So Many Miami Hotels, So Little Time

Looking for a place to stay in Miami? Check out our reviews of new and newly renovated properties on and off the beach.

Some Miami hotels have become destinations in and of themselves, especially after the resurgence of South Beach in the 1990s helped usher in the era of boutique and lifestyle properties. The iconic Delano led the way and remains a popular draw.

There has been a spate of new hotel openings lately, as well as major renovations, so I headed to Miami earlier this month to see what the buzz is all about. The properties I visited run the gamut from high-end luxury to economy lodgings. The one consistency during my three-day Miami getaway: incredible service, everywhere I went—which was a pleasant surprise, given previous experiences and some user-generated comments I read on a few Web sites before heading my visit. Kudos to the Miami hospitality industry for making its visitors feel truly welcome.

New Miami Properties

Epic Hotel

Anyone headed to Miami for business or looking for a non-beach getaway in the city would do well to consider the new Epic Hotel, which opened Dec. 15, 2008 and is Kimpton Hotels’ first new-build property in Miami. Located in the downtown area overlooking the Miami River, the 411-room property is beautiful—you walk into a soaring lobby with copper- and gold-toned sculptures and chandeliers and elegant sitting areas—and the staff is phenomenally welcoming. You really feel like you’re at home here (at least I did).

The earth-toned rooms are spacious and come with computers, flat-screen TVs, balconies, environmentally friendly air tubs, Acqua di Parma amenities and, sometimes, a goldfish. Room service, the fitness center and the business center are all available 24 hours a day; there’s complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel—through which you can also print documents for pick up in the business center. You can even dock along the river if visiting the hotel by boat.

The 16th-floor pool is surrounded by palm trees and 10 spacious cabanas (for rent); there are complimentary sunscreens, including the excellent Kerstin Florian brand. The staff makes sure your water glass stays filled. Light snacks are available poolside, or better yet, grab lunch at Area 31, the hotel’s well-regarded restaurant. As with other Kimpton hotels, free coffee and tea is served in the lobby from 6 to 9 a.m., and a wine hour takes place from 5 to 6 p.m., when guests mingle over drinks and tasty snacks (olives, mixed nuts).

Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, tel. 305-424-5226, The hotel’s River Lounge is due to open in a couple weeks, an Exhale spa is slated for summer, and the first Zuma restaurant in the United States will debut here in Q4. Room rates start at $259; overnight valet is $32.

Viceroy Miami

Not far from the Epic Hotel is the Viceroy Miami, the brand’s new flagship property that debuted Feb. 12 in the Icon Brickell residential project near the Brickell financial district. This upscale boutique property is clearly geared toward the stylishly sophisticated jet set. Designed by Top Design judge Kelly Wearstler, the lush interior blends early 20th-century luxury with contemporary clean lines, all underscored by a rich peacock blue and gold color scheme and dark woods.

Sixty of the hotel’s 162 rooms are currently available, with others being completed shortly. They have a residential, one-of-a-kind feel, with elegant fabrics and touches, marble and deco elements, and Aromatherapy products; some have kitchenettes fully set-up with cookware and Illy coffee machines.

Club 50, on the building’s 50th floor, affords stunning city and water views around its rooftop pool, bar and lounge. Other outdoor areas feature an oversized fireplace, lounge areas and a long dining table for up to 32 guests. Icon residents and Viceroy hotel guests share the facilities, which also include a private dining terrace, screening room, and full-service spa and fitness center.

The Viceroy Spa—with 10 treatment rooms; dedicated spinning, yoga and pilates studios; and a gorgeous reflecting pool—was designed by Philippe Starck, who used similar furniture and elements in the Faena Hotel + Universe in Buenos Aires.

Viceroy Miami, 485 Brickell Ave., tel. 305-503-4400, Average starting rates, $500 per night. Introductory rates: $199 per night, through Feb. 28, 2009. Other package deals available.

Gansevoort South

A taste of New York arrived in Miami Beach when the Gansevoort South Hotel Spa Residences opened last spring (but without the New York attitude). You can’t help but feel like you’re in for a fun time when you step into the lobby—there’s a pervasive energy and buzz, accompanied by the background lounge music pumped in over the sound system.

The rooms are beautifully designed and spacious; some with kitchenettes and balconies. All have Wi-Fi, iPod docking stations, Fiji water, a large desk with office supplies and yoga mat. The spa-style bathrooms use Cutler amenities. The minibar was well stocked and for a South Beach hot spot, quite reasonably priced: $2.50 to $10 (including Dean & Delucca goodies).

After you settle in, head up to the famed Plunge rooftop pool for drinks, snacks and gorgeous ocean views. Or check out the new 45,000-square-foot David Barton Gym + Spa, with its 10 treatment rooms, 120 cardio machines, dozens of intense classes—from spinning to kick boxing—and slew of personal trainers. Hotel guests can use the facilities for just $15 per day, which is very reasonable considering how much more I’ve seen lesser resort gyms charge.

There’s an onsite Café Bustelo for your caffeine fix, which also serves tasty pastries, and an outpost of the fun New York boutique Big Drop. I wasn’t overly impressed with the restaurant Philippe, and save the on-sight club Louis for after midnight, when the crowd starts to saunter in. You can always spend the next day catching up on your sleep at the beach or the hotel’s large pool.

Gansevoort South, 2377 Collins Ave., tel. 305-604-1000, Rates start at $219 low season, $595 high season.


Next: Newly Renovated and Budget Hotel Options

Newly Renovated Resorts

The Palms Hotel & Spa

Of all the hotels I toured earlier this month, The Palms Hotel & Spa (formerly The Palms South Beach) is the one that nearly made me forget I was in Miami and not a more exotic destination. The vibe here is more relaxed than the other hotels and resorts along the beach, and there is a decidedly southern or colonial feel to the property, with its large veranda for lounging or afternoon naps, a gazebo for weddings, bamboo ceiling fans methodically circulating the air and plenty of lovely birds roaming the property. The resort also is popular with guests who have kids, and the resort offer family specials.

The Palms is in the midst of a major renovation and rebranding, but is doing it in stages, so there is minimal disturbance for current guests. The pool area has already been redone and landscaped with lush tropical foliage; all its 243 guestrooms are being upgraded with lovely new plush soft goods and shower-only bathrooms; a new lounge and restaurant (Essensia) will open in April to accompany; and a big new add will be an Aveda Spa by April. It will be Aveda’s first luxury beach resort spa in the United States. I didn’t get a chance to stay here, only visit, but I definitely look forward to staying next time, when the spa is operational.

The Palms Hotel & Spa, 3025 Collins Ave., tel. 305-534-0505, Rates start at $159 in the summer season, $179 in the peak winter season.

Eden Roc

Once the Miami Beach destination, the Eden Roc, a Renaissance hotel, has recently been reborn after nearly $200 million in renovations. The hotel’s exterior and lobby terrazzo floor, deco columns and dropped ceiling were given a facelift, to preserve Morris Lapidus’ original architectural features, while most of the rest of the famed hotel was essentially gutted and replaced with modern interiors and amenities.

The original tower reopened last fall, but the newly built second tower, adding 282 rooms to the resort (for a total of 632), opened in late-January. Each of the new rooms has a balcony with a colorful lounge chair, and even though they were a little too close together (you could step over the railing onto your neighbor’s space), they all face the ocean, which is nice. The large bathrooms include a spa shower, and an opening to the main room for those who want ocean views while bathing. Rooms feature Renaissance Smart Desks, iHome systems, high-speed and Wi-Fi Internet access.

The beautiful lobby bar provides plenty of comfortable, spacious seating for socializing late into the night. The hotel’s Gia restaurant and wine bar offers up tasty Italian food, and there’s a new Starbucks in the lobby. The property draws a slightly older and mellower crowd than the properties further south, which is good for families. There are multiple pools for the kids to play in, and the hotel offers beachside service. There are plans to have the boardwalk lowered in front of the hotel, to provide easier access to the beach.

Eden Roc, 4525 Collins Ave., tel. 305-674-5555, Rates start at $299 per night. Overnight parking is $30. The Spa of Eden Roc, with 17 treatment rooms, is scheduled to open by the end of 2009. In the meantime, the hotel has set aside four spa suites for services.

Budget Options

Circa 39

For guests on a tighter budget, The Palms owners also operate a funky value hotel about 10 blocks north on the west side of Collins, Circa 39. There’s a moderate pool and sundeck, and a lovely courtyard. I managed to find online rates for February stays at the modern, 100-room property starting at $54 per night.

Circa 39, 3900 Collins Ave., tel. 877-8-CIRCA39, Rates usually start at about $79 per night.

Condo Rentals

Condo rentals are a popular option for bargain hunters who prefer a more private stay, and Miami Beach has plenty of units on the market. I checked out the Alden, at 2925 Indian Creek Dr., which rents clean and convenient studios, deluxe studios (about 2.5 times larger) and one-bedrooms, starting at $100 during the low season to $150 during special events, with a minimum two-night stay. Rentals by the week are even a better deal, at $650 for studios, $700 for the deluxe units, and $900 for the one-bedroom. There’s a small pool in the back, and the beach is a mere block and a half away.

Condo Hotels Miami, tel. 305-328-8578,

Destinations: Miami

Activities: Sleep

User Comments

At last, informed editorial All the user generated experts take note. This is a quality read - informative, colourful and qualified. I would only add a review or rating if I was a (recent) past guest. Keep up the classy content!