Miami is blessed with a vast number of eminently hangout-able hotels. From the swanky jet-setter crash pads to the art deco icons that define South Beach to the sexy hideaways and the new crop of hipster hostels, the city is never short on swagged-out rooms and anonymous beds to lay your head. (And nobody cares whether you’re actually sleeping.) The variety of options made it nearly impossible to choose the best in this city of ever-more-tempting accommodations. But these ten hotels exemplify their kind, whether it’s budget, luxury, hip, historic, or somewhere in between. You won’t regret them in the morning.
10.Faena Hotel Miami Beach: The “It” Spot.
This glittering beachside lure for the South American rich and Euro-famous has ranked on endless top-ten lists since its globally covered grand opening. Its expanse of gardens, opulent open-air lobby, and red-carpet-ready crowd are so quintessentially South Beach they have us searching with our magnifying glasses for a flaw. But there isn’t one to be found. The emerald-green lawns, limpid light pool, and cheeky red pool furniture create a dazzling palette. The restaurants are sumptuously decorated, while the patio spaces feel like little fantasy casbah gardens. This color theme plays out in the room decor as well, albeit more subtly and balanced by taupe and cream.
9.East, Miami: The Swanky Brickell High-Rise.
In the neighborhood known for sleek, sophisticated high-rises, East has edged out the other hotels and luxury condo towers by being newer, more ambitious, and — in keeping with its parent company Swire’s pedigree — slightly more Hong Kong-haute. From its posh lobby bar to its hipster rooftop cocktail hangout to its secret invitation-only lounge, East is an intriguing new addition to the Brickell landscape. Rooms are done in an understated natural-tone palette — somewhere between beach resort, modern minimalist, and China rich.
8. The Vagabond: The Coolest Motel.
You know how usually when someone says they’re staying in a motel, you assume they’re slumming? Not in Miami. This rumored former Rat Pack hangout is ready to reclaim the coolness quotient of its glory days. Its combination of neon decor accents visible from the street, ’50s-inspired furniture throughout the property, and modern guest-room luxuries fill the desire for fun and funky lodgings in the MiMo District. Why should the deco era get all the throwback love?
7. The Delano: South Beach Deco Chic.
In the 1990s, this Ian Schrager/Philippe Starck partnership redefined the Miami Beach art deco hotel trend, with a breezy pop-luxe Wonderland approach that immediately became iconic. The white-on-white façade and back pool area are a dazzling contrast to the dramatically lit lobby, where every piece of furniture, from the pool table to the Salvador Dalí chair to the Murano chandeliers, could be part of an art museum installation. The lack of signage, though intentional, is a bit confusing — you’ll probably lurk under the gauze curtains and randomly stumble into the Rose Bar before finally winding up in your intended location.
If you stay at the Delano, you reorient quickly by looking out your guest-room window, where the beach suddenly dominates your vision. You learn to cut through the courtyard to make a beeline for the prime pool loungers in the back garden. Most people stay here for the sexy, low-key, indoor/outdoor party vibe. All things change with time, and we’ve heard that due to new ownership, some of the decor and programming might change, but they’d be foolish to tamper with the Delano’s spirit.
6. The Betsy: SoBe’s Arts Haven.
While most Miami Beach hotels strive to throw the model-friendliest pool parties or create the most expensive cocktail menus, the Betsy quietly excels in an altogether different spectrum of culture: This is the sophisticate’s choice for a refined Ocean Drive experience, with Colonial-meets-deco decor and a very intelligent and eclectic programming slate. In fact, the Betsy’s salon-style events are so different from everything else in the neighborhood that there’s something daring about them. Head here to listen to live chamber music, browse international photography collections, attend poetry readings, and otherwise feed your soul. This hotel even has a writers’ room for its many visiting authors. On the more hedonistic front, the new rooftop pool opens in November.
5. Acqualina Resort & Spa: The Luxury Enclave.
Way north on the beach, just before the border with Broward, is Sunny Isles Beach, a surprising pocket of luxury skyscrapers set on a glimmering white-sand beach. It’s just over a mile of Shangri-La, containing some of the area’s glossiest brands. And the crown jewel of this neighborhood is Acqualina. The glimmering aqua beachfront pools, green gardens, and cherry-red sun umbrellas seem like an early template for the Faena. But this property caters more to families and to people who can and will buy the lifestyle if they like it. The hotel shares amenities with the adjacent superluxe condominium estates, and the resulting atmosphere is surprisingly neighborly in spite of all the Italian marble and fine art, along with the fleet of Rolls-Royces out front
4. The Fontainebleau: The Seaside Icon.
In a landscape of boutique luxury hotels, the Fontainebleau is distinguished by being utterly massive yet still outdoing most of its neighbors in the velvet-rope stakes. It’s the size of a Mexico megaresort, with just as many restaurants and bars — and these venues are some of Miami’s finest. Some would say LIV, the resort’s nightclub, is the toughest rope in town, while Hakkasan and Scarpetta are ultimate splurge restaurants. The hotel feels at times like a superfabulous obstacle course of well-guarded hostess stands and exclusive parties. The pool area is a glossy oasis that can be tantalizingly glimpsed by people passing by on the boardwalk. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this all adds up to an experience that Manhattanites and Londoners absolutely love — and thus the hotel continues to command high rates for its 1,500-plus rooms. Its last revamp, a $1 billion renovation and expansion in 2008, was a total transformation, taking it from ’70s landmark to white-hot “it” spot, and that sizzle seems back to stay.
3. The Biltmore: The Historic Haven
A palatial retreat that’s aesthetically akin to a Mediterranean palazzo rather than an American hotel, the Biltmore was the earliest-realized fantasy of what true luxury in Miami might be. Many properties have attempted to match or outdo it, but no other can compete for Old-World dazzle and sheer acreage. In the ’80s, the Biltmore was owned by the City of Coral Gables, and though it’s been privately owned for nearly 25 years, it is still, in some ways, a public legacy — a designated National Historic Landmark and true piece of Miami history. It’s also the kind of property that conference attendees dream of, because they can sneak off and play a few rounds of golf or enjoy a lavish spa treatment between business sessions. The Biltmore is also great for special occasions with family, whether a blowout reunion or simple Sunday brunch with your parents.
2. The Freehand: The Hipster Hostel
It’s not clear from looking around the public spaces of this boho-chic magnet whether anyone realizes they’re in a hostel. In fact, is this place actually a hostel? The signage says so, but it has one of the top cocktail programs in town, a pool you want to hang out at all day long, and bouncers who think nothing of turning people away from the restaurant on a weekend morning — all very much in line with a Miami Beach luxury hotel. But the rooms, it turns out, are outfitted in hostel style, meaning you can indeed share with strangers — a four-person “quad” or a “Super 8” for devoted Euro-style travelers. There are also private rooms and suites that feature fun, simple decor like
1. The Standard: The Spa Sanctuary
It’s difficult to choose the best hotel spa in Miami, but this one is special for so many reasons. First, its location is not on the beach or in the city proper, but on a tiny island just a hot stone’s throw from South Beach, yet with a different laid-back feeling. Second, the pool area: This is where real Miami insiders go to relax on the weekends because it is so chill and beautiful, with less of the preening and peacocking that’s typical over on the beach. And when it comes to bathing for beauty, the pool is only the beginning. “We encourage the communal rituals of traditional bathhouses with our do-it-yourself hydrotherapy heaven and unique features throughout, including hamam, aroma steam room, cedar sauna, infinity pool, and Roman waterfall hot tub,” says spa director Mina Gough. Also, for the truly body confident and treatment-curious, there’s the mud lounge — clothing optional. Staff encourages guests to “explore the curative effects of water and indulge in a steamy mix of health and hedonism.” Think of it as the perfect cure for a spell of blah.