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.
Eden Roc Resort
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.
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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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.
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