers are pros, proactive about anticipating your needs. I received an email a week before our trip asking if there was anything that they could do to prepare for our arrival.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
The adults-only Tranquility pool is a quiet haven. If you really want to treat yourself, book an Oceanfront Day Villa; the 600-square-foot beach cabana has air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, mini-fridge, and shower. If you’ve ever wanted to witness someone open a bottle of bubbly with a sword, make sure you’re in the St. Regis Bar and Wine Vault by 7:30 p.m., when a nightly sabering demonstration takes place.

Bottom line: worth it?
All of this luxury and personal attention doesn’t come cheap, so if you’re planning a stay here, take full advantage of the amenities. It’s more “special occasion” than business hotel (though if it’s on the company, and the company doesn’t mind, go for it). We met honeymooners, babymooners, and more than one couple celebrating an anniversary during our stay.

Nautilus by Arlo

How did it strike you on arrival?
Everything old is new again at Nautilus, an expansive beachfront hotel that was originally designed in the 1950s by Morris Lapidus, the famed “Miami Modern” architect behind the Fontainebleau. While the hotel’s many stunning neo-Baroque features were preserved during its revamp, they’ve been carefully integrated to complement the SIXTY Hotels brand’s standard hip and sexy style. If Marilyn Monroe had had a Miami beach house, it probably would have looked a lot like this.

What’s the crowd like?
What the SIXTY Hotels group lacks in numbers (there are only five hotels; three of which are in New York City) it more than makes up for in hipness. The hotels are as well known for their retro-glam digs as they are the regular series of events they host, including weekend pool parties.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Whether you’re traveling with a significant other or a small group of friends, a little privacy is never a bad thing. We booked the King Junior Suite for this very reason. At 425 square feet, the room was a nice size, but the simple addition of a couple of sheer curtains helped to really separate the “bedroom” from the seating area. Though there were only two of us, a family or larger group crashing together would particularly appreciate that come bedtime, as the seating area comes with a sofa bed, making it almost like a second bedroom. Serious jet-setters will love the travel-themed décor, like the vintage steamer trunk-styled mini-bar. White marble floors are another classy touch.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The bed’s grey upholstered headboard with nailhead trim was glamorous, and the bed itself did not disappoint; down pillows and bedding with custom Sferra 400-thread count sheets lulled me right to sleep.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
The hotel room’s vintage touches—like the upholstered headboard and steamer trunk mini-bar—gave the space a much more homey feel, as you can imagine choosing some of these pieces for your own home. To call the mini-bar seems a bit of a slight, as it’s gigantic and filled with pretty much any kind of liquor, wine, fancy water, or gourmet snack you can imagine. (Resist the urge to pop that $45 half-bottle of wine—there are wine shops all around you if you just walk outside.)

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Given the size of the room, the bathroom is actually pretty small in comparison. But it’s well appointed—more of that gorgeous, grey-flecked white marble and walk-in glass shower. Maison Margiela products are a nice touch, as are the super fluffy towels.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Free Wi-Fi comes standard with every room, and the signal is strong enough to handle basic web surfing and email.

Room service: Worth it?
Given the hotel’s very hip tendencies, it should hardly be surprising that avocado toast ($15) is one of the most popular items on the in-room breakfast menu. Served on Zak the Baker sourdough, the perfectly ripened avocado, soft-poached eggs, pepitas, crispy capers, and radish made for a delicious—and somewhat healthful—meal.

Did the staff make an impression?
Nautilus guests love the nightlife, which is probably why the hotel makes sure that the p.m. staffers—especially the nighttime concierge—are up to the challenge of dealing with any late-night requests quickly and efficiently. Stop by the concierge desk or give them a call, and you’ll get what you need in seconds.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
In a city full of very cool hotel pools, Nautilus has one of the coolest: a nearly 2,000-square-foot heated, saltwater pool that overlooks the beach. Even if you generally prefer to just hang poolside, you’ll want to dive in—if only to catch a tune via the underground sound system.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Miami is no stranger to great pools, but the Nautilus has something special with its enormous, heated, saltwater version.

Bottom line: worth it?
As far as beachfront South Beach hotels go, Nautilus is pretty well-priced—and offers lots of deals during non-peak travel times. Even during the high season, the hotel’s central location, spacious rooms, glamorous vibes, and fabulous beachfront pool area make it a draw.

Fontainebleau

Why did this hotel catch your attention? What’s the vibe?
Even amid the architectural exhibitionism of Miami Beach, the gleaming curved main tower of the 1,500-room Fontainebleau Miami Beach is a knockout. The design of this essentially launched the so-called Miami-Modern style, and the resort dominates its stretch of Miami Beach. It’s a clean and classic escape where contemporary vibes meets retro in a flash of glamour.

What’s the backstory?
The original Fontainebleau opened in 1954 and was an immediate magnet for the celebrities of the day; the Rat Pack spent enough time there to make it the it-place to be. Its modern redevelopment began in the 1970s, with its current incarnation—rumored to have cost $1 billion—revealing itself to the public in 2008. The hotel has been the background to several movies and TV shows, notably the James Bond movie “Goldfinger.”

Tell us all about the rooms. Any tips on what to book?
Our Deluxe Bay View Guestroom was bright and airy with discernibly urban design touches—particularly noticeable in a sea of coastal-chic South Beach hotels. Whites and earth tones gave it a clean, contemporary feel, and tan accents delivered a stylish flourish. The oversized leather armchairs felt especially luxurious, as did the marble bathroom. Rooms in towers like Versailles, Sorrento, and Tresor are all pretty quiet; Chateau, on the other hand, has a little more of a party vibe.

Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The Wifi is included in $36 resort fee, and it was suitably fast.

Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
The resort has a dozen dining options, with a few signature restaurants that are worth visiting in their own right, including Hakkasan, a famous Michelin-starred brand that presents high-end dim sum and Cantonese cuisine, and Scarpetta, a glitzy Italian affair with James Beard award-winner Scott Conant at the helm. Stripsteak and Pizza and Burger, meanwhile, deliver exactly what their names suggest, both with elevated twists. Five more casual spots promise everything from French pastries to contemporary Asian to all-America.

How was the service?
The sheer volume of rooms mean that things get busy, but the line at check-in was quick and professional. A plentiful staff takes care of everyone’s needs.

What type of travelers will you find here?
It’s a real mixed bag here, with everyone from conference delegates to families to party crowds. But the hotel seemingly absorbs them effortlessly and delivers the experience everyone’s looking for.

What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in?
You’re on Millionaire’s Row, almost its own neighborhood, and you could easily stay here and not leave the property grounds. That said, you’re in reach of South Beach.

Any other hotel features worth noting?
There’s everything you could possibly need: Lapis, a luxurious spa with eucalyptus steam baths; a salon; a gym; a huge, freeform pool that spreads out among the gardens; and, of course, nightlife. The club LIV is a hotspot among the young, beautiful, and famous.

Bottom line: Worth it?
This hotel is an iconic part of South Beach, one that defined a style and an era. Although it has been upgraded at no small expense, guests still feel like they’re part of that history, and the hotel really does have everything you could need for a South Beach vacation.

Fisher Island Club

Why did this hotel catch your attention? What’s the vibe?
Any day you arrive at a hotel by boat is a good day, and the palms and lawns of The Fisher Island Club come into view as the ferry from Miami cruises ashore. With bright-orange terracotta roofs, the cluster of white cottages look like an island village, the larger buildings and villas peeping out from behind them.

What’s the backstory?
The resort was built around an original 1920s-era mansion, once the winter estate of William K. Vanderbilt.

Tell us all about the rooms. Any tips on what to book?
Earth tones and warm textures dominated our Guest House Suite, a rare blend of luxury and coziness. The large bed was strewn with Italian Frette linens, and limestone walls and floors gave the space the feel of a Mediterranean villa. The room came with access to a golf cart for navigating the resort, and there was just the right level of technology to ensure convenience without sacrificing tranquility. Marble bathrooms, enhanced by Bulgari products, completed the experience.

Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The Wi-Fi is free and fast.

Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
Casual options include Beach Club and La Trattoria; the former has elevated bar food and the latter offers a comprehensive romp through all of your Italian favorites. There’s also Porto Cervo, which serves Italian fare, The Library’s classic steak menu, and Garwood Lounge, a 1930s space featuring a live pianist.

How did you find the service?
Service meets the high expectations. Needs are anticipated. and there’s a welcome level of discretion and mindfulness about intrusion.

What type of travelers will you find here?
Older couples in linen suits and chic beachwear and some families taking weekend breaks. Overall, it’s a well-heeled crowd escaping the city.

What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in, make itself part of the scene?
The private island feels much farther removed than the few minutes it takes to get here from downtown Miami; it’s really its own neighborhood.

Any other features worth noting?
The original saltwater pool built by the Vanderbilts is attached to a handsome beach club, which gets especially busy around sunset. There’s also a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts, a high-end fitness club with classes, and a spa. A beauty salon and a deli-style market complete the on-land amenities, and the island’s marina is poised to handle any nautical needs.

Bottom line: Worth it?
There’s no escaping the price tag here, but given the history of the mansion and the level of luxury and service, it feels right for a special occasion.

Mandarin Oriental, Miami

How did it strike you on arrival?
The bridge that connects Brickell Key to downtown Miami may not be a long one, but it’s enough to make guests of the Mandarin Oriental, Miami feel as if they’re entering their own little private sanctuary. Cutting a fanned shape into the skyline (an architectural element intended to evoke the brand’s logo), the hotel’s striking design and location set it apart as unique from the get-go.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Knowing that I would be spending a fair amount of time in my room, and that I’d have work to get through while I was there, I booked a Deluxe Veranda Room with the hope that I’d be able to spend much of my time “indoors” on the private veranda. It worked out well. Larger than a balcony but not quite as unwieldy as a patio, the furnished outdoor space offered an amazing little escape where I could work, but still feel like I was on vacation. (Potted plants are a nice way to create additional privacy.) The room’s colors and accessories took their cue from the water, and included splashy bits of Asian-inspired art and design.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Having a king-sized bed all to oneself is a treat no matter where you are, but the Mandarin Oriental’s gloriously plush bed and linens were sumptuous enough to make getting up in the morning a bit of a challenge.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
With a large population of families as guests, Mandarin Oriental rooms are spacious, and designed to entertain. In addition to flat-screen TVs, guest rooms include DVD players and iPod sound docks.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Marble bathrooms offer both a deep soaking tub and a walk-in shower. Plush terry bathrobes are the kind you’ll want to pack away, prior (and future) guests be damned. High-fashion house Shanghai Tang provides the bath products, which leave you feeling invigorated and smelling good.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
High-speed Wi-Fi is free, and available on up to six devices at a time.

Room service: Worth it?
The in-room dining menu has an impressive (if expectedly pricey) selection, including a lobster roll ($27) and a spicy and crunchy tuna roll ($15). Everything was fresh.

Did anyone on the staff make an impression?
You don’t have to be a guest at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami to enjoy the range of globally-inspired wellness treatments on offer at the hotel’s three-story, waterfront spa. These massage therapists know how to work out the kinks, and deserve the many accolades they’ve received.

__Anything stand out about other services and features? __
There’s an intrepid sort of spirit that exists on (manmade) Brickell Key, which is evidenced by the hotel’s (also manmade) beach. With no pristine sun or sand to brag about, the hotel’s powers-that-be decided to build their own 20,000-square-foot private beachfront.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
Even though it’s just a quick walk or drive to so many of Miami’s most bustling neighborhoods (including South Beach), the hotel’s “world’s away” vibe makes it a wonderful place for a romantic getaway, or even a staycation.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
It’s kind of a miracle that one could feel so secluded so close to downtown Miami, but the Mandarin Oriental, Miami succeeds at just that. This makes it a great “best of both worlds” hotel for travelers who want to see more than just the beach.

The Betsy South Beach

How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s impossible to miss The Betsy. Blink and you might think you mistakenly hopped a plane to Savannah instead of South Beach. But at the northernmost end of Ocean Drive, the hotel’s Florida-Georgia style of architecture sticks out like a colonial masterpiece in a sea of pastel-colored Art Deco gems. It also brings a bit of genteel Southern charm to a street that is otherwise drowning in neon-lit signs and two-for-one cocktail catastrophes. Stepping through the front door is an instant cure for stress.

What’s the crowd like?
While some people head to South Beach with only late nights out on their mind, The Betsy attracts a different, more erudite crowd. Yes, they love being in the thick of all that touristy mayhem, but prefer that it not happen right outside their window. And it’s not just the hotel’s quaint façade that seems to attract a different type of South Beach reveler; inside, the public spaces act as a sort of art gallery, with photo exhibitions rotating throughout the year. The Betsy also hosts a series of festivals and lectures, and prides itself on maintaining a mini library of books in each room.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Though the hotel offers several levels of rooms and suites, we opted for a Royal Suite to ensure maximum comfort and privacy—and it more than delivered. At 600 square feet, the room felt palatial, and its layout made it feel like a home away from home. Before you got to the room itself, a private hallway kept the bathroom, closet, and storage area away from the living space, and there was even a writing desk with a collection of interesting novels. We were lucky enough to land a corner suite, which overlooked Ocean Drive and Miami Beach. But the best part of the room was the heavy set of wooden doors that separated the master bedroom (which also looked out at the beach) from the living room.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
As if having a separate master bedroom weren’t enough to make you fall in love, the king-sized bed was grand—and its view right out onto the ocean made it that much easier to fall asleep.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
While the personal libraries in each room are a charming touch for any bibliophile, the fact that the desk was separated even from the master bedroom and living room made me never want to leave. Equally impressive: that the staff is able to keep a number of orchids blooming in each and every room.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The Betsy’s Thasos & Carrera marble bathrooms are big. Just how big? Well, ours was large enough to feature oversized double sinks, plus a walk-in glass shower that, on estimate, could easily fit a half-dozen or so of our best friends. Malin + Goetz products always get a big thumbs up.

We can all use some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi was powerful, whether it be on the front porch, by the pool, on the rooftop, or in the deepest recesses of our room. Even better? It was free.

Room service: Worth it?
Room service comes courtesy of LT Steak & Seafood, the popular lobby restaurant that some people might remember as BLT Steak (if you eat at the restaurant itself, prepare to start with what might be the world’s largest, and most delicious, popover). True to the eatery’s name, they’re happy to deliver a wide variety of steaks to your room—at $45, an 8-ounce filet mignon is the closest to a bargain choice. I opted for the $16 burrata salad with arugula, romesco, and grilled bread (be prepared to shell out more if you want to add grilled chicken, shrimp, steak, smoked salmon, or seared tuna).

How did you find the service?
As we arrived a couple hours earlier than check-in, our room wasn’t ready when we first walked in the door. But the front desk made it clear that this was not a problem, and even offered us a private space to change if we wanted to use the pool or sundeck while we waited. We opted to have a drink at the bar instead, and got an excellent rundown of the hotel, its amenities, and all the art happenings that were going on that week from the bartender. He got even more bonus points for mixing up a perfectly spicy Miami Margarita (the addition of jalapeño, kiwi, and orange bitters is what makes it “Miami”) and refilling our snack bowl about 30 times without even the hint of an eye roll.

Anything stand out about other hotel features?
Given its beachfront location, the hotel maintains its own staff of beach attendants to get you situated with chairs, umbrellas, and anything else you might need. If you’d like all the benefits of a salty ocean breeze but without the sand and limited walking, there’s a rooftop ocean deck loaded with beach chairs (and a bar), which is also where you’ll find the hotel’s spa and wellness garden. A recent renovation means that there are now two pools to enjoy: a courtyard one on the ground floor toward the back of the hotel doesn’t get a ton of sun, while the new rooftop pool has sun-lovers rejoicing.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
As much fun as a stroll up and down Ocean Drive can be, there comes a point when being accosted by restaurant employees who want to sell you on their $5 breakfast deal or two-for-one happy hour special loses its charm. Because of its location at the tippity top of Ocean Drive, The Betsy is a couple of blocks removed from all that mayhem, yet still offers the same great beachfront address and all the wild people-watching you can handle.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
With its spacious accommodations, helpful staff, and breezy feel, The Betsy is really the only choice for someone who wants to be a part of the Ocean Drive action without being a part of the Ocean Drive craziness.

1 Hotel South Beach

How did it strike you on arrival?
We’ve got a serious soft spot for any hotel that wears its eco-consciousness on its sleeve, and understands that it takes more than asking guests to reuse a bath towel to truly effect change. 1 Hotel South Beach’s entire brand is built around a fierce commitment to sustainability, which is apparent as soon as you pull up to the front door (the giant “1” that marks the spot was constructed out of 7,500 pounds of local Florida coral). Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows offer picturesque beach views, but also reduce the building’s energy footprint. You’ll spot lots of reclaimed wood on the walls and gorgeous pieces of driftwood furniture, not to mention a farmstand in the lobby. Even the room keys are made of various kinds of recycled wood. Environmentalism never looked so sexy.

What’s the crowd like?
Though the hotel’s beachfront location—and 600 square feet of private sand out front—certainly isn’t discouraging any guests from booking a room, it’s clear that the visitors to 1 Hotel are looking for something that goes beyond that. Sure, they expect all the amenities that any five-star hotel would offer, but they also want to feel like they’re giving back a bit, too. The hotel’s reliance on local vendors and artisans is one way guests know they’re helping the community, but they also love the hotel’s dedication to wellness. A regular schedule of events, including sunset meditation and terrarium-building workshops, are just the kind of thing that sell them on booking.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Mother Nature’s inspiration isn’t just for show in the lobby; her presence can be felt in all 425 of the hotel’s rooms and suites, which feature driftwood walls, recycled pine headboards, hemp blend-filled mattresses, 100 percent organic cotton sheets, clothes hangers made from recycled paper, and even your very own glass terrarium to bring the outdoors in. We opted for an Ocean View King With Balcony, as the chance to catch up on some reading or drink coffee with our very own sea breezes seemed too good to pass up. The room was stunning, and—at 650 square feet—unexpectedly large. Layout is notable, too; there are no walls that separate the sleeping area from the living area, and only a glass wall separates the shower from the bedroom, yet each area’s purpose is clear and distinct. The wraparound couch looked right out the balcony door (so in many ways, having that extra bit of outdoor space could be redundant for those who just want the views). Waking up to the sounds, and smells, of the ocean is not a feeling we’ll soon forget.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Like the rest of the furniture, the bed offered an ideal mix of comfort and eco-consciousness; the mattress, by Keetsa, is made of custom organic cotton, and the sheets are 100 percent organic cotton, too.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
You know that bottled water you’re always complaining about having to pay $10 for in a hotel room, but guzzling down anyway? There will be none of that here. All of the hotel’s taps, sinks, and showers are equipped with Triple Clear Water filters, so you can drink right from them—and even the glasses in your room are made from recycled glass.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
While the shower’s water filter may have been installed with conservation in mind, the hotel didn’t skimp on the size of that shower. Most of the walk-in marble showers have an all-glass wall on one side, so you can lather up with an oceanfront view if you so choose (there are curtains if you’d rather leave something to the imagination). Products are custom designed for the hotel itself, and made with a range of natural ingredients, while the towels and robes are both made from natural cotton knits—as are the socks they leave in your room to forgo the waste pairs of slippers can bring.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi worked perfectly in every corner of the hotel, and it didn’t cost a penny.

What stuck out about the staff?
Not every hotel owns a slice of the beach, and 1 Hotel makes the most of that with a dedicated team of sandy-footed helpers who can fetch you everything from a lounge chair to a cocktail. This is what you’re here for; give them all a raise.

Anything stand out about other services and features? Whether it’s childcare, gyms, spas, even parking—whatever stuck with you.
While the hotel’s private beachfront is a surprisingly rare amenity in South Beach, Watr 1 at the Rooftop—a pool deck and bar located 18 stories up above the water—is yet another amenity worth taking advantage of. If you plan to keep active, there’s a SoulCycle onsite (just be sure to sign up for your class ASAP, as it’s open to the public, too).

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
1 Hotel’s eco-friendly stance was admittedly a big selling point on booking a room here, and it did not disappoint.

Bottom line: worth it, and why?
If leaving behind a tiny carbon footprint is important to you, it’s worth visiting 1 Hotel’s website to see the ways (many of them unexpectedly simple) they’re helping to give back to the community and environment they call home.

Four Seasons Hotel Miami

How did it strike you on arrival?
While your original list of hotel must-haves probably included “beachfront location,” the Four Seasons Hotel Miami will have you rethinking that priority in no time. It’s only a block away from Biscayne Bay, so still has all those gorgeous water views you’re craving, but the dazzling high-rise hotel does what many South Beach hotels cannot: offers a taste of city life with a tropical feel.

__ What’s the crowd like?__
Even among frequent travelers, Four Seasons guests—many of whom are business travelers—are a tribe unto themselves. They expect an unparalleled level of service and accommodation and trust the Four Seasons name to grant them just that.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
At a sizable 500 square feet, the Bay-View Room is actually the hotel’s smallest accommodation. The room itself is attractive—lots of wooden furniture with neutral tans and whites, with a few bright throw pillows strewn around—even if it’s not particularly distinctive. But it’s got a leg up on suites twice its size, thanks to views of Biscayne Bay. All Bay-View rooms are located somewhere between the 20th and 27th floors, which saves having to make the request of a high-floor room.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
Four Seasons hotels are known for their comfy, cloud-like beds and down duvets pillows, and the Miami outpost is no exception.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
A window seat is a charming add-on no matter where you are, but when it allows you to sit for hours and gaze out peacefully at the water all around you, it’s even better. When you don’t want that water, or sun, shining in your eyes, just deploy the blackout curtains.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
While we’d be remiss to describe a perfectly pleasant marble bathroom with a separate glass-enclosed shower and deep-soaking tub as “standard,” there are no real standout features beyond what you’d expect from a five-star hotel. The bright white cotton towels and terry bathrobes are soft and fluffy, though we had to request more of the former. L’Occitane toiletries are a nice touch. One other notable bit luxury: twice-a-day housekeeping visits, to keep those marble floors sparkling.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Though it was late to the free Wi-Fi game, Four Seasons finally came around back in late 2015. Service was strong throughout the hotel.

Room service: Worth it?
Having checked in late, and being too tired to put on any real clothes and venture into a restaurant, the hotel’s in-room dining menu for night owls came in handy, especially when we realized we could feast on fried tostones with avocado chimchurri ($10), Colombian beef empanadas with spicy salsa ($12), and cheddar croquetas ($9) into the wee hours of the morning. If you’re in the mood to set up your own in-room caviar bar ($193-$219) at 3 a.m., staff can make that happen, too. And while the breakfast menu does technically have a time limit, all-day breakfast is available upon request.

Anything stand out about the staff?
While the sun is beating down and the guests are dipping their toes in the water, the hotel’s team of pool butlers is constantly on the move, delivering towels, water, food, cocktails, and warnings that you’re about to burn. Tip them well.

What did we miss?
The first and best reason to book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami is because of the two-acre “Main Pool” area, a glorious, palm tree-lined pool deck that sits on the hotel’s seventh floor and, as such, lets guests look down on the world around them. (In addition to those aforementioned Biscayne Bay vistas, you’ll get a clear view of South Beach and Downtown Miami.) The Palm Grove Pool also has its charms—specifically, the ability to wade into the water and hop up onto a palm tree-shaded hammock. The hotel succeeds with its dining options, too; Edge Steak & Bar’s indoor-outdoor setup, globally-inspired farm-to-table grub, and expansive, fire pit-filled terrace make for a memorable (late) night.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
While other hotels in the area can lay claim to their own stretches of sand or rooftop pools overlooking Miami Beach, the Four Seasons Hotel Miami’s manmade approach to paradise puts plenty of its competitors to shame.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
If you’re looking for a hotel with lots of personality and a bit of quirk, the Four Seasons Hotel Miami may not be it. That’s not a knock on the hotel—just an observation that, in the quest to maintain a five-star level standard across an entire brand, there’s not always room left for a sense of whimsy. That said: if your ideal vacation includes lounging by the pool and, well, lounging by the pool, this elevated oasis is certainly a bit of paradise.

Royal Palm South Beach Miami, a Tribute Portfolio Resort

Why did this hotel catch your attention? What’s the vibe?
With bright-yellow piping framing the tallest tower, there’s something incredibly old school about the Royal Palm. The retro vibe continues as you walk up to the lobby building, a six-story affair with Art Deco charm and some wonderfully expressive topiary plantings out front.

What’s the backstory?
The resort dates back to 1939 when it opened as a modest, four-story hotel. Expansion coincided with a deterioration that lasted through the 1990s and beyond, until it was bought by Starwood/Marriott as part of its new Tribute Portfolio, which includes a number of independent boutique hotels.

Tell us all about the accommodations. Any tips on what to book?
Our largely white Classic Room had pops of blues, greens, and yellows to really drive home that beach house-like ambience. The room felt modern and playful, with whimsical cushions, odd-shaped tables, and artwork depicting local flora and fauna. A white-tiled, modern bathroom topped things off.

Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
Fast WiFi is part of the $30-per-night resort fee.

Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
Byblos offers Mediterranean dishes in a casual, opulent setting, with succulent lamb and steak dishes streaming out of the wood-fired ovens. The Grove and Florida Cookery are slightly more casual; the former pays homage to the Art Deco roots of the resort and the latter is a bright and airy breakfast nook. The Compass Rose is a cocktail bar.

How was the service?
The service was as bright and breezy as the color scheme, with a cheery, efficient check-in that included the full rundown of the resort fee.

What type of travelers will you find here?
It’s a South Beach vibe, with most guests making a daily jaunt to the beach and maybe taking the odd day here or there just to laze around the resort. Given the location, you might expect a rowdy clientele; however, the property attracts thoughtful, low-key folks who really value relaxation.

What about the neighborhood? Does the hotel fit in, make itself part of the scene?
You’re pretty much oceanfront here and just a couple of blocks south of Lincoln Avenue. Ocean Drive is right on the doorstep and you’re also in the heart of the action for all things South Beach.

Any other hotel features worth noting?
The Royal Palm is exceptionally well set up for sun seekers, with a pool complex that’s comprised of two pools, a plunge pool, and cabanas. The beach is also right there (with direct access), and there’s ample staff on hand to help. The resort also has a serviceable gym, plus activities like a Sunday pool party and daily yoga and Zumba sessions.

Bottom line: Worth it?
This hotel is an interesting mix of revamped rooms and public spaces with striking original features from its Art Deco days. The central location, paired with direct beach access, makes it a desirable spot.

EAST Miami

How did it strike you on arrival?
The main thing you need to know about booking a room at EAST, Miami—the 352-room hotel that occupies the top floors of the fabulous (and still-evolving) $1 billion Brickell City Centre—is that it’s not on the beach. Or anywhere near it. Rather than replicate the easy, breezy, sand-in-your-toes style of South Beach’s grand dames, the EAST, Miami offers a well-placed base from which to explore downtown Miami’s urban charms. You know you’re in for a unique experience as soon as you walk in the door; the lobby is vast and sleek with Asian-inspired touches (which makes sense, as the hotel is the brainchild of Hong Kong’s luxury Swire Hotels).

What’s the crowd like?
Booking a suite at the fanciest beachfront hotel you can find on South Beach is easy, and, as such, draws in a broad-based tourist crowd that doesn’t always know much about the city; EAST, Miami caters to travelers who know that Miami’s beauty isn’t just skin-deep, and who are curious to live like a local.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.__
Regardless of the type of room you book, the first thing you’ll notice is also the thing that you’ll remember most: the views. Floor-to-ceiling windows in each room afford a variety of city and water views, depending on where you’re situated. The Corner King includes a wraparound balcony from which one can actually see the Everglades. At 410 square feet, the room is well-sized, but has the illusion of being even bigger, thanks to the high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, neutral color scheme, and gorgeous charcoal-gray wooden floors that let the view take center stage. The Jr. Residence Suite has views of Downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay; a well-stocked kitchenette with a dishwasher, wine fridge, and breakfast bar; a washer and dryer, and even a walk-in closet, which makes it a perfect option for longer stays. Even though each type of room is unique, they’re all super modern and take their feng shui seriously.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
In addition to being comfortable, the bed in our Corner King was placed right in that corner nook, giving us views from every angle.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
EAST, Miami also features a collection of residential spaces—and visiting guests can sometimes get in on that action. If you want to feel more like you’re staying in a friend’s very cool apartment, opt for a suite with “Residence” in the name. Those are the rooms where you’ll be treated to a host of extras that make the space feel like home—walk-in closets, washers and dryers, dishwashers, kitchens, and beyond.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
What’s better than a walk-in glass shower in the bathroom? A walk-in glass rain shower that does its best to make sure you still have those floor-to-ceiling window views of the outside world. APPELLES Apothecary & Lab’s essential oil-infused toiletries are a treat.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
No complaints about the strong, free Wi-Fi.

What’s going on here for food and drinks?
In a city full of excellent hotel restaurants, EAST, Miami has set the bar even higher, particularly with Quinto La Huella, a rustic, wood-fired offshoot of Uruguay’s famed Parador La Huella. Sugar, the hotel’s rooftop bar and garden, is a magical spot located on the 40th floor. The lush vegetation and jungle-themed décor are a perfect setting for drinks that take a ride on the (slightly) wild side, like the Hakeo, which comprises Jameson, chai tea, blackberries, lemon juice, and absinthe

Did the staff treat you right?
In my hurry to catch an early-morning flight on the day of my departure, I ended up leaving an important-to-me item behind. Though I assumed nothing would come of it, I emailed the hotel on the plane home and heard back from the hotel manager in what seemed like an instant, informing me that the item had been located and asking for an address where they could send it.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
Just because you aren’t on the beach doesn’t mean that you don’t want to enjoy the sunshine. The hotel’s giant pool deck offers four bodies of water from which to choose: lap pool, spa pool, cold plunge pool, or hot tub. Lounge chairs and poolside food and cocktail service make this easily an all-day affair. Even more magical, however, is Sugar, the hotel’s rooftop bar and garden: Located on the 40th floor, the lush vegetation and jungle-themed décor are a perfect setting for drinks that take a ride on the (slightly) wild side, like the Hakeo, which comprises Jameson, chai tea, blackberries, lemon juice, and absinthe

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
EAST, Miami also features a collection of residential spaces—and visiting guests can sometimes get in on that action. If you want to feel more like you’re staying in a friend’s very cool apartment, opt for a suite with “Residence” in the name. Those are the rooms where you’ll be treated to a host of extras that make the space feel like home—walk-in closets, washers and dryers, dishwashers, kitchens, and beyond.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
If you’re willing to forgo a trip spent lingering on the beach (you’ll have to grab a taxi or an Uber if you want to do that), being in the thick of Miami’s ever-changing downtown is almost like visiting a whole other city.

Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach

How did it strike you on arrival?
While Miami has its share of standout beachfront hotels, the sheer width of Miami Beach means that even if you get a room overlooking the ocean, you’ll still have to spend a couple minutes walking across hot sand in order to dip your toes in the water. For travelers who don’t care about being in the heart of South Beach, and would rather not leave their hotel at all if it could be helped, there’s Acqualina Resort & Spa. Channeling a kind of Italian villa feel, the hotel has practically built itself into the water’s edge, to beautifully dramatic effect.

What’s the crowd like?
People who want to enjoy all the natural beauty and doses of vitamin D that Florida has to offer—without being beholden to the crowds in South Beach—are the ideal Acqualina guests. Families are also a frequent sight, as the resort rents large suites complete with full kitchens, which can be a blessing for families with young kids.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
With a grand total of 615 square feet of space (725 square feet, if you include the balcony), our Oceanfront Room—which carves out its own little seating area—was large enough to make us feel like we even had a bit of privacy from each other. White, tan, and grey tones let the water be the real pop of color, and the room’s smoked glass and bronze metal coffee tables add a little bit of an edge to its elegance.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
In addition to being both comfortable and elegant, with its metallic-like silver throw pillows, the bed’s positioning right in front of the floor-to-ceiling glass balcony door ensured that we woke up to a beautiful view.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
While the balcony—which added more than 100 square feet to the room’s size—was undoubtedly of the room’s most charming amenities, a small foyer and private bar area were unexpected touches that made the already-big room seem even bigger. A gorgeous wingback chair, which I would have been happy to carry back on to the plane, also added a bit of elegance to the living area.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Like the main room itself, the bathrooms at Acqualina are large and elegance, from the imported marble flooring to the separate bathtub and huge glass-enclosed shower, all of which encourage lingering while you ready for your day. Products come courtesy of ESPA, the hotel’s award-winning spa (which you should plan a separate visit to at some point).

Maybe the most important topic of all: Wi-Fi. What’s the word?
Wi-Fi is free, and connectivity didn’t seem to be an issue anywhere within the hotel’s 4.5 acres.

Room service: Worth it?
Though room service is generally one of our favorite parts of the hotel experience, the onsite dining options here should get you out of the room and into the restaurants. Costa Grill serves up a great menu of snacks and light bites beachside. At night, Il Mulino New York brings a deeper taste of the Mediterranean to the resort, while AQ Chop House by Il Mulino puts a wonderful Italian spin on the modern steakhouse.

Did anyone on staff make an impression?
Deciding to stay a good 30-40 minute drive from South Beach (and some of our favorite restaurants) wasn’t an easy decision to make. But kudos to the reservation assistant I spoke with ahead of booking, who essentially listed the many pros that came with being an Uber ride away from the action—and she was absolutely right.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
While grabbing one of the hotel’s plush loungers (and a beach butler to bring you a cocktail) is never a bad idea, the resort is also home to three pools, each with its own temperament: the Beach Club Pool is the main event, where guests of all ages and activity levels lounge and lunge. More active types will love the Recreation Pool, where the staff regularly organizes games and fitness classes. If you’re traveling sans kids, you’ll want to head to the Tranquility Pool—the adults-only spot whose name says it all.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
It’s natural to feel that if you’re coming to Miami, you’ll want to stay in the city or on Miami Beach. But the tranquility that came with being half-an-hour away from the velvet ropes and see-and-be-seen restaurants actually made for a more relaxing trip. The hotel is also rather self-contained, so if you’re the kind of traveler who likes to plant yourself somewhere and stay, plant away.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
Seclusion and tranquility are two of the hotel’s most hard-to-ignore amenities, and worth every penny.

The Miami Beach EDITION

How did it strike you on arrival?
Ian Schrager has a knack for being on the bleeding edge of what people want. He proved this back in the late ‘70s when, with Steve Rubell, he created New York City’s iconic Studio 54 nightclub. And he did it again in the mid-1990s, when he revamped the classic Delano hotel and helped turn South Beach into one of the world’s favorite beach destinations. For his latest trick, Schrager created a micro-city in the Miami Beach EDITION, where every amenity a person could want (or even know was possible) is there for the taking—ice skating rink included.

What’s the crowd like?
Style begets style at The Miami Beach EDITION, which has become a playground for fashion-forward types the world over. Drake threw a party for Rihanna here once, and Leonardo DiCaprio hosted three parties in a row for hundreds of his closest friends and strangers during one particularly celebratory edition of Art Basel.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
There’s something irresistible about the word “bungalow,” so booking one at the Miami Beach EDITION was a no-brainer. While there are seven varieties from which to choose, including a two-story ocean view penthouse bungalow with a private elevator and plunge pool (which rents for $10,000-plus a night), we went with the Bungalow Poolview King. It may not have had its own plunge pool, but it did offer an extra layer of privacy—not to mention separate sleeping, dining, and sitting areas, plus a spacious balcony. The bungalow’s light oak-paneled walls have a nature-inspired feel that complements the oceanfront setting.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
There’s no detail in these rooms that hasn’t been scrutinized in an attempt to exceed guests’ every expectation, and the heavenly, low-slung bed—which sits atop a light oak frame that blends in with the walls, and is topped with a down comforter and pillows—is no exception.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
The EDITION delivered on an in-room Nespresso machine. Other nice touches include daily complimentary bottled water, a well-stocked minibar full of locally-sourced products, and twice-daily housekeeping services.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
You can keep your fancy heated floors and robo-toilets: give me a rainforest shower in my bathroom and I’m a happy guest—particularly when that shower is fully enclosed and just another cool part of a sleek, all-marble space. Le Labo bath products are customized with their very own (and very pleasant) EDITION scent.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Miami’s big on the whole “resort fee” thing, and the Miami Beach EDITION is no exception. In this case, it’s a not-totally-insane $35 per night, but part of what you’re paying for is “free” Wi-Fi. Go figure. That said, you’re not getting out of paying that resort fee, so at least the Wi-Fi is strong.

Room service: Worth it?
With five fabulous restaurants and bars, I only made use of its in-room dining menu once, when I ordered up a plate of rich and buttery pancakes with lavender ($15) just before heading back to the airport.

Did anything stand out about the staff?
As the majority of my time at the EDITION was spent by the pool, I got to know several of the servers and bar staff at Tropicale, the charming, al fresco café that handles all the beach and poolside food and drink deliveries. Even though the place was packed, they did a wonderful job of making it feel like you were their only customer.

Anything we missed?.
Whether you’re craving a juicy cheeseburger with mole and pickled chili or grilled cobia with habanero-lime sauce, Matador Room— Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s innovative Latin fusion restaurant—offers unexpected flavors in plush surroundings. Cocktails are sublime; order one (or three) with dinner, or make it a liquid meal by foregoing the restaurant altogether and just heading to Matador Bar. The hotel’s most talked-about amenity might very well be BASEMENT, a subterranean entertainment space that is home to what it deems a “micro-club,” a nightclub that’s reminiscent of Studio 54. Which is all well and good, but where it gets really bananas (in a good way) is at the bowling alley and ice skating rink—two nighttime activities you probably never thought you needed, but will hope for in every hotel after this one.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
As EDITION is part of the Marriott family, booking a room here is much simpler than at other boutique hotels of its ilk (note: Marriott Rewards can’t be used for the Bungalows). The hotel is totally self-contained, with everything you might need right at your fingertips.

The Setai Miami Beach

How did it strike you on arrival?
It’s hard not to feel a wave of relaxation wash over you as you walk through The Setai’s two-story, zen-inspired lobby, which uses elements like black granite floors and French limestone to create an environment that is at once quite sleek and modern, but somehow also timeless.

What’s the crowd like?
Even if your travel plans include getting a little wild, what happens outside the doors of The Setai stays outside the doors of The Setai. Guests come here (and then come back) specifically because of the serenity it offers at every turn—so use your inside voice.

ImportantlyTell us about your room.
Don’t let the name fool you: While the Art Deco Studio Suite City View pays tribute to South Beach’s famed architectural style—the building itself is an Art Deco gem, and you’ll spot many other prime examples of the style from your hotel windows—the more obvious interior aesthetic inspiration comes from Asia. (They call it Asian Style Deco.) The cleverly designed space mixes lots of dark woods and upholstery with beautiful Asian-inspired artifacts and artwork. It’s so centering that you almost feel bad that there’s a TV or Wi-Fi at all.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The hotel’s official style may be “Asian Deco,” but the bed—that big, glorious bed—is all Swedish. Specifically? It’s a handmade DUXIANA bed, a state-of-the-art sleep vessel that is scientifically designed to elicit the deepest sleep possible for its owner (or renter). The sheets, too, are prestigious: part of Frette’s iconic line of hotel linens.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Though the rooms come well-equipped with all sorts of gadgets and technology—flat-screen HD TVs, Nespresso coffee makers, Samsung sound bars, and Nest digital thermostats, to name a few—it almost feels like you’d be angering the relaxation gods to fool around with any of it. What left me feeling more sticky-fingered were the gorgeous (and authentic) Asian artifacts that were placed throughout the room.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
Like everything else at The Setai, the bathroom evokes a feeling of deep calm, with its black granite accessories and rainfall shower that make any stresses you might be harboring go bye-bye. Bath and beauty products are courtesy of Acqua di Parma, so you’ll want to save a little extra room in your toiletry bag.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
It might feel weird to fire up the Wi-Fi while you’re sitting by the property’s serenity pond, but hey, it’s free.

Room service: Worth it?
Guests of The Setai have the option of dining at the hotel’s signature restaurant, Jaya, from the comfort of their suites. Their Thai beef salad ($19) proved a wonderful way to end the day.

Did the staff make an impression?
Checking into a hotel can be a fairly arduous task, especially if you arrive at the same time as a couple of other soon-to-be guests. The front desk here keeps a constant eye on who’s arriving and what they need, and shrink and grow the staff in an instant to make sure you’re not left standing in line or waiting for anything. (They also value their guests’ privacy.) This is efficiency at its most impressive.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
As you walk through the hotel lobby and outside toward the beach, a lush courtyard and serenity pond remind you that your only job right now is to relax. Want to do that on the beach? The hotel has its own private stretch of sand where you can chill out on a day bed and grab a bite from The Setai Beach Kitchen, a solar-powered culinary spot. If you’re itching to be a bit more adventurous, they’ve got Jet Skis for rent. And while the beach is impressive, it almost pales in comparison to the hotel’s trio of infinity pools, each one of which is maintained at a different temperature so that, like Goldilocks in a bathing suit, you can find the one that’s just right.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
After years of drinking and dining at The Setai on any available occasion (in addition to Jaya, their beachfront Ocean Grill is a wonderful spot for a sunset glass of champagne), and swearing that I’d stay there “next time,” when “next time” finally came, the experience more than exceeded my expectations. If you think the lobby has a chill vibe, try spending a night in one of the Ocean Suites.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
Considering that Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Madonna are all fans of The Setai, it goes without saying that the hotel isn’t going to make any budget traveler’s list of top South Beach accommodations. But if you’re seeking a serious dose of deep serenity, you can rationalize the higher price tag by knowing that you’re paying for peace(fulness) of mind.

Urbanica The Kaskades Hotel

Why did this hotel catch your attention? What’s the vibe?
As you approach Urbanica, you’re struck with the foliage: a near-forest of trees at ground level, a copse on the top floor, and some very healthy windowboxes in between. Altogether the verdant explosion nearly covers the low-rise Art Deco architecture, itself a nod to Miami’s most recognizable style.

What’s the backstory?
A converted condominium building, Urbanica is an annex to The Gale hotel across the street.

Tells us about the rooms?
A subtle nautical theme carries through to the rooms; a sailor’s rope is embroidered onto the white bedspread, for example. The style is understated, and there’s a minimalist, almost spa-like feel to the ambience, with a blue, white, and brown color scheme and low sight-lines. Marbles baths are a nice touch.

Is there a charge for Wi-Fi?
The $32 resort fee covers Wi-Fi; no issues.

Drinking and dining—what are we looking at?
The hotel doesn’t have its own kitchen, although an all-day café is slated to open soon. Visit Dolce, well-regarded Italian restaurant at The Gale across the way.

How did the staff strike you?
The check-in staff were sincerely welcoming and helpful, and seemed genuinely interested—none of the scripted welcomes that some chain hotels rely on.

What type of travelers will you find here?
Guests seems to value the privacy, personal service, and attention to detail. It’s a relatively affluent spot and the clientele definitely skews well-to-do, but not at the expense of an independent and adventurous streak.

What about the neighborhood? What else is around here?
A location one block from the beach in South Beach usually brings some clamor, but the hotel has found a relatively tranquil little spot without being too far from the action. It’s easy to retreat here, find solitude and peace, then duck back into the fray when you’re ready.

Any other hotel features worth noting?
The small boutique hotel is dedicated to privacy and quiet, and so there isn’t a huge laundry list of amenities. There’s a lovely rooftop deck and guests; guests can also use the pool and beach services over the road at The Gale, which also has a small fitness center.

Bottom line: Worth it?
The small boutique hotel is dedicated to privacy and quiet, and so there isn’t a huge laundry list of amenities. There’s a lovely rooftop deck and guests; guests can also use the pool and beach services over the road at The Gale, which also has a small fitness center.

The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami

How did it strike you on arrival?
Key Biscayne may only be located 15 miles from South Beach, but it may as well be its very own country. The picturesque barrier island is home to miles of pristine beachfront and two state parks, but only one hotel—and what a hotel it is. The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne has all the five-star amenities you’d expect from the high-end hotel chain, but also embraces the laid-back, beachy vibe of its neighborhood. In a way, it’s the place you’d want to go to escape Miami.

What’s the crowd like?
Though Ritz-Carlton devotees like to remain true to their brand, they have a handful of options—and hotel personalities—to choose from in the area, including outposts in South Beach, Bal Harbour, and Coconut Grove. The Key Biscayne crowd can be heavily weighted toward the family side, or couples who would rather not be in the heart of the city.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
In order to take advantage of the hotel’s slightly out-of-the-way location, we booked an Ocean View Studio, mainly because of its residential features, which make it feel more like your own little apartment than a stuffy hotel room. With 420 square feet of space, it’s a good size without being too big. And its clever layout allows for a kitchenette and other home-away-from-home features. The room is pretty—lots of light blues and beiges, plus light wood furniture and accessories replicate the colors of the sea—even if there’s no real statement piece or “wow” element. Even so, one could be perfectly content calling it home for even an extended stay. The balcony makes a pleasant addition, especially as a place to enjoy an evening cocktail or morning coffee.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
The vast majority of the main floor space is taken up by the king-sized bed, which is topped with a luxurious feather comforter.

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Our main reason for opting for the Ocean View Studio was the added bonus of a kitchenette, which was well-equipped with a stove, stovetop, microwave and mini-fridge. It’s options like this that make the resort a popular choice for families, so that you’re not left dragging a sun-soaked and exhausted kid from one restaurant to the next.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
While not huge, the marble bathroom feels luxurious, not only because of its separate tub and shower, but because of its super plush towels, robes, and slippers, and the gorgeous mother-of-pearl wall covering near the vanity.

We all need some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi is complimentary, and strong enough that I was able to download a couple of massive files without shutting the whole resort down (at least, not that I know of).

Did anyone on staff make an impression?
The Ritz-Carlton is known for employing all sorts of unique butlers and very specific concierges, and here you’ll find a Photography Concierge—a hospitality professional whose job it is to arrange (complimentary) 45-minute beach photo shoots with guests. It’s a lot of work, and there was a long line of people wanting to get in on that.

Anything stand out about other services and features?
Beach or pool? It’s a decision made even more difficult here, as the resort is home to a pair of pools—one of them a more family-oriented type (complete with waterfall), the other adults-only. If the resort didn’t already remind you of the last place you stayed in Cabo, Cantina Beach—its gorgeous, thatched palapa-roofed Mexican eatery—might get those memories back. Tiki torches and fire pits only add to the beachfront charm, and a dedicated tequilier—the tequila version of a sommelier—can help you choose the perfect tequila to match your meal for a night you won’t soon forget. The restaurant, which stocks more than 110 varieties of tequila, also hosts complimentary tastings at 6 p.m. nightly.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne is unique in that it lets you enjoy all the benefits and privacy of staying at a secluded resort, yet you’re always just a quick drive to the heart of South Beach—and just as close to the airport.

Bottom line: worth it?
While Miami is full of Instagram-worthy beaches and backdrops, Key Biscayne’s version of it is just a little less tainted by urban sprawl. Its proximity to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, home to one of Florida’s most beautiful beaches, puts you that much closer to yet another activity to check off your Miami bucket list.

Freehand Miami

How did it strike you on arrival?
One would have had a nearly impossible task convincing my 18-year-old self that I’d ever want to spend a night at a hostel. So imagine my surprise when the Freehand Miami utterly charmed my [redacted]-year-old self. To be clear: the Freehand is a “luxury” hostel, and it rents a range of private rooms, so you won’t have to share a bunk bed with a stranger—at least if you don’t want to (shared rooms that sleep four or eight, and are either co-ed or all female, are available at about a quarter of the price). But if you’re looking for a chic spot for a quick night or two in town, Freehand’s coziness make for an enjoyable evening—especially if you’re traveling solo.

What’s the crowd like?
With most hostels, you’d probably think that what links the guests on any given day is the desire to save their hard-earned cash. But the Freehand is different in that the decision to stay here seems to go beyond budget; there’s a deep feeling of kinship among the (largely younger) guests, and it’s that sense of community that seems to be the Freehand’s greatest ally.

Importantly: Tell us about your room.
Though I was staying for just a night, and knew that I probably wouldn’t spend more than a couple of hours in the room (including sleeping), I still opted for a standard king—if only to save myself from the possibility of a snoring stranger sleeping nearby. I was more than a little impressed: The room was plenty spacious for my solo jaunt, and really no different than a standard hotel room. Though the furniture reminded me slightly of IKEA furniture—without actually being IKEA furniture—the overall effect was fun.

We’re craving some deep, restorative sleep. They got us?
This isn’t a place where you remember the thread count of your sheets, but I can confirm that everything was comfortable enough to lull me right to sleep (a cocktail or two at Broken Shaker may have helped induce that slumber).

How about the little things, like mini bar, or shower goodies. Any of that worth a mention?
Other hostels might leave the little things like toiletries up to you, but the Freehand—at least as far as its private rooms are concerned—does that for you, making it virtually indistinguishable from the kind of service you’d get at a proper hotel. A retro-looking mini-fridge was a fun touch, and the artwork, all done by Miami-based artists, was a cut above some of the stuff I’ve seen in much pricier digs.

Please tell us the bathroom won’t let us down.
The bathroom and its many accouterments—including the towels—was a pretty standard affair, but the fact that the bathroom was private at all is worth something.

We can all use some good Wi-Fi. What’s the word on that?
Wi-Fi is password-less and free for all at the Freehand, which is good news for those locals sipping cocktails at the Broken Shaker bar, but not as great a development for guests forking over their cold, hard cash to stay here, as the number of people on their iPhones at any given time could create a slow-down for everyone around them.

Room service: Worth it?
While there’s no room service to speak of, there are two standout places to grab a bite: 27 Restaurant and the Broken Shaker bar. There’s also a guest kitchen, which is open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. Just make sure you remembered to bring your own food and don’t try to steal someone else’s.

Did anyone on the staff make an impression?
It may not be fair to hand the trophy over to team Broken Shaker for mixing up some of the most innovative libations around, but have you tasted their cocktails?

Anything stand out about other services and features?
Like the general public, guests at the Freehand have access to the Broken Shaker and 27 Restaurant. But being so near to both of them can almost guarantee that you and the bartender will be on a first-name basis by the end of your stay.

What was most memorable—or heartbreaking—about your stay?
In addition to generous pricing, the outgoing attitude of everyone here, including the guests, created a genuine sense of community that I’ve yet to see replicated elsewhere.

Bottom line: Is it worth it?
If you’re traveling on a budget and don’t want to do the Airbnb thing or, heaven forbid, get stuck staying at some motel near the airport, the Freehand isn’t your only choice of an inexpensive place to stay in South Beach—but it’s absolutely the best.

Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club

Give us an establishing shot.
Imagine a cool, calm hacienda owned by a fabulous South American aunt. So classy and well-proportioned, every touch here is on point. Some of the best restaurants in town, the most elegant bars, it’s feels like a breath of elegant air in a sometimes clubby Miami scene. Ascend the coral stone steps and enter its palm-filled, beamed lobby, and it might still be 1931—except that the buzz from the bar is a signal that prohibition has clearly been lifted.

Sounds like there’s a backstory here…
Back in the day, rum runners from Cuba and the Bahamas ensured the Surf Club rarely ran dry, so there was always a party in the cabanas here, drawing the likes of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Gary Cooper, Henry Ford, and John Harvey Kellogg. (Later, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner honeymooned here.) So put away the idea that Four Seasons is a faceless Canadian brand of business hotels; this place is practically a national landmark that has been transformed into a 21st century beacon of high-rise living by Richard Meier, with interiors by Joseph Dirand.

Importantly: Tell us about your room?
Exquisitely minimalist, calm and beautiful and so thoughtfully designed that you can see the sea from the shower. The category to choose is an Oceanfront room; they’re even lovelier than those in the double-aspect Premier category. The less expensive city-view category is great, too: they look across Biscayne Bay to mainland Miami, which offers the opportunity to see some striking sunsets.

What do we have for food and drink here?
Calabrian by birth, Antonio Mermolia oversees the kitchen of Le Sirenuse Miami, sister restaurant to the Michelin-starred La Sponda in Positano. The cooking is therefore full-flavored southern Italian (the Gragnano pasta is served super al dente). The crab may be Alaskan, but your first mouthful of terrina di granchio, served with slivers of intensely sweet tomato, will take you straight back to Amalfi. It’s always busy, so reserve a table when you book your room.

How did you find the service?
Unexpectedly international (my breakfast was brought by a Russian on Four Seasons’ fast-track management program) and reassuringly slick, as one has come to expect from the brand.

Who else is staying here?
Despite three swimming pools and direct access to the beach, one senses the polished, well-heeled, outwardly conservative ‘business-casual’ clientele are mostly in town for meetings, at least midweek. (It may be less preppy on weekends.) The restaurant crowd—much of it local—glams up in the evening, but the Faena it isn’t.

What about the neighborhood? Are we in a notable location?
Compared with South Beach (20 minutes south in an Uber), the Surfside area of northern Miami Beach is fairly dull, residential and lacking in shops and restaurants.

What’s the one thing you’d change?
They shouldn’t—as they did when I stayed—levy a 20 percent service charge on the ‘admin fee’ of a room-service order as well as the food, bringing the cost of a modest breakfast (coffee, orange juice, and granola) to an astonishing $43.80, including sales tax (at least they didn’t add service to that), excluding the further ‘gratuity’ they solicit below.

Anything else of note?
If you’re waiting in the lobby, the photo-filled vitrines are an intriguing visual history of the place.

Bottom line: worth it?
As long as you don’t use room service, it’s a real treat. Glamorous, gorgeous, and the spa is heaven.

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