Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Staff is eager to serve, offering plenty of well-researched advice on restaurants and events.
A quiet block that's right around the corner from high-end action.
James Avenue is a quiet, residential street with nothing but old Deco buildings transformed into apartments. Lacking the all-night vitality synonymous with South Beach, walking home alone at night can feel a bit uncomfortable.
On the other side of James Avenue, about three blocks from the Sanctuary, top-notch dining, shopping, and drinking can be found on. And then there's the beach, about three short blocks away. It's worth visiting if you can find the time.
The rooms are huge, but the balcony is just an outdoor hallway.
When the Sanctuary opened in 2005, their burgeoning playboy owner, Keith Menin, went on a press-generating rampage to make his condo-turned-hotel into what Ocean Drive magazine called the "most chic hotel in Miami." But all efforts to keep it on the hipster radar seemed to end there until all rooms were renovated in 2011. Before renovations, the heavily trodden rooms, though huge (especially compared with the other Art Deco hotels), felt old and neglected.
All rooms are assembled around an open-air courtyard; a bit like a motel with some trees and fountains in place of a parking lot. The problem is that large windows expose every room to anyone passing by.
All guest rooms include:
Shin-deep pool, so-so spa
Tolerably clean facilities, but dirty floors, water-damaged ceilings, and rusty bathtubs are less than luxurious.
Huge bamboo trees, dying in the Miami heat, leave piles of crumpled leaves on the outdoor loungers and in the courtyard fountain. There are huge decomposing piles of leaves along the terrace ledges. Guests and employees invariably track in street grime throughout the outdoor property, and there appears to be no effort to mop up the blackened marble.
In the rooms, bubbling ceilings and torn paint show signs of water damage. Black luggage streaks line the walls. In the bathroom, I found painted tiles worn chalk-white, and deep, mold-collecting gouges in the tub's spray jets.
Adventurous Latin American cuisine
To some, Ola's adventurous Latin American cuisine -- red snapper tiradito with cantaloupe and chili or lobster ceviche with coconut milk, orange and lime juice, for example -- is superb. To others, the eclectic menu options might feel a bit too far reaching.
Service is on-par with the best hotels in Miami. Rooms vie for the status of biggest in South Beach. But the once-chic Sanctuary is a poorly maintained property on an off-beat side street with a dainty, hardly usable pool. Even Ola's innovative cuisine fails to justify the Sanctuary's often-inflated rates. Rooms renovations brought a more contemporary look to all rooms, as well as updated amenities