REVIEW: The W Hotel in South Beach

So I visit South Beach quite often, and most of that is driven by the fact that there are so many cool hotels to explore and stay at.  Yes, the beaches are nice, the scenery isn’t too shabby, and the food and entertainment scene really are about as close to Ibiza as you can get without hopping over the Atlantic, but I really have to give it up to the choices of hotels in Miami Beach.

The W Hotel there is no exception, and it is probably one of my favorite W’s that i’ve visited.  There’s two reasons for that – the room selections, and the incredible pool area.

Lets start with the lobby – it’s a marble affair with plenty of seating areas and one of my favorite restaurants – Mr. Chow’s.  The ceilings are magnificently tall, and there is a definite air of modern opulence that you feel the minute you walk in.

That's the lobby, it's pretty
That’s the lobby, it’s pretty

However, lets get to the bread and butter – the rooms.  It’s no secret that i’m usually a bigger fan of hotels that have a uniqueness to them.  This can often be tough to find in chain hotels, but the W manages to do this quite often even while still instilling a “W-ness” to a property.  At the South Beach location, you get a choice of over a dozen types of room categories.  The result is some really cool floorplans including ones with staircases that lead to rooftop jacuzzis, and other rooms with their own gardens or multiple balconies.  They do all possess the same styling, however, which is not a bad thing because the white wood and gloss black furniture gives a futuristic look to the hotel keeping in line with the Asian-mod-deco look of the entire place.

 

Check out that spiral staircase which leads to...
Check out that spiral staircase which leads to…

...a sweet rooftop jacuzzi
…a sweet rooftop jacuzzi

The other favorite feature of mine is the enormous pool and the surrounding pool deck area.  There seems to always never be enough space to lounge around at most South Beach hotels, but this has never been a problem for me at the W.  If you want a cabana, they’ve got plenty of those, and if you just want a chair, well they have plenty of those as well.  The lush greenery, the dining tables spread amongst the palm tree forest, these are all calming and relaxing features that make this one of my favorite pools in South Beach.

PROS:

  • Pool area is one of the best in a South Beach hotel
  • Rooms are spectacular, great views and incredible floorplans

CONS:

  • Often incredibly expensive, you do get what you pay for, however

SECRETS:

  • If you are an SPG member, the combo points + cash works really well at this property for securing great deals

THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA:

  • Check out my other South Beach articles to read more about this!  I’ve covered it extensively in my review of the SOHO House: South Beach



REVIEW: The Setai Miami

setailobbyoutside
The Setai is quite a fancy place – this area outside of the main lobby is where they regularly hold bikini shows during swim week in Miami

This hotel was one of my first forays into luxury travel shortly after I made my first monies (I can’t say money – I swear).  Consequently, it holds a dear place in my heart, and I have been back many times since the hotel was first opened back in 2004.  It’s gone through quite a few owners and phases since, and I can’t say that it’s as great as it was back in 2004-2007 but it is still an amazing property and still ranks at the top of my list for quality of service and luxuriousness.

The first thing you notice when you enter the Setai is the very unique decor.  This is because the builders were Indonesian and imported most of the materials from Southeast Asia, opting for teak from that region and exotic manta ray skins and handmade items imported specifically for the hotel from Indo, Philippines, and Malaysia.

The result is stunning, with a sexy Asian elegance that you won’t find in many US based hotels other than a few select Mandarin Orientals (like the one in Vegas).

There are two distinct areas to the hotel, the standard hotel room side with its own lobby, and the suite towers which have their own entrance and smaller lobby.

The pool is also one of my favorite aspects of this hotel, with three pools each at a different temperature so that you can roam from one to the other based on your whim.

setaipools
Three pools each with their own temperature

I highly recommend checking out the suite towers when you book, although they are not reasonably priced by a long shot, they’re worthy of special occasions, and the corner units with their floor to ceiling glass walls and the height of the building (it’s one of the tallest in South Beach) makes for spectacular views that you won’t find anywhere else on Collins Ave.

setaibedroom
The Asian theme is throughout, the rooms are relatively small by suite standards but the glass makes you forget about the size

Before the Fontainebleau was rebuilt, and the Soho Beach House was established this was always my first choice, but since those two have come into existence I only choose the Setai if there’s a great deal to be had.

The service is bar-none though, and the concierge service is exquisite.  However, since the changes in ownership some of the previous amenities have been deleted, including complimentary service in a fleet of Range Rover’s and Rolls-Royces.

PROS:

  • You can’t beat the views here, it’s one of the tallest buildings on South Beach
  • The pools are spectacular, and if you want to relax in South Beach it really doesn’t get better than this.

CONS:

  • The price is pretty high even for a luxury hotel
  • The service is not as good as it used to be, and they have deleted many amenities

SECRETS:

  • Try out the Passion Fruit Martini, it’s one of my favorite drinks ever, and i’m not into sweet drinks normally.  It has a nice spicy kick to it!
  • If you are trying to get a great rate, google “Setai Miami Rentals”.  The condo units owned here often have great rental rates, especially off-season

chilipassionsetaimartini
Order the Passion-Fruit Chili Martini (or two)

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA:

  • I’ve mentioned some of these in my other post from South Beach here



REVIEW: The Ritz-Carlton South Beach

ritzsouthbeachlobby

When you think of South Beach you automatically conjure up thoughts of art-deco and 1980’s glamour.  All white decor and contemporary style.

The Ritz-Carlton in South Beach bucks this trend, severely.  The first thing you notice about the Ritz here is how large the lobby is.  Keeping in line with other Ritz properties this one is just as large, most of the other properties on Collins Avenue are relatively small in comparison, save for the Fontainebleau.  The hotel’s layout reminds me of a cruise ship with its multiple levels that jet out over each other, and the pool “deck” with rooms surrounding it on both sides with patios that mimic the look of outdoor balconies on upper level staterooms.  If you’re sitting at the pool it gives you the impression that you’re on a cruise perpetually on its way towards the Atlantic Ocean – and i’m ok with it.

ritzsouthbeachpool
The pool overlooks the ocean and is surrounded on both sides by hotel rooms, mimicking the outlook of a cruise ship

Overall, the hotel is luxurious and modern yet retaining much of the feel of a Ritz-Carlton with dark woods and darker furniture.

I think it’s a great place if you’re looking to stay within the Ritz-Carlton or Marriott chain while in South Beach, but I can’t recommend it over a few other options that are unique to Miami Beach, including the SOHO Beach HouseDelano South Beach, or the One Hotel.

If you DO want great service, and are used to a certain level of sophistication, then definitely check this out.  However, I feel that there’s other ways to experience the eclectic vibe of SoBe.

PROS:

  • Cool pool area with a great view overlooking the ocean
  • Excellent service, which is tough to normally get in South Beach

CONS:

  • You won’t be able to get the real South Beach feel, it doesn’t have the uniqueness that some of the other art-deco properties in South Beach offer

SECRETS:

  • You won’t need a car, this hotel is RIGHT in the center of everything in South Beach

OTHER STUFF IN SOUTH BEACH:

  • I’ve been to South Beach well over 20+ times so I have a long list, but always manage to walk down Ocean Blvd.  You can’t get the whole experience unless you do this

oceanblvd
This is the quintessential part of South Beach – Ocean Blvd at night.  In all it’s Scarface glory