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Thread: Our Summary Review of Hotels in South Beach

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    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    Default Our Summary Review of Hotels in South Beach

    Here is a list and brief summary of hotels my wife and I have stayed at in Miami Beach / South Beach over the years. Some of these have gotten repeat stays.

    First, it's time for a quick street geography lesson for Miami Beach / South Beach. The main drag is Collins Avenue, which runs in a north-south direction. The numbered streets run east-west, with lower numbered streets at the south end. Collins Avenue is the street closest to the ocean when you are north of 15th Street. From 15th Street and below, the closest street to the ocean is Ocean Drive, while Collins Ave is a block inland in that section. The hotels along Ocean Drive from 5th to 15th Street are on the west side of the street, across the street from Lummus park and the beach. The hotels on Collins Ave north of 15th can be directly beachfront, without having to cross a street to get to the beach.

    A brief history. .... Many hotels in the South Beach area are Art Deco architecture. Most of the Art Deco hotels in South Beach were built in the 1930s, with a some into the 1940s. South Beach roughly covers the area of Miami Beach south of 21st Street. Above 21st Street, Miami Beach has many of the "MiMo" (Miami Modern) hotels. These "MiMo" hotels are mostly from the 1950s and early 1960s. "Modern" is obviously a relative term. The most famous of the MiMo architects was Morris Lapidus, who designed the famous Fontainebleau and Eden Roc hotels. He also re-designed Lincoln Road to become a pedestrian mall in 1960.

    As will be noted several times in the review, hotel rooms of the Art Deco era are smallish compared to today's modern hotel chains. I don't spend a lot of time discussing the rooms themselves. I spend more time on pools, pool bars, service, and nearby things like proximity to the beach or Lincoln Rd. pedestrian mall, etc. Honestly, when visiting South Beach, a room is a place to sleep. All I mostly ask for is it to be clean and comfortable. You'll be spending more time enjoying other amenities like their pools, outdoor bars, etc. If you spend more time in your room than anywhere else while in South Beach, you really ought to consider going elsewhere for vacation.

    Here is a brief summary of some of the hotels my wife and I have stayed at in South Beach:

    THE EDISON -

    Located on the south side of the intersection of 10th and Ocean Drive. We stayed there in 2001. Like most of these older hotels, the rooms were small, and like all the hotels from 5th to 15th along Ocean Drive, it is not directly on the beach. You have to cross the street to get to Lummus Park and the beach. The hotel was clean, the staff was friendly, and the location in the heart of South Beach's Ocean Drive was ideal. Unfortunately, it is no longer a hotel. The historic building still exists, but I believe they are converting it into condo residences.

    THE ALBION -

    The Albion is located at the corner of James Ave and Lincoln Road. James Ave is a short street between part of Washington Ave and part of Collins Ave. The pedestrian portion of Lincoln Road is just a half block away to the west, and the beach is about a block and a half to the east. So this is a pretty good location for shoppers, diners, and beachgoers. For those who don't know, Lincoln Rd is a mile long outdoor pedestrian Mall. It lies perpendicular to the beach, and it is between 16th and 17th Street. For location, think of it as 16 and a 1/2 Street. Lincoln Road has lots of shops and restaurants, and a few galleries. The Albion was built in 1939 and is a particular type of Art Deco architecture called Streamline Moderne. Even more specific, the Albion is a nautical Sreamline Moderne. The building roughly represents an old steamship liner with some round porthole windows, some curved corners, and a loose representation of a smoke stack. Like many South Beach hotels, the hotel was refurbished in the 1990s. Rooms and baths are quite small, even for art deco standards, unless you get a corner room or a suite. The rooms were clean and comfortable. Interior design is minimalist. The pool area at the rear of the hotel is decent, but not spectacular. There are rust stains around part of the pool deck from some of the railing hardware. We have stayed here in 2002 and 2004, but the pool area was going downhill on the second visit. Service is okay.....polite, but with few exceptions, they don't go out of their way to be helpful. It is moderately priced. Not expensive. Not cheap. Not too bad, but we probably won't go back unless there is evidence that at least the pool area has been refurbished or spruced up.

    .... ........ More hotels CONTINUED on next reply post...................
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    THE DELANO -

    This hotel is located along Collins Ave between 16th and 17th. We have stayed here more than once. The Delano was built in the 1940s, and is borderline between Art Deco and MiMo in design...sort of a hybrid. It's interior design was redesigned by Philippe Starke in the 1990s when Ian Schraeger bought it, and it is now owned by the Morgan's Hotel Group. It backs up to the ocean and beach with only a brick "boardwalk" between the hotel property and the beach. . The rooms' decor are in the theme of "minimalist", and almost everything in them is white. It works for me. I prefer this over a gaudy, over-decorated room. And, with no carpeting and minimal drapery, it keeps allergens down, and smoking rooms don't seem to smell any worse than non-smoking rooms. The lobby is large and nicely decorated. There is a big party in the lobby every Tuesday night. The lobby has a fun bar called the "Rose Bar". There is also a bar/lounge in the basement called the "Florida Room". It is in the former location of the hotel's gym. The pool area is nice with a large "infinity edge" pool, and cushioned sun lounger beds / chairs. The service from pool attendants is very good, but like most of South Beach, food and beverage are pricey. It is even a notch or two more pricey here. There are also nice sun-lounge chairs on the beach, and there is food and beverage service out there,.... but the service is not as frequent or is quick as at the pool. That is to be expected. Overall, this pricey hotel does deliver with good atmosphere, good service, and clean comfortable rooms.

    THE SHORE CLUB -

    This hotel is located along Collins Ave between 19th and 20th. In many ways, this hotel is a "junior Delano". It was also redesigned inside by Philippe Starcke, and is now owned by the Morgan's Hotel group. The pool area is not as elaborate as Delano's, but still very nice. It has good service, and clean comfortable rooms. Service at the pool and beach is attentive..... more so at the pool, as expected. Instead of "lobby parties" like the Delano has, the Shore Club has the "Sky Bar". This is basically when they convert the pool area into a giant outdoor bar at night. There is also the attached "Red Room" bar. Like the Delano, the Shore Club is pricey, but usually a little less so than it's big brother, the Delano. If you can get a room rate to stay at the Delano for the same price as the Shoe club, I'd stay at the Delano over the Shore Club.

    .....More Hotels .... CONTINUED on next reply post..............
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    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    THE RALEIGH -

    This hotel is located on Collins between 17th and 18th. It is set back somewhat from the street, and is eaily missed if you are not carefully looking for it. Like the Delano and the Shore Club, it backs to the Boardwalk / beach as other hotels do along this stretch of Collins Ave. Built in 1939, The Raleigh is a true Art Deco gem. This hotel exudes understated class, with an authentic Art Deco lobby, complete with period black and white photos from the era. The Raleigh's pool is outstanding and is recognized as one of the best hotel pools in America. Esther Williams used to perform here back in the day. Pool and beach loungers are provided, and pool and beach service is friendly, but quite slow and sparse at the beach There is a pool bar at the back corner of the pool area. . Food and beverage is pricey, as expected. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but the dark halls could use a little spiffing up and a bit more light. The Raleigh is a bit a on the pricey side, but not as much as the Delano or the Shore Club. If you want a nice beachfront hotel that is lower key than the Delano or the Shore Club, the Raleigh can be a good choice.

    THE NATIONAL HOTEL -

    This hotel is located on Collins Ave between 16th and 17th St., just next door to the Delano. Like the Delano, it backs to the beach / ocean. As with the Raleigh, the National has understated class, has many classic Art deco elements, and is much more low key than the Delano or the Shore Club. The pool area is very picturesque, with a long narrow 205 foot pool....the longest in Florida This long pool is better for looking at than it is for use or sunning. The trees are close to the edge, so much of it is shaded. For swimming and sunning, there is an additional pool at the eastern end of the long, decorative pool. There is also a pool bar out at that end. Pool and beach service is good, but unfortunately the pool bar service does not open until 11 am. So, if you get thirsty before 11 am, you'd better bring you own drink. Service is also available on the beach, but service was spotty out there. Sun-loungers were comfortably padded for both the pool and the beach. Inside the hotel, there is a fancy bar in the lobby, noted for their martinis. The hotel rooms were smallish, as are most from that era, but were clean and comfortable.

    THE HOTEL of SOUTH BEACH (former "TIFFANY" Hotel) -

    This is a classic Art Deco small-scale "boutique" hotel located on Collins at the corner of 8th. As for the name, it's used to be called the "Tiffany" Hotel. Like many of the old hotels in South Beach, it went out of business several years before the South Beach renaissance and re-modeling of the 1990s. . When the remodeled Tiffany went to re-open, they were sued by Tiffany and Company (the jewelry company). Apparently, the hotel's name had been out of use long enough that they lost the rights to use that name. So, they changed it to just "The Hotel of South Beach". The historic Tiffany sign still exists on its rooftop spire. The hotel has been redecorated by designer Todd Oldham, so all the rooms have a bit of "designer elements" to them. It's not my thing, but if you are into that, you'll love the interior decor. Personally, I care more about original Art Deco architecture from the 1930s. Much of that is well-preserved or restored. The interior design stuff seems a bit foo-foo compared to the simple elegance and clean lines of Art Deco. ..... Whatever floats your boat. What counts is that the rooms are clean and comfortable, and the hotel is in a great location. It's only a block to Ocean Drive and a short walk to Lummus park and the Beach. The hotel has a small, but nice roof-top pool and a sunning area. There is a small bar up there, and service is very friendly. In fact, service at the entire hotel is very friendly, from check-in to bellman, to bartenders. They excel at service. In addition to the pool, also up on the roof is the "Spire Deck". This is the area where the old Tiffany sign spire is located. The area has been converted into a small bar, which is open evenings from Wednesday nights to Saturday nights. They have several pricey specialty martinis that will cost you about $22 each with tip. Overall, this a very good hotel.

    ...More Hotels CONTINUED on next reply post...............

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    CLEVELANDER HOTEL -

    This hotel is located on Ocean Drive at 10th Street. It re-opened in the spring of 2009 after extensive renovations. After renovations, the hotel is now a clean and comfy place to stay. A main attraction of this hotel is that it is a party location, with DJ's and/or live bands every night until 5 am. They have a large outdoor complex with several outdoor bars and the band / DJ stage. They play lots of different types of music, and not just the same old techno and rap/hip-hop you hear everywhere else in South Beach. Yes, they have their share of hip-hop at this location, too, but they play other music, too. It's refreshing to hear some good old rock and roll once in a while in South Beach. Mixed in among these outdoor bars and band stage is a pool. It certainly is not a very private area for pool use, so most people who want to catch some rays head up to the rooftop sunning are called the "C-Level" sundeck. It is on the roof top of the original hotel tower. There are great views from up there, and they have several sun-lounger chairs and a towel supply. There is also a cascading wall of water that people will frolic in to cool off. This wall of water is lit by multi-color lights at night and it is a pretty cool effect. If you are a woman who enjoys turning you bikini into a one piece and going "sans top" (a mono-kini?), this C-Level deck is the place for it. Most hotels I mentioned permit topfree sunning at their pools, but the Clevelander pool near the bars is a bit more public, and can be seen from the street. So, the topfree bathing beauties tend to gravitate to the C-Level sundeck on the roof. There is one additional sunning deck at the Clevelander. It is called the "SPF-4" deck. This is located on the roof of the new wing of the hotel, which is lower than the old wing. There are a few loungers up there, but the view is not as good as the higher elevation C-Level deck. Overall, the Clevelander is a fun place to stay. but you better like to party, as the music will be thumping all night long. We knew this would be a party hotel when they handed us a free drink upon check-in.

    THE ESSEX HOUSE HOTEL -

    This hotel is located on Collins Ave at 10th St. It is located just behind the Clevelander and is a sister property to the Clevelander. It is a nicely restored Art Deco hotel from the late 1930s We have stayed here more than once. The rooms at the Essex are highly variable in size. If you check in and get a really small one, check back with the desk to see if you can make a room switch. The rooms are clean and comfortable, but we had trouble with water pressure one time. They also ran out of hot water late in the morning. This is not a big deal to me. I can handle a cold shower, but some of you might think otherwise. To be fair, this only happened once to us, and once to someone we know. Overall, the rooms are nice and the hotel service is friendly and very good. There is a small bar located just off the lobby. There is also a very small pool outside alongside the sidewalk on 10th Street. Don't even bother with this pool. Guests of the Essex have full privileges to use the facilities at the Clevelander, which is the sister hotel, and less than a minute walk away. We enjoy staying at the Essex because we can party whenever we like at the Clevelander next door, yet we have a quiet "refuge" to return to when we want to escape from the party scene, and get some sleep. The Essex is also a little bit less expensive than the Clevelander. We like the Esssex, despite the water pressure and temp problems. Very good overall.

    RIU FLORIDA BEACH HOTEL -

    This hotel is located on Collins at 31st St. I stayed here as a young kid in 1970s when it was called the "Sans Souci" hotel. This was architect Morris Lapidus' first MiMo era hotel, built in 1949-1950, a few years before his famous Fontainebleau or Eden Roc hotels. The "Sans Souci" hotel building is still there today, but is called the Riu, but the outdoor pool area and grounds have been redesigned from what I could tell when recently walking the property. I have not stayed here in many years, so cannot review the rooms, but many reviews say the rooms are in need of refurbishment. This hotel would be a long walk to the South Beach area.

    DAYS INN at 41St. STRRET -

    This hotel is located on Collins at 41st St. We stayed here back in the 1990s. It was not very memorable. What can I say,....it's a Days Inn. Nothing special. The reason I am mentioning it is that the one thing we do remember is that there was a Kosher Chinese restaurant on-site. We had never seen, nor heard of kosher Chinese restaurant before. We're not Jewish, and the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC where we live aren't exactly a hotbed of Judaism. So, we are not accustomed to seeing any kosher restaurants of any kind. We later learned that this area of Miami Beach is known as "Little Tel Aviv". We observed many wearing traditional black attire. I don't know how the strict adherents of the religion can wear the black clothing in the south Florida sun, but you have to admire them for their dedication to their beliefs. On one of our future trips, we'd like to check out some of the Jewish delis of "Little Tel Aviv". You learn something every day.

    I hope you found these hotel reviews helpful.

    Glenn and Janet

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    rk
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    GandJ: Terrific reviews. Thank you very much for taking the time! Seems like you always pick the good hotels to stay at, not a bad one in the bunch :)

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    KUDOS gandj KUDOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Your carefully thought out reviews are soooo well done down to the shade issue with the national and that the RIU was the sans soui!

    The moderators should book mark this with a special tab so that people who want excellent current reviews can pull then up easily!


    WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    rk wrote:
    <<..."Seems like you always pick the good hotels to stay at, not a bad one in the bunch"...>>

    rk- I hope all those hotel are still good. Last time we were at Albion in 2004, it was on a little bit of a downhill slide. I haven't been to the Sans Souci since I was 7 years old in the 1970s. It was fine then, but now as the Riu, I have heard reports that the rooms are in need of renovation. I can't vouch for the current condition of that Days Inn, either, as it has been 13 years since our stay at that hotel. All the others mentioned should still be pretty good.

    Thanks for the compliments.


    Glenn and Janet

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    fredgarvin -

    Thanks for the compliments.


    Glenn and Janet

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    Gus
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    This is an amazing summary. Thank you very much for sharing! I'm going to make this a sticky thread.

    Please contact me the next time you visit. I want to do something special for you. =)

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    Gus -

    Thanks for the compliment. We'll be down in just over a week from now. We arrive late on Wednesday, March 3rd. Returning home late on Tuesday, March 9th.

    Glenn and Janet

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    Hi Glenn & Janet,

    Thank you for writing a wonderfully, detailed post about your experience at each hotel. It will help so helpful for people to make a decision about which to choose.

    As Gus mentioned, please contact us when you come visit in March; we would love to show you a great time while you're here!!

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    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    Michelle - I just replied to Gus a few minutes before you posted, so you might have missed my reply to Gus. Janet and I will be down in South Beach from late on March 3rd to late on March 9th.

    Glenn and Janet

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    Where are you staying????? lol

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    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    We're staying at The Hotel of South Beach (former "Tiffany") at Collins and 8th. It would be fun to meet up with some of you.

    Glenn and Janet

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    Gus
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    I love the (Tiffany) Hotel.

    March 3rd is just a week away!

    I'm going to send you a private message.

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    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    Gus - I received the e-mail, and replied.

    Thanks

    Glenn

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    Default Kent Hotel

    Hi,

    Does anyone know what The Kent Hotel is like?

    I am staying there next weekend? Only booked it there as it looks very close to the nightlife etc,

    Thanks!

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    Default Re: Our Summary Review of Hotels in South Beach

    Hi,
    Do you have any suggestion hotel that nearby fountainebleu hotel ? I prefer family type of hotel that have some facilities for kids and bigger rooms.
    We plan to stay at Miami for a week on August 2011.

    Thanks
    Inasari

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    Thumbs up Re: Our Summary Review of Hotels in South Beach

    Excellent article/threads. Your reviews compliment those on Trip Advisor. Some of the Trip Advisor reviews are high comedy and take grammatical liscense to new levels. One thing I rate essential in a hotel is the rooms climate control. Especially in the Sunshine State. I've stayed at many properties where the room A/C was insufficient at best and detracts from my overall rating. Though as you mentioned, a room is a place to clean up and sleep if it's hot and stuffy, forget about it especially after exercise, the beach and of course returning late at night after partying. Back in 1995, I stayed at the Shelborne Beach Resort (we stayed there when I was a child). I would have rated my experience as excellent but, the anemic A/C and I checked out several rooms brought my rating down to just Good. It's been over 15 years and the Shelborne is going through a major rennovation and restoration which has high possibilities. Let us hope they upgrade, repair or refurbish their Air Conditioning. Likewise, I've stayed at the Days Inn Thunderbird (Sunny Isles) 20 to 30 minute drive to South Beach and have found their room air conditioning fair at best. It's a shame because, I find the staff friendly and helpful and feel like family. And to conlude on an an up note; last August I decided to add an additional night after my cruise in Miami Beach and reccomend the Best Western formerly the Fairfield and originally the Lucerne which is MIMO (built in 1956). Staff was friendly, rates reasonable and best of all the A/C was cold enough to hang meat. I actually had to lower it a bit which is quite rare for me. If I'm not mistaken, the pool was refurbished and shrunken. That is the only negative. A case of "Honey I shrunk the pool!" Located at 41st. and Collins it fronts the beach and boardwalk and is 10 minutes north of South Beach. One GREAT ADVANTATE, it's the first beach stop for the Metrodade Miami International Airport bus. Travelling from MIA directly to literally the front door of the Days Inn (formerly Lucerne) for under $3.00 and in less than thirty minutes is a bargain one can't refuse.
    BTW, am I correct regarding their pool? I'm sure originally the Lucerne had a much larger pool with a deep end with a diving board.

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    Senior Member GandJ's Avatar
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    2zippyjet -

    Nice write-up, and great point about the A/C. So far, the A/C has worked well in all my reviews above (and I like it cool for sleeping). I'll soon be adding the Z-Ocean, Park Central, and Victor Hotels to the reviews.

    Glenn

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