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South Beach’s Most Stunning Hotels, Restaurants & Nightclubs

July 13, 2009 By Doug in Miami: Travel News  | 3 Comments


(above) natural and man-made beauty blend at the hotel pool

Comedian Billy Crystal’s 80’s pop icon Fernando often observed, “It’s better to look good than to feel good!” Fortunately, in South Beach, it’s possible to do both.  Aesthetics and holiday merriment combine to make the best of both worlds in this palm tree paradise, and the results, in terms of both architecture and decor, can frequently be visually stunning.

German publisher teNues showcased some of the community’s poshest settings in their colorful 2006 publication, “Cool Spots: Miami/South Beach.”  In this 135-page tome, you’ll discover many of the hideaways of the celebrities and über-rich that locals and casual visitors often miss.  Some of the establishments listed are now closed, though the vast majority are still going strong.

For this week’s column, I thought I’d share five of its most dazzling entries—ideal spots to dwell, dine, and drink for those who crave a little urban sophistication to go with their sun and surf.



Nothing says South Beach swanky like the Asian-influenced Setai (2001 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 305-520-6500).  The 85-room hotel is a fusion of 30’s Deco and modern day extravagance, consisting of the original Art Deco building—originally opened as the Dempsey-Vanderbilt in the mid-1930s—and an adjoining 40-story glass tower, in a setting accented by tropical gardens, sparkling pools and sundecks.

The antique grey bricks that make up the lobby were transported stone by stone from Shanghai, China, and help convey an Asian serenity that meshes with the local attention to style.  Along with its spa and exquisite restaurant—also called The Setai—this place is a treat to the senses.



(above) al fresco dining at Wish, one of the hotel’s most popular assets

Another much-photographed haunt of the jet-set crowd is the hotel (801 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, 305-531-3222), a 53-room study in minimalist geometric symmetry and texture, complemented by an inner tropical garden setting.  Designer Todd Oldham transformed this 1939 relic into a sight to behold, in a palette reflecting sand, sea and sky.  The rooms feature unique touches such as rain-head showers, hand airbrushed tiles and satin-ribboned pillows, while its rooftop deck, home of the Spire Bar & Lounge, provides dramatic sea views where you can catch the sun rising and setting while you frolic in its sparkling pool.

Terrazo floors in the lobby give way to an artistic display of mosaic wall mirrors and an interior garden which is the setting for the al fresco Wish restaurant, which offers American cuisine with eclectic global touches.



Architect L. Murray Dixon designed this 1937 Ocean Drive landmark, and it quickly made its way into the luxury boutique market.  After falling on hard times in the 60’s, the establishment came back to life, courtesy of a $48 million makeover by internationally-renowned decorator Jacques Garcia, in 2003.

Today, Hotel Victor (1144 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, 305-428-1234) hires its own “vibe manager”, a concierge who ensures that a “hip and comfortable” feel is maintained at all times, inspiring your mood by “stimulating sound, scent and sight.”

It offers a number of extras to achieve this end in its 88-room property.  First, there is Vue, a loungy terrace overlooking bustling Ocean Drive from a tranquil, 2nd story perch.  The indoor/outdoor space offers informal dining, exotic furnishings, and a dazzling array of audio and visual effects.

For a more upscale dining experience, there is Vix, an elegant restaurant in muted gold and beige, as well as V Bar, where you can sample their signature vodka libations while gazing at their tank of pulsing jellyfish.



Japanese chef Nobu Matsuisa brings an Asian touch to the Shore Club Hotel at his snazzy celebrity hang-out, Nobu (1901 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-695-3232).  Designed by David Rockwell, his understated elegance may be one of the finer points of this restaurant, where, according to several customer reviews, high prices and slow service have unfortunately dampened some of its aesthetic appeal.  Others, however, rave about the cuisine and the ambience, so the verdict is still out.

Fortunately, Shore Club’s expansive tropical compound allows you a number of options, including SkyBar, and Ago, some of the hottest nightspots on the Beach, while its designer swimming pool acts as an inspirational centerpiece.



A-listers and their handlers love the space-age vibe at the Mynt Lounge (1921 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 786-276-6132), where you can kick back on their sleek white couches while aromatherapy scents fill your nasal passages.

Known for some of the best apple martinis on the Beach, the deejays keep the crowd hopping into the early morning hours with their melange of house and hip hop.



(above) The National’s tropical patio lounge

The above establishments and many others—Pearl, The Standard, Casa Casuarina, Johnny V among them—are colorful reminders of this renovated district’s ever-continuing evolution.  While some disparage the loss of the grit that once embued the area with an edgy feel, others welcome the sensual sophistication.  Its wild, unbridled parade of passion has given way to more subtle, cosmopolitan pleasures suitable for those who’ve outgrown the impetuousness of immaturity.  South Beach has come of age!

Related Categories: Hotels, Restaurants, Nighlife 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.

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3 Comments on

"South Beach’s Most Stunning Hotels, Restaurants & Nightclubs"

Sungal says:

Hey Doug! I’m happy to see that you featured Mynt-my favorite. I think they redecorated since that photo, but more importantly they never play hip-hop. Next time I go I need to take a break from dancing and smell the aromatherapy but I’m loyal to the pink shots the French bartender mixes. They also have the best DJ’s in town and amazing dancers. I love, love, love it!

The Setai is beautifully designed and serine, but I’d skip eating there. We had terrible service and were underwhelmed by most of the overpriced dishes.

Great article! Now I want to check out the Hotel’s pool..

Posted on 07/13/2009 at 2:30 PM

Doug says:

Glad you liked it, sungal! As I visualized the settings in my head, I pictured you lounging in each of them, popping some salmon sushi into your mouth…some of the info about the musical styles may be a little outdated.  South Beach reinvents its chic enclaves every six months or so, right?

Posted on 07/13/2009 at 2:41 PM

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