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.


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


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


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


  • 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

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.

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.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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


  • 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

Order the Passion-Fruit Chili Martini (or two)


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

REVIEW: The Ritz-Carlton South Beach


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.

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.


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


  • 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


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

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

REVIEW: A peek into the SOHO Beach House in Miami


There’s nothing quite as relaxing as tropical climates where a constant breeze keeps the sweat from building up and you can find some shade and a view.  The SOHO Beach House in Miami is one of those spots.

From the minute you enter the building (located right next to the legendary Fontainebleau) there is a feeling of secrecy.  After all, this is home of the SOHO club, known internationally as hidden lounges reserved for celebrities and well-heeled folk.  You walk into the hidden check-in area where reception whisks you into an even more hidden (and velvet lined) elevator.

The best part of this hotel is the decor.  It’s eclectic and feels like something that someone might put together for their own house.  It’s a mishmash of items with a beachside bungalow feel.  I wouldn’t have thought that leather chairs with reclaimed wood and outdoor cushions would feel at home inside a hotel room but for the SOHO Beach House it all works well.

The best part of this hotel though is the property itself, namely the upstairs spaces, and all the little nooks and crannies of the SOHO Beach House members-only property.  As a matter of fact, if you’re not a member of SOHO House this is the only way you’re going to get into this place short of being invited by a friend.

There’s a movie screening room, an upstairs hot-tub, a smallish pool, and dedicated beach access with chaises for hotel guests.  The anchor restaurant in the hotel is of course Cecconis, similar to the SOHO House in Los Angeles and definitely worth a visit.  Everything about the decor of this property is charming, upscale, and incredibly detailed.  It’s got a whimsical touch to it and I definitely think it’s a great alternative to your standard faire in South Beach (as there’s so many options there).


Check out the wood tub, the exposed brass piping, and the wicker baskets for towels and bath accessories


  • Impeccably decorated with a great beach vibe.  This place really stands out and has character and charm
  • Incredible rooftop deck which is great for a romantic retreat or just relaxing with your favorite beverage.
  • Each room is different from the others which gives it a bed and breakfast type of experience (if that’s your type of thing)


  • The service was not very good.  It took multiple calls to get some extra soap and towels, and unlike many small boutique luxury properties, the staff doesn’t go out of their way to know your name or particular preferences.
  • The pool area is relatively small and covered by the trees and high walls of the building on either side, making it hard to catch some rays or to find an available lounge chaise.


  • Ask the front desk to send a bartender to your room for happy hour. There’s a full bar set including fresh fruits, bitters, and assorted mixers on the bar cart in the room and bartenders on staff will come to your room to make drinks for you as you get ready for your night out on the town!


  • With the caveat that i’ve been to Miami well over 30+ times one thing that always stands out to me (And still my favorite hotel in Miami) is the Setai.  It’s the pinnacle of luxury in South beach and has been since it’s inception.  I really enjoy a speciality martini they make there called the “Chili Passion Martini”.  Enjoy it in the lobby of the Setai which is decorated with manta ray skin-lined walls and teak wood imported from Indonesia.  I always make a stop here when i’m in Miami.
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