Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Classy, quiet clientele enjoying the hotel's tasteful update on the its art deco roots.
Sticking to its art deco roots (the hotel was built in the 1940s), the lobby itself isn't large and sports few furnishings; one red leather | sofa sits opposite the front desk that's as old as the building. That said, it opens up to interior seating for the bar, as well as A Fish Called Avalon, the on-site restaurant well known by locals as one of the best seafood spots in South Beach. Lush floral arrangements, photos of beach-going models, and art deco paintings accent the interior. A well-maintained property (last renovated in 2005), even the hallways are a treat, sporting art deco-era photos of beach babes and boats.
The grown-up crowd is quieter here than in most Miami hot spots. The scene livens up at night, when the outdoor seating at A Fish Called Avalon fills up, and a Latin guitarist takes the stage. At the bar, the bartender mashes mint for rum mojitos for the occasional couple waiting for their table.
Quick, competent, and professional staff, but unlike most hotels of this price range, there's no concierge.
Unlike most hotels of this price range, there's no dedicated concierge. This meant that when I asked the front desk where I could get an inexpensive cocktail, he offered a complimentary drink from the bar -- a surefire way to win my heart, but not an answer to my question.
Still, when I called for extra towels at 7:50 a.m., they were at my door in 5 minutes.
The Avalon is across the street from the beach on Ocean Drive, Miami's iconic (i.e. loudest) strip of hotels and divey bars.
At Seventh Street and Ocean Drive, the Avalon is at the noisy center of South Beach, across the street from Lummus Park, the liveliest area on the beach. Bikini babes and muscle-bound dudes play beach volleyball, and merchants sell T-shirts, coconuts, and cheap jewelry near the boardwalk. An additional contingent of seniors and families also take in the art deco architectural sights (the hotel itself is one of the highlights).
In front of the hotel, all along Ocean Drive, young female hostesses solicit practical joke-size margaritas at nearby restaurants such as Sea Café and Chef Vincent.
A bustling, sexy (and topless) beach is right across the street.
A jumbled horde of bikini babes, jacked dudes, couples on vacation, and families with kids play on a stretch of sand 100 yards wide.
Near the Starlite, South Beach makes it clear why there's a diet named after it. Half-naked beauties of all genders and gender preferences sun themselves on the broad stretch of sand.
In the mornings, the occasional runner trots along the harder, inland half of the beach. By the afternoon, the joint is packed with sunbathers; at dusk the scene thins out again.
Mobile snack stands are scattered along the beach, selling soft drinks and chips. But alcohol is not allowed on the beach.
Although the rooms are small -- the beds are tucked into one corner, leaving little clearance on the window side -- they're tastefully decorated. The beds' headboards have circular accents that are echoed in the mirrors above the desks, and the orchid is a nice touch. The furnishings are new and free of stains. Overall, the rooms feel fresh and comfortable.
The Sealy Posturepedic Dynasty 220 firm beds sport 350 thread-count duvet covers and 250 thread-count Egyptian cotton linens. The bed is comfortable, but there's no pillow-top, so I didn't sink into it as I did at the nearby Metropole.
The Avalon's hallways are plenty quiet, but remember that in South Beach, especially on Ocean Drive, noise can come from anywhere. I woke at 2:30 a.m. to the sound of people yelling below my window, and this was on the alley side of the hotel, not the Ocean Drive side you might expect.
The bathroom, too, was small, but appointed with EO products and a shower that packed a good blast. The white-tile walls and smudge-free fixtures made it more welcoming than the ones in the nearby Wave and Metropole.
The Avalon has a business center comprised of a couple computers and a printer. Guests can also use their laptops on the hotel's free wireless service. The pool, yoga, and Palm Garden Spa at the South Seas Hotel are available for Avalon guests to use. There guests can receive a number of poolside spa treatments ranging from $50 to 130. A huge downside is that the spa is appointment only with limited hours -- it's only open from Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Guests in desperate need for a massage therapist can book appointments outside these hours but receive a 25% surcharge for the deed. The South Seas is a 15-minute walk away, on 17th Street and Collins Avenue.
No special features for families on site, but it's a calm, party-free atmosphere inside the hotel.
The Ocean Drive location has loads of pedestrian traffic and occasional panhandlers, creating a nightlong drunken rumpus. Beach access also requires crossing busy Ocean Drive.
There are double rooms outfitted with two double beds available for the same price as a superior room with a queen bed. The complimentary breakfast takes some of the pain out of feeding the kiddies.
A big step up in cleanliness from neighboring hotels, except for mildew funk in the closet.
The carpets are free of stains, and overall I felt at ease in the rooms (this is a big step up from some of the hotel's neighbors). But there was a faint odor of mildew in the closet, which keeps me from giving an entirely glowing review.
The Avalon's complimentary breakfast is better than most, with cold cuts, croissants, good bagels and English muffins, Texas toast, apples, bananas, cantaloupe, syrups for the coffee, and different juices. The breakfast was quiet during my stay, with soft acid-jazz music creating a soothing atmosphere. Guests looked out on the Ocean Drive boardwalk and watched the sunrise through the large windows at the front of the restaurant. The feeling was so easygoing, I set up shop at a corner table and typed for several hours, occasionally getting up for more coffee or a slice of cantaloupe. It felt like I'd settled down in a coffee shop, only with tons more space, white table cloths, and a view of the boardwalk.
As for dinner, A Fish Called Avalon is arguably the best seafood restaurant in South Beach.
The 48-room Avalon is quiet, clean, and classy, despite being in the center of the Ocean Drive hubbub, across the street from the beach. But features are scarce -- no gym, no spa, no pool -- and stylish rooms and free continental breakfasts with fresh fruit don't quite make the steep rates worthwhile.
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