South Beach's pricier take on the youth hostel. To some, the clean rooms (renovated 2008), prime locale, and fun vibe make the Chelsea a reasonable pick. Free Wi-Fi and a nightly happy hour with free drinks add value. But there's no pool or beach service. The hotel is best for low-key couples and groups of friends who want to be in the heart of South Beach; families should look elsewhere.
A daily happy hour, lots of young people, and a casual, communal vibe. More like a European youth hostel than a standard hotel, but you get your own bathroom.
Not to be confused with theChelsea Hotel in New York, this Chelsea is operated by the South Beach Group, a small chain that owns seven boutique hotels in Miami Beach, including the Metropole and the Whitelaw.
If you're put off by the idea of the prototypical South Beach crashing pad, with its sceney lounges, dingy rooms, and alcohol-fueled, trying-too-hard-to-be-cool social scene, you shouldn't necessarily cross the Chelsea off your list. Despite the South Beach Group's target audience and most hyped amenity -- free well-drinks every night from 7 to 8 p.m. -- the vibe at the Chelsea is more surfer-dude chill-out than frat-pack keg stand.
At the nightly happy hour, tattooed employees, along with their friends (and one dog), mingle with the guests over quiet drinks on the patio. Not to say they're discussing Wittgenstein and playing backgammon, but the ear-bleeding dance beats and fluorescent lights ubiquitous throughout South Beach are conspicuously absent outside the Chelsea. (In the lobby, however, it can get loud.) And you need not worry about getting too sloppy before heading out to the clubs -- the happy-hour drinks are plenty watered-down. It's basically a pre-party activity.
In the heart of the SoBe action, two blocks from Ocean Drive and the beach.
The Chelsea will appeal to those in town to party. It's on Washington Avenue between Ninth and 10th, within blocks of some of SoBe's largest (though not most exclusive) clubs, including Mansion, Cameo, and B.E.D., which is right across the street.
The area feels a bit less intimate than if you were staying on Collins or Ocean, largely because Washington is a four-lane road divided by a median. Next door is a Bank of America, and across the street is an unattractive strip of small shops and restaurants (including a Fatburger, always a decent option for a cheap burger). Overall, not the most romantic spot in South Beach.
One of the world's sexiest beaches is two blocks away.
It's an eight-minute stroll to one of the most famous beaches in the world, where a jumbled horde of bikini babes, jacked dudes, couples on vacation, and families with kids cavort and relax on a stretch of sand 100 yards wide. South Beach makes it clear why there's a diet named after it.
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.
Towels are included as part of the daily resort fee. You can rent chairs and umbrellas from one of the countless Boucher Bros. stands dotting the beach.
Mobile snack stands are also scattered along the beach, selling soft drinks and chips (note, however, that alcohol is not allowed).
Small and dark, with little natural light. However, the Japanese-influenced decor is cool, the bed is OK, and the TV is a large 42-inch flat-screen.
The rooms are small and the king beds take up most of the space. Unlike most of the white-filled furnishings of Miami, the guest rooms are dark, decorated in various brown hues, and lack big windows. The Japanese-inspired decor features hardwood Pergo floors, tatami-like wallpaper, bamboo sticks, and a low-lying bed.
Speaking of the bed, my mattress was old but sturdy and the pillows were a bit lumpy, but the bedding (which includes a down comforter) was soft. Your greatest obstacle to a good night's rest probably won't be the bed; music blasts from the lobby throughout the day, which could be a rude awakening (literally), hangover or not. Even if you're in SoBe to party, I'd request a room near the back of the building. I had No. 112, and noise wasn't a problem.
The bathrooms are tiny -- 32 square feet, to be exact -- but at least they're stylish, with faux-slate tiles and vessel sinks. The Signature Natüra bath products include the usual selection. The TVs, impressive 42-inch flat-screens, have about 80 channels, plus 40 more music stations. Other amenities include 100-percent cotton bathrobes, well-stocked minibars, and stereos with iPod docking stations.
Not the usual selection. No pool or gym, but they do have a free shuttle to and from Miami International, and of course that nightly happy hour with free drinks.
The hotel lacks a pool, gym, or spa, but it does have a couple of nice features. There's free Wi-Fi, free beach towels, and a nightly happy hour with free drinks. There's also a free shuttle to/from Miami International Airport during certain times. Free yoga is also available on Saturdays at Hotel Croydon.
Although some of the above amenities are labeled as free, there is a daily resort fee added to the bill at the end of your stay. But this is common in SoBe.
Aside from the lobby bar, there's a restaurant on the hotel's patio -- Alex's Kitchen. The restaurant is independently owned but operated out of the hotel's kitchen, serving up dishes like chimichurri chicken and seared ahi tuna. The restaurant is open for all three meals.