Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A ritzy new alternative that has quickly attracted an impressive see-and-be-seen contingent.
A member of the Kimpton hotel group, the Epic opened in early 2009, about the same time as the Mondrian hotel across the bay in South Beach. Built in a soaring glass tower in the heart of Downtown Miami, it literally casts a shadow over the neighboring Hyatt Regency, dominating the waterfront with an excellent view of Biscayne Bay and Brickell Key. Or, as one woman I spoke to put it, "Here I can actually feel like I'm on vacation while my boyfriend's at work."
From the time it opened, the hotel has been buzzing. During my visit, there was a photo shoot in the lobby, a model working a ball gown by the pool, and an excited mix of locals and visitors at Area 31, the hotel's Italian restaurant. Still, what is most impressive about the hotel is its consistently polite and thoughtful service.
Employees are visibly proud of the hotel -- as reliable an indicator of quality as any.
The minute my car arrived, a porter was ready to gather my bags, and the manager personally checked me in. Throughout my visit, the staff happily identified me by name whenever I called, be it for an extra batch of toiletries (delivered within five minutes) or advice on the best running path. (They helped me plot a route!) Yes, it's only a matter of caller ID, but this simple gesture is often missing at competing hotels like the Hyatt Regency or the Intercontinental.
With its crystal spires along the waterfront, Downtown Miami looks like the planet Krypton. By day this part of the city is bustling with business, though you have to walk several blocks to find stores or restaurants that aren't affiliated with some colossal hotel or office building. Then again, if you're here for work, you're probably headed to a meeting in one of these glass-and-mortar confections anyway. At night the skyscrapers light up with a tropical range of pinks, yellows, blues, and greens. But for all the shine, there's very little life on the streets. If you're going anywhere, you'll have to drive.
Still, if you have a car -- or flag down a cab -- you'll quickly realize that the neighborhood makes up for in convenience what it lacks in character. The Epic is in the heart of Downtown, but also on its very tip. Right on the water, the hotel is a five-minute drive north of classy Brickell Key and bohemian Coconut Grove. It's directly adjacent to the more residential Coral Gables and 20 minutes (at the most) from SoBe and the beach (though parking here can be a nightmare). These neighborhoods can all be surveyed from the Epic's 16th-floor terrace, as can the manatees in the channel below.
Guest rooms and suites start on the 18th floor and go all the way up to the 30th. This means every room is guaranteed to have a breathtaking view of either the waters of Biscayne Bay or the looming Downtown towers. There are several room types, from the 475-square-foot City View Premier Room (with two double beds or one king-size) to the 700-square-foot Junior Suite (with pull-out sleeper sofas) to the 950-square-foot One Bedroom Suite. The Epic even has 13 special rooms for tall guests (finally!), with longer beds and raised showerheads. Finally, the top two floors are reserved for Club Level Rooms. Guests here enjoy a private lounge, a separate concierge, and various other goodies.
All rooms include:
The bathroom in the Premier rooms is separated from the main room by a sliding door with a translucent screen, much like the bathroom at the nearby Mandarin Oriental, except without a cut-out window looking into the bedroom (meaning there's a bit more privacy here). The bathroom itself is as large as the bedroom, if not larger, with more than enough space for a shower stall, a separate deep tub, two sinks, and a toilet.
Three relaxing pools on an amazing 16th-floor terrace, but there's no hot tub.
The 16th-floor terrace is the main center of activity. From here you can see all of Downtown, a glimpse of Brickell Key, and South Beach, across the waters of Biscayne Bay. It's also a great spot to watch manatees as they make the pilgrimage from the bay out to the ocean.
The terrace has three pools, each a different shape, but they're all about the same length and rather shallow. The largest is just about long enough to swim a decent lap in. But if you're looking for a workout, forget about it. With lounge chairs and private cabanas hooked up with flat-screen TVs, this is a place is meant for relaxation. Every guest is even offered a complimentary fruit plate. But the lack of a hot tub is a pretty major oversight.
As with the Four Seasons, near-constant sunlight makes the terrace warmer here than at most other Downtown hotels. But with the scaffolding of another building hulking in the corner, this may yet change.
The fitness center, which shares the 16th floor with the terrace, it isn't enormous (unlike Sports Club/LA at the Four Seasons), but it's still plenty large, with enough space to comfortably stretch beside the high-end cardio and weight-training machines. A row of treadmills and cross-trainers face floor-to ceiling windows that look out onto the terrace and allow plenty of light.
Exhale, a huge spa that opened in 2010, features 14 therapy rooms, a coed lounge, and a hammam detox chamber. Its extensive menu includes facials ($90-$380), body treatments ($90-$280), manicures, and waxing, as well as some less common services such as acupuncture, herbal cleanses, fertility consultations, and guided meditation sessions.
Very clean -- it even smells nice -- and seemingly built to last.
The hotel opened in 2009, and it still sparkles. I didn't find a spot of dirt anywhere. Every surface was polished and literally gleaming, and a delicious but subtle perfume wafted through the public areas -- not at all like the overpowering room freshener that gagged me at the Best Western. The furnishings are obviously new, but they seemed to be made out of quality wood and metal, unlike the resins and plastics at many other hotels that show wear almost immediately.
More resources than the stodgy location would indicate, including night-lights on request and "welcome gifts" for kids.
For a hotel in businessy Downtown, the Epic is surprisingly kid-friendly. Free cribs and playpens are available, and the restaurant has plenty of high chairs. Toilet latches, night-lights, and outlet covers can also be provided. Children get a special "welcome gift" (there's a stash of toys and coloring books in the back) and an animal-print robe, and the hotel can also refer you to a baby-sitting service.
Great Italian restaurant, with a sumptuous view and cuisine to match.
Opened in 2009 by the Kimpton hotel group, this is a relaxed, luxurious alternative to humdrum Downtown business hotels like the Hyatt or Intercontinental. The hotel's 411-room, 30-floor glass tower sports a broad terrace on the 16th floor, three pools, and the excellent Italian restaurant Area 31. It literally overshadows neighboring hotels.