Miami is all about pleasure — and nowhere in America does hotels better. When you hit Miami’s sweet spot, that blend of hedonism and ocean air becomes America’s most seductive urban experience. Here are ten of the best
This hotel has had more reinventions than Katie Price. Previously the Gansevoort, then the Perry, this 426-room hotel was reborn in April as 1 Hotel, the start of a new brand from the man who developed the W concept for Starwood (which happens to be next door). Out with the Gansevoort’s shark tank (so noughties, a bit Dubai), in with living walls and Tesla electric cars to ferry guests around. No trees were felled in the making of this hotel (all wood used was previously killed by beetles) and the bar was made from salvaged coral. Greenwashing? Possibly, but I have huge admiration for the fact that there are no plastic bottles on site (rooms have filtered drinking water through a dispenser) or cut flowers (it’s all about plants here). Rooms are sleekly serene with plenty of wood and neutral tones. There are four swimming pools — including a rooftop one — and an enviable position that leads straight onto the beach.
Details Rooms cost from $359 a night (1hotels.com)
Ten years ago, Miami’s Upper East Side was a byword for urban decay — now with design shops, yoga studios and restaurants, it’s been reborn as MiMo. The Vagabond, built by the same architect as the Delano on South Beach, has been restored with elaborate care and reopened in November last year. Around the AstroTurf-edged pool — still with its kitschy dolphin and mermaid mosaics — are the 45 rooms with clean, bright interiors (despite the 1950s exterior) and plenty of gadgets. In the same vein, from the outside, the restaurant channels an authentic drive-in look but inside the kitchen is headed up by 26-year-old wunderkind chef Alex Chang with a full range of fusion food that’s currently Miami’s most sought after. The hotel is close to arty Wynwood but a 15-minute taxi ride from the 79th street beach. No children under 12 are allowed.
Details Rooms cost from $159 a night (thevagabondhotel.com)
Hotelier Ian Schrager’s affair started with South Beach when he reopened the Delano in 1994 — the attitude-heavy, wafty white temple that helped turn Miami from sleaze to style. Now, in partnership with the mainstream hotel group Marriott, he’s opened Edition. Rising phoenix-like from the remnants of the Seville Hotel (formerly a hangout of the Rat Pack), Edition, which opened last November, has 294 rooms and suites — but everything is centred on the public spaces. The enormous lobby holds a marble billiard table, gold-mirrored pillars and palm trees. There’s a bowling alley, an ice-skating rink, a night club and a large spa. But it’s the exterior of the hotel that works best, from the vine-clad Matador restaurant to the little Teletubby hills leading to the beach, dotted with cabanas and hammocks. A Spanish influence runs through it, but it’s more Formentera than San Antonio. It’s a hotel you’ll want to stay put in; this part of Miami, while developing fast, has yet to inspire; the nearest restaurant is actually a branch of Subway.
Details Rooms cost from $429 a night (editionhotels.com)
Opposite the Edition, but also part of the Marriott group and tinged with a Spanish touch is the AC — with rooms at less than half the Edition’s price. Don’t expect to find waffles on the breakfast menu; instead it’s a brave selection of charcuterie and fruit. There’s no evening restaurant either, but there is a bar serving craft beers and — a first for Marriott hotels — free Wi-fi in its 150 rooms, all decently sized and more design-minded than the Marriott norm. The beach is moments away and the AC has its own contingent of sun loungers. Head upstairs and there’s one of South Beach’s nicest roof terrace pools with mouthwatering views to the beach and downtown.
Details Rooms cost from $169 a night (marriott.com)
With one of the best positions in South Beach between the Shore Club and the Raleigh, with a gate at the end that leads straight to the boardwalk and beach, this hotel opened on October 1 after being beset by delays. It’s walkable to nearly everywhere but far enough away from the fratty end of Ocean Drive. Originally built in the 1950s by Morris Lapidus, an architect who saw hotels as pure theatre, it has a glittery lobby that leads straight into the Driftwood bar, and a library. There are 250 rooms and they’re as playful as the lobby. Steamer trunks open to reveal cocktail bars, and there are ship’s flags and plenty of navy blue in the rooms (contrasting with the greige/white palette of most other South Beach hotels). There isn’t a spa as such — just a spa suite — but there is a large saltwater beachfront pool with teak deck and cabanas as well as an underwater sound system. Those in search of serious pampering will prefer the Edition or Thompson.
Details Rooms cost from $270 a night (sixtyhotels.com)
Like a series of boxes piled haphazardly on top of each other, the Hyatt, which opened in the summer, is striking from the outside. Inside, there’s plenty of art and while the 105 rooms aren’t big — and don’t have balconies — they’re peaceful. The best views of the ocean are the south-facing rooms — 1-7 on the 8-10th floors; the hotel is a block from the beach. While small, the third floor pool deck gets more sun than is the norm at the heart of South Beach. Part of Hyatt’s new Centric brand — good value, small urban hotels, there’s a restaurant on the ground floor and tapas-style bites on Deck 16.
Details Rooms start at $239 a night (southbeachmiami.centric.hyatt.com)
Starwood’s budget brand, which opened in the summer, has eased itself into a rather sweet site overlooking South Beach’s canal, close to its pricier W sibling. What you lose in beach access (it’s a five-minute walk away), you gain in a rather nice restaurant and bar overlooking the canals; there are kayaks to explore the waterways. Wi-fi is free, unlike at the W, unless you sign up to become a Starwood member. The 235 rooms aren’t particularly spacious but they’re comfortable, and the main spaces, including the pool area have more panache than you’d expect from a budget-minded hotel.
Details Rooms start from $229 a night (starwoodhotels.com)
The closest thing to a genuine boutique hotel that’s opened on South Beach in the past year, Vintro, which opened in August, has just 50 rooms. On top is a roof deck with artfully arranged strips of Astroturf, hammocks and a plunge pool. Art is strong, featuring throughout the hotel, and it’s next to the Bass Museum of Art. There’s a particularly mellow restaurant too, with shady tables overlooking the small canal and food that hits the locally sourced, communal-table vibe. As a hotel, it’s geared to an older crowd (only the over-21s can stay). Standard rooms overlook the restaurant and the windows are largely blocked — aim upwards and you’ll pay only slightly more for light, bright rooms with a suitably tropical citrus palette.
Details Rooms start from $151 a night (vintrohotels.com)
Don Draper could rock up to the Thompson and feel right at home in this mid-century heaven which opened at the beginning of the year. Yes, the two swimming pools are on the small side, but this counts for little when there’s such colour and verve around you. The restaurant Seagrape, headed by local celeb chef, Michelle Bernstein, is mellow and engaging. The other complete joy is the 1930s House — a bungalow transported from across the road and refashioned into a cocktail and crudo bar, serving all the carb-free needs of the celeb set. Together with a rooftop spa, salon and relaxed garden, it makes a one-stop check-in to Miami nirvana that’s beautiful and charming in equal measure, without trying too hard.
Details Rooms start from $279 a night (thompsonhotels.com)
Alan Faena is as much a social engineer as a hotelier. When the hotel that bears his name in Buenos Aires opened in 2004 it turned a rundown area into the city’s most exciting quarter, thanks to solid injections of art and cultural nous. He’s hoping to do the same in Miami in a massive project due to open in 2017. Film director Baz Luhrmann is designing one of the hotels, Norman Foster the main apartment block, and there will be an art centre and concert hall, all breathing life into a previously dull section of Miami Beach. At the moment, it’s a vast construction site, but one Faena fragment has already opened — the Casa Claridge’s. Originally dating from the 1920s, with courtyards and balconies, it’s an impressively affordable place to stay with elegant rooms that blend colonial charm with contemporary style, and plenty of art. If you see a man dressed all in white, it’s probably Alan Faena in town to check on progress. The beach is just over the road, through a small park.
Details Rooms cost from $177 a night (casaclaridges.stayfaena.com)