Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Mellow beats play in the background during pooltime at this low-key, 111-room SoBe beachfront institution that’s been around since 1941.
This place is not without, ahem, flashes of pure fun: I saw one guest pull down his pants and moon his girlfriend, causing a ripple of giggles around the pool. In general, though, it's a mellow hotel filled with couples lounging, swinging in the hammocks, and walking back and forth through the gate to the beach, all with loungy Nina Simone remixes playing in the background by the pool.
The South Seas opened in 1941 and has been closed for just a single day since then -- in 1992, when Miami Beach was evacuated before Hurricane Andrew swept through. Guests are North and South American, Asian and European, old and young, gay and straight, and preppy and fully tatted, and they can all be found lounging around the pool. Repeat visitors are common.
The South Seas is one of a string of hotels on Collins Avenue that are bookended by the Ritz on 15th and the Gansevoort on 24th. The range of hotels within these 10 blocks varies considerably, and while the South Seas may not be the fanciest, sleekest, or hippest, it doesn't pretend to be any of those things anyway. It's simply a good value that offers beachfront access as well as a free breakfast that goes well beyond the usual stale pastries and hours-old drip.
Warm, friendly, consistent service from dedicated, long-serving staff.
The service was excellent all around, from check-in to checkout -- not the kind of doting service you get at a few luxury properties on Collins Avenue, but friendly, efficient, and even inviting. It's as if you're being welcomed into a family.
The staff is a well-oiled machine; many of its members have worked at the hotel for more than a decade. (A woman named Ana, who had been on staff for 25 years, was one of the most helpful concierges I've ever met -- an impression echoed by other guests I met.)
My room was ready when I walked in the door at 12:30 p.m., a rarity in a place where check-in usually isn't guaranteed until 3 p.m.
Service at the Pilikia bar and cafe was consistently warm and friendly. The experienced bartenders doubled as waitstaff and were able to juggle seven orders coming in at once. My lunch was delivered to my lounge chair by the pool in 13 minutes.
As is common in South Beach, gratuities are automatically added to the bill -- 15 percent in this case -- but the staff more than earned their pay. I noticed several guests leaving a few extra bucks on the counter.
My room-service order arrived in 30 minutes; extra towels were delivered six minutes after my request.
The hotel doesn't have a separate concierge desk, but there's no need: Virtually every member of the staff has an encyclopedic knowledge of South Beach, Miami, and the Keys. One desk clerk whom I'd asked for dining advice directed me to two excellent Cuban restaurants, filled largely with locals, that I never would have found on my own.
A good hotel with a great location; guests can easily hit the beach or walk to South Beach's many bars, restaurants, and clubs.
The hotel is on the beach and within quick walking distance of the South Beach party scene. The far hipper, and far more expensive, Delano is just half a block away, and its multiple bars and nightclub make it a popular nighttime destination.
The South Seas shares the block with several other beachfront hotels, including the Marseilles (which is next door) and the Doubletree Surfcomber, both of which are roughly the same price. Directly across the street, there are the almost-as-cheap party hotels, the Catalina, Dorset, and Claremont.
Lincoln Road, and the official start of South Beach, is just two blocks away, making the hotel an ideal location for those who want to be near the busy party scene but slightly apart from its center.
Valet parking is available at the hotel for $29 per day, double that for big SUVs.
Prime beachfront property with access to the boardwalk through a keyed gate.
Once on the beach, however, guests are on their own. The South Seas has no beach services. Guests can purchase chairs and umbrellas from an independent beach-services stand called Beach Aqua Circus, a name that seems ever-changing. Chairs run $10 per day, $15 with an umbrella, and can only be paid for in cash. The deal is the same at the Richmond and Marseilles next door. But guests at the similarly priced Catalina hotel across the street get two free chairs with their room, a significant added value for one of these inexpensive places.
Great food is available at the nearby Love Food Cafe, a charming yellow shack on the beach that's been there for decades and serves up amazing burgers and salmon seviche.
Although a few guests complained of the small size of the superior rooms, the 285-square-foot rooms are clean, well appointed with simple furnishings, and boast electronics that can really make a difference in comfort level and aren't always found in similarly priced rooms in South Beach.
As in most hotels in Art Deco buildings in Miami, the bathrooms at South Seas are small, though not as small as, say, the Surfcomber's or the Albion's. The water is hot, the shower pressure solid, and the lavender bath products come from San Francisco-based EO and are made with pure essential oils.
I occasionally heard noise from the hallway, but because my window only had a view of the hotel next door, I heard nothing from the street. Management acknowledged that guests commonly complain about the thin walls -- but I found that to be a problem at virtually every Art Deco building in South Beach.
Wi-Fi is free in the rooms (unlike at the Doubletree Surfcomber, two doors down).
Guests flock to the heated, clean, rectangular pool. Plenty of cushion-covered lounge chairs are arranged around the pool proper and on an elevated patio overlooking the pool. The shallowest depth is 3 feet, so the pool is not ideal for smaller children.
Behind the pool and in front of the gate leading to the boardwalk is a quiet, relaxing, tree-shaded area with five huge hammocks and two small tents with lounge chairs; it tends to be less crowded than the pool area. Free yoga classes take place in this area on Saturday mornings, and a masseuse sets up shop here Thursdays through Sundays.
The fitness room is pathetic: just a small, half-enclosed room with one treadmill, one stationary bike, a tiny set of weights, and no air-conditioning.
Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel, and three PCs are available to guests for free.
Not particularly kid-friendly, but there are free cribs and rollaway beds, and the menu has some kid-appropriate eats.
I saw a few toddler-age kids here, but save for the prime beachfront location, there's not much by way of amenities for children. Cribs and rollaway beds are free, but extra beds are available only in superior rooms that have one bed, not two. The hotel has three suites that can accommodate extra people and beds, as well as a handful of connecting rooms.
The shallowest area of the pool is just under 3 feet, making it less than ideal for the smallest swimmers.
Pilikia has high chairs and several kid-friendly options on the menu, including burgers, hot dogs, and grilled cheese with Vermont cheddar.
Well cleaned top to bottom -- save for a few spots in the bathrooms.
The hotel is thoroughly clean inside and out. I did spot a little mildew in the bathroom, and some of the furniture was a little worse for wear, but the lobby area, pool, and grounds were immaculate. Virtually every time I walked through the lobby I spotted someone from housekeeping wiping, sweeping, or mopping.
Free breakfast! And fresh food served up on the a la carte menu.
The food at Pilikia gets solid all-around reviews, but the highlight is certainly the free breakfast, served every day from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. The spread isn't huge, but hotel guests come flocking for the assortment of breads, hard-boiled eggs, salami, fresh fruit (cantaloupe, bananas), juice (orange and grapefruit, not fresh-squeezed), yogurt, boxed cereals, and coffee. "It saves you $30 right off the bat," said a guest from Wisconsin.
The a la carte offerings for snacks, lunch, and dinner are limited but reasonably priced for hotel food. Sandwiches and burgers range from $11 to $15, entrees from $16 (for Hawaiian chicken) to $23 (for sesame-crusted wasabi tuna).
My Caesar salad was fresh and the dressing housemade; the blackened mahimahi with lemon-scented rice and tropical salsa was flavorful, if a bit overcooked, and though the key lime pie wasn't homemade, it was memorable.
With basic but clean rooms, direct beach access, a nice pool, and an address on swank Collins Avenue, the low-key South Seas is one of the best values in SoBe -- if you can tolerate small bathrooms and a tiny gym with no air-conditioning.
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