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During the chaos of COVID in Miami-Dade County, curfews were instituted and mandates were mocked. South Beach business owners bemoaned the hordes of spring breakers who gathered on pedestrianized Collins Avenue below 15th Street, while crime skyrocketed. But this fall, as the virus slowly abates, crime is down more than 18 percent, and this stretch of sun and fun is welcoming another hotel boom.
Here’s where to stay, now that South Beach is back.
“The area’s history as a true melting pot is finally being appreciated as a major asset,” says Craig Robins, the CEO of Dacra and managing director of the Design District. Robinson was an early proponent of South Beach when he opened his first retail space in 1987 (artist Keith Haring was his first tenant) and helped bring Art Basel to Miami. “People, including Mayor Dan Gelber, are nurturing that,” says Robins. “A lot of smart money is recognizing that diversity is what makes the area exciting and a good investment opportunity.”
SoBe’s second life kicked off with a $200 million ground-up build of the 266-room Goodtime Hotel, the brainchild of nightlife impresario David Grutman (above right, of Groot Hospitality) and producer/wunderkind Pharrell Williams (above left). The full-block entertainment complex features 100,000 square feet of public space set in gorgeously immersive environs, courtesy of starchitect Morris Adjmi and fantastical designer Ken Fulk. “When you walk through our doors, it becomes a full-on experience,” Grutman says of his first hotel foray. “We wanted to impart a feeling of both revitalization and that rare, exciting thrill that takes over when you discover something special,” addsWilliams. If the 30,000-square-foot “pool club” or the scalloped seating at the bar don’t have you rolling in good times, nowhere will. Rooms from $299.
A youthful spirit permeates this 202-room resort-style hotel just off Collins — the Moxy brand’s first venture into resortland. The Rockwell Group was inspired by 1940s ferryboats that used to whisk sharp-dressed gamblers down to Cuba, and that retro-Caribbean party vibe is palpable in each of its six drinking and dining venues. If you throw back too many mojitos at the rooftop Upside bar, a daybed along the 72-foot-long pool awaits, along with a DJ to set the mood (natch). Grab breakfast burritos at the bodega in the lobby and Mexican delicacies for dinner at the al fresco Serena and never leave this festive retreat. Rooms from $199.
he Morris Lapidus-designed beauty underwent a $90 million makeover just before COVID; now guests can finally appreciate the Hirsch-Bedner Associates refresh of the 1953 property, including the lobby from Meg Sharpe Interiors, with its “Moth Complex” circular sconces. Arriving just in time for Art Basel is a pop-up of the Dead Rabbit’s new immersive cocktail experience. The award-winning Manhattan bar by Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry will only be in residence for a month, so make haste for a plum and amaretto sour or a spiked hot chocolate — but only after filling up on Cuban classics like 12-hour-braised ropa vieja at the indoor-outdoor Fuego Y Mar restaurant. After a restful sleep upstairs, sneak out the back gate for a hangover-curing run on the Boardwalk, followed by a dunk in one of the largest pools in Miami. Rooms from $1,999.
This wellness-first hotel is beloved by elite New Yorkers not just for its celebrity clientele, but for its oversized spaces: the 14,000-square-foot Anatomy gym, the 70,000 square feet of combined pool deck space, the 50,000-square-foot sea-to-table Wave beachfront restaurant and the generous Bamford Wellness Spa and tropical beach club. New to the 6-year-old health-conscious hotel is Habitat, a modern-day Mexican restaurant serving cauliflower elote, vegan ceviche, birria tacos and the best Florida snapper Veracruz you may ever taste. The smallest rooms are 550 square feet, and even they come with chic shiplap walls, sustainably sourced linens, Keetsa mattresses, yoga mats and HEPA air filters — for plenty of deep breathing. Rooms from $1,959.
South Beach may be a nonstop carnival, but those seeking more serenity can hop south of Fifth Street to the 82-room Balfour Hotel, which just underwent a $4 million refurbishment. Designed in 1940 by Miami mainstay Anton Skislewicz, the hotel stretches across two Art Deco buildings and features an Instagram-worthy elevated plunge pool with an underwater peekaboo window. But this is not a strut-your-stuff sort of escape. Instead, settle into a rattan lounge with a good book and await servers ferrying an array of healthy snacks, like frozen grapes and fruit smoothies. Grab breakfast on the cute front porch beneath an umbrella, and enjoy the parade of last night’s revelers wandering home under the unforgiving morning sun. Rooms from $499.
Miami-based investment firm CGI Merchant Group — one of the biggest players in the rebirth of South Beach — recently acquired the beloved Celino South Beach Hotel and is turning the expansive resort into the area’s premier stay-and-play location. (The previous owners spent $40 million reimagining and connecting its three Art Deco buildings back in 2015.) Now newly rebranded as the Gabriel, the hotel boasts two pools, one of which sits on the roof, held aloft by a glass bottom. (Peeping encouraged.) Complimentary on-site fitness classes, conga drums on request (fun fact: the conga line was invented here!) and an elegant Mediterranean restaurant, Meet Dalia, elevate the hotel experience. “This unique neighborhood is a microcosm of our multicultural world, celebrating the beauty of our diversity and uniting our spirits in what it truly means to take holiday,” says Robert Festinger, CGI’s vice president of hospitality asset management. “We are ushering in a new era of hospitality — reminiscent of the 1930s golden age of glamour on Miami Beach.” Amen. Rooms from $554.