1 Hotel South Beach
Acqualina's wide beach, three swimming pools (one is adults only for those traveling without children) and active kid’s club plus babysitting service will keep the little ones happy, while parents will love the indulgent ESPA, luxurious rooms and seamless service. Should sun and sea get tedious, head to the nearby Bal Harbor Shops for serious retail therapy; the hotel offers a free shuttle throughout the day.
The only drawback is a relative dearth in dining options. As the property is located on Sunny Isles, there aren't many excellent cuisine establishments nearby, but the three outlets on the property, including Il Mulino, are excellent.
Carillon Hotel & Spa
Spas have come a long way from the clear-broth serving resorts of yesteryear, if the Carillon is anything to go by. Days there are centered around the bevy of exercise, yoga, Pilates and TRX classes both indoor and on the beautiful beach, which sits directly in front of the building. The spa area includes not just the standard whirlpool, sauna and steam rooms, but also herbal therapy enclaves and an igloo room, to cool off in aromatherapy surroundings.
Guest rooms are contemporary with large, luxurious bathrooms and beautiful views of the ocean and beach. Some suites come with a full kitchen, though the spa's food is healthy and delicious. When guests tire of being in an enclosed high-rise, they can go down to the beach, walk along the boardwalk, or hit the Miami scene.
With the exception of dining room service, which can be slow, the staff is excellent. Some people derive calm and health from the natural world and prefer spas where outdoor activities such as hiking are an integral part of the program. But, if you want to get away from winter, get some exercise and check out the Miami Beach scene, then this spa will deliver a fantastic long weekend in the sun.
Eau Palm Beach
Formerly The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach the Eau Palm Beach boasts ocean front accommodations, knowledgeable staff and a fantastic spa, and is a great option for those looking to be removed from the action and for those in search of value in a luxury-oriented town.
The downside to the property remains its location. The beach continues to shrink due to erosion, and guests need a car if they want to go into Palm Beach for shopping or dining. That said, the drive into town weaves along the coast, offering a glimpse of spectacular mansions, and most people are perfectly happy to lounge by the pool rather than mess their pedicures in the sand anyhow. Add to that prices well below those at the Breakers, and the resort’s winning combination becomes clear.
Read the Indagare review of the Faena Miami Beach hotel, an over-the-top, beachfront dream designed by Baz Luhrmann.
Fisher Island Club
The birth of Fisher Island dates back to 1925, when William Vanderbilt II traded Carl Fisher a yacht for Fisher’s undeveloped land three miles off the Miami coast. Vanderbilt constructed a Mediterranean-style mansion and established the 200-acre island as his family’s winter retreat. Decades later, millionaires of a different breed inhabit this ritzy enclave. The main house still stands, but additional development includes hundreds of lavish condominium residences and a hotel with 15 rooms that has hosted everyone from hedge fund honchos to Oprah Winfrey.
Yet unlike at some of Miami’s other swish resorts, there is a surprising lack of pretense here. Children are welcome, and families divide their days between the golf course, 18 tennis courts (including the only two grass courts in Florida), seven restaurants, seven pools, an exotic bird aviary, scientific observatory, two marinas and a 37,000-square-foot spa and fitness center (note: guests must be over 18 to use the gym). The beach is much quieter than those in downtown Miami, but there are few amenities, so don't expect a roster of water sports.
In the past, some guests complained of the unpredictable quality of the hotel’s accommodations and uneven service. The décor, keeping in line with the property’s historic feel, has an old world look with tufted upholstery and mahogany accents. Bathrooms are spacious, featuring marble sinks, Vichy showers and freestanding clawfoot tubs.
Fisher Island sits 20 minutes from Miami International Airport and just 10 minutes from downtown. Separated from the mainland by a narrow channel, the resort can be reached by an easy, seven-minute ride on the island’s private ferry. Guests arriving in their own car will drive directly onto the boat and be escorted to parking on the other side. The entrance is well marked and ferries depart every quarter hour during the day. Helicopter service is also available.
Miami’s Fontainebleau Hotel—legendary or notorious, depending on who you ask—occupies 22 acres and has eleven restaurants, three night clubs, a $50 million spa with thirty treatment rooms and 1,500 guest rooms that are spread across four towers. The sheer scope of the project conjures images of Las Vegas as opposed to Miami Beach.
In the late 1950s and ‘60s the Fontainebleau was the most glamorous Miami resort, and although a recent renovation clearly had the best intentions, the result is overwhelming and service doesn't run smoothly. Everything about the Fontainebleau is massive, from the size of the pool cabanas, fitted with plasma televisions to the grand candy-orange chandeliers in the lobby.
The Fontainebleau has all the players to make a major splash in the local scene, including big-name chefs (Alan Yau oversees the outpost of U.K. favorite Hakkasan Scott Conan heads Scarpetta), artists and designers (James Turrell created a light installation in the lobby, David Collins designed one of the restaurants) and nightlife, with LIV. But the overwhelming size, poor service and strange clientele all make for a generally sad atmosphere.
Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club
Miami's stunning Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club offers the perfect blend of top-notch service and sumptuous accommodations.
Four Seasons Miami
A comfortable downtown option, the Four Seasons Miami on Brickell Avenue is ideal for layovers or business trips or those who want to be near the airport in comfort.
Four Seasons Orlando
A spectacular luxury property at the Walt Disney World Resort, Four Seasons Orlando offers activities and amenities for children and adults alike.
Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach
Someone who has experienced many Four Seasons properties around the world may find this one unremarkable. But if the architecture and decor are a bit plain-Jane by Four Seasons standards (at least when compared with the chain’s properties in Bali, Costa Rica and Florence), the service does not disappoint. Whether misting you with Evian poolside or whipping up custom cocktails to suit your mood, the staff here is first-rate.
This property is for those looking to be removed from the action of town, as it is located a fifteen-minute drive south of Worth Avenue. The oceanfront suites are not the largest of the resort’s 210 accommodations, but they have the best views. The Restaurant is one of three AAA Five Diamond dining rooms in South Florida. The excellent spa has a dedicated men's section.
Tucked off bustling Duval Street in downtown Key West, the Gardens Hotel consists of private cottages set amidst one of Florida’s oldest gardens, which is flowering with bougainvillea, palms and tropical foliage. The main house, a white plantation-style mansion encircled by spacious verandas, is decorated in a classic style with wicker chairs, rattan furnishings and dark mahogany accents.
The 28 cottages, rooms and suites are spread throughout lush gardens and decorated in a classic fashion but boast modern luxuries like marble bathrooms and fine Italian linens. There is a center patio with a pool, elegant fountains and bar. Inside is the hotel’s signature d’vine gallery, a wine cellar open for tastings. For exploring the quaint towns of Key West, the hotel offers bicycles for rent.
Arriving at Boca Grande, a Gulf of Mexico barrier island, is like going back in time; it exudes understated peacefulness. The old-Florida feel of Boca Grande’s Gasparilla Inn & Club, built in 1913, inspired its motto: Florida as it was meant to be. An ideal spot for families, the majority of visitors to the Gasparilla Inn have been coming for multiple years—often for multiple generations.
A member of the National Register of Historic Places, the Inn has rooms that feel like a preppy yet chic grandmother’s beach house. Rocking chairs on the main porch greet arrivals and the doors open to a carpeted hallway lined with potted palms and display shelves of seashells. The Inn’s 137 rooms are divided between the three-story main building and 17 cottages on the property. While the furnishings lend an old-fashioned allure, all the rooms and cottages are up-to-date. Doors are opened with real keys, not magnetic keycards, but WiFi is available throughout the property.
Days are spent in Lilly Pulitzer and tennis whites. Activities through the Club range from highly active to stationary and relaxed. Tennis can be booked on one of the seven clay courts, golf is available on the Pete Dye-designed course and guides are ready to take anglers sport-fishing in the Gulf or the harbor (Boca Grande is the tarpon-fishing capital of the world). For a more relaxed day – in or out of the sun – guests can play backgammon and croquet, visit the spa, swim and sun-bathe by the two pools and magnificent Gulf and visit the nearby beautiful Spanish-style Johan Fust Community Library and its serene courtyard. The spa offers massages and facials a serene lap pool, Jacuzzi, steam and sauna and a hair and beauty salon. There are Yoga, Zumba and Pilates studios, and a gym that overlooks the ocean.
Guests have the choice of à la carte or all-inclusive meal plans, with breakfast and dinner in the Inn’s dining room or Pink Elephant restaurant and buffet lunch at the Beach Club. Highlights include weekly seafood buffets, afternoon tea in the lobby and breakfast in the dining room. While parents linger over dinner in the Inn’s dining room and enjoy cocktails in BZ’s or the Pink Elephant (don’t miss the Hummer, a White Russian-meets-milkshake cocktail), kids and teenagers can play billiards and ping pong in the game room. On Bingo Nights, whole families rally together in the grand ballroom for the much loved and eagerly anticipated “stand-up-bingo.”
Little Palm Island
Mandarin Oriental Miami
The Mandarin Oriental Miami is a contemporary option ideal for those with layovers or seeking a spa-focused trip.
Miami Beach EDITION
Working with the king of minimalism, designer John Pawson, and the comfort-focused Yabu Peshelberg Studio, Miami Beach EDITION is a chic retreat in Mid Beach, about a 15-minute walk from the bustle of South Beach. The property is inside the former Seville Hotel, an icon of Miami Beach modernism, now meticulously restored and refreshed to exude 1950s Mad Men glamour.
The hotel entrance sets the stage with an expanse of white marble, a jungle of tropical plants and gold mosaic columns. The 294 accommodations are minimal and decorated in a neutral palette of creams and grays, but boast unique features like the minibar/shop, which includes Illesteva sunglasses and other beach-appropriate goodies. The premier accommodations are undoubtedly the 28 bungalow suites, which are housed in a new low-rise, horseshoe-shaped building and include dining rooms, sitting areas, luxurious bathrooms and terraces. The upper level suites even boast private roof decks and plunge pools with ocean views.
The food and beverage options are stellar, thanks to celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who oversees all the venues. The Matador Room has a swanky 1950’s vibe and serves South American fusion cuisine. The adjacent Matador Bar, which features a striking floor-to-ceiling installation of bull fighting scenes from French photographer Lucien Clergues, is a good spot to grab a drink pre- or post-dinner. More casual all-day dining can be found at Market Edition, where diners can pick up baked goods, wood-fired pizzas, a wide selection of cured meats and freshly-squeezed juices and smoothies.
The excellent spa boasts a hammam, dry sauna, detox room, steam showers and a Moroccan-inspired relaxation room, along with a lengthy offering of treatments and well-equipped fitness center. The power nap treatment, which is just 20 minutes, is a great way to start your stay. The Beauty Lounge provides hair, nail and make-up services.
The original 1950s pool, a protected landmark complete with a purely decorative diving platform, has been joined by a second, which is geared more towards lap swimmers. Several acres of Madison Cox–designed gardens unite the pool areas with an outdoor cocktail lounge and private cabanas fitted out with daybeds, stocked refrigerators, televisions and sound systems. The Beach Club offers a large swathe of sand, with chaises, sun umbrellas and towel service.
Since this is an Ian Schrager conception, nightlife abounds in the form of Basement Miami, an indoor club with ice-skating and bowling. The design incorporates a separate street entrance so hotel guests aren’t bothered by the scene.
Indagare Note: While the service is quite friendly it can be a little slow and erratic as is the case with many hotels on Miami Beach.
Palm Beach Historic Inn
In a resort town known for its extravagance, a charming low-key bed-and-breakfast is a breath of fresh air. The rooms are small but very pretty, decorated in a style consistent with the building’s 1920s roots. The property feels more like a home than a hotel, down to the delicious (complimentary) pastries delivered to your room each morning.
Ritz-Carlton’s flagship property, this newly renovated (reopened July 2023) Naples resort rests on a wide and tranquil stretch of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. The extravagant lobby and its Champagne bar are both flooded with natural light from floor to ceiling windows. Expansive grounds are beautifully manicured and maintained to create a refined tropical oasis. Spacious guest rooms and suites have been renovated and modernized, offering sleek furnishings and marble bathrooms (many have ocean views). The Ritz-Carlton Club Level—a 2023 addition—provides club-level guests a plethora of extra perks, including a separate check in/out desk with concierge, a staffed full bar and a dining room featuring five daily culinary presentations.
The resort fronts a powdery white sand beach, accessible through a leaf-shaded wooden walkway. There is also a large spa (with a steam room, multiple saunas, aqua lounges, and an outdoor mineral pool) as well as separate pools for families and adults, tennis courts and a golf course at the sister Ritz Carlton Naples Golf Resort.
There are four restaurants on property: Gumbo Limbo, an oceanside grill with Floridian fare and sunset views; Dusk, an Asian fusion restaurant with sushi and inventive cocktails, the upscale steakhouse The Grill; and Sofra, with its welcoming environment and delicious Mediterranean dishes.
Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes
This elegant property located on a peaceful lake provides a retreat from all of the attractions of Disney World. The towering resort was built with Mediterranean flair and decorated in traditional Ritz-Carlton fashion with glittering chandeliers, marble pillars and plush furnishings. The floor-to-ceiling lobby windows overlook an expansive palazzo with a curvaceous pool fringed by palms and the golf course that wraps around the property.
The 582 spacious rooms and suites are decorated in a neutral palette with luxurious furnishings and views overlooking the golf course and forests beyond.
One of the best amenities of the resort is their terrific spa, which has a large selection of treatments and salon services, as well as a delicious spa dining menu that can be enjoyed poolside. The resort offers many different culinary choices, from the award-winning Norman’s and southern-inspired Highball & Harvest, to the more casual fare and cocktails at the Lobby Lounge and café Bleu. Guests of the Ritz-Carlton are also welcome to use the amenities and restaurants of the J.W. Marriott property next door.
Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
Few guests (especially those with children) leave the property after checking in at the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne. Once guests set foot in the soaring lobby, complete with spectacular Atlantic views, they typically spend the rest of the visit taking advantage of the two sizable pools, expansive grounds and beachfront areas. It’s known for its tennis center, one of the largest facilities of any Ritz-Carlton, and for having sailboats, paddleboats, kayaks and surfboards available to guests. The staff is also happy to arrange activities nearby, including snorkeling, biking, golf, fishing and Jet Skiing, which all adds up to make the property feel more like a Caribbean resort than a Miami hotel.
The 402 spacious rooms have British colonial–inspired furnishings and yellow-gold floral curtains and many have ocean views (which are spectacular and should be requested). Dining choices include Rumbar beachfront tiki bar with occasional live music, Cantina, a Mexican restaurant under a palapa on the water and the more elegant Cioppino, an Italian restaurant that serves a sizeable Sunday brunch. The hotel also offers complimentary car service to restaurants in Key Biscayne on weekend nights. Key Panty is a coffee and snacks shop just off the lobby with offerings for kids (cupcakes, ice cream) and their parents (wine, specialty cheeses). A favorite activity is filling up a picnic basket with goodies and then taking a bike ride around the area, stopping in a shady spot for lunch.
The 20,000-square-foot, award-winning spa is one of Miami’s best, featuring not only treatment rooms and glamorous relaxing areas but also the Complete Wellness and Fitness Center that includes personal training and classes.
Ritz-Carlton, South Beach
The 1953 landmark DiLido Hotel, designed by famed architect Morris Lapidus, features a multimillion-dollar Latin American art collection courtesy of Diana Lowenstein, one of the hotel’s principal owners. Families will appreciate the Ritz Kids program, which includes supervised activities from sand-castle-building to shell collecting.
Not that the resort has lost track of what else the parents like. Indulge in the wonderful Carita pedicure with a massage therapist at the spa, and don’t miss caipiroskas (a Brazilian cocktail made with vodka, lime juice and sugar).
With nearly 400 rooms, the hotel feels large and somewhat corporate. Furnishings tend towards beiges and tans with light-colored leather upholstered furniture and blue textile accents. The hotel's central location offers a wide swath of beach with full-service amenities as well as easy access to city shopping and restaurant options.
Setai Miami Beach
SLS Hotel South Beach
While the outdoor spaces, restaurants (José Andrés’s Bazaar and Katsuya) and lobby at the SLS are all California-chic and host the beautiful and the damned throughout the day and night, its guest rooms are serene with black and white furnishings and sumptuous beds. Standard rooms are on the small side but make up for their diminutive stature with beautiful furnishings, including French provincial style wall coverings. Villa rooms sit over the pool (so are not quiet, per se), but are much larger and could easily fit a rollaway bed.
Soho Beach House
Located on the site of the historic Sovereign Hotel and removed from the chaos of Ocean Drive, the Soho Beach House is a members-only club, hotel and spa, but non-members may book rooms and enjoy all the club has to offer. Its fifty bedrooms marry bright textiles and classic furniture to create an Art Deco meets South American vibe; guests can choose from Beachside or Bayside rooms in the hotel’s historic or tower buildings. For privacy and panoramic ocean views, rooms in the Tower (no more than two per floor) are truly spectacular.
During the day, guests and members can relax on a lounge bed by the main pool, roof deck, or in a beach hut on the Soho House’s private stretch of sand. Alternatively, guests may indulge in a range of therapeutic spa treatments from cheeky British product line, Cowshed. Nightlife at the Soho Beach House is animated, yet exclusive. Book a table (in advance) at renowned Italian eatery Cecconi’s and then head up to the 1940’s Havana-inspired Club Bar, where suspender-clad bartenders sling mojitos and patrons shuffle to contemporary Cuban beats.
Events throughout the season are excellent and range from receptions with Jeffrey Deitch, Director of MOCA Los Angeles and art-world luminary, to private movie screenings.
St. Regis Bal Harbour
The St. Regis Bal Harbour might be just a twenty-minute drive north of South Beach, but it could be a world away. And the entrance might have a de rigueur Miami façade—portico, liveried valet parkers, Lamborghini ostentatiously parked front and center—but walk into the mirrored hallway and you could be in another city, or even another era.
An old Hollywood glam pervades the public spaces, while the 214 large guest rooms feature mid-century design elements. And no worrying about whether your room will have a decent view: all rooms have spacious balconies with ocean views, due to genius architectural planning that designed the building on a slant.
Those looking to avoid the drive to South Beach will find comfort in the plentiful dining options on property. Located just steps from the pool, Atlantikós, serves fresh Mediterranean dishes throughout the day. BH Burger Bar offers a casual atmosphere with burgers, wings & craft beers. Breakfast and lunch can also be enjoyed at the lobby restaurant, La Gourmandise, and craft cocktails in the evening at the St Regis Bar (be sure to stop by at 6:00pm for the daily sabering ritual).
The St Regis offers plenty of outdoor space, with separate pools for families and a tranquil adults-only time, day beds and cabanas and a beautiful swath of beach, which remains much less of a scene than further down in South Beach.
The St. Regis offer suites or connecting rooms which can be an advantage for families. A separate sleeping area allows kids to nap or go to bed early while parents can still enjoy some downtime.