As someone who grew up in South Florida, I can say that Miami Beach was anything but glamorous in the 1970s. The Art Deco apartment buildings facing the beach were tired and sad. And most of the residents were retirees.

But that’s all changed, and today, South Beach is one of America’s hottest destinations. Celebrities, high-fashion models, sports stars, and international jet setters all party until dawn in the clubs, and South Beach Miami hotels set the bar for cool.

Gianni Versace helped create the South Beach cachet when he bought Casa Casuarina in 1992. The mansion is now known as The Villa by Barton G., and it’s sometimes open to the public.

South Beach hotels go in and out of fashion at lightening speed. And today’s hot spot may be old news in six months. But although the hotels are small, there are lots to choose from. So if you’re not set on one in particular, you should have no trouble finding a place that fits the bills.

Miami South Beach hotels for every travel style.

If stellar service is your hot button, The Angler’s Resort is hard to beat. Located a couple of blocks from the beach off Washington, the resort occupies two buildings that date from the 1930s and two buildings constructed in 2008. Those seeking seclusion will prefer one of the duplex apartments that come with a private garden or roof-top terrace. A high-tech remote device controls almost everything in the room, including the lighting. The gardens and pool here are especially attractive and the Maison d’Azur restaurant is outstanding. Spa services and a designated beach area add to the appeal.

When it opened 15 years ago, the Delano was the place to stay. In fact, it helped to put South Beach on the map. With its white-on-white décor, and sybaritic pool-side cabanas, it’s still a popular venue for photo shoots. And although the A-listers no longer flock here, who else can boast a lounge designed by Lenny Kravitz with a grand piano that he some times plays during his visits. The pool and gardens are as sensational as ever. And service is a bit more cordial than in the past. There are three restaurants, a spa, and a fitness center.

As the name implies, Gansevoort South is the Miami incarnation of one of New York City’s hippest hotels. Opened in 2008, it features an expansive roof deck with swimming pool and the Plunge bar, a shark-filled aquarium in the lobby, and an ocean-front terrace with infinity pool. The better rooms have balconies with breathtaking views of the Atlantic. The hotel is away from the fray at the northern end of Collins. If you’re looking to see and be seen, this is the spot.

Lovers of Art Deco will enjoy The National Hotel, which has many original furnishings from the 1930s. There are two buildings to choose from here – the original Tower, built in the 1940s, and the Cabana Wing, which is closer to the fabulous swimming pool. At 205 feet, it’s the longest in town. Cabana rooms overlook it. The pool-side Aqua Bar Grill is a great spot for cocktails and a light bite. And the three-level Penthouse Suite is a stunner.

Swedish designer Magnus Ehrland designed the Pelican Hotel for the folks who own Diesel Jeans. No two rooms are alike, but all are eccentric, eclectic, and whimsical, to say the least. They’re also on the small side. The location on Ocean Drive opposite Lummus Beach Park is one of the best in South Beach, and the street-level restaurant is a great place to watch the action.

Those looking for a more refined South Beach experience will appreciate the Ritz Carlton. Unlike some of its more bohemian neighbors, the RC is all buttoned up, but not up-tight. Its kids’ program makes it the best choice for families, and the 13,000-square foot spa offers every conceivable treatment. The beach club here comes with a tanning butler, and service is as expected – especially in the club level rooms. With 375 rooms, it’s one of the biggest South Beach hotels, and the location, smack dab on the beach and near the shops and restaurants of Lincoln Road, is great.

Each of The Sagamore’s 93 rooms is a suite, complete with fully tricked-out kitchens, big flat-screen TVs, and Jacuzzi tubs. Public areas double as a modern art gallery, and the hotel’s tag line is “The Art Hotel.” It’s won numerous awards from the travel press, including Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler. And the two-story, ocean-front bungalows are some of the best accommodations in town. The restaurant and most other public areas have smashing views of the ocean.

When money is not an object, The Setai has a lot to offer. Its Asian aesthetic adds an air of calm to the proceedings, and the ocean-front gardens contain serene ponds and reflecting pools. The beautifully outfitted rooms and suites – which boast niceties like espresso makers and washers and dryers – are larger than most, and some have floor-to-ceiling windows. The better to see all the A-list guests with. But all this luxury comes at a price, so be prepared for sticker shock.

The Standard is all about the spa and the roof bar. Located on the Venetian Causeway, a short walk from South Beach proper, it was built in the 1950s in the Moderne style. In addition to the legendary spa, there’s a sauna, Turkish bath, and waterfront restaurant. You’d have to stay here a long time to enjoy all the various spa treatments.

Fashion designer Todd Oldham took the old (1939) Tiffany Hotel and transformed it into something fun and romantic, called simply The Hotel. The smallish rooms betray the designer’s style and attention to detail. Cool pastels combine with mosaics and mirrored tile to create little jewel box-like spaces. The Wish restaurant is terrific, and up top, Spire is one of the most popular roof bars in Miami. The old Tiffany sign is still there casting its warm neon glow.

The 12-story Tides has some of the best views in South Beach, especially from the upper floor penthouses. The recently renovated Art Deco hotel is now part condo, and rooms are nearly twice as big as average. The old monochromatic color scheme gave way to a more vibrant palette and the large, private pool was updated and given cabanas. Service is better than most and the lobby restaurant La Marea is a great choice for fresh seafood.

Read about the best Miami roof bars and the Top 10 Italian Restaurants in Miami.

Legend:
1) Angler’s Resort
2) Delano
3) Gansevoort South
4) National Hotel
5) Pelican Hotel
6) Ritz Carlton South Beach
7) The Sagamore
8) The Setai
9) The Standard
10) The Hotel
11) The Tides

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