Pool, Hampton Inn & Suites Miami Brickell/Downtown (HANDOUT / May 30, 2012)

MIAMI — This year's crop of new and improved hotels in South Florida runs the spectrum from eco- and budget-friendly to extravagantly splurge-worthy.

Most of the offerings have given new life to historic buildings, including Hotel Breakwater and Surfcomber. Three significant hotels were newly built: a Brickell-area Hampton Inn & Suites, Element Miami International Airport and St. Regis Bal Harbour. The last two hotels are both part of global hospitality company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

In South Florida, occupancy and rates were both up in March of this year compared with 2011. But while prices continue to inch up, there's no better time than summer to get the best deals.

Here's the lowdown on some of the hotels.

Element Miami International Airport

What's new: The entire 209-suite building, which opened in February. It's the 10th Element to open so far.

Bragging rights: Suites are roomy and built with the environment in mind: floors made of recycled tires, big windows that let in natural light, wallpaper made of recycled material. Most rooms have a full kitchen with stove, refrigerator and dishwasher; others have a kitchenette with microwave, toaster, sink and mini-fridge. Wi-Fi, breakfast and a reception Monday through Thursday evenings with food and drinks are all complimentary. The parking lot dedicates premium parking spots to fuel-efficient and low-emitting vehicles.

Caveat emptor: The hotel is very close to Miami International Airport — but not to some of the area's most popular tourist destinations. A free shuttle is provided to and from the airport and to restaurants or shopping in a 3-mile radius.

Best for: Families; cruise passengers who need an overnight stay; eco-conscious travelers.

Rates and deals: Starting around $109 on weekends and $129 on weekdays during summer.

Details: 3525 NW 25th St., Miami; 305-636-1600; elementmiamiairport.com

Hampton Inn & Suites Miami Brickell/Downtown

What's new: The entire 15-story property.

Bragging rights: Open since September, the 221-room hotel has climbed to the No. 1 spot on TripAdvisor.com's list of 129 Miami hotels. Art is abundant, from the video installation in the lobby to the South Florida scenes wallpapered at guest-floor elevator landings. A unique feature for a Hampton Inn, the spacious bar extends to the pool area.

Caveat emptor: Though competitive with other downtown hotels, it has high rates.

Best for: Families on vacation, cruise passengers, business travelers.

Rates and deals: Starts at $159 in summer.

Details: 50 SW 12th St., Miami; 305-377-9400; hamptoninnmiamibrickell.com

Hotel Breakwater