arial view of hotel and beach
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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.

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Rooftop Bar Lounge at 1 Hotel South Beach, Miami, Florida

1 Hotel South Beach

The sprawling, beachfront 1 Hotel South Beach sets the standard for eco-luxury in Miami, boasting stylish rooms, a hip scene and wellness-focused dining venues.

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Room with outside view at Acqualina Resort, Miami, Florida

Acqualina Resort

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.

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View from Lounge - Carillon Hotel & Spa, Miami, Florida

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.

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EAST, Miami

Sleek and modern, Miami's EAST is an elegant oasis in the heart of Brickell’s city center.

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Faena Miami

Read the Indagare review of the Faena Miami Beach hotel, an over-the-top, beachfront dream designed by Baz Luhrmann.

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Bedroom at Fisher Island, Miami, Florida

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.

Bedroom with Balcony at Fontainebleau Hotel, Miami, Florida

Fontainebleau Hotel

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.

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Pool at the Four Seasons Miami

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.

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Mandarin Oriental Miami

The Mandarin Oriental Miami is a contemporary option ideal for those with layovers or seeking a spa-focused trip.

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Exterior View - Miami Beach EDITION, Miami, Florida - Courtesy Nicholas Koening

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.

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Outside Lounge at Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida

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.

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view over hotel pool from above with palm trees and beach and ocean in the distance

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.

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two large outdoor pools with palm trees

Setai Miami Beach

South Beach’s chicest hotel option is the Asian-cool Setai, which seamlessly offers both direct beach access and discreet luxury.

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Suite at SLS Hotel South Beach, Miami, Florida

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.

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Suite at  Soho Beach House, Miami, Florida

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.

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Suite at St. Regis Bal Harbour, Miami, Florida

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.

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Suite at The Betsy South Beach, Miami, Florida

The Betsy South Beach

From the exterior, the Betsy’s colonial architecture immediately sets it apart from its Art Deco neighbors on Ocean Drive. That distinction remains true well after walking through the front doors, and the Betsy is a welcome alternative to the bigger luxury options further up Collins Avenue.

The property’s 130 rooms and suites are divided between two buildings, connected via catwalk over an alleyway. The Dixon Wing is the original section of the hotel, inside a neo-Colonial gem at the northern end of Ocean Drive. It's here that guests will find the restaurant—seafood and steakhouse staple LT— library, a loungey basement bar, peaceful rooftop (with treetop views over Lummus Park to the water) and a small courtyard pool. Behind it, the Hohauser Wing occupies the former Carlton Hotel, an historic Art Deco property on Collins Avenue. This wing has a coffee shop (serving the local favorite, Panther), fitness center, art gallery, large interior courtyard, and, above it, a "floating" rooftop with a sun-soaked pool deck.

Rooms throughout are furnished comfortably and simply, with crisp, white Sferra linens, custom walnut floors, plantation shutters, raffia and sisal accents and pops of color. Although the best views are of the sea, guests who want quieter evenings should ask for pool views. Ocean view rooms overlook Ocean Drive, which can be noisy late into the evening. Beware of the city view rooms, which may overlook the alley behind the hotel or Collins Avenue.

The original wing's rooftop has a gorgeous view but no services—apart from morning yoga—and feels secluded and private. Before the expansion into the Carlton, the Betsy's courtyard pool left much to be desired, steering many guests to the beach instead. The newer pool, however, is stunning, with 360-degree views over a swathe of South Beach and over to Miami proper. The best part: no buildings block the sun, meaning there is direct light all day long—unheard of for any other top Miami Beach property. This is a major plus, since the Betsy's beach access, though close, is in the public section of Lummus Park and can get crowded.

The lobby houses LT Steak, a trendy and tasty hotspot that serves steakhouse specials as well as sushi, but real insiders know the place to be at night is the lounge hidden behind unmarked doors in the basement. The low ceiling is made of stretched vinyl, which reflects the entire bar.

Jonathan and Leslie Pletzik bought the property to be a hub for their many philanthropic causes, and the hotel has developed an identity based in arts and culture, hosting art shows, poetry readings and other surprisingly intellectual events. The homey feeling in the lobby extends throughout the building, with such touches as backgammon boards, funky art exhibitions, and a Writer’s Room that welcomes authors and poets from around the world.

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Sitting Room at W South Beach, Miami, Florida

W South Beach

One of the biggest properties in hotel-rich South Beach, the W has 395 rooms all with a soothing color palette and resort feel.

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