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.
This contemporary boutique hotel opened just a few years ago as AVIA near the buzzing City Market area. In 2011 Hyatt bought the upscale AVIA chain, but kept the hotel’s contemporary urban vibe intact. With 151 guest rooms, Andaz aims to draw a younger, hipper audience than the many bed and breakfasts in historic Savannah. Rooms are comfortable, if somewhat corporate, and come outfitted with stylish luxuries including flat-panel TVs and a well-stocked complimentary minibar. There is also a rooftop heated pool with private cabanas and a fire pit and restaurant 22 Square for all-day dining.
Audubon Cottages offer a unique living experience in the heart of the French Quarter. While it is located on Dauphine Street only a block off Bourbon, this small property seems worlds away from the famed party scene. Behind the front entrance, a tree-lined path leads into a surprisingly quiet patio area with a beautiful, saltwater brick pool.
The small property consists of seven converted Creole Cottages built during the 17th century. Named for John James Audubon, the famous local naturalist who occupied one of the cottages for a short period in the 18th century, the property has gone through a number of different names and facelifts through the years. (Elizabeth Taylor was known to check-in to #3 for long periods of time).
When it reopened in 2012 under the New Orleans Hotel Collection, the property emerged refreshed and up-to-date while maintaining its historical and architectural bones. Though each cottage is different, all boast newly appointed bathrooms and furniture as well as plasma televisions. The updated two-bedroom cottages are ideal for families.
Breakfast is served in your cottage or in the courtyard by in-house butlers. The property does not have any reception area or shared public spaces or staff (beyond the butlers and cleaning crews). Your butler is also happy to make dining arrangements, provide local recommendations and point out the many ghosts lurking on corners of balconies.
Azalea Inn & Gardens
Among the many mansions near Forsyth Park, Azalea Inn & Gardens stands out for its light and airy feel, with a cheery yellow exterior and broad, welcoming porch. Although the dining room, with its historic mural painted by SCAD students and crimson and gold curtains, is imposing, most of the rooms avoid the heavy palette of colors and fabrics found in stodgier bed and breakfasts, successfully respecting the local history while bringing in lighter, airier tones.
Owners Michael and Teresa Jacobson, who are originally from the Northeast, strive to make travelers feel like guests in their home. Breakfast, served twice each morning around a large table, is a highlight, with delectable offerings like ricotta quiche with fresh berries or southern grits soufflé, made from sustainable and locally sourced ingredients.
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 & Club, Las Colinas
Set on 400 sprawling, landscaped acres in the northern suburb of Irving, the Four Seasons Las Colinas feels like a country club with top-notch facilities.
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.”
Hamilton Turner Inn
Built in 1873 by Samuel Pugh Hamilton, this stately home on Lafayette Square has the distinction of being the first residence in Savannah to have gotten electricity, which was installed in 1883. Since then, the mansion has seen its share of inhabitants, from reputable ones like Savannah’s most famous jeweler to the infamous like Joe Odum (of Midnight fame), who threw wild parties in its parlor rooms. The inn's present owners have spent a small fortune restoring its former glory. Each of the 17 rooms, named after notable residents of Savannah, is decorated uniquely, with walls varying from deep crimson to vibrant yellow to exposed brick. Antique furnishings, including four-poster beds, cozy armchairs and plush Persian rugs laid atop polished wood floors, add to the elegance. Although the inn does not officially prohibit children, it is best for those over the age of 12.
Henry Howard Hotel
Hotel Crescent Court
When the concierge at the Crescent (previously a Rosewood hotel) located in the complex that also houses the high-end shopping emporium Stanley Korshak, told me that Dallas natives feel a deep emotional connection to the property, I took it for a marketing line. But later that evening over dinner, two friends who were born and raised in the city nearly teared up when describing tea with their grandmothers at this uptown hotel.
As with the Carlyle in New York, the attachment is rooted in nostalgia: high tea at the Crescent Court gave way to dinner at its flashy branch of Nobu, and the tired-looking lobby evokes more memories than ahs. This wasn’t always the case. When the hotel opened, in 1985, as part of a multiuse complex occupying an entire triangular city block, it was touted as one of the most original structures the city had ever seen. Conceived by Rosewood matriarch Caroline Rose Hunt and designed by Philip Johnson (who would go on to create the famous Glass House, in Connecticut), the limestone building has a slight crescent curve—hence its name—its façade adorned with fanciful ornaments, like spun-sugar decorations on a huge cake. Although flanked by two of downtown’s busiest streets, it exudes serenity, thanks to two interior courtyards whose splashing fountains, planted gardens and seating areas make them popular wedding venues.
The 220 rooms, including 29 suites, with their beige palette and honey-wood furniture, are not the world’s most inspired, but they are comfortable, offering such amenities as iHome clock radios, flat-screen televisions and sitting areas in front of the bathrooms equipped with vanity mirrors and lots of counter space. All come with French doors that open onto the leaning balconies with which Johnson enlivened the building face. Standard accommodations are on the small side (especially the bathrooms). The best are the suites, which feature whimsical details like spiral staircases, hardwood floors and original artwork.
When I visited, my fellow guests were mostly businesspeople and groups in town for meetings, who appreciated the convenient location and amenities suited to a work-loaded schedule: Starbucks is a few doors down, the gym in the basement has no views but does sport state-of-the-art equipment and the hotel offers a complimentary car service to destinations within five miles. Everyone agrees that travelers looking for a more intimate, personal hotel experience should check into the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, which is just up the street but feels worlds away.
Hotel Peter & Paul