North of South Beach, the island-city of Miami Beach becomes much quieter, thanks to a thinner field of booming clubs and booze-pushing outdoor cafes. The beach is less crowded, and jogs or strolls on the wooden boardwalk are a great way to take in the coastal scenery. But unlike South Beach, drinking and dining options are few and far between, and much of the area is nothing but a dull stretch of high-rise condos. But the Fontainebleau mega-resort -- famed for its $1 billion renovation in 2008 -- is home to eight high-profile restaurants and a popular nightclub, and a number of new luxury spa resorts in the area are following suit. Plus, you're not entirely cut off from South Beach -- getting to the heart of the action can be anywhere from a five- to 20-minute commute by cab.
(Note: South Beach is actually part of Miami Beach, a city that spans about six miles of Florida's Atlantic coast. In order to make it easier to search for hotels in South Beach exclusively, we knowingly violate the official geo-political boundaries and treat South Beach and Miami Beach as two distinct neighborhoods, divided by 23rd Street.)
Exchanging South Beach's smaller Art Deco boutiques for larger high-rise resorts, Miami Beach trades South Beach's prime party location and small-scale charms for the comforts of a self-sufficient resort. Rooms are bigger, are standard at just about every resort, and guests -- mostly families, conventioneers, and retirees -- can sleep a bit more soundly. Among the standouts, there's the iconic Fontainebleau and the Eden Roc next door, as well as the gorgeous Canyon Ranch Miami Beach much farther north, but more affordable options like the multilingual Riu and Holiday Inn Miami Beach are still close by. For longer stays, the Churchill Crown Suites offers apartments with full kitchens.
No, for nationalities included in the Visa Waiver Program