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A Candid Look At South Beach Hostels and Super Cheap Hotels

June 26, 2007 By Doug in Miami: Travel News  | 75 Comments

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Front desk reception at the Jazz Hostel in South Beach.

Maybe you’ve been fantasizing about that vacation in South Beach for a while, but you’ve been putting things off because you figured booking a room here would bankrupt you faster than a date with Paris Hilton.  It is actually a very common misconception that this is a playground only for the wealthy and elite, and that the rest of us would be better off settling for a Motel 6 somewhere up in Dania.  One stroll down Washington Ave. should convince you that this simply isn’t true! For every Christina Aguilera wanna be, there are at least 10 reasonably normal, cost-conscious sunburned tourists.  And they all have to stay somewhere.  The reality is that South Beach has plenty of budget options ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime.  Its unmatched diversity is part of its charm.  I hit the pavement this afternoon and visited six of the most popular spots, and some of the results I found were surprising.

SOBE HOSTELING TIPS

As I wandered from place to place, I picked up a great deal of useful information.  For example, hostels don’t generally accept people as guests who have in-state ID.  It’s a tactic to keep out transients.  So if you’re a transient or planning on becoming one soon, hang on to your out-of-state identification.  It shouldn’t be too hard.  You’re a transient, after all.  You roam.  That’s what you do.  This policy is discriminatory only against non-roaming transients.  Another interesting fact is that most hostels enforce a 20-21 day maximum stay.  They need to import new flesh, just to keep things interesting.  They don’t want you moving in, even if you’re paying rent!  Also, any posted rates are subject to soaring exponentially if something like the Winter Music Conference is in town—so be sure to call ahead!

Another thing that surprised me was how much the vibe varied from location to location.  For example, the two hostels South of Fifth St (or So-Fi, as the locals like to say), Jazz on South Beach (321 Collins Ave.) and the South Beach Hostel (235 Washington Ave), were the trendiest and most ornate on the list, and also had the most outgoing staff, as well as the greatest amenities.  The layout in both establishments was very conducive to conversation with fellow guests, most of which looked to be on the younger side and very ….um….well-developed.  This neighborhood, mostly a residential area with scores of condos and few commercial venues, is quieter (and less congested) than the scene up the street in the heart of the Deco district—which leads the staff to go the extra mile with customer service and amenities.  In contrast, the hostels in the prime location areas, such as the Miami Beach International Travellers Hostel (239 9th St) and the Clay Hotel (1438 Washington Ave.), appeared considerably less concerned with such matters.  Farther north, the Tropics Hotel & Hostel had a posh yet relaxing feel, despite its location on busy Collins Ave. near the Lincoln Road Mall.  It had the greatest range of ages in its guests, while the Peter Miller Hotel, a little further afield at 1900 Collins, completely lacked the youthful vibe and appeared to be geared more toward middle-aged refugees on a budget.

OVERRIDING IMPRESSIONS

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  For some on the list, that was a good thing.  Others weren’t so lucky.

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A wave mural inside the lobby at the International

Most frigid reception: hands down, this had to be the Miami Beach International Travelers Hostel (236 9th St, 305-534-0268).  I was given the third degree by the Brazilian girl presiding over the front desk, who, failing to get rid of me with the old “manager is out of town” trick, demanded a business card before she would answer my questions.  Despite its semi-dingy interior, and the fact that the street outside was completely torn up in construction, I felt like I was having a conversation with Donatella Versace—when she was having a really bad day.  Apparently, she was under the impression that she worked in a hostile.  Prominent signs displayed on the wall behind her had messages like “Private room visitor fee $10” and “No guests allowed in dorms.”  Any question I asked—your basic, general queries about rates and amenities a prospective guest might have just as easily asked over the phone—was met with suspicion and evasiveness, even after she phoned the (suddenly resurfaced) manager and got his okay to speak with me (she put me on the line with him to let him know what I was doing and told me I had “one minute”).  She didn’t want me taking pictures of the front desk or any of the rooms—she said they would be remodeling soon, and it would change, so why bother?  I said I could explain that in the article, but she was unimpressed.  When I asked about the cost of the wi-fi and public computers, she didn’t want to tell me, until I pressed her, and then I couldn’t understand her rushed reply, so I let it go.  I mention all this, not because I’m bitter (well, maybe a little), but because I have a feeling that if my interaction was this difficult, things might not go much more easily for you.
STATS—Amenities: Kitchen, pay per use computers, wi-fi, tv lounge / Rates: $19-$39 dorms, priv. rooms, $49-$109

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Front desk lobby with Internet access at the South Beach Hostel

Most entertaining lobby: this was the South Beach Hostel (235 Washington Ave., 305-672-4227, http://www.thesouthbeachhostel.com), no doubt about it! Not only did they sport a red velvet pool table in the back, along with funky, oversized seating and scores of television sets up and down the walls,  as well as the only full service bar (open till 5 am!), they had two of the cutest kitties I ever laid eyes on: Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, the hostel mascots.  If you have allergies, not to worry.  They’re restricted to the amply spacious lobby area, and they keep to themselves, unless approached, and then they’re very affectionate.  This hostel also sports a sidewalk café, serving basic American cuisine, and offers a Sunday “community bar-b-cue.”  Though the Clay Hotel is the biggest of the bunch, they actually have more beds at the South Beach Hostel, boasting 37 dorm rooms, averaging 4 beds a piece, with a couple of rooms at 8 and 14 beds per room, generally reserved for groups.  Only two of the rooms are private.  Travis kept really busy at the front desk while I was there, but patiently answered my questions whenever he had a free moment.  The real star of the show, however, was owner Greg Alvarez, who happened to drop by while I was interviewing Travis.  Greg was very charismatic and accommodating, going to great pains to help me get the perfect shots of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde.  You can tell that his positive attitude and attention to detail have rubbed off on the place.  Located 3 blocks from the beach.
STATS—Amenities: Club nights, Friday-Sunday, VIP discounted admissions, kitchen, full liquor bar, sidewalk café, tv lounge, pool table, laundry facilities / Rates: $15-$35 dorm, private rooms with bath, $50-$120

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The Clay Hotel entrance on Española Way.

Most aloof (or “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”) reception award: this one would have to go the Clay Hotel (1438 Washington Ave, 305-534-2988, http://www.clayhotel.com).  The Clay is an institution in South Beach, with a history going back 80 some odd years.  It was once a hideout for Al Capone, and the site where Desi Arnaz first babalued his way into the American spotlight.  It was once cited as the “most beautiful hostel in America” by Lonely Planet guidebooks, in appreciation of its exquisite Spanish colonial architecture and pristine location abutting artsy Española Way.  However, it regrettably seems to have gone to the management’s head.  Though this has traditionally been the place I’ve stayed over the years on prior visits to the Beach, I’ve always noticed them to be a little snooty and stone-faced.  They hire scores of foreign workers, some of whom can be pleasant and outgoing enough, but as a general rule, they’re not the kind of personalities you’d want to have at your next hoe-down.  When I approached them with my questions for the story, I was almost turned away because I lacked the credentials they required, though they weren’t really clear on what those were.  They finally conceded enough to provide me with a rate card.  Any other questions, they reasoned, could be answered on their webpage.  They allowed one of their front desk personnel, a young French guy named Yannick, to accompany me as I photographed their upstairs lounge room, but I wouldn’t be permitted to photograph any other areas, such as their kitchen facilities or dorm rooms.  I imagine there is always the possibility that the Russians might be constructing a hostel exactly like it somewhere, and that this information might compromise our national security.  Despite the tight-lipped reception, this hotel has an excellent location, and I suppose an aloof front desk attendant is preferable to a Ritz-Carlton automaton who has to greet you every time you make eye contact, so I wouldn’t cross it off the list.  Tip: If you’re a noise-sensitive early-riser, make sure not to book one of their rooms facing Washington Avenue; otherwise the nighttime noises will have you up until dawn.  Second tip: They offer one free night for every 7 day-booking during the low season—be sure to mention it when you check in.
STATS—Amenities: upstairs lounge, kitchen, luggage room, pay per use computers, 25 cent pay-per-use lockers, club passes at front desk (selectively distributed, so be sure to ask) / Rates: $26 (members) to $30, dorm, private rooms with private or shared bath, $56-$135

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Tropics is the only cheap hotel with a pool

Best place to take a refreshing Olympic-sized dip: The Tropics Hotel & Hostel (1550 Collins Ave., 305-531-0361, http://www.tropicshotel.com).  In fact, it’s the only place to take a refreshing Olympic-sized dip.  They’re the only hostel with a pool in South Beach! They used to have bar-b-cues as well, but had to give that up because the guests kept putting charcoal into the gas grills.  Someone should donate a charcoal grill and the problem would be resolved! In addition to their amply-proportioned pool, the front lobby was also very large and roomy, decorated in a minimalist, understated simplicity.  The building is an impressive structure, with classic MiMo(Miami Modern) features.  Their prominent vintage-looking sign outside looks as though it came with the place, but actually arrived after the building‘s construction c. 1954, and even then was constructed anew in 1992 after the former sign succombed to Hurricane Andrew.  Nonetheless, it garners a lot of attention, and was recently featured in Bad Boys II.  Manager Matias, and his front desk attendant, James, were very pleasant and generous with their time.  When guests would occasionally approach with questions, they were responsive and helpful.  Matias has managed the hotel for 15 years, and has seen the Beach evolve quite a bit since he first arrived.  The difference between his place and many of the others, he explained, was that this property is owned, whereas most of the others are leased.  In addition to their hotel duties, they also provide VIP access to selected clubs, and arrange tours of the Everglades, Key West, and Orlando.  Passports required for dorm rooms, which come 4, 6 or 8 beds per room.
STATS—Amenities: Olympic-sized swimming pool, outside kitchen, 25 cent pay-per-use lockers, VIP access to clubs (specials vary), safes in rooms, pay-per-use computers / rates: $27 and up, dorms, private rooms, $59 and up

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The trippy green kitchen at the Jazz Hostel.

Best place to stay if “party” is your middle name: Jazz on South Beach (321 Collins Ave, 305-672-2137, http://www.jazzhostels.com).  Open just 10 days (formerly the Atlantica Hotel), this hostel, part of the same chain that operates the Jazz on the Park and Jazz on the Town hostels in New York City, actually provides a club coordinator who will escort groups of guests for FREE ADMISSION to local hotspots like Cameo, Space, Nikki Beach, Indra, the Mark, and the Pawn Shop.  Drink specials vary from night to night, and include $25 Tuesdays, which buys you a bottle of wine and a hookah at Indra, and Ladies Nights on Wednesdays.  Other free goodies include wi-fi and lockers.  Intimate bar in the lobby.  The building is spotless, a curious melange of English tudor and Mediterranean architecture, painted a subtle beige, and situated on a quiet stretch of Collins Ave., just two blocks from the beach.  Manager Will and front desk attendants Lucky, Navy, and Kaya were friendly and helpful as could be, providing me with a detailed tour of their immaculate 6 and 8 bed dorms, which came complete with full bath with shower in each room.  Front patio ideal for sidewalk encounters.
STATS—Amenities: kitchen, free lockers, free wi-fi, bar, free club access with escort, private baths in each dorm room with tub and shower, pay-per-use computers in the lobby / Rates: $20 - up dorms, private rooms, $100 and up)

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Outside the Peter Miller Hotel in Miami Beach

Best place to hide out if you’re a crazed serial killer on the lam:  The Peter Miller Hotel (1900 Collins Ave., 305-531-7611, http://www.petermillerhotel.com), sister to the Harrison Hotel at 411 Washington Avenue .  As Collins Avenue reaches this area, it seems (on the west side of the street, at least) to momentarily forget its flashy beginnings, before remembering them again further north just in time for the mid-beach high-rise hotel and condo corridor.  It is here, on the northwest corner at 19th Street, where you can find the intriguing rounded stucco building which is the Peter Miller.  This hotel was the only one on our list that didn’t provide hostel accommodations.  They did have reasonably priced private rooms, however, starting at just $55 per night in the low season (single occupancy), so it was worth mentioning.  Weekly and monthly rates also available.  The lobby was a little downtrodden, but tidy, and Alex at the front desk spoke in a very thick (Middle-Eastern?) accent, requesting that I direct all my questions to the manager next week.  Unfortunately, I explained, I had an early deadline and couldn’t wait.  Luckily, Alex and I discovered that he had all the answers already.  Adjoining the hotel was a small coffee shop, which featured a collection of antique chairs in a semi-enclosed patio setting.  The place had a rather seedy, fortress-like quality to it.  I was curious to see what lurked above us, but didn’t have the gumption to prod Alex, determined as he was to defer my questions to the (absent) manager.  Needless to say, if you’re trying to keep a low profile, this is the guy you need to confound your pursuers.
STATS—Amenities: coffeeshop / Rates $55 (single occupancy) and up, weekly rates, $275(low season) to $325 (high season), and monthly rates, $795 (low season) to $850 (high season).

CONCLUSIONS

Despite its compactness, South Beach delivers a wealth of options for the budget traveler.  As we’ve seen, there’s something here for people of every taste—for the masochist, the primal college student, the loner aestheticist,  and the older traveler seeking relaxation with a convenient location—once again demonstrating that this is a city which defies definition, despite what you may hear to the contrary.

MORE SOUTH BEACH YOUTH HOSTEL PICTURES

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Outside the Tropics Hotel on Collins Ave.

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Outside the South Beach Hostel.

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South Beach Hostel Bar and cat.

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South Beach Hostel pool table.

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Outside the Jazz Hostel located in the area called “South of Fifth”.

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Jazz dorm room.

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Jazz private room.

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The bar at the Jazz.

Related Categories: 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.

See more articles by Doug.

See more articles by Doug

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75 Comments on

"A Candid Look At South Beach Hostels and Super Cheap Hotels"

Michelle says:

Doug, awesome article. It never ceases to amaze me how some people working in the hospitality industry think it is ok to be rude. You’d think they worked for a super-secret intelligence agency.

You got some great information that I know will be helpful to our community.

Pics are nice - I especially like the kittie!

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 8:38 AM

Doug says:

Thanks, Michelle! I was also surprised by some of the unfriendliness and suspicion I encountered, but fortunately I was able to find some places that were warm and friendly, with people who smiled!

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 11:04 AM

Xavier says:

Great article Doug. Very insightful. I had never really thought about this aspect of the Beach.

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 5:47 PM

Frank says:

Very interesting and informative. I have lived in Miami for years and did not know that these places existed here, and Doug—what a great way of describing the good, the bad and the ugly of these establishments.

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 6:07 PM

Doug says:

Thanks, Xavier and Frank! Even if you have a Florida ID and can’t stay at the hostels, be sure to check out the sidewalk cafe at the South Beach hostel, where you can entertain a lonely backpacker!

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 6:20 PM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Doug, fantastic coverage and yes this is a city that defies definition, always reinventing itself.

As for the rude attendant, drag her by the collar over to the Sagamore or the National where she can learn what true hospitality customer service is all about.

I have to tell you, yours is some of the best writing I’ve seen in a long time ... a breath of fresh air to our Miami online community!  Kudos.

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 7:54 PM

Gabrielle says:

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I knew there were
hostels on the beach, but I needed to know the vibe in
addition to just prices and amenities.  You hit the
nail on the head! I have friends that come here often
from many other countries and ask for my
recommendations, who don’t want to deal with the South
Beach attitude.  They want friendly customer service.
Stories like this have the potential of changing the
local hospitality industry for the better!

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 8:06 PM

Doug says:

Thanks, Maria and Gabrielle. I agree that a welcoming vibe and good customer service are crucial to the hospitality industry.  In the hostel business, everyone from the scruffiest backpacker to the wealthiest globetrotter must be made to feel equally important.

Posted on 06/26/2007 at 9:55 PM

Helena Clarke says:

For the record. All night clubs in south beach are free. Organizing you in groups to take you there and dazzling you with the freeness of it all is just a tactic to get you there. And they really are not about people without a lot of money trying to move there and stay. The locals will run you our of town thru organized gang harassing. It’s not a nice town when you dig a little beneath the shiny surface. Good luck should you decide to vacation there and god firbid, live there. It will be the locals that decide if you get to stay or not. The hostel workers act as gate keepers and will watch you to decide whether or not they want you around. Then they will give full reports to locals (especially the local surfers)who, should they see fit, will follow and harass you until you leave. Unfortunately, for me and a others (yes, if you cant tell yet, I got run out of town) they will not leave you alone once you leave, especially if you know some of the dirty little local secrets.

Posted on 07/07/2007 at 8:08 PM

Helena Clarke says:

And by the way…suspicious does not even begin to cover how paranoid these people are about outsiders. The problem is they act on their paranoid sense of self importance and grandeur. Seriously, if you go to South Beach, watch your ass.

Posted on 07/07/2007 at 8:10 PM

Doug says:

Hi Helena, I’m really sorry you had such a bad experience living here.  From my own brief experience here, however, I can tell you that I see a lot of poor and lower middle class people in South Beach, just a stone’s throw from the glitz of Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive.  There are plenty of homeless people, working class families, and starving bohemian artists, from dozens of different countries.  Somebody’s got to clean all the plates in these ritzy restaurants!

Posted on 07/07/2007 at 9:56 PM

Helena Clarke says:

Few of those people actually live on the beach and the homeless people do “favors” to be allowed to stay. And if they do anything that is viewed by the locals as stepping out of line, they’re in some trouble. It’s like the tshirts they sell down there say: ” South Beach. A sunny place for shady people.” There are all kinds of scams that are pulled on tourists there. The whole town knows about it. Maybe your experience there has just been too brief.

Give it time. You’ll start seeing what that town’s really all about if you hang out a bit. I was given some really good advice when I first moved there: Don’t believe anything anyone tells you. Good luck. Do not upset the status quo AT ALL!! Also, men there get significantly more respect than women. They think very little of women especially single women.  Ladies, go in groups. It’s pretty much assumed that you’re running from some evil thing you’ve done when you show up down there if you’re by yourself. I had a guy fake an entire extacy trip to try and get me into bed on the first night there. Not to mention the local photographer that thought I was a tourist, tried to get me into bed, and then helped run me out of town when I eventually met his girlfriend who wanted to know how I knew him. You can’t knock the hustle.It’s funny in retrospect, but was very sad and isolating at the time.

And watch out for the surfers. They run the beach and they’re not above letting you know it. 

And btw, I know exactly what “Brazillian woman” your describing above. And u’r right, she’s not ususally very pleasant in my experience either. A lot of the local women have a kind of “queen of sheba” thing going on. I met some seriously catty women down there. There are a lot of very lost people in that town that think you can buy your way into respect and happiness. And when you aren’t impressed by their bullcrap, they get very offended and cant compute why you’re not bowing before their greatness. It’s like they cant imagine someone not being impressed with them. I dont care what kind of car you drive ( in her case a mercedes ) You’re not entitled to talk down to, abuse, or harass people. The locals there really dont get that. And they mostly think you’re out to take their stuff/money in one way or another. But if you’re just a tourist, you dont have to worry about any of this.

Glad you’re having a great time tho. Not to sound all bad, there are some cool people there as well. I met a couple. You’re very right about the attitudes tho. It’s still a beautiful place physically and that beach is a spiritual place in my opinion. Enjoy it!!

Posted on 07/08/2007 at 2:20 AM

Bryan says:

Hey nice review, I emailed the tropics and they were fine with a out of state ID and a airplane ticket to prove you are a traveler. So did you get your info from their site? or did you actually stay there?

Posted on 07/10/2007 at 7:19 PM

Doug says:

Neither, actually! I visited them and interviewed the manager.  The out-of-state ID requirement is just a general policy and varies from place to place, so it’s best to check with the hostel you’re interested in to verify what their individual policy is.

Posted on 07/10/2007 at 9:05 PM

Bryan says:

Thanks Doug, ( I stayed in on Miami beach back in 2004, and the lowest price hotel I found was 50 dollars and it was up on the north side of Miami beach on Collins. South beach was alot more higer priced, and I had to walk for well over a hour just to get from my hotel room to the excitement on south beach. And I can honestly say I saw very few girl’s in bikini’s. Which could be because I was so tired from walking so far, that I turned back and never even made it to South Beach. By staying at a hostel I can stay alot longer. I will likely stay around 10 days. And be right there in the action. I did extensive research on beaches here in the u.s, and for a adult bachelor such as myself, south beach is the best because tops are optional for girls. The travel channel shows the site as more adult then the beaches in California even. But like I said, all because of price, and location, on my trip I saw few women on the beach in bikinis. So thank god for these conveniently and affordable hostels smile
I am planning a new trip, and this time I will see all the action smile

Posted on 07/11/2007 at 11:11 AM

Doug says:

Thanks for the comments, Bryan.  With your talk of “girls in bikinis”, I’m sure my article will get a lot more hits! If you do ever find yourself on that side of the beach in the future, though, be sure to check out Haulover Beach, where the girls (and guys) wear even less than they do in South Beach!

Posted on 07/11/2007 at 2:37 PM

Michelle says:

How good looking are the guys in South Beach? 

Are they worth it? smile

Posted on 10/01/2007 at 4:47 PM

Doug says:

There’s a little something for everybody.  A lot more diversity here, that’s for sure.  So if you don’t like one type, there are plenty of others.

Posted on 10/01/2007 at 4:53 PM

lil says:

Got a place like Jazz for Seniorteenagers?

Posted on 10/26/2007 at 1:03 PM

Doug says:

Hi lil, I suspect you might find the tropics most timeless in that regard.  However, you could always go stay at the Jazz anyway! Age is just a number.

Posted on 10/26/2007 at 9:20 PM

Larry says:

if i find a girl on the beach is a hostel private enough to have sex in?

Posted on 11/03/2007 at 10:43 PM

Amanda says:

I love going to South Beach and always manage to have a good, safe time. Thanks for the review, it helped me a lot!
(To comment on the the clubs)
Almost no club in South Beach is ever aleays free! There are tons of clubs with great prices, ladies nights, and early incentives to get you in for no pay or less than the regular cover charge. There are some free places though, but if you want free, you’ll get there at 6pm! (She must get there early, or is very attractive) lol!
It all depends on what you want adn how you think!

Posted on 11/27/2007 at 5:50 PM

Amanda says:

I also had a question: Is the bar at the “Jazz” stocked well? Do they really have nightly actvities? Does the dorm room look crowded? Is it female friendly? Thanks!

Posted on 11/27/2007 at 6:03 PM

Doug says:

Hi Amanda,  thanks for your feedback and questions.  I don’t know exactly what time the hostel coordinators get to the clubs, but that would be a good question.  Who wants to wait around for 5 hours looking at the wallpaper? Concerning the bar at the Jazz, from what I understand (and this, according to the South Beach Hostel, so take it with a grain of salt), the Jazz doesn’t offer a full bar.  At the time I visited the Jazz, they pointed out the bar to me, but later, when I visited the South Beach Hostel, they claimed they had they only full service bar.  Jazz had just opened when I arrived to check things out; there was ample space, smiling patrons of both sexes, and it seemed really clean and newly refurbished.  A stark comparison to my visit to the Miami Beach International Travellers Hostel, though I understand they also intend to redecorate, if they have not already done so.  Good luck!

Posted on 11/27/2007 at 9:01 PM

Amanda says:

Thanks for your reply dude!
Is South Beach Hostel close to the Jazz? Im asking a lot of questions cuz im planning to travel there soon!lol I like to have get down good time! 
This is a GREAT SITE!

Posted on 11/28/2007 at 3:17 PM

Doug says:

C’est mon plaisir! The Jazz and the South Beach Hostel are about a block and a half away from each other.  Washington and Collins run parallel, a block apart.

Posted on 11/28/2007 at 4:56 PM

Monica says:

Im so happy I read this article, I was wondering how I was going to be able to visit before my move without spending too much of my “moving money” so this info is a life-saver!!! Thanx!

Posted on 03/17/2008 at 2:11 PM

Doug says:

Hi Monica, Glad I could help you, and I wish you the best of luck with your upcoming move! I’m sure you’ll love it here.

Posted on 03/17/2008 at 2:14 PM

bryan says:

Which Hostels do not require PASSPORTS ? Such as students from the United States that have no passport…....This is totally left out of your review for these hostels..It is a very basic piece of information, people could fly all the way to miami beach and then find out they only take passports….....Please clarify what requirements are, otherwise the reviews are useless.

Posted on 03/21/2008 at 5:42 PM

Doug says:

Hi Bryan, I appreciate your feedback, but I disagree when you say the reviews are useless without our posting the passport information.  I strongly advise anyone planning to visit a hostel to call the hostel in advance to reserve and to verify these types of policies at that time.  Even if we were to ask them their policy now, it could change unexpectedly, so details such as the passport policy and the rates should always be verified directly with the establishment at the time you make the reservation.

Thanks for bringing it up, though.  It is definitely an important detail to consider!

Posted on 03/21/2008 at 5:52 PM

Bryan says:

Thanks, I agree with you, you are correct.  after looking at hostelworld.com at what the hostels described about themselves, many don’t even list requirements, I had to call them up on the phone. Having a out of state ID with college ID with plane tickets were okay though smile that is very good proof I’m not a local.

I think my best question is, what week in May should I visit ? smile (I need the most girls out on the beach) I love having honey’s around me at all times…Maybe during aqua girls week, the lesbian week ?......whats ur personal opinion, thanks smile

Posted on 03/22/2008 at 5:35 PM

bryan says:

i realize i posted on here over a year ago,  now all of a sudden the feeling of going back to South Beach is coming back again. Topless, and the nude beach up at Haulover and the warm weather year round, I am seriously going there in May and I will take pictures of myself there to prove it smile

Great Review, Hostels WILL save at least 50 bucks a night….....And in the location of south beach I argue that its at least 80 dollars savings per night…...Look at all the travel sites and you will all know, the hostels in south beach ARE THE most low cost places to stay smile

Posted on 03/22/2008 at 5:49 PM

susan says:

whatever you do, DON’T stay at the AAE Lombardy hostel in Miami.  WORST place ever.  The windows dont lock, the doors LOCK YOU OUT, and then an alchoholic maintenance guy has to climb through your open window to get into your room and unlock your jammed door!  CRAZY.  Plus the pregnant woman at reception is rude.  Then of course you have kitchens, but no implements!  Plus my towel was stolen from my room.  Staff didn’t care.  I paid $400 for 3 nights of hell!

Posted on 03/25/2008 at 3:17 PM

Jim Moriarty says:

Thanks, Doug. Nice job. I’ll use your tips.

Posted on 06/15/2008 at 11:35 AM

Mandy says:

Hi Doug, I appreciate the work you put into this article. I’m 31, and always wanted to see the sights and sounds of Miami. I guess I would be ‘the older traveler seeking relaxation with a convenient location’ on a budget. I re-read your article but couldn’t pin point what would be the best option for me. Any recommendations…? Also, is Miami a spot where you might see celebrities?

Posted on 06/23/2008 at 9:57 PM

Mandy says:

...sorry Doug, I thought of some more things that would help you, help me. I’m looking for a place, preferably private, with friendly staff, clean amenities, place to meet people, and close to the beach and clubs…all within a reasonable budget. I’m heading in August which I know will be hot, but is there anything I should prepare for this month?

Posted on 06/23/2008 at 10:00 PM

Doug says:

Hi Mandy, thanks! If you want to enjoy an experience of South Beach that’s not quite the meat rack kind, I would suggest The Tropics or the Clay.  The places South of Fifth have their charms, but the crowd is really into hooking up…very young energy! Not that that’s a bad thing! But The Tropics or the Clay will give you a slightly more sophisticated experience.  Espanola Way is just down the stairs from the Clay, and has a wonderful vibe.  And at the Tropics, you’d be very convenient to Lincoln Road.  I usually stay at the Clay, myself—private rooms don’t usually break the bank, especially in the low season.  I’m sure you’ll have a good time no matter where you end up, though!  Good luck!

Posted on 06/23/2008 at 10:02 PM

Doug says:

Hi Mandy, I’d still go with my Clay Hotel recommendation, and a good private room.  Just request one that doesn’t face noisy Washington Avenue! They’re available with private or shared bathroom.  You can meet people in the common room just up the stairs from reception, and the amenities are clean.  The staff isn’t generally very outgoing, but they’re not exactly rude.  And there are some very friendly intern-types that come in from different countries that are very down-to-earth.  It’s like anywhere, I guess.  Luck of the draw! August: a great time to go—the ocean is like bathwater, clear, flat and healing! Just prepare for the daily hourlong monsoon around 3 pm.  Assuming there’s nothing afoot in the tropics, it’s actually one of the most relaxing months to go!

Posted on 06/23/2008 at 10:11 PM

Mandy says:

Thanks Doug for your quick response and for helping me. It’s rare to find good information/advice online. I’ve been checking places in Miami for over two weeks and your insights are by far the best. I think I will check out the prices for Clay, Tropics and Jazz and choose the most affordable stay in a private room. I wish you had an article on Washington DC..that’s my next stop after Miami : )

Posted on 06/23/2008 at 10:11 PM

Doug says:

Sure, no problem! If they ever start a DC411, let me know and I’ll go crash the hostels there!

Posted on 06/23/2008 at 10:13 PM

Mandy says:

Hi Doug, I’ve narrowed it down to the Clay Hostel and Tropics Hostel. I have a few more questions that will help me out before I book. Which hostel has the nicer room (cleanliness, quite, good space/airy, tv, refriderator, bathroom). I know clay has a refridgerator in the room, but I didnt’ see tropics having one. My main concern is noise. I would like to sleep without having to wait until 5am for the bars to close. Proximity is also important. I saw that clay is on Washington Ave while Tropics is on Colins (closer to the beach and perhaps less noisy, yet I suppose there will be people partying outside near the pool at the Tropics). Finally, what road do you think is better for the first timer for restaruants, shops, clubs: Espanola Way or Lincoln road. Cheers Doug. Again, I appreciate any help you can offer.

Posted on 06/24/2008 at 1:50 AM

Doug says:

Hello again, I haven’t seen the private rooms at the Tropics, so for the scoop on refrigerators and noise levels, you’ll need to check directly with them.  The noise level at the Clay is not a problem as long as you don’t book a room facing Washington Avenue.  The hotel actually has about two buildings behind the one on Washington, connecting to Espanola Way.  As far as whether it’s better for a first-timer to see Espanola Way or Lincoln, it’s very easy to bounce back and forth between both: they’re only about 2 blocks apart! Lincoln, being the larger of the two, will feature more amenities.  But Espanola Way will give you more quaintness and charm.

Posted on 06/24/2008 at 2:50 AM

Lesa says:

Hello Doug - not sure if this is still an active site but I’ll try.  I am planning a 21st B-Day party trip for my son and 5 of his friends.  I don’t want to spend a killing on the rooms since as you know all too well, 21 year olds aren’t usually particular about where they sleep when they have been parting all day and night.  Your site is extremely helpful.  I do have a couple of questions that hopefully you can help me with.  Is there a particular hotel or hostel that you recommend for a group?  Do the hostels allow you to stay 4 nights?  We would be traveling to South Beach, the last weekend in May, 09 from Philly.  Also, I am sure I would rather stay in a little better hotel than the boys - any recommendation?

Thank you very much!!!
Lesa

Posted on 08/25/2008 at 11:13 AM

Doug says:

Hi Lesa, what I wrote is pretty much all I know, unfortunately! I would imagine any of them would be just as good for groups as they would for single people.  If you get a room with six beds in it, that would be ideal, because your son and his friends wouldn’t have to share the room with other people.  The Jazz, The Tropics, and the Clay Hotel all have 6-bed dorms.

If you choose a hostel South of Fifth for the guys, I would think the Wave would be a good place for you to stay.  If you go with one closer to mid-South-Beach (I’m making that term up), the Clay has private rooms that, while not fancy, are perfectly adequate for a short stay.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted on 08/25/2008 at 12:29 PM

Mandy says:

Hi Lesa, I stayed at The OHana Hostel on Colins Avenue. It’s above the Quick Silver store and across from Aldo. It’s the best hostel I’ve ever been to.

Posted on 08/25/2008 at 11:26 PM

Erin says:

Yes definetely think the Ohana hostel is the best hostel on miami beach as well.

Posted on 09/04/2008 at 7:54 PM

Luna says:

Great articule and useful info ... thank you so much!!!!! I hope I can be there in febrary.

Posted on 01/10/2009 at 1:42 PM

Anna says:

hi Doug, I’m Anna from Brazil and I’m going to Miami in about 2 weeks, I just made my reservation for the MIami beach International Travelers, but I want to know what do you think about a 30yo going to a Hostel in Miami. Which is the best for me and my friends? Because, after I read your comments, I’m thinking about change to Jazz… the reason: parties and more mature guests, is that correct? smile

Posted on 04/02/2009 at 7:29 PM

Doug says:

Hi Anna, if you want a more mature setting, you may find the byob parties at the Jazz a little young-spirited.  Although you will find people of different ages there, you will have to be young at heart to feel comfortable there, I would think.  It makes for a better place to socialize, though.  The other hostels (aside from the South Beach Hostel) felt a little impersonal to me.  On the other hand, I haven’t seen the International Traveller’s Hostel since their renovations, so things may have improved there since my initial visit.

Posted on 04/02/2009 at 7:43 PM

Julie says:

Doug, great article. I stayed in a private room at the Tropics in 2007 and thought it was fine. Was wondering if there are any new budget hotels above 15th street that you suggest I look at. Last winter the Peter Miller was under renovation, any word on the new digs. Thanks.

Posted on 06/19/2009 at 7:01 PM

Doug says:

Hi Julie, thanks for your feedback on the Tropics.

As far as other budget accommodations north of 15th, there is a group called Sunspot Rentals offering reasonably priced apartments (about $90 a night with a 2-3 night minimum), with your choice of direct ocean or city views.  It’s a great option for a longer stay, and with you own kitchen, you can cook there and not have to eat out so much.

Gus, the site administrator here, recently told me that the Peter Miller is looking a lot better now since the renovations, and is no longer deserving of the “serial killer on the lam” status!

Posted on 06/19/2009 at 7:52 PM

Doug says:

Julie, PS: Check out Gus’s article about how some of the hotels on South Beach have slashed their rates.  You’ll find some great deals now!

Posted on 06/19/2009 at 7:55 PM

Julie says:

Doug,
Thanks for the response. I called the Peter Miller and was told they are still under renovation and could not take a December booking. Checked out Gus’s article, good to know, but the prices don’t reflect winter rates and that is when I will be in SoBe. Will look into Sunspot rentals. Best.

Posted on 06/24/2009 at 12:46 AM

Doug says:

Sorry to hear the information wasn’t helpful.  The Clay Hotel is always my old standby when in doubt—compare whatever else you find to what they’re offering.

Posted on 06/24/2009 at 6:52 AM

julie says:

Thanks again, will do.

Posted on 06/24/2009 at 4:58 PM

Travelling Nomad says:

The south beach hostel was a bad experience for me staying in september 09 for a week there was no hot water and when i spoke to staff about it they were rude and helpless to do anything and i was told by the girl at the desk she gets complaints everyday about it and there hasn’t been hot water in the showers ever! and there are only two shower cubicles for 100 or so rooms.
Beside that breakfast consists of a bagel with butter on it everyday. i think it’s bad value for money to say you can get a room in a dodgy hotel closer to the action with your own room, double bed, and a hot shower! for the same price it’s a bit of a sham hostel i found.

Posted on 09/05/2009 at 9:35 PM

Doug says:

Travelling Nomad, The South Beach Hostel has been revamped since this article was written.  I wrote a follow-up story here, and you’ll see I shared some of your same concerns:

http://www.miamibeach411.com/news/index.php?/news/comments/south-beach-hostel/

I also went back to the Jazz a few months back and had a much better time.

Posted on 09/05/2009 at 11:07 PM

travellingnomad says:

i wrote this yesterday. No hot water still. sorry, still a terrible place to stay

Posted on 09/06/2009 at 11:58 AM

Julie says:

Doug,

The Peter Miller is still not open. According to the person answering the phone, “maybe next year”. I am left to decide between a private room in the Tropics and The Clay. Did you get a chance to see the rooms in the Tropics yet? If so, how do they compare to the Clay? Location and pricing are almost the same. Thanks.

Posted on 10/14/2009 at 3:21 PM

Doug says:

Hi Julie, I did see the rooms at both hotels.  The Tropics was clean, but a little worn around the edges.  If a swimming pool isn’t crucial, I would go with the Clay.

Posted on 10/14/2009 at 6:21 PM

julie says:

Doug,

Thanks for the response. No, the pool is not a consideration. I was able to book a private room/shared bath at the Clay for a little less than the price of my private room/private bath at the Tropics. My only consideration is the room/bathroom. I know you say the Clay room is a little nicer, but what about the shared bath there?

Posted on 10/24/2009 at 12:22 AM

Doug says:

I would splurge and go for the private bath just so you don’t have to worry about strangers knocking on your door when you’re in the middle of…taking the browns to the Super Bowl.

Posted on 10/24/2009 at 1:25 AM

Julie says:

Well, what can I say to that…seems you’ve convinced me:)

Posted on 10/29/2009 at 10:15 PM

Linda says:

Hi Doug,
Great article!  I am planning a trip to SoBe in Dec 2009 and am looking for the same situation as Julie (non-meat-market, safe, quiet, low-budget)... Can you comment on the Deco Walk Hostel? Thanks!

Posted on 11/09/2009 at 12:05 PM

Doug says:

Hi Linda, I’ve never stayed at the Deco Walk.  I would think that location on Ocean Drive would get a little noisy, although people seemed to like it pretty well in these reviews.

Posted on 11/10/2009 at 2:29 PM

Doug says:

oops, I don’t think the link worked.  If you google “deco walk” miami, though, you can find the link for google reviews.

Posted on 11/10/2009 at 2:30 PM

Julie says:

Doug,

Is the Continental hotel as bad as I’ve read. There are numerous accounts of bed bugs by posters on tripadvisor. Thanks.

Posted on 11/20/2009 at 2:36 PM

Doug says:

Hi Julie, I don’t know. I’ve never stayed there.  I tend to find something that works and go with that.  If I want a nice cheap room, I’ll stay at the Clay.  If I want a hostel, I would most likely go with the Jazz on South Beach—just because I’ve stayed at these places and I’m used to them.

Posted on 11/20/2009 at 11:43 PM

michael says:

Great Info!!!

Put the current temp at the top of your page please but I am siked to get there
because of your artical.

Posted on 12/09/2009 at 9:40 PM

Gav says:

Doug,great write up
i work in the hospitality ind and customer service is priority.So good on you for giving your honest opinion on the mentioned places.
i will be heading to Miami,my 1st time to the US in Sept,and i will definitly be staying at 1 of the mentioned establishments
btw,which 1 would you say s best to stay in (private room) as i will be witht he girlfriend
and also did i read somewhere that there is no liquor shops in miami???
we are from Australia and we definitly love a nice cold beer or dozen to take back to the room etc

Posted on 08/26/2010 at 9:33 AM

Julie says:

Doug,
I always stay at the Tropics in one of the hotel rooms and find it to be the best of the cheaper places in Miami. (Anyone reading this should know they also offer web specials so check those out when booking.) Wondering if you know anything about the Santa Barbara Hostel on 20th? I looked at some rooms a few years ago when they had an art show there, but have not been back since. I like the location. Wondering about cleanliness, etc. Thanks

Posted on 10/25/2010 at 1:50 PM

Amesly says:

The tropics requires a passport as of last week. i offered out of state ID and plane ticket, they even have passport required to book a hostel room online.

Jazz and South beach are okay w/ out of state ID.

Posted on 06/20/2011 at 3:19 AM

Doug says:

Thanks for letting us know, Amesly.  I wonder if that could have anything to do with the fallout from Memorial Day Weekend?

Posted on 06/20/2011 at 9:57 AM

Julie says:

Anyone stay at the Santa Barbara hostel? Wondering how it compares to the Tropics? Thanks

Posted on 10/24/2011 at 11:57 AM

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