Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The 55-room South Beach Plaza Hotel is, like many of South Beach's smaller budget options, filled with young groups of vacationers desperate for sun, beach, and a few nights of SoBe debauchery. Amenities are basically limited to the Moroccan Gardens in the courtyard and there's not much of a bar scene, but the prime location and room prices make it an easy home base for a weekend in SoBe. Still, the nearby Albion hotel offers more for your money in the area.
Unlike the marine motifs and Art Deco nods at most South Beach boutique hotels, the Plaza's rooms and lobby are filled with a rather gaudy smattering of baroque embellishments -- gold-leaf figures, wine-colored carpets, and ornamental blown glass. But what really caught my attention on arrival -- and held it for my whole stay -- was the lobby's strong urine stench. Just to make sure this wasn't a fluke, I popped back into the lobby a week later and sure enough, the odor remained.
Friendly and helpful staff, but service is basically limited to the front-desk clerk and a porter.
The staff consists of a porter, a front-desk clerk, and housekeepers. But the small staff do their best to please -- the porter ran out to my cab and helped me with my bags, and came to my room to make sure everything was acceptable.
Prime party location -- just shy of the party scene north of 15th Street on Collins Avenue, about a block from the beach and a short walking distance to drinking, dining, and shopping at the Lincoln Road outdoor mall.
Ocean Drive, a block away, offers seemingly endless eating and drinking options, but many of these outdoor cafes are merely overpriced tourist traps. You're better off walking a few blocks north to the Lincoln Road Mall, an outdoor pedestrian promenade with everything from Starbucks to designer clothing shops to premier cuisine. Even closer is the quaint strip on Espanola Way, which has some great -- and affordable -- cafes. For self-catering, a 24-hour Walgreens drugstore is about a block away.
One block from a popular public beach. The Plaza offers towels but no chairs or umbrellas.
The Plaza is located on Collins Avenue, a block away from South Beach's busy stretch of Lummus Park Beach. This beach is huge -- 100 yards wide between the nearest walkways and shore -- and stretches for miles along Miami Beach. Its soft white sand and clear blue water are surprisingly clean, even though a jumbled horde of families, couples, tanned muscle dudes, and semi-nude sunbathers crowd the beach from dawn to dusk.
For umbrellas or chairs, plan to pay fees to Boucher Brothers (normally about $10 per chair, $20 per umbrella). The hotel provides beach towels at the front desk but does not offer private beach access, chairs, or umbrellas.
The shellacked hardwood floors and cracked old walls are charming in a vintage South Beach kind of way, but the weird mix of furry leopard blankets, golden geisha lamps, and knockoff vintage French posters give the design an over-the-top element that's out of place in South Beach. Rooms at the nearby Albion are cheaper, cleaner, and have more amenities.
The 55 rooms range in size dramatically -- from a puny, 150-square-foot Standard Villa King on up to 550-square-foot Executive Suites and Bungalows. Most rooms are either Superior or Imperial rooms, which are about 300 square feet (fairly large, by South Beach boutique-hotel standards) and come with either a king-size bed or two full-size beds. Superior and Imperial rooms are both housed in the main building, whereas the Standards, Suites, and Bungalows are all located off the courtyard.
Some rooms were renovated in 2008: Superiors got new mattresses and Imperials were fully renovated to include plasma flat-screen TVs (with basic cable), iPod docks, and DVD players. Superior rooms just have the old tube TV sets.
Beds are comfortable, but mattresses are generic with no pillow-top. Brown cotton sheets and furry, leopard-print throws dress the bed -- there are no duvets or comforters.
A beautiful courtyard -- called the Moroccan Gardens -- is separated from the street by a high fence and can be accessed through the lobby. A large trellis offers pleasant shade in the middle of the garden, over large cushioned sofas. Moroccan-style lamps and cushions add a charming flavor to the gardens, as do the private hookah rooms -- small lounge areas that are loosely separated by decorative wire and wood panels.
A small gym is located at the back of the gardens. It's not air-conditioned, but there are fans that create a decent breeze. It consists of just a couple of cardio machines and some weights, so a jog on Lummus Park Beach, a block away, is probably a more pleasant workout.
The De Carlos Lobby Bar, though advertised on the website as a "popular hangout for visitors and locals alike in an atmosphere that's inviting and elegant, casual and intimate," is in a generally empty, sad state these days. Save for the free continental breakfast served there in the mornings, I really never saw a guest step foot in the bar. It's dark and barely staffed, so it's not hard to see why.
The young, party atmosphere and lack of amenities aren't really family-oriented.
The Plaza attracts mostly young partyers, and there's no restaurant, pool, or on-site entertainment for kids other than TVs in the rooms, so this isn't an ideal spot for children.
Cribs and rollaway beds are available -- both are $30 a night -- but double rooms and Standard Villa Kings do not have space for extra beds.
The strong odor of urine in the lobby -- a smell that persisted for at least a week -- was definitely hard to overcome. But my room was actually quite tidy, despite the humid clime and the building's age.
Free breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in De Carlos Lobby Bar, but otherwise there's no on-site restaurant or room service. Outside the hotel, there are plenty of great restaurants just a short walk away.
Free breakfast is served in the lobby bar each morning from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. The continental spread includes juice, coffee, cereals, packaged muffins, and some bagels. Guests can eat in the gardens or the lobby, though we heard several guests complaining about bothersome flies and mosquitoes around their food outside. The few seats in the lobby do, however, become prime pieces of real estate.
There is no restaurant on-site and there's no room service available. Rooms do not have kitchens or minibars (or fridges). A 24-hour Walgreens is about a block away for basic groceries, and liquor stores and convenience stores are nearby. The 24-hour Jerry's Famous Deli is a block away, as are great, less touristy restaurants along Espanola Way (one block away) and Lincoln Road (about four blocks away).
This 55-room crash pad is one block from the beach, in a prime South Beach party location. Moroccan Gardens and free breakfasts are highlights, but unlike the similarly priced Hotel of South Beach or the Albion, there's no pool. Basic rooms are tiny, but upgraded rooms have plasma TVs, DVD players, and iPod docks.