Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Fine for a crash pad, this two-story, 45-room hotel boasts a great location, but little beyond the palm-shaded courtyard.
If a team of reality-TV design stars were told to create a South Beach hotel on a budget, this is probably what they'd come up with. It looks like someone ran into Ikea, bought some blue paint, and installed a couple of palm trees. But despite the wacky front window signs that read, "Sleep with me ... Sleep with me... ", I have to admit, my stay did not turn out horribly. Those reality stars would probably win the challenge.
Located on Collins Avenue, one block from the beach and opposite a few high-profile party hotels like the Delano and the Raleigh, the 45-room Aqua is an ideal crash pad that won't break the bank. When I arrived, a room full of girls were sleeping off their hangovers with the door gaping open. When I left, more 20-somethings were sharing a bottle of sparkling wine at noon on the second-floor deck. The occasional European family with teenage children turned up at breakfast, but otherwise the place is mostly filled with young partyers taking advantage of the nearby nightlife at a budget home base.
Minimal service, but the staff are friendly and at times helpful.
Basically, the entire staff consists of a single person manning the front desk, plus housekeeping. Guests tend to come away pleased, noting that the hotel is kept clean and singling out Louis at the front desk for special praise.
Aqua's website advertises a knowledgeable concierge to help make the "perfect dinner reservations." There's no concierge desk, though, and when I asked the front-desk clerk about restaurant options, he told me that there's plenty to eat in the area, but he didn't know that much about it -- I could try asking the other guy after they changed shifts.
Prime party location, about a block from the beach and a short walking distance to Lincoln Road Mall.
Ocean Drive, a block away, offers seemingly endless eating and drinking options, but many of these are overpriced tourist traps. You're better off walking a few blocks north to the Lincoln Road Mall, an outdoor pedestrian promenade with everything from pharmacies and Starbucks to designer clothing shops and premier cuisine. Even closer is Lincoln Road's little sister, Espanola Way. It's smaller and less popular than Lincoln, and there aren't many stores there, but there are tons of affordable restaurants. For self-catering, a 24-hour Walgreens is about a block away.
Nightlife abounds in just about any direction along Collins Avenue or Ocean Drive. The Clevelander and the Delano offer classic Miami hotel-lobby party scenes, and giant blended mojitos line the sidewalks of Ocean Drive most nights.
Lummus Park’s beach is one block away, but the Aqua doesn’t provide chairs or umbrellas.
Aqua hotel is located on Collins Avenue, a block from Lummus Park's 100-yard-wide stretch of topless beach. Across the street, some of the bigwig hotels try to look like they have a claim to the territory by placing their own marked umbrellas or chairs, but the entire beach in Miami is open to the public.
The Aqua has 45 rooms: standards, junior suites, and suites. (Each type is available with either a king bed or two double beds.) Starting at 220 square feet (with suites that get up to around 700 square feet), all of the rooms are large, with high white walls, concrete floors, and large windows.
Big windows in the first- and second-story rooms either look into the outdoor hallways and courtyard or out to surrounding buildings. The rooms are bright, but translucent white curtains keep them private and are a more pleasant view than brick walls and other windows across the way.
Concrete floors, though they sort of match the minimalist decor, certainly don't feel homey. As I walked around my suite barefooted with the air-conditioning blasting, I couldn't help but think, "This is the only time I've wished for slippers in Miami." Some suites have partially covered floors with a nice, dark laminate flooring, but bedrooms are all concrete and there are no area rugs.
Beds are pretty average -- the mattresses aren't plush or super-soft, but they're comfortable enough. Extra blankets are provided in the closet, but beds are simply made up, with basic white sheets and a thin, white cotton bedspread covering it.
The small white tube TV sets mounted into the corner of the rooms are steadily being replaced with nice flat-screens. Rooms have old CD players, but they have no iPod hookup. The hotel has free Wi-Fi access throughout, but the connection isn't secure and the reception is variable. Some rooms have great reception and others not so much.
Some bathrooms, like mine, are clean with relatively new fixtures that don't show much wear. Others, however, have outdated, rusty appliances. I spoke to the front-desk clerk about this, and he explained that the hotel was able to replace the fixtures in three of the rooms, but couldn't afford to replace them in all of the rooms.
Standard rooms don't have minibars, but suites and junior suites have small kitchens with refrigerators, sinks, and stoves. Drugstores and liquor stores are all within a two--block radius - a great way to save some cash.
Although the Aqua's website features close-up shots of the pool, the pictures are pretty far off the mark. Those zoomed-in photos are really just the tiny hot tub. For a similarly priced hotel with a great pool and an on-site gym, check out the nearby Albion.
The hotel has free Wi-Fi access throughout, but the reception is variable and the connection isn't secure.
The courtyard has pretty palms and a few tables and chairs for lounging. We saw guests checking their email on their laptops during the day, and others playing cards over a case of Corona all evening. A second-floor deck overlooks Collins Avenue and has two wicker lounge chairs with upholstered pads for sunbathing. There are no umbrellas for shade or to protect the chairs from rain, though, so it's not that inviting.
The website also claims to have a "pet-friendly package," but when we spoke to the front-desk clerk about it, he said that management recently changed and they no longer offer it.
No features for kids, and the younger party vibe make this a less-than-ideal choice for families.
Cribs are free, and rooms are big enough to accommodate families comfortably, especially in the kitchen-equipped suites and junior suites. But, though the hotel itself doesn't have a bar or party scene, the party vibe is in the air. Families wanting a little more quiet but still looking for a South Beach getaway, should consider the quieter, nearby Albion hotel, which has a good-size pool.
Some wear and tear, especially in most bathrooms, but for the price, the hotel is kept reasonably clean.
Though the bar is comfortable and clean, it doesn't service food or liquor except for breakfast.
There are plenty of restaurants in the area, including 24-hour Jerry's Famous Deli one block away, as well as restaurants along Ocean Drive, Lincoln Road Mall, and Espanola Way. A Walgreens is only about a block away for easy self-catering, plus other nearby convenience stores and liquor stores.
The 45-room, no-frills Aqua doesn't offer much: a tiny hot tub, free Wi-Fi, basic beds, minimal service, a humble courtyard, and a free continental breakfast. Still, it's a fairly clean crash pad in a prime party location, one block from the beach. For most guests, it's enough, but the better deal is at the Albion.