Miami nights

26 Feb 2016 by Jenny Southan

New hotels are popping up all along Miami Beach. Jenny Southan takes a look.

An island wedged between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic, Miami Beach is predicted to be one of the first places to disappear under rising sea levels, with flooding already a major problem. Still, that isn’t putting off developers, who are opening hotels like there is no tomorrow.

Miami Beach is already the most densely populated of the city’s districts in terms of accommodation, with more than 150 properties. The past year or so has seen more than a dozen significant openings from brands such as Marriott’s Edition and Starwood’s Aloft, as well as numerous historic revamps on South Beach, famed for its art deco architecture.

Sporting charming Spanish-Colonial design, Casa Claridge’s on Collins Avenue reopened after a six-month facelift at the end of 2014, and is now a sister property to Alan Faena’s new Faena hotel across the road. The Argentinian developer is in fact creating a new neighbourhood here. The US$1 billion Faena District Miami Beach comprises the Faena House luxury apartment block, designed by Foster and Partners and unveiled last autumn, and a Rem Koolhaas cultural centre, the Faena Forum, which will open this spring. A Faena Bazaar mall and two residential towers dubbed Faena Versailles will be arriving in 2017.

Two years ago, the Versace mansion on Ocean Drive became an opulent ten-suite hotel. Last year, it launched a fine-dining Italian restaurant, Gianni’s at the Villa Casa Casuarina, which overlooks a beautiful garden courtyard that can host 250 guests.

William D Talbert, president and chief executive of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, says: “Hotel room inventory increased 3.7 per cent from January to October 2015, to more than 51,000 rooms. The destination’s robust growth is expected to increase by more than 7,000 rooms by 2019.” Here are ten new openings to suit all budgets.

Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Opened in December, this independent property from Alan Faena was designed in conjunction with film director Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby), which will give a clue to the décor.

Formerly the Saxony hotel – one of the first luxury resorts in the city when it opened in 1948 – it was bought by Faena’s business partner, Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik, in 2007. A reinvention began four years later, with efforts made to retain original features such as the two-floor cabaret theatre.

Rather than a traditional lobby, there is the “Cathedral”, an expansive entry hall with chunky gold pillars down both sides. The walls sport eight vivid, dream-like murals of wildcats, jungles and tropical birds by Spanish artist Juan Gatti. At the far end are double-height windows facing the pool terrace and Damien Hirst’s Gone but not Forgotten – a skeleton of a woolly mammoth covered in gold leaf. There is also a statue of a unicorn by Hirst, Golden Myth, in Asian restaurant Pao. A second restaurant, Los Fuegos, features leopard-print banquettes and serves contemporary South American food.

There are 169 rooms and suites with free wifi, iPad control hubs and colourful art deco-inspired design. Guests also have access to a butler, the 2,000 sqm Tierra Santa spa and a fitness centre facing the sea.

  • Rooms from US$740
  • 3,201 Collins Avenue
  • faena.com

Miami Beach Edition

The first luxury hotel to open on South Beach was the Pancoast in the early 1920s. Knocked down in the 1950s, the Seville was built on its site; in 2014 it was turned into Marriott’s Edition (the red neon Seville sign remains).

The property exhibits all of the signature traits associated with Ian Schrager’s five-star “lifestyle brand”. (There are four now, with ten more to arrive by 2020.) The co-founder of New York’s legendary Studio 54, Schrager has placed entertaining at the heart of the hotel, with a basement ice rink, rainbow-lit bowling alley and dance club, plus bars and pools.

The mood is set in the public spaces with a fresh signature scent, abundant palms, a Latino soundtrack and the warm glow of white gold throughout. Sweeping through the curved, high-ceilinged lobby will take you to chic all-day restaurant Market, which has a pizza station, patisserie and raw bar; on the other side is the oval-shaped Matador Room, where Frank Sinatra used to dine. Catering is overseen by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Outside is a huge candle-lit terrace, accessible from the beachside boardwalk.

Each of the 294 rooms has minimalist oak and white interiors and Bluetooth speakers by Beats. There is also a luxurious spa and a 920-capacity ballroom.

Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach

The Shelborne celebrated its 75th anniversary with a US$150 million remodel of its interiors in autumn 2014. Only the art deco façade and the much-photographed 1940s diving board have remained.

The 200 bedrooms take inspiration from vintage cars, using brown leather, glossy paintwork, dark wood and chrome. Cocktail shakers and martini glasses come as standard. The Desoto Beach Side barbecue area can be hired for private parties (up to 300). A presidential suite is opening in May, along with the Sarsaparilla Club restaurant for American dim sum.

1 Hotel South Beach

1 Hotels is a new eco-conscious but highly luxurious brand launched last year, with two in New York and one in Miami. It sets out to “reinvent the industry standard for socially responsible hospitality”, with the use of organic materials, quality food sourced from local suppliers and lots of natural light.

Green hotels aren’t normally glamorous, but the 1 Hotel South Beach is a trendsetter. Opened in March last year, it has a stunning welcome lounge with moss growing out of the walls, air plants, reclaimed timber cladding and driftwood furniture. It’s the ultimate in “biophilic” design.

Energy-efficient elevators take guests to the 426 rooms, which feature “wet bars” with free-flowing triple-filtered water, yoga mats, boxes for donating unwanted clothes, and minibars stocked with kale chips.

The décor is a calming combination of white, pale grey and blue, with walls and floors clad in Colorado “beetle kill” wood repurposed from forests that have been destroyed by bugs. Sheets and bed socks are organic cotton, mattresses are hemp-blended, and digital newspapers and magazines can be read on Nexus tablets.

Walk past reception and you can help yourself to fruit grown at a nearby farm, or buy a homemade smoothie from Sprout coffeeshop. Even the 350-seat ballroom has a living wall of greenery.

There are numerous poolside “ultra cabanas” for ten people, four outdoor lap pools (one on the roof), a private beach garden with a tikki bar, a restaurant by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, and a 500-capacity terrace. There is a Soul Cycle studio next door, and coming this summer will be an extensive Spartan gym.

Thompson Miami Beach

Anyone who’s stayed at a Thompson hotel (there are ten others, including properties in Toronto and Chicago) will know that the brand has an emphasis on nightlife, so if you are looking for peace and quiet, this might not be the best option. That said, this is Miami Beach, so there’s no escape.

Thompson has revamped this 1940s building in mid-century style, installing gold carpets, sea-green curtains and custom-made drinks trolleys in the 380 bedrooms. Open since November 2014, the property has two pools, a rooftop spa and more than 4,300 sqm of event space, with the Vista Terrace (for 180 people) and the Spanish-style 1930s House (for 100) being the standout venues.

For civilised meals with clients, there is Seagrape’s al fresco garden patio, while Talde dishes up Asian-American street food in a loud, graffiti-splashed space.

Aloft South Beach

Open since June last year, Starwood’s Aloft is located in the former Banana Bungalow hostel building behind the new Continental diner on Collins Avenue, next to the canal. (There are plans for guests to be able to do watersports here.)

This limited-service hotel centres around its open-plan lobby, which has a signature WXYZ bar serving breakfast and evening drinks. There’s also a pool table, two Macs, a grab-and-go deli, comfy couches and a bike hire station.

The property’s 235 rooms and suites feature quirky digital art prints and offer free wifi, fridges, zesty Bliss Spa amenities from sister hotel brand W, and take-away coffee. There are three boardrooms, and a rooftop deck facing the outdoor pool opens this summer. Two other properties under the brand – Aloft Miami Brickell and Aloft Miami Doral – opened in 2013.

AC Hotel Miami Beach

Marriott’s AC Hotels brand (originally a Spanish chain) made its US debut with the New Orleans Bourbon but today’s flagship is the AC Hotel Miami Beach, which came last summer. It’s a no-frills, new-build business property with functional design.

The ground floor has a casual reception area, lounge bar and dining space where a continental breakfast costs under US$20. It has a gym, a rooftop pool and 150 rooms with open closets, free wifi and rainshowers. Some have balconies or terraces. There’s also a small meeting room, with another opening in June.

Hyatt Centric South Beach

Hyatt’s new four-star lifestyle brand launched with the Loop Chicago last year. South Beach came second, in June, and there are plans for 15 more this year.

Set back from the beach, the entrance is hard to spot and it feels like an apartment complex in that you have to take a lift up to the lobby via a communal space. The 105 rooms have minibars, smart TVs, Hyatt Grand beds, free coffee and rainshowers. Room service is provided, along with on-site parking, a bar, a gym, a small outdoor pool and an all-day restaurant. Guests can use the spa in the Loews hotel.

  • Rooms from US$363
  • 1,600 Collins Ave
  • hyatt.com

Nautilus Sixty South Beach

Another 1950s hotel that was revamped last autumn, the Nautilus, is now under the management of Sixty Hotels, a group of high-end properties in Miami, New York and LA. The lobby is a little lacking in buzz, but continue through and you’ll come to an attractive terrace bar and pool with loungers. There are 250 rooms and suites (book a sea view) with minibars and Nespresso machines in trunks. An eighth-floor penthouse will be added this spring, along with a panoramic bar.

Nobu Hotel at Eden Roc Miami Beach

Three years ago, Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa opened his first “hotel within a hotel” in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Manila followed in 2014, and Miami is now partially open. Nobu has taken over one of the two towers that comprise the Eden Roc Miami Beach. The 350-room property is expected to open fully by the end of the summer, with the Nobu restaurant already up and running.

Described as being “Japanese beach house” in style, bedrooms have been designed by David Rockwell. Some facilities are shared with the Eden Roc, but guests have their own reception and pool, and all catering will be from the Nobu menu.

See businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested for reviews of the Nautilus, Thompson Miami Beach and Casa Claridge’s. For more information visit miamiandbeaches.com


  • Me Miami (March 2016): 129 rooms
  • Atton Brickell Miami (June 2016): 275 rooms
  • East Miami, Swire Hotels (summer 2016): 352 rooms
  • The Surf Club Four Seasons (late 2016): 80 rooms
  • SLS Lux Brickell (2017): 85 suites
  • Aloft Coral Gables (2017): 137 rooms
  • Yotel Downtown (2017): 250 rooms
  • Marriott Marquis Miami World Centre (2018): 1,800 rooms
  • Miami Beach Convention Centre Hotel (2019): 800 rooms
Loading comments...

Search Flight

See a whole year of Reward Seat Availability on one page at SeatSpy.com

The cover of the Business Traveller April 2024 edition
The cover of the Business Traveller April 2024 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below