Image: Fontainebleau
Lynne Sladky  /  AP file
The Fontainebleau underwent a $1 billion renovation and re-emerged last year with even more sparkle than ever. A view of the Atlantic Ocean is seen from one of the rooms.
updated 3/4/2009 1:32:58 PM ET 2009-03-04T18:32:58

Sprawling, sexy, sometimes unruly and occasionally outrageous, Miami has morphed into an urban mix unlike any other in America. It’s little wonder that vacationers have demanded the same magic recipe for the city’s manically developing hotel scene, which has seen a glut of lavish new (or splendidly refurbished) lodging options roll out just as everyone else is tightening their belts.

We’ve set our sights on the best of this new breed to bring you our top 10 picks for the year’s hottest Miami hotels — and we’re pleased to report a welcomed trend of properties moving beyond style (and attitude) over substance. Expect exceptional amenities, refined service and overall value to be factored into this decadent Miami mix.

The Angler’s Boutique Resort
The Angler's incorporates original 1930s Mediterranean revival architecture into an expanded 49-unit property that features subtly chic neutral- and dark-wood interiors by designer J. Wallace Tutt III (who masterminded Gianni Versace's opulent Ocean Drive mansion).

Located away from the South Beach hotel herd, it's an oasis on the cusp of the burgeoning South of Fifth neighborhood. The warm, sizable rooms range from studios to truly splurge-worthy three-story villas with spiral staircases and rooftop showers. A cozy pair of poolside cabanas with sexy oyster-shell chandeliers can be booked for a private Mediterranean-inspired dinner from on-site restaurant 660 Mediterranean Kitchen.

The Betsy South Beach
Formerly the Betsy Ross, this revamped property is stepping out on Ocean Drive in March 2009 with colonial-meets-tropical decor, a Laurent Tourondel BLT Steak restaurant and an invite-only lounge. In a turn away from the trend of piling rooms on top of condos on top of nightclubs, the Betsy is intimate in size and feel. The 63 elegant rooms come with dark walnut floors, poster beds and original photography on the walls, while the spacious bathrooms are outfitted with Malin+Goetz amenities and mirrors inlaid with LCD televisions.

Several of the wooden plantation-style shuttered windows boast unobstructed ocean views. There’s a pool, spa and rooftop solarium, plus a plot of beach with “beach butlers” at the ready — tell the hotel you’re spending the day on the sand and they’ll pack you a picnic basket filled with snacks, wine and magazines.

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Eden Roc Resort
Long-term rival to its neighbor, the Fontainebleau, this Morris Lapidus classic is in the final stages of a $200 million transformation. It recently debuted two new restaurants, Gia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar and the casual Cabana Beach Club, and will unveil the Waterfall Bar (tucked under an infinity pool) next winter. The Eden Roc has also added a 21-story tower with 282 rooms, including 14 luxurious bi-level bungalow suites tricked out with a range of amenities. A new spa and fitness center are additionally set to open this fall.

After a jaw-dropping $1 billion makeover, the Fontainebleau re-emerged in November 2008 as a major convention player but with far more sparkle than the average business hotel. The abundant chandeliers and black bow-tie patterned marble floors evoke the 1954 Morris Lapidus-designed original, a legendary Rat Pack hangout; but the supersized scale — 1,504 rooms, each equipped with a 20-inch iMac; 11 spacious eateries (ranging from a high-end steakhouse to a poolside sushi lounge); and 30,000-square foot DJ-driven nightclub — is 21st-century Vegas showmanship all the way.

Gansevoort South
Well suited to its warmer digs, this glittering incarnation of the NYC hot spot has a shark tank in the lobby, a show-stopping David Barton–designed gym and spa and the most stunning rooftop pool in town. Located in the newly-hot Mid-Beach area, everything about the hotel is set on a grand scale, including its 334 rooms, which are pleasantly ginormous, and two big-name New York restaurants, STK and Philippe.

There’s also a sexy rooftop bar called Plunge and full-scale nightclub, Louis, the latest in a family that includes hotspots Prive and Mansion. Despite all of the name-dropping, the stellar service is notably un-snooty and the front desk is not just a runway for pretty faces.

Mondrian South Beach
Commanding a sweeping view of Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, the newest (and ritziest) Mondrian is the creation of Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, who described it as “the castle of the Sleeping Beauty.” Indeed, the hotel is wonderfully fanciful, from the crystal chandeliers that double as showerheads to the Dutch Delft tiles bedecked with Miami Beach motifs that adorn the kitchens.

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Like its brethren in West Hollywood and Arizona, the hotel fosters a white-hot nightlife, baiting scenesters with a hip Asia de Cuba restaurant and the Sunset Lounge, where revelers can sip Caipirinhas from the vantage of an adult-sized sandbox. At the same time, an air of tranquility pervades the Mondrian, perhaps most pronouncedly around the pool and its gardens, where comfy cabanas and hammocks abound.

Tides South Beach
Arguably the most impressive hotel in town, the Tides has always exuded sophistication and service — a December 2007 renovation has served well to further up its cachet. Bravo's Top Design judge Kelly Wearstler redesigned the rooms and public spaces, combining 21st century luxury with Art Deco and upscale beach club themes: Spacious rooms come with iPod docking stations and Molton Brown toiletries, plus custom-designed touches such as hammered-brass desks and travertine floors.

All 45 suites also boast panoramic beach views. The restaurant, La Marea, got a new terrace for alfresco dining, and in the lobby there’s the sleek new Martini Bar and Coral Bar, which offers 30 different types of rum alongside an array of cigars. Another fresh perk is that each guest is assigned the services of personal assistants who can do anything from unpack suitcases to press clothing before an evening out on the town.

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Traymore Hotel
The Traymore, expected to open its doors in fall 2009, is a spa-centric hotel situated on a prime plot of South Beach. It’s partnered with the Exhale group (known for their U.S. spa chain touting "mind body programs") and offers signature Core Fusion classes and therapies, as well as multi-day personal training, acupuncture, and detox programs.

The 85 rooms are set up as spa suites and are furnished with personal massage therapy tables and essential oils for in-room treatments. There’s a rooftop meditation garden and a Turkish hamman, plus a full cardio gym and daily yoga classes. In keeping with the notion that well-being extends to good food and wine, the hotel is opening a seafood restaurant helmed by Michelle Bernstein.

Viceroy Miami at Icon Brickell
The latest Viceroy hotel and condo resort is part of Icon Brickell, a new 10-acre residential complex designed by Philippe Starck and set on Biscayne Bay between downtown Miami and the high-rise heavy Brickell neighborhood. The omnipresent Starck designed the expansive on-site spa, while Kelly Wearstler took care of the Zen-chic interiors.

The 162 guestrooms, suites, and one- and two-bedroom accommodations conveniently feature kitchens (and for those not inclined to use the kitchens, organic mini bars). Among other singularities, Viceroy Miami boasts the longest pool in Florida, a 50-person hot tub, and a rooftop lounge and restaurant 50 stories up. Guests may borrow Wiis and Playstations, as well as bikes and motor scooters, and are allowed beach access at The Tides South Beach.

W South Beach
Set to open its sleek doors in May, the newest W is situated next door to the Gansevoort South and will likely lure a similar crowd. It, too, will tout a pair of cool NY transplant restaurants — Mr. Chow and Serafina — as well as a nightclub and Bliss spa.

The hotel has two infinity pools (plus a wide swath of beach) surrounded by cabanas that come fully loaded with flat-screen TVs; there’s also a landscaped garden complete with private outdoor showers tucked here and there. Public spaces were designed by Anna Busta, while all the rooms are credited to W favorite Yabu Pushelberg, the Canadian team behind projects ranging from Bergdorf Goodman in New York to the St. Regis in San Francisco to the new Las Alcobas hotel in Mexico City.

ShermansTravel is a guide to top travel deals and destinations. Sign up for Sherman's Top 25 e-newsletter which features the best editor-screened deals from hundreds of travel providers and is delivered to over 2.5 million subscribers, free, each week. ShermansTravel also publishes trip ideas and travel features to inspire, guide, and go.

Photos: Miami: Sunshine statement

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  1. Tower to the people

    Lifeguard towers on Miami Beach are colorful and easy to distinguish. Lifeguards care over swimmers who play nearby, and the towers make a great meeting place when surrounded by an endless area of sand, surf and beach umbrellas. (Richard Cummins / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Hot spot

    Thousands of people descended on Miami Beach for Super Bowl XLIV between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts. The city hosted a number of private and public events ahead of the big game. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Wet and wild

    Jet skis cruise along Biscayne Bay near Miami Beach Marina. Tourists visiting the Bay can enjoy a number of recreational activities, including snorkeling, sailing, kayaking and more. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Life's a beach

    South Beach, also nicknamed "The American Riviera," is well-known for celebrities, chic lifestyles and, of course, beaches. The man-made beach runs along the Atlantic Ocean for miles. (Richard I'anson / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Savoring history

    The Art Deco district of South Beach is a hot spot for celebrities and is home to eccentric residents. The district has more than 800 buildings, built in the '30s and '40s, that are architecturally protected, helping its image as a chic, popular destination. (Randy Faris / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Ear to the ground

    Caribbean Flamingos -- this one eats from a pond at the Metro Zoo in Miami -- gets their color from the carotene in its diet. (Robert Sullivan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Dolphins walk, whales fly

    The Miami Seaquarium is a popular attraction that features eight marine animal shows. General admission tickets cost $37.95, and kids between the ages of three and nine get in for $27.95 (plus 7 percent sales tax). (Jon Davison / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Luxe lodgings

    The Biltmore Hotel of Coral Gables "has been a favorite of world leaders, celebrities and sports stars since its opening in the 1920s," its Web site boasts. The resort features 275 rooms, including 130 suites, a spa and fitness center. (The Biltmore) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Pretty in pink

    Classic buildings aren't the only thing visitors to Miami Beach will find. Vintage cars are often spotted in the Art Deco district. The annual Art Deco Weekend hosts a classic car fest where proud owners can show off their treasures. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Colorful celebration

    A dancer wears a costume as she participates in the Miami Carnival. The carnival has been an annual event since 1984. It has grown from a small neighborhood festival to an international event bringing live bands and calypsonians from the islands. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Collins mix

    The renovated Delano Hotel (left), National Hotel (center) and the Sagamore Hotel line up Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. The city has a concentration of over 800 Art Deco buildings all within one square mile. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Double-tall MOCA

    Miami's Museum of Contemporary Art "is internationally recognized as a force in defining new trends and directions in contemporary art," its Web site says. Admission is $5 per person, $3 for students and seniors. MOCA Members and kids under 12 can enter for free. (MOCA Miami) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Bass appeal

    The Bass Museum of Art was established 47 years ago ater Miami Beach accepted the art collection of John and Johanna Bass, and agreed it would maintain the works and make it available to the public. (Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Different strokes

    A visitor looks at "Thinking" during Art Basel Miami Beach back in 2008. "Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas," the event's Web site boasts. This year's event takes place Dec. 2-5. (Juan Castro / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Reflective moment

    Artist Jude Papaloko is reflected in a mirror on a painted wall in his gallery, the Jakmel Gallery, in Miami. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Feeling the groove

    Club patrons enjoy themselves on the dance floor at Mansion nightclub in Miami Beach, Fla. Once thought of as a place to visit Grandma in January, Miami's reputation as a party city has grown since the days of "Miami Vice," through the birth of the Art Deco fashion district in the early 1990s and the more recent explosion of the South Beach club scene. (David Adame / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Port of call

    Frequent cruisers can be forgiven for seeing Biscayne Bay and Miami simply as a departure point. However, the area offers a wealth of activities and events that can satisfy tourists with a variety of different interests. (Jeff Greenberg / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Can I get a refill?

    The Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, Miami, started out as a quarry pit and was transformed in 1924 into the Venetian Casino. Now, more than 100,000 people visit Venetian Pool each year. During summer months, the pool is drained nightly and replentished from a subterranean aquifer. (Richard Cummins / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Year of the crab

    Plates full of cracked stone crab claws are ready to be served at Joe's Stone Crab in Miami Beach. Joe Weiss opened a lunch counter in 1913, and the eatery has been serving the public for 97 consecutive seasons. (Wilfredo Lee / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Feeling the beat

    A crowd dances to the rythmic sound of congas at a local latin club in Calle Ocho (8th street), the main street of the Little Havana district of Miami. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Home field

    Miami's Sun Life Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLIV on Feb. 7, 2010. The New Orleans Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a final score of 31-17. (Dave Cross / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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