Dear Fathom: My wife and I are getting away for ONE blissful night alone without the kids and want a hotel in South Beach that's nice, chic, fun, and doesn't suck. Does such a place exist?
Now be nice: When it's miserable in Philadelphia, it's always sunny in South Beach. That said, quality can be tough to come by along Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive, where they prize tininess of bikini over speediness of room service.
But your mythic hotel does exist. My tough, discriminating, trustworthy friends recently came back raving about The Betsy on Ocean, so that would be my first choice. Soho Beach House is a bastion of charm and good service in a usually charmless and serviceless town. (Yes, the Soho House, unlikely as it may seem.)
I've stayed at Mondrian, which is clubby and cool and a bit of a scene. It's located on the bay side, a loooong walk or taxi ride away from everything. That said, I spent a day lounging at the pool club and had a great time. Love nest it up! I like The Tides — it's surprisingly elegant for South Beach — but the Kelly Wearstler hotel look, so influential a decade ago, feels a little dated. I'm absolutely crazy about Shore Club. It's right on the beach and is such a self-contained space with so many cozy nooks that you feel like you've tumbled into a city within Miami. If I'm not staying there, I like to go at night and just lounge in a cabana. Very romantic. As for The Setai, yeah, it's a Zen oasis, but it's stupidly expensive.
The Raleigh has the best pool and a dreamy breakfast deck. And no one decorates a hotel like André Balazs, but it's not very private. Speaking of André, there's also The Standard, a chic spa/hotel on an island in the bay (read: remote). Still farther north of South Beach is Fontainebleau — impressive, but also a little too big and a little too Vegas.
You'll need to eat, so have dinner at Michy's. It's across the bay, but everyone goes apeshit over it, and it kills me that I've never been. For brunch, nothing beats a table on the balcony at Scarpetta at Fontainebleau. My pal Lee Schrager, the impresario behind the South Beach and NYC Wine and Food Festivals, eats better than anyone, and right now he loves The Dutch at the W, Red the Steakhouse, and Guru for Indian. You'll love the hotel, but you will need to leave it.
See the locations in this story. (Google Maps)
Most links through Mr and Mrs Smith and Tablet Hotels.
Send your travel dilemmas to Ask Fathom. We're here to help.