New South Florida hotels range from earthy to ultra-luxe
Dream South Beach: The former Tudor Hotel and Palmer House partially opened in summer of 2010, and was finished in July 2011. (dreamsouthbeach.com)
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Most of the offerings have given new life to historic buildings, including Hotel Breakwater, Dream South Beach, Surfcomber and Shelborne. Just three significant hotels were built brand new from the ground up: 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. They couldn't be more different — Element's guest room floors are made of recycled tires; some floors at St. Regis are made of marble quarried in China for the resort. But the opening of both earlier this year show the continued appeal of the area, for hotel companies and visitors both.
"They're not betting on Miami," said Rolando Aedo, chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. "They're investing in Miami because we're a good investment."
South Florida markets continue to thrive. Occupancy and rates were both up in March of this year compared to 2011. But while prices continue to inch up, there's no better time than summer to get the best deals.
—Dream South Beach
What's new: Everything but historic details (including floors) inside the former Tudor Hotel and Palmer House. Not even the elegant elevators, done up in mother of pearl and black glass, escaped attention. While the hotel partially opened in summer of 2010, it wasn't finished until last July. The 108 rooms are highly designed, with Ann Sacks tile, custom furniture and touches such as gold glass-beaded wall coverings. Restaurateur Geoffrey Zakarian's Tudor House earns raves. Still to come: A spa with two treatment rooms opens this month.
Bragging rights: The Sun House, a 900-square-foot suite with a lavish bedroom, living room, two 65-inch TVs and enormous bathroom, boasts an even larger outdoor deck on the roof (with easy access to the rooftop pool). Starting price: $2,995 a night.
Caveat emptor: Privacy buffs beware. Bathroom areas are enclosed with glass, and while privacy doors with cutouts provide a screen, there's still potential to get an eyeful. While meticulously designed, the smallest rooms are tiny.
Best for: Couples, design aficionados.
Details: 1111 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305-673-4747; http://www.dreamsouthbeach.com.
Rates and deals: Summer weekdays start at $199. A romance package including continental breakfast for two, champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries starts at $249. Miami-Dade residents get 20 percent off; Florida residents get a 15 percent discount if they book by phone directly with the hotel.
—Element Miami International Airport
What's new: The entire 209-suite building, which opened in February. It's the tenth 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 modified kitchenette with microwave, toaster, sink and mini-fridge. Wi-Fi, breakfast and a Monday through Thursday evening reception with food and drinks are complimentary; there's also a do-it-yourself gourmet coffee machine in the lobby. The hotel, set on a lake, offers a pool and barbecue area; 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. Travelers will need a car or money for the cab if they want to hit South Beach.
Best for: Families; cruise passengers who need an overnight stay; anyone who doesn't mind sacrificing proximity to touristy areas in exchange for reasonable rates; eco-conscious travelers.