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The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami 4.5

Bal Harbour, Miami, Florida

Review Summary

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Pros

Cons

  • No on-site nightlife
  • Narrow, unattractive beach
  • 20-minute, $25 cab ride from South Beach
  • Spa treatments are tres pricey

Bottom Line

Sure, it boasts a 10,000-square-foot spa, $4 million worth of modern art, and some of Miami's grandest rooms. But the 124-room Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour (formerly ONE Bal Harbour), which opened in 2008 as the Regent Bal Harbour, brings a low-key luxury. It's more romantic and understated than the nearby Acqualina, but its beach is far worse. Trade-offs, trade-offs.

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Scene

Among Miami's most luxe hotels, the 124-room Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour attracts stylish couples (and their Ferraris).

Ferraris grace the grounds

In 2008, The Regent opened to become the first major hotel to grace Bal Harbour in more than 50 years. It didn't last long. While the notable international luxury hotel group held tight to the property for the first year or so, it gently slipped from their control to become One Bal Harbour. In 2014 it became a Ritz-Carlton property.

Its 124 rooms occupy an imposing 17-story building on the northeastern end of town, bordered on one side by Baker's Haulover Inlet and on the other by the Atlantic.

Despite the cost, the property doesn't feel stuffy. The incorporation of natural elements into the décor -- mahogany floors, stone sculptures, floating orchids -- lends the property an understated class. Think Don Draper, not Donald Trump.

Service

A 24-hour concierge, twice-daily maid service, complimentary overnight shoeshines, and a staff that is eager -- nay, determined -- to please.

Front desk

The service strives to satisfy an elite clientele. However, as wonderful as the service is, you'll find a lighter touch (more smiles) and more flash (complimentary smoothies, "service flags" at the beach) at the nearby Acqualina Resort & Spa, which boasts an equally impressive staff.

  • 24-hour concierge service; personal shoppers available by request
  • 24-hour room service
  • Personal hotel cell phones for guests to use
  • Express check-in and checkout; private check-in and checkout available (for high-profile guests)
  • Luxury car service, but only one car is available, and on a first-come-first-serve basis

Location

In Bal Harbour, a posh, beachside suburb of Miami best known for its high-end mall.

Map of The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, Miami

This is probably the best indication of what you'll find in Bal Harbour: When you Google it, the first thing that comes up isn't the official government site or the tourism home page or the Wikipedia entry. It's Bal Harbour Shops, the shopping center five minutes south of the hotel on Collins Avenue. Home to seemingly every high-end retailer in the world, the mall is considered by many to be the most exclusive outdoor shopping destination in the country. (Rodeo Drive? Fifth Avenue? Nope. Bal Harbour.) The mall is just a 10- to 15-minute walk down the road, but if you want to fit in, you might want to take the Mercedes -- they outnumber the Hondas in the parking lot about two to one.

There's little else near the hotel. The pier down on the inlet is a nice place to people- (and bird-) watch. The locals fish out on the rocks; the pelicans take a more direct approach.

  • South Beach is a 20-minute, $25 cab ride away.
  • Miami International Airport is 20 minutes away. Taxis charge a flat rate of $42 (not including tip) to and from the hotel.

Beach

Disappointing. The beach is right behind the hotel, but it's narrow and marred by seaweed, crushed seashells, and even some litter.

The beach

Located adjacent to Baker's Haulover Inlet and its pier, the beach is one of the hotel's only two drawbacks (the other being its suburban location, far from the action). You can walk south, but you can't get away from the seaweed and seashells strewn along the wet sand. Few to no guests actually swim in the water or relax on the sand.

On a positive note, it's still a scenic setting for a sunrise or sunset, and the 0.8-mile dirt path alongside the beach is a nice place for a walk or jog.

Rooms

Grand in every sense. Granite and mahogany-hardwood floors, classy décor, ocean views, 52-inch flatscreens, surround-sound speakers, espresso machines, and -- oh, yes -- a bathroom to surpass all bathrooms.

Bathroom in the Double Studio Room

Despite the size of the building, The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour only has 124 rooms. That's because the the rooms, especially the suites, are huge. Each of the four towers only has two rooms per floor, so your elevator feels a lot like your own private conveyor.

Half the rooms are 510-square-foot studios, which feature wet bars and 72-square-foot balconies. The other half are suites of various shapes and sizes; they feature living rooms, full kitchens, and several large terraces.

I stayed in a one-bedroom executive suite in the Haulover Tower. It's difficult to describe the room without sounding like an inventory-tracking, brand-name-dropper. So ... that's exactly what I'll do:

In the living room:

  • 52-inch LG plasma TVs
  • Nakamichi SoundSpace 8 1/2 surround-sound speaker systems
  • DVD players
  • High-speed Wi-Fi
  • High-grade leather furniture
  • Paintings by Darren Waterston and Jay McCafferty

In the kitchens:

In the bedrooms:

And then there's the bathrooms, without a doubt the best in South Florida. Whether you have a studio or a suite, you'll have access to the largest, grandest bathroom this side of the Everglades. Among the highlights:

Features

High marks for the big three: a nice pool, a well-equipped gym, and a gorgeous spa. Plus fast, reliable, free Wi-Fi throughout the property.

The gym

The outdoor pool is large, clean, and warm, though not as spectacular as the pools at the Acqualina, Setai, Delano, or Fontainebleau. Then again, The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour is a midsize hotel -- there are only 124 rooms -- so size isn't crucial.

At the pool:

  • Sedate atmosphere: no music, no poolside bar, just couples lounging poolside and canoodling in the shallow water
  • Private cabanas, available to rent with a Jacuzzi or without

At the fitness center:

  • Top-notch StarTrac equipment: nine strength machines, a full set of free weights, and seven cardio machines, including several with TV screens built in.
  • Personal trainers are available upon request, but there are no organized classes (yoga, Pilates, spin, etc.).

Luxury Spa

The hotel's 10,000-square-foot spa is a destination unto itself, with a full range of face and body therapies, "harmonizing massages," and "transforming day experiences."

The spa

The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour's spa features ocean views and a cabana. But prepare for some eyebrow-raising prices, even by luxury spa standards: hour-long manicures and pedicures run $180 each.

Family

Not a place for families -- bad beach and no kids' menu at the restaurant, but there is a kids club.

The inlet

The vibe at The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour is more "romantic getaway" than "take the kids along" -- classy décor, relatively formal service, couples in cabanas. But there is a kids club and families like the large pool.

Food

Two expensive restaurants on-site: one fancy, one more casual. More upscale options can be found five minutes away at the Bal Harbour Shops. Either way, have your platinum card ready.

French toast for breakfast

Mister Collins, an upscale American restaurant, opened on the property in June 2011. The fancier dining option at the hotel, Mister Collins has indoor and outdoor seating and features dishes like crab cake salad and prime rib.

The View Bar is the (slightly) cheaper, lower-key option. Dinner is served outdoors under fluorescent pink lights, with a DJ spinning house beats on the side. The music isn't super-loud -- you can have a conversation without having to yell -- and it's tough to beat the romance of an al fresco meal on a nice South Florida night. But if you want a quieter, more intimate setting, your best bet is probably indoors at 1 Bleu. Breakfast at the View Bar is tasty but conventionally overpriced.

Also, only five minutes away by car (or 10 to 15 minutes by foot), the upmarket Bal Harbour Shops feature an additional eight restaurants.

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Address

10295 Collins Avenue, Bal Harbour, Florida 33154, United States

Also Known As

  • Bal Harbour Regent
  • ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa
  • Regent Bal Harbour

Room Types

  • Deluxe Ocean View Room
  • Deluxe Suite Ocean View
  • Grand 2 Bedroom Suite
  • Penthouse Suite
  • Premier Deluxe Ocean View Room
  • Premier Deluxe Suite Ocean View

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