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Staying at the Jazz Hostel in South Beach

March 02, 2009 By Doug in Miami: Travel News  | 7 Comments


For all its sleek nightclubs and trendy cafes, South Beach can be a surprisingly socially-stunted place.  While other cities are known for their coffee houses and outdoor concerts, this land of velvet ropes and limousines can at times be a little formal, impersonal and blunt.


But many of the locals and visitors alike might be surprised to know that possibly the most happening social scene is going on mere blocks from the pricy clubs, in the lobbies of the two youth hostels South of Fifth (aka So-Fi). In years past, I’d always stayed at the Clay Hotel (1438 Washington Ave, 305-534-2988,, lured by its Mediterranean beauty and central location at Washington and Espanola Way.  However, in our current economy, their rates have gone up as the balance in my checking account has gone down; so, for a change of pace, I thought I’d try overnighting it at the Jazz on South Beach (321 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139, 305-672-2137), one of the establishments I’d written about in the summer of 2007 for a Miami Beach 411 article on super-cheap hotels and hostels.


The exterior is a rather downhome tudor-type facade, which looks like the kind of place you might go to grab a fish & chips and maybe a game of snooker with your college buds.  The inside is a bit downtrodden but not destitute, rather like a well-lived in frat house that has enjoyed its share of keggers.

As I surveyed the surroundings in the lobby around 10 pm on a Saturday night, I realized this was one of the Beach’s best-kept secrets.  What I found was not only an inexpensive place to hang my hat—but a cool pad to hang out in.  The place was a non-stop house party!

Each night, the lobby transforms itself into a BYOB bar; scruffy-but-cute backpackers from around the world perch on the furnishings, gather around the bar, and mingle on the outdoor patio, drinks in hand.  They warble away in different languages, surf on their laptops, and stretch out their sunburned legs.  Electronica pulses throughout the room and it feels like you just got invited to the most laidback lounge in town!


Said one guest: “The vibe here feels like another city…like San Francisco.  South Beach needs more stuff like this!”

Although hostels are fairly abundant throughout the area, few allow drinking in the lobby.  Kick back with a forty of Red Dog at the Clay, and you’ll soon be given the boot! My own half-brother was once run off for doing that very thing while we were guests there in the late 90s…


The party keeps going until around midnight, when the room abruptly clears: they’re en route to the local clubs, where they keep the fiesta going until 4 or 5 am.  Ironically, to me, the scene at the hostel far exceeds anything you’d experience at the local clubs.

The really cool part was that no one checks to see if you’re a guest at the hostel.  A sign in the back hallway says, “Registered guests only beyond this point”, inferring that the lobby area and front patio are open for anybody and whatever spirits they want to bring along.  For cash-strapped locals wanting a fun group to hang out with, this seems like a perfect way to spend a Saturday evening! Befriend a tourist and show them a little South Florida hospitality…



One of the things that impressed me most about this hostel was how friendly the desk staff was.  In a place like SoBe, that becomes all the more noticeable.  The international staff was peppy and heavy on the smiles, eager to help anyone with questions.  I don’t think I’ve seen such chipper staff anywhere in years!


For just $21 a night, you can bed down in one of their four-bed suites, and the price is only $15 for the eight-bed rooms.  South of Fifth tends to be a little mellower than the neighborhoods to the north, and both the Jazz and the nearby South Beach Hostel (235 Washington Ave., 305-672-4227, offer close access to the beach.

Visitors are allowed to stay up to three weeks, though it doesn’t appear that the policy is very closely enforced.  Some of the guests look like they’ve been residing there for quite some time.

One other thing that impressed me, while we’re on the subject of rooms: the pulsating rhythms from the front lobby were barely audible.  Of course, I was in a room in the back on the first floor, but I’m also a lot more noise sensitive than your average bear.


In addition to the bunk, sheets and a pillow, the rooms also have their own bathrooms with tub and shower.  A washbasin is located outside the bathroom, and wall lockers are available in the rooms (with your own lock), or you can rent one in the lobby for $5.


While the bed did the trick, it had obviously been designed with economy in mind.  If you get the top bunk, as I did, the main way to get up there, short of stepping on your fellow guest as you heave yourself unto the mattress is to use the rinky dink ladder on the back, which clanged loudly as I made my ascent.  Fortunately, the guy on the bottom bunk was out cold and didn’t notice.


Internet is available either via floating wifi signal or at one of their stations, where the rate is $3 per half hour used.  The machines accept dollars as well as debit cards.

A communal kitchen is located off the main hallway, where you can refrigerate and cook up your own concoctions without having to spend major bucks eating out all the time.


Every morning from 9-11 (or 10 to 12, depending on how late the night went) you get free breakfast.  People were crowding the lobby like there was a government cheese give-away, but I wouldn’t get too excited: breakfast consisted of two pieces of toast, jam and coffee! I decided to take a little walk to Burger King instead.

One word of caution, though: The Jazz Hostel contracts with a tour operator called “Infinity Tours”, which offers excursions, well, much like those offered through  However, as a writer who’s not getting paid extra to endorse either company, I would simply suggest that you do your homework before booking your outing, being sure to compare both the rates and the online reviews of each.  ‘Nuff said.


I’m looking forward to my next jaunt down, and knowing that I can hang with a fun, alternative crowd for only $21 a night makes South Beach feel all the more inviting.  I’d be perfectly happy checking into the Jazz again, though my curiosity has me wondering what an evening at the South Beach Hostel is like…


Related Categories: Hotels & Lodging Miami: Travel News,

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

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7 Comments on

"Staying at the Jazz Hostel in South Beach"

Sungal says:

Wow, it sounds like an undiscovered gem! I would never stay in a hostel though. A friend of mine stayed at one in Italy, and when I saw her, she had huge purple bites up and down the back of her legs. It was so bad, she couldn’t even wear shorts or a dress. Her hostel had bedbugs!

But this one sounds great so if she ever comes to visit…

Posted on 03/08/2009 at 5:18 PM

Doug says:

Hi Sungal, yeah, I guess bedbugs could be a concern in a hostel or even a hotel.  Sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind…

A high turnover rate can work in your favor, though: if a bunch of people were developing huge purple bites while staying at your place, it would get around…probably even faster at a hostel because the guests are more likely to talk to each other than at a hotel…

All I know is that I’m presently blotch-free!

Posted on 03/08/2009 at 6:04 PM

known says:

Yes. And the big well built Black guy that owns the place named Greg is in a biker gang and if you piss him off he’ll have his staff or other gang members on the beach go in your room, steal your stuff, and have your life destroyed anywhere you go.

These people are not the sweet, kindly, helpful people they pretend to be. they call it ‘A sunny place for shady people’ for a reason. Watch your back.

Posted on 03/15/2009 at 2:34 PM

Carrie says:

Jazz Hostel on South Beach is incredible.
I mean, it’s common sense to bring your own bedsheet and pillowcase, just in case. But everything about this hostel is wonderful.

Posted on 07/02/2009 at 2:25 PM

traveller says:

The current manager Sonia is such a bitch, the most unfriendly, condescending, patronising person i have met in south beach.  The international staff are great, but she really ruins the mood.  I stayed there a few weeks, but if not for my friends, her attitude would have run me off long before, as it did several other guests that i know.  I eventually left looking for greener pastures.  And they never do half the things they say they will do, breakfast…if youre lucky enuff to get toast, stay away from the well burnt pancakes, no sunday brunch, no real movie night with popcorn etc etc.  The place is cool, til the dragon lady appears…best bet, go out during the day time, return when shes gone home, you will see and feel the difference in the atmosphere at the hostel, it transforms…it rocks.

I’d stay again under different management, her overall skills in that department lacks to the detriment of the overall success of that place.

Posted on 07/17/2009 at 11:47 AM

Iowa Teachers says:

Be very careful of using Infinity Tours. They scammed us! We booked the Key West tour and they didn’t show up after we already purchased it. When we called them they put us on hold for the “manager” who wasn’t even there as we walked to their store. They weren’t even busy; they just put it on hold. There were five other people in there complaining about how they screwed up their tour, too. Beware! They ruined our honeymoon.

Posted on 07/21/2009 at 1:16 PM

valentina M says:

i stayed there and i had such a blast, party all day and near the beach , i met a lot if interesting people who was really friendly
vacations resume in really good memories , new friends and an awesome tan !!jazz rocks see you on december

Posted on 11/01/2009 at 9:13 PM

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