Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators.
Laid-back luxury hotel with a 1940s Art Deco vibe
The Royal Palm Hotel is a recognizable name to long-time Miami residents. It’s been a landmark property on Collins Avenue for over 70 years and was the first luxury hotel in the city (originally located downtown). In 2012 it was fully renovated and reopened as a James-brand hotel, though many of the original Art Deco elements -- terrazzo floors, reception desk, and porthole windows -- have remained intact.
From the beach to the pools to the stylish lobby area, the property has plenty of great spots to lounge during the day. In the evenings, guests can dine at one of two restaurants, Catch or Florida Cookery. Two bars and a posh nightclub are also open well into the night.
In the center of it all
The hotel is located on posh, upper Collins Avenue, in the center of Miami's Art Deco Historic District. The area is packed in every direction with dozens of bars, restaurants, and attractions, all within easy walking distance.
To the north are popular, high-end nightclubs at hotels such as The Perry or Fontainebleau, along with some of Miami's most exclusive clubs, such as Mokai. To the south, things get less exclusive and more populist along the famed Ocean Drive, with its busy boardwalk, outdoor bars and cafes, and more affordable boutique hotels.
Stylish, modern rooms with inconsistent views
The hotel’s 390 rooms have high-end contemporary decor in ocean-inspired shades of green, blue, and brown. All come with sleek, intricately tiled bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, fully loaded minibars, and one-of-a-kind “day paintings” made by professional artists in under one hour. Views from the full oceanfront rooms are impressive, but most rooms only have partial ocean views or downtown views overlooking Biscayne Bay. A few of the larger room-types -- Lofts, Apartments, and Penthouse Loft Suites -- have private balconies, but they are tiny.
The different room types vary mainly by square footage. The smallest rooms are Guestrooms, which have a variety of bed combinations, and Studio Suites, which feature king-size beds. Lofts are the next size up, followed by Apartments, which are available with one or two bedrooms.
For large groups, guestrooms with two double beds can fit four people, and Two-Bedroom Apartments can accommodate up to six people.
A decent luxury pick for families, the hotel features a kids’ program and children’s menus in two restaurants.
The hotel has a 24-hour playroom and a beach area with toys, but offers no adult supervision or babysitting services. Xboxes, Wiis, PlayStation 3s, and DVD players are also available at the front desk, free of charge.
Double Double Guestrooms and Two-Bedroom Apartments are great for families, sleeping four and six people, respectively. Both hotel restaurants also have kids’ menus.
With no kiddy pool or babysitting services, The James isn’t one of the top family-friendly hotels in Miami. Those looking for a more kid-friendly environment should check out Loews Miami Beach Hotel, located just up the street.
Two restaurants and a coffee shop on-site
The hotel’s signature restaurant, Florida Cookery, has indoor and outdoor seating on the second floor, next to the terrace-level pool. It specializes in regional Florida fare, and the menu includes a number of unique dishes, such as frog legs, lychee-roasted quail, and mango pie. Florida Cookery also serves finger foods and drinks at the beach and pool. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A seafood and sushi restaurant, Catch, is open for dinner only. Whole fried snapper, Cantonese-style lobster, and crispy rice cakes are a few of its specialties. The 2007 winner of Top Chef, Hung Huynh, is the restaurant’s executive chef.
It’s impossible not to notice the lime green, Art Deco-style coffee bar in the hotel lobby. This cute café used to be the Royal Palm’s front desk back in the 1940s. Coffee drinks and fresh-baked pastries are served here daily.
Room service is available 24 hours a day from Florida Cookery.
With orange umbrellas and walkways made out of sand, The James makes its stretch of public beach feel exclusive.
The hotel sits right on the beach, which is easily accessed by walking past the first-floor pool area. The beach is part of a huge, busy stretch of public Miami Beach, but The James does its best to make its sand feel exclusive.
Beach snacks and beverages are available from the poolside restaurant, Florida Cookery, or the pool bar Guests can also receive a free welcome basket with aloe, fresh fruit, and two bottles of water to enjoy at their lounge chair.
Umbrellas and chairs are available for free, but shaded cabana beds cost extra. Paddleboards, boogie boards, and bicycles are also available (the cost is covered by the daily beach fee). The sand is soft and generally clean, with the exception of some dried kelp and seaweed at the waterline.
Two hotel pools with food and bar service
The hotel has a terrace swimming pool and a larger, beach-level pool. Food and drinks are available poolside from Florida Cookery and the pool bar, and an attendant provides every guest with a welcome basket of aloe, fresh fruit, and two bottles of water.
24-hour gym with personal training and fitness classes
Extensive range of treatments at Renew Spa
The treatments at Renew Spa don’t come cheap -- the most basic massages are well over $100. Still, there are some unusual treatments at The James that aren’t easy to come by, such as “Power Animal Discovery,” “Vitamin Drip Treatment,” and “Mindful Waves,” which monitors brainwaves while displaying inspirational imagery.
With three hotel bars and a nightclub, guests won’t go thirsty at The James.
Between the lobby bar, pool bar, rum bar, and swanky SL nightclub, there’s plenty to drink at The James. As at most places in South Beach, the alcoholic drinks are on the pricey side.
In the evenings the Lobby Lounge transforms into The James Club Bar, a venue specializing in designer cocktails made from fresh fruit and herbs. The bar also serves beer, wine, and snacks from Florida Cookery.
South Shore is a casual, guests-only, rum bar in the back of the hotel. It has a lounge area, foosball table, and cigars that guests are welcome to smoke in a nearby sitting area. It specializes in rum punch and rum-based cocktails. Over 120 different rums are available at South Shore and, supposedly, five of the brands can’t be found anywhere else in the United States.
SL Miami is a dimly lit, New York-inspired nightclub where DJs provide the entertainment. Despite walls of colorful, pulsating lights, SL is more of a lounge bar than a dance club.
The seafood restaurant, Catch, also has its own bar downstairs.
For those who prefer to drink privately, every guestroom is equipped with bar supplies for mixing cocktails, plus a guidebook with over 200 recipes. If guests don’t want to break the bank by opening four different liquor bottles to make one drink, room service will deliver pre-measured liquors and ingredients upon request. In-room mixology lessons are also available.
The lime green, Art Deco-style coffee bar in the hotel lobby specializes in pour over coffee (aka hand drip coffee). Proponents say this method -- using a funnel -- makes tastier coffee. Other coffee drinks and fresh-baked pastries are also served here.
Free filtered water is delivered to guestrooms daily in a glass carafe. Standard minibar drinks, tea, and instant coffee are also in every room.
Business center, gift shop, and 24-hour room service
Large ballroom, boardrooms, and outdoor meeting spaces
The Royal Palm was Miami’s first luxury hotel.
The Royal Palm Hotel was built in 1897 by railroad entrepreneur Henry Flagler (who also built The Breakers hotel in West Palm Beach). The original hotel was located in downtown Miami and was supposedly the first luxury hotel in the city, featuring the city's first electric lights, elevator, and swimming pool.
The Royal Palm relocated to its current South Beach address in 1939 and was built in the Art Deco style popular at the time. The James took it over and began a much-needed renovation in 2011. Many of the original Art Deco elements in the lobby have been preserved, including porthole-shaped windows, terrazzo flooring, and the reception desk, which is now a coffee bar.
The James Royal Palm had its grand opening in late 2012, becoming the third James hotel, following properties in Chicago and New York.
Basic ADA services, plus extra handicap rooms and pool accessibility
This beautifully restored, 390-room beachfront property is a modern reincarnation of Miami’s first luxury hotel -- The Royal Palm. Highlights include two swimming pools, two restaurants, three bars, a nightclub, a full-service spa, stylish rooms, and a great address on swank Collins Avenue. The rooms are modern and sophisticated, with well-stocked minibars and original paintings by local artists. Guests have to pay a daily “beach fee,” but they get a lot in return, including free bikes, paddleboards, umbrellas, beach chairs, and fitness classes.