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 W Scottsdale Hotel

So I already wrote about one of my favorite hotel’s in Scottsdale (you can read about it here), but the W is probably my second favorite and depending on my mood it sometimes comes in #1 as well (Variety and all that jazz).

Probably the #1 reason why I like the W in Scottsdale – its pool – and let’s not forget, it’s always hot in Scottsdale so this is of prime importance.

So you’re probably wondering, how does it compare to the Valley Ho?  Well, they’re two different spots.  The Valley Ho is very much a boutique hotel with all the associated qualities, there’s less of a corporate feel, some cheeky elements and details, and a property that feels much more tailored to an off-the-beaten-path experience.  The W, however, does much of this in the traditional W manner – which is to say, corporate but still with some passion and uniqueness.

The rooms are probably the second best part of this hotel (after its very cool elevated rooftop pool area).  They are clean, modern, large, and have great views of the surrounding area.

Clean, warm, modern, and luxurious. It matches the desert vibe quite well

Lastly, I can’t help but mention that the lobby and public spaces are spot on (albeit a bit small) for a W.  The fireplace and little cubby areas throughout the lobby make for great spots to hideaway and have a drink and some great conversation – just what hotel lobbies were meant for.


  • Great pool, like really great – lots of space, lots of chairs, and lots of fun
  • Even though it’s not the newest hotel it’s still got a modernity and class to it


  • Not necessarily a con, but across town there exists a pretty good hotel called the Valley Ho, you’ll just have to pick your poison


  • You have to check out the SPG points + cash options on this one, because it’s an expensive hotel in general and you can save a lot of money with the cash + points booking options


  • Take a golf cart ride with one of the local carts that roams around downtown Scottsdale, and have them give you a tour.  It’s a cool little town with some pretty unique dive bars, restaurants, and art galleries and the best way to get a lay of the land is to have a golf-cart tour!

REVIEW: W Bogota – It’s real Colombian here!

This has got to be one of the cooler W hotels in terms of design and style.  Its a small one but its great location and great room rates make it a great home base if you find yourself in the city of Bogota.

What you immediately notice when you enter this property is the moodiness of the place.  This is not unlike most W hotels which have slightly darker surroundings and evoke a sense of sensualness and mystery.

That’s one sexy lounge.  It’s also a great place to hang out in before you head out for the night!

If you book early enough, check out the suites – they go for great prices, and they’re totally worth the price.  For less than $200 I was able to get a suite with its own game room and pool table, and this was during peak holiday season!

The service was above average for a W hotel, they were extremely accommodating when we needed to check in early and even though the room wasn’t ready they gave us complimentary spa access in order for us to freshen ourselves from our journey.

The rooms themselves were in great condition as of this writing, and had a whimsical and charming quality to them.  Especially awesome were the bathrooms, with LED lighting in the showers and gold fixtures that couldn’t help but remind me of something that would be in the infamous Pablo Escobar Mansion.

The gold touches really make this room pop visually.  It’s got some of the most interesting contemporary furnishings i’ve ever seen in a room.  Clean yet warm and inviting

Gold tiles, a gold shower, and gold fixtures.  Remember, gold is best!


  • Its got a bathroom that stands out and makes you wanna smile
  • The service is on par with some higher tier hotels
  • The rates are phenomenal for the quality of hotel you are getting into


  • It’s a smaller property so it doesn’t have a grand feeling to it


  • They really appreciate SPG loyalty here so remember to use your SPG card if you have one.  Also, they have a disproportionate amount of suites so it’s relatively easy to upgrade at the front desk, I highly recommend trying that out if you didn’t book a suite ahead of time


  • You really should check out Tabula when you’re here.  Anthony Bourdain recommends this restaurant and so do I.

The Best Credit Cards to get for travel


I know this subject has been covered by specific sites such as The Points Guy and Nerd Wallet but I wanted to throw my hat in the ring and give an opinion, as sometimes those sites are a bit biased due to their sponsorships and advertisements.

I have at one point or another owned almost every credit card related to rewards travel, but the picture above shows what’s currently in my wallet.  I’ll let you know why I have each one in there and give you some secrets.

Citi Prestige – This one is currently one of my FAVORITE.  The reason why?  They offer 4th night free!!.  You heard that right, everytime you book a hotel through their concierge service they give you the 4th night free.  Recently when I stayed at the Rosewood London and also the Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico I was able to save close to $700 on my stays because of this card. I HIGHLY recommend it, the yearly fee pays for itself, especially if you combine it with the travel credit

Barclays Black Card – This one i’m going to get rid of soon.  I originally got this purely for the novelty factor and to see how it compared to the Amex Centurion which I also carry.  Unfortunately the rewards system is terrible on this card, and the high yearly fee is not offset by any great benefits

Citi Aadvantage – This is also one of my favorites, it offers free checked bags and because I mostly fly American when I buy tickets I usually use this card to amass more American Airlines points.  Their points systems are one of the best when redeeming

Amex SPG (Not Pictured) – I currently use this card the most due to its rewards points system, which can be used with SPG hotels OR transferred over to American Airlines

Ritz-Carlton Rewards – The signup bonus on this card is great, with 3 free nights upon sign-up and Ritz gold status first year for free!

Chase Sapphire Preferred – I am going to switch this one over to the Chase Sapphire Reserve in about a month, but you cannot go wrong with either of these cards (Preferred or Reserve).  They offer some of the best signup bonuses and the rewards redemption process is very simple and the points are often worth a LOT!  If you have ONE card in your wallet I highly recommend this one.

Amex Centurion – This one gets asked about the most, because of its iconic status. It is a charge card, and not technically a credit card (meaning you have to pay off your entire balance in full every month).  It is incredibly hard to get in terms of spending requirements, but I highly recommend it if you get the chance to get one.  The platinum status you acquire on Delta pays off on its own, as I am almost always upgraded to first class or economy Plus even after buying a regular discount economy class ticket.  The other benefits are also SPG Gold and Hilton Honors Diamond status, all of which give you free room upgrades for when you stay at participating hotels.  Are these worth the $7500 initiation fee and $2500 yearly fee?  I would say they are if you travel often, as room and airfare upgrades are significantly expensive and add up quickly.

Chase Palladium – This is another card which I sometimes use for travel as I can combine the points with my other Chase card, but its high annual fee really makes me think twice about keeping it.  The United lounge access is great but I also tend to fly American so it doesn’t help me much in that regard.  The only really great thing about this card is its hidden credit line, which means that your FICO score isn’t impacted (it doesn’t show utilization ratios).



REVIEW: The Nines in Portland

FullSizeRender 7The Nines in Portland is an interesting property.  It was recently remodeled, and has a lot to offer in terms of location and contemporary style, but what detracted me from giving it a full recommendation are the smallish rooms and mediocre bathrooms.

Located centrally in downtown Portland – the Nines is the hip luxury hotel in the SPG group.  It’s got a very cool farm to table restaurant, a very comfy lobby that I could spend hours in, and really great service from the staff.

The rooms are small, but luxuriously appointed – however they do need a little more love and upkeep

I did get a chance to visit some other high end hotels in Portland, and I will say, if you’re visiting the city – you should still stick with the Nines.  It’s got the combination of style and luxury – even if it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, but location is very important in a city where you can walk to most places, and the service goes a long way.

The coolest part of this hotel is the greenhouse above the entire lobby – It gives what little natural light there is in Portland a chance at illuminating the interior of the building

Translucent pink curtains?  It’s gotta be hip…


  • It’s trendy, contemporary, and I like the interior decor of this place
  • The service is great – they’re attentive and quick at handling issues


  • Rooms are small and could use some upgrades


  • The bar in the lobby has an incredible selection of dark liquors


  • If you love Nike, I HIGHLY recommend getting some coupons off of Craiglist and checking out the factory store, there’s lots of great savings to be had there!
  • Walk around downtown and just wander – there’s lots of cool little nooks and crannies around, this is a town where you can just casually meander around without a plan and have a great time doing it

REVIEW: The Le Meridien Barcelona


This hotel is a little gem in the middle of Las Ramblas.  Le Meridien’s are often overlooked by travelers in lieu of larger name chain hotels, but they usually provide the boutique service and luxury that you would expect to find at something comparably higher in price.

I chose this hotel for an extended stay in Barcelona, which resulted in me actually calling this place my home for a bit of time in late Fall a few years back.  It is set in a very centralized part of Barcelona – right in the middle of Las Ramblas, which is essentially the main street in the city.  This made for extremely easy access to shops, restaurants, bars, cafe’s, and pretty much everything else you could ask for when roaming and getting lost in Spain’s best city metropolis (Madrid just isn’t Barcelona if you ask me).

The lobby was a great place to have an afternoon cocktail, and the rooms were modernly appointed and clean with great attentive staff.  Although the property has over 200 rooms it felt much more like a boutique hotel where they knew your name and service was remarkably quick everytime I needed something brought to my room.

Modern rooms here felt cozy, sophisticated, and noticeably well insulated, making for some very restful nights in the city 

The hotel really embodies something which I find to be an epitome of European cities that have been around for centuries but have since grown up with the times, beautiful old world exteriors – but with modern luxurious interiors.  This is the city of Gaudi after all, and interior decor and character and soul should be present at any hotel worth its price of admission.  I felt as if Miro inspired some of the furnishings, colors, and overall decor of this place.

Modern bathrooms with granite, wood, and clean lines made this place feel like it had more character than your average luxury hotel

Of course, the best part of this hotel is and always will be its location.  I don’t think Le Meridien will ever let go of this property.  I highly recommend it if you’re visiting Barcelona.

Barcelona is all about lounging, and this lobby was built specifically for that purpose.  Kudos to SPG & Le Meridien!


  • Great lobby to socialize in and hang out during nighttime hours
  • Rooms were modern but with lots of character and warmth
  • Staff was very attentive for what is a relatively large hotel
  • The location couldn’t be any better for walking to lots of great destinations


  • There are certainly many newer choices and I haven’t reviewed some other top hotels in Barcelona but this one is a solid choice


  • Eat breakfast here at the restaurant downstairs, it’s magnificent


  • I’m biased, but I think everyone should visit the Miro museum while in Barcelona