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A few newer hotels may have stolen some of its cutting-edge cachet, but the Delano—the designer hotel that put Miami back on the A-list in 1995—is still a South Beach icon. The trendy lobby remains foolishly appealing, even if it does feel dated: think textbook Starck minimalism, complete with billowing white curtains, Venetian chandeliers, and surreal art and furniture. The stark white bedrooms have been spruced up with splashes of texture and color, floating flatscreen TVs and lush white Carrera marble bathrooms. The swimming pool—sorry "water salon"—is ethereal, with its waterfall, palms and celestial bodies, but the posing can be a bit much. The substance matches the style, however, at the fabulous Bianca restaurant on the patio. The tiny Rose Bar also packs in the beautiful people, as does the hip FDR at Delano, a subterranean lounge that mixes old-school glamor with sexy, modern twists. If you’ve come to Miami for South Beach glitz, the Delano still ticks all the right boxes.
The Hotel has all the right style-mag credentials: it was designed in 1939 by architect L Murray Dixon, and redecorated by clothing designer Todd Oldham in 1998. Formerly known as the Tiffany, it was forced to change its name by the litigious jewellery giant. But it's still one of the coolest joints on South Beach - and still au courant. The mosaic-tiled bathrooms and tie-dye robes lend a whimsical feel to the small but avant-garde rooms. The cosy lobby shows off with polished terrazzo floors and couches upholstered in emerald, gold and ruby velvet. The couture touches extend to stellar house restaurant Wish. The octagonal rooftop pool and Spire Bar afford spectacular beach views.
When it comes to opulent digs, the Setai boasts a four-bedroom penthouse with a $30,000 rack rate and the starriest clientele in town (Madonna has been known to hole up in said suite, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z have stayed there so often they were reportedly contemplating buying it at one point). But despite its celeb credentials, the Setai’s brand of bling is understated; it avoids flash in favor of pristine Asian decor. The lobby’s dark floor is made from Shanghai brick; jade pieces from Japan banish the bad spirits; and a Zen garden keeps the A-list clientele calm. Teak floors, furniture and blinds lend warmth to the minimalist bedrooms, as do the floral sculptures. Bathrooms come stocked with granite tubs, rainshower heads and Laura Tonatto toiletries. Three side-by-side infinity pools ensure there are no crowds when you swim. Decadence rules in the restaurant, where the lavish menu includes black angus filet mignon and Kumamoto oysters. Sadly, there are no early-bird specials. Even if you can’t afford to sleep here, it’s worth the (pricey) cost of a drink to sit at the oceanfront pool bar and enjoy the scenery.
The Betsy stands out among its South Beach neighbors, and not just because its colonial-style building à la Gone With the Wind is an anomaly in a sea of art deco. Situated on the northernmost end of Ocean Drive (read: the quieter part), the hotel boasts one of the best locations on the beach, with a generous helping of Southern hospitality. You won’t find bathtubs full of mineral water and rose petals here, but you will find charming little touches, such as poems left on your pillow, a pitcher of iced water with lemon by the pool and Malin+Goetz goodies in the bathrooms. The 61 rooms and suites are well appointed and comfortable, if occasionally a little on the small side and—in the case of the pool-facing rooms—missing out on that ocean view. If it’s vistas you’re after, head to the decked roof terrace, which is perfect for a day of baking in the sun or a romantic cocktail as the sun sets. The on-site restaurant, BLT Steak, is a New York City transplant that serves up some of the city’s best slabs of beef.
A suave 1936 streamline hotel buffed up and polished for 21st-century consumption. The intimate lobby is softly illuminated and decorated in sandy hues, while the elegant bedrooms boast European king-size beds, imported cotton sheets and fleecy robes in the marble bathrooms. All the rooms are double-insulated against the hustle of Washington Avenue. Dei Frescobaldi, the dreamy new restaurant and wine bar created by leading Tuscan wine producer Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi, looks promising.