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And Now, The 18 Essential Miami Hotels, November '13

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In today's new release of Curbed Miami's Hotel 18 map, we're once again attacking the question, "Where should I stay in Miami" While our first version of this map included 38 choices, we've carefully editing this version down to 18. In this smaller, leaner selection, we've made some tough choices to bring you the best of the best, and only those hotels considered most essential via reader and expert recommendations. Many have been cut, and a few added. We've had a few graduates from Curbed's Hotel Heatmap, including the Gale South Beach and the Freehand, and due to the smaller number of hotels on the map it no longer ventures out into the farther reaches of Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach, or the Keys.

We'll be updating the map again in due time, so if you have a favorite that wasn't included, please mention it in the comments or tip us for next time. If you spot a hotel unworthy of the Hotel 18 distinction, we want to hear about that, too.


· Hotels coverage [Curbed Miami]
· Curbed Maps archives [Curbed Miami]

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The Fontainebleau

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The most famous, and perhaps most notorious, of Miami hotels, the Fontainebleau has played host to everyone from royalty to mobsters, and was even featured prominently in the James Bond classic Goldfinger. The Fontainebleau is the greatest work of iconic Miami Beach midcentury resort architect Morris Lapidus, whose masterful design still shines through despite a more recent billion dollar renovation.

The Eden Roc

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[Photo via Curbed Miami Flickr Pool/Phillip Pessar]

The Mayfair

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Originally called Mayfair House when it was designed in the 1980s by iconic Miami architect Kenneth Treister, the Mayfair is distinctly unique and also extremely localized to its Coconut Grove environment. Intricate carved-wood, tile, and metal details are evocative of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, but faintly art nouveau-esque, in a way that Wright's architecture never was, . The urban hotel is centered around two atria with elaborate interior gardens and fountains, and it has a rooftop pool.

The Biltmore Hotel

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The grand, towering 1920s Mediterranean Revival Biltmore Hotel is probably one of the greatest hotels ever designed by Schultze & Weaver, architects of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The hotel sits on the edge of the Riviera Golf Course, and features the country’s largest hotel pool (once the largest pool in the world) where Johnny Weissmuller was a swimming instructor prior to staring as Tarzan in Hollywood.

The Standard Spa Hotel

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The Miami Beach incarnation of Andre Balazs’ chain of ‘Standards’, the Standard Spa took over the midcentury ‘Lido Spa’ on Belle Isle, within walking distance of the heart of South Beach but still quietly removed from it all. The exhibitionistic ethos of the Standard brand is carried out here with very public bathtubs on the guest room terraces, which are separated from the hotel’s public walkways by nothing more than breezy white curtains. The Standard has a very relazing and un-South-Beach-like bayfront pool as well as a steamy hamam in its upstairs spa.

The Raleigh

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The Raleigh was Andre Balazs’ first Miami Beach hotel, which he extensively restored to its original art deco glory. The hotel’s incredible, sinuously curved pool was famously designed for Esther Williams, who swam there. During the renovation, Balazs raised the pool’s water level, flooding the sunken terrace around it to create a shallow moat, and turned the former diving board into a waterfall. It’s now owned by sbe Group, who also owns the new and much hyped SLS, so watch out. Luckily they seem to be preserving what's great about the original hotel, but a rear addition is now in the planning stages.

The Delano

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Named after FDR, the Roosevelts kept a suite at the art deco Delano for their trips to Florida in the good old days. Originally designed by B. Robert Swartburg, the hotel’s deco styling is more provocative than most, with sharp angles, and a towering verticality. It was one of the earliest and most successful of the hotels to be redone during South Beach’s revival, when Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager hired interior designer Philippe Starck to gut the entire lobby floor and install flowing white curtains to capture the breezes. Although not the most historically sensitive of renovations, Starck created a magical space that is unmatched among Miami Beach hotel lobbies to this day. Also magical: the heavy iron garden furniture that Starck put in the shallow end of the pool decades ago is still there.

W South Beach

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One of South Beach’s hottest hotels, the W is admittedly of-the-moment, but has been called the Starwood brand’s signature W, and stands out with its spectacular lobby, leading restaurants, and popularity with celebrities and creative types alike. Even starchitect Zaha Hadid purchased a double unit in the residential portion of the building, which she lives in a part of every year. Unlike some other very posh hotels that cut themselves off from the outside world, the W has embraced its civic presence and is always hosting conventions and parties.

InterContinental Miami

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The grand dame of Downtown Miami hotels, the InterContinental, dripping in marble has gone through a recent renovation. Along with new guest rooms designed by Venus Williams, and a successful new restaurant, the hotel has dressed up its facade with huge digital display screens above the front entrance and thousands of LED lights. But don't worry, the InterContinental is just as stately as ever, more or less.

The Shore Club

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Another Morgans Hotel, the Shore Club was one of Ian Schrager’s first forays into Miami Beach back when Mr. Schrager was still sailing the Morgans ship. And the place is almost exactly as Ian left it, with white curtains in the lobby similar to what Ian would also do at the Delano and a still-stunnning pool deck. The Shore Club is as refreshingly beautiful as ever.

Mondrian South Beach

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The Mondrian is the last, and most recent of the Miami Beach hotels under the Morgans flag. This time Morgans went bayside, converting a midcentury apartment building into a chic and spacious hotel. It has elements that seem to be signature to a Morgans Miami Beach property, like the white lobby, and new elements adding a bit of surprise, like the floating head on the wall, and a heavy black staircase that totally underlines the sheer whiteness of the white.

The Sagamore

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Renowned for its art collection, the Sagamore’s owners—the Taplins—have been filling the hotel with art since opening it in the early days of South Beach's revival.

The Loews Miami Beach

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The largest hotel in South Beach, and the only one built from scratch during the South Beach revival (except for the hotel’s annex, the historic St. Moritz), the Lowes is a large convention hotel that evokes the area’s art deco roots. It comes complete with an impressively large pool, a grand breezeway leading through the property and an oceanfront ballroom.

Mandarin-Oriental

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The Mandarin’s rankings are as near to perfect as they get (it has like a million diamonds, or stars, or whatever), and has been a signal of Brickell’s apotheosis as a luxury urban destination - along with contemporaries the Conrad, the Four Seasons, and the JW Marriott, since it was built.

Gale South Beach

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A graduate of Curbed Miami's first Hotels Heatmap, and a subject of much Curbed coverage (not all of it positive, we should add) the Gale South Beach has proven itself to be a fast mainstay in the Miami hotel scene. Although we were in shock by the extent of the alterations during construction, the end result proved excellent and very sensitive to South Beach's art deco fabric. The rooftop pool is beautiful, and the hotel's Regent Cocktail Club is a favorite South Beach haunt. Across James Avenue, we're eagerly looking forward to the hotel's upcoming expansion, the Gale Suites at the Kaskades.

Soho Beach House

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A private British club for young creative types that rents its rooms to the public for very high prices, the Soho Beach House has become a mainstay in the too-cool-for-school Miami social scene. Although we were originally put off by the exclusivity, Soho is here to stay and is unlike almost any other obsessively trendy Miami Beach offering. In fact, the intimate hotel, which seems to be packed to the rafters with all sorts of surprises, is almost the total opposite of its next door neighbor, the Fontainebleau. The tower addition to the historic art deco Sovereign Hotel by architect Allan Shulman is also very well done. The interior decor is also rather intense, but lots of fun.

The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

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The St. Regis Bal Harbour may have meant the destruction of one of Morris Lapidus' most classic midcentury beach resorts, the Americana, but move on one must. The combination hotel and condos have been around for a few years by now and, in addition to singlehandedly boosting Bal Harbour's tax rolls by a whopping %31.4, the hotel embodies everything about Bal Harbour: tasteful luxury on an absolutely huge scale. Just walking from the front entrance to a modest poolside party, one is immediately offered a flute of champagne practically upon stepping out of one's car, and then escorted by no less than four attendants on the way to the event.

The Freehand

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Another graduate of Curbed Miami's first Hotels Heatmap, the Freehand Miami raises the design bar for hostels—it is very much a hostel complete with dormitories and a scrappy backpacker vibe—by about a million degrees. The whole place is eclectic and wonderfully mismatched. Built by the guy that did the Ace Hotels and designed by the same firm, Roman & Williams, the Freehand is home to the Broken Shaker, a bar very popular among young hipsters or artsy people or whatever.

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The Fontainebleau

The most famous, and perhaps most notorious, of Miami hotels, the Fontainebleau has played host to everyone from royalty to mobsters, and was even featured prominently in the James Bond classic Goldfinger. The Fontainebleau is the greatest work of iconic Miami Beach midcentury resort architect Morris Lapidus, whose masterful design still shines through despite a more recent billion dollar renovation.

The Eden Roc

[Photo via Curbed Miami Flickr Pool/Phillip Pessar]

The Mayfair

Originally called Mayfair House when it was designed in the 1980s by iconic Miami architect Kenneth Treister, the Mayfair is distinctly unique and also extremely localized to its Coconut Grove environment. Intricate carved-wood, tile, and metal details are evocative of the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, but faintly art nouveau-esque, in a way that Wright's architecture never was, . The urban hotel is centered around two atria with elaborate interior gardens and fountains, and it has a rooftop pool.

The Biltmore Hotel

The grand, towering 1920s Mediterranean Revival Biltmore Hotel is probably one of the greatest hotels ever designed by Schultze & Weaver, architects of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. The hotel sits on the edge of the Riviera Golf Course, and features the country’s largest hotel pool (once the largest pool in the world) where Johnny Weissmuller was a swimming instructor prior to staring as Tarzan in Hollywood.

The Standard Spa Hotel

The Miami Beach incarnation of Andre Balazs’ chain of ‘Standards’, the Standard Spa took over the midcentury ‘Lido Spa’ on Belle Isle, within walking distance of the heart of South Beach but still quietly removed from it all. The exhibitionistic ethos of the Standard brand is carried out here with very public bathtubs on the guest room terraces, which are separated from the hotel’s public walkways by nothing more than breezy white curtains. The Standard has a very relazing and un-South-Beach-like bayfront pool as well as a steamy hamam in its upstairs spa.

The Raleigh

The Raleigh was Andre Balazs’ first Miami Beach hotel, which he extensively restored to its original art deco glory. The hotel’s incredible, sinuously curved pool was famously designed for Esther Williams, who swam there. During the renovation, Balazs raised the pool’s water level, flooding the sunken terrace around it to create a shallow moat, and turned the former diving board into a waterfall. It’s now owned by sbe Group, who also owns the new and much hyped SLS, so watch out. Luckily they seem to be preserving what's great about the original hotel, but a rear addition is now in the planning stages.

The Delano

Named after FDR, the Roosevelts kept a suite at the art deco Delano for their trips to Florida in the good old days. Originally designed by B. Robert Swartburg, the hotel’s deco styling is more provocative than most, with sharp angles, and a towering verticality. It was one of the earliest and most successful of the hotels to be redone during South Beach’s revival, when Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager hired interior designer Philippe Starck to gut the entire lobby floor and install flowing white curtains to capture the breezes. Although not the most historically sensitive of renovations, Starck created a magical space that is unmatched among Miami Beach hotel lobbies to this day. Also magical: the heavy iron garden furniture that Starck put in the shallow end of the pool decades ago is still there.

W South Beach

One of South Beach’s hottest hotels, the W is admittedly of-the-moment, but has been called the Starwood brand’s signature W, and stands out with its spectacular lobby, leading restaurants, and popularity with celebrities and creative types alike. Even starchitect Zaha Hadid purchased a double unit in the residential portion of the building, which she lives in a part of every year. Unlike some other very posh hotels that cut themselves off from the outside world, the W has embraced its civic presence and is always hosting conventions and parties.

InterContinental Miami

The grand dame of Downtown Miami hotels, the InterContinental, dripping in marble has gone through a recent renovation. Along with new guest rooms designed by Venus Williams, and a successful new restaurant, the hotel has dressed up its facade with huge digital display screens above the front entrance and thousands of LED lights. But don't worry, the InterContinental is just as stately as ever, more or less.

The Shore Club

Another Morgans Hotel, the Shore Club was one of Ian Schrager’s first forays into Miami Beach back when Mr. Schrager was still sailing the Morgans ship. And the place is almost exactly as Ian left it, with white curtains in the lobby similar to what Ian would also do at the Delano and a still-stunnning pool deck. The Shore Club is as refreshingly beautiful as ever.

Mondrian South Beach

The Mondrian is the last, and most recent of the Miami Beach hotels under the Morgans flag. This time Morgans went bayside, converting a midcentury apartment building into a chic and spacious hotel. It has elements that seem to be signature to a Morgans Miami Beach property, like the white lobby, and new elements adding a bit of surprise, like the floating head on the wall, and a heavy black staircase that totally underlines the sheer whiteness of the white.

The Sagamore

Renowned for its art collection, the Sagamore’s owners—the Taplins—have been filling the hotel with art since opening it in the early days of South Beach's revival.

The Loews Miami Beach

The largest hotel in South Beach, and the only one built from scratch during the South Beach revival (except for the hotel’s annex, the historic St. Moritz), the Lowes is a large convention hotel that evokes the area’s art deco roots. It comes complete with an impressively large pool, a grand breezeway leading through the property and an oceanfront ballroom.

Mandarin-Oriental

The Mandarin’s rankings are as near to perfect as they get (it has like a million diamonds, or stars, or whatever), and has been a signal of Brickell’s apotheosis as a luxury urban destination - along with contemporaries the Conrad, the Four Seasons, and the JW Marriott, since it was built.

Gale South Beach

A graduate of Curbed Miami's first Hotels Heatmap, and a subject of much Curbed coverage (not all of it positive, we should add) the Gale South Beach has proven itself to be a fast mainstay in the Miami hotel scene. Although we were in shock by the extent of the alterations during construction, the end result proved excellent and very sensitive to South Beach's art deco fabric. The rooftop pool is beautiful, and the hotel's Regent Cocktail Club is a favorite South Beach haunt. Across James Avenue, we're eagerly looking forward to the hotel's upcoming expansion, the Gale Suites at the Kaskades.

Soho Beach House

A private British club for young creative types that rents its rooms to the public for very high prices, the Soho Beach House has become a mainstay in the too-cool-for-school Miami social scene. Although we were originally put off by the exclusivity, Soho is here to stay and is unlike almost any other obsessively trendy Miami Beach offering. In fact, the intimate hotel, which seems to be packed to the rafters with all sorts of surprises, is almost the total opposite of its next door neighbor, the Fontainebleau. The tower addition to the historic art deco Sovereign Hotel by architect Allan Shulman is also very well done. The interior decor is also rather intense, but lots of fun.

The St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort

The St. Regis Bal Harbour may have meant the destruction of one of Morris Lapidus' most classic midcentury beach resorts, the Americana, but move on one must. The combination hotel and condos have been around for a few years by now and, in addition to singlehandedly boosting Bal Harbour's tax rolls by a whopping %31.4, the hotel embodies everything about Bal Harbour: tasteful luxury on an absolutely huge scale. Just walking from the front entrance to a modest poolside party, one is immediately offered a flute of champagne practically upon stepping out of one's car, and then escorted by no less than four attendants on the way to the event.

The Freehand

Another graduate of Curbed Miami's first Hotels Heatmap, the Freehand Miami raises the design bar for hostels—it is very much a hostel complete with dormitories and a scrappy backpacker vibe—by about a million degrees. The whole place is eclectic and wonderfully mismatched. Built by the guy that did the Ace Hotels and designed by the same firm, Roman & Williams, the Freehand is home to the Broken Shaker, a bar very popular among young hipsters or artsy people or whatever.