Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Located on a lush, seven-mile-long island, the 450-room Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne is just a 25 minute cab ride (for about $35) from Downtown Miami -- but it feels worlds away. Once inside the grounds of the resort, shared with the Grand Bay Club, a pricey condo community, guests are far from the party-hearty throngs of South Beach.
Much of the client base comes from on-site conferences. When I visited in late April, the place was filled with some 200 investors there for a conference. Day and night, dark suits milled about the lobby, mixing oddly with the beachfront location and two pools. Sure, many Miami Beach hotels also host large conferences, namely the Fontainebleau in Mid-Beach or the Loews in South Beach, but at the Ritz, the formal vibe is strong. Business suits outnumber bathing suits and cover-ups by far.
But it's not all business. With an on-site Family Pool, there are a few young families at the resort, along with older, longer-stay guests from the residential units relaxing in the Jacuzzi. The grounds are large, and the hotel is extremely quiet -- and not just at the adults-only Tranquility Pool. For some, it may be perfectly peaceful; for others, it may feel a bit too much like a library on the beach. For a similarly quiet sensibility and a little more fun nearby, check out the Ritz-Carlton South Beach or head further north and try the massive Fontainebleau resort (famed for its recent $1 billion renovation).
Located on the lush island of Key Biscayne, the resort is away from it all. Even to explore the island, guests need a bike or car.
The seven-mile-long island of Key Biscayne is easily accessible by car or taxi across a scenic causeway. It's a 15- to 20-minute drive from Downtown Miami or 20 to 25 minutes from South Beach. Once you're on the resort grounds, it's difficult to explore the island without a vehicle of some sort. The concierge can arrange bike or golf cart rentals through nearby outside companies. The resort used to rent out its own bikes, but it no longer does. Exploring the island, including its landmark lighthouse, by bicycle is lovely.
Within walking distance from the hotel, there are a couple of strip malls with inexpensive cafés to grab a cheap bite, a bank, and a liquor store.
The hotel's Web site talks of basking on the sands of a Key Biscayne beach, named once of "America's Best." The beach in question isn't the one the hotel sits on but rather the one in Cape Florida State Park, a five-minute drive away.
The hotel's beach is far less fabulous. It's easily accessed just past the pool area on a nice wooden pathway. But, the beach itself is narrow and covered with seaweed. When I visited, waters were more brown than blue, and this is the case throughout the year. Oyster first sent a reporter down to investigate the Ritz in August 2008. She came back and explained that the beach was filthy and smelled like a raw fish bar. My editor was skeptical, so he sent me back -- and sure enough, the beach was just as unattractive, though not so smelly.
Fortunately, unlike at most Miami resorts, full service is available on the beach, inlcuding cabanas and chaises with little flags that guests can raise for service. However, it was empty when I was there. Most guests opt for the pools.
Renovated in early 2009, rooms are clean and new, but their generically elegant interiors are nothing special -- they're like at any other Ritz.
With Bulgari toiletries, feather beds, high-thread-count sheets, and Boca Terry robes, rooms have the luxuries you'd expect at the Ritz. But the décor, while tasteful, is also pretty bland for Miami. But, it's still a Ritz, and there are some nice suprises:
Club Level rooms on the ninth, 10th, and 11th floors that have their own business center, food presentations throughout the day, and a private snack gazebo called the Club on the Beach. It all sounds nice, but with Standard rooms costing around $400, all hotel guests really do deserved some of those amenities.
A participant in Florida's Green Lodging program, the Ritz has several green initiatives beyond just not washing sheets and towels every day.
All guest rooms have recycling bins. Every month hotel staff and guests can go on a "Giveback Getaway" to do restoration work at the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. Eco-friendly paints, lights, and cleaning products are used on the facility. Uniforms for the front-of-house staff are even made from recycled plastic bottles.
The hotel has adjoining rooms, and king rooms can accomodate rollaways, which cost a daily fee. Cribs are free. Families might also want to consider staying in one of the residences, some of which feature kitchens.
The property clearly divides itself: adults this way to the Tranquility Pool, kids this way to the Family Pool. With a zero-entry area, a waterfall, and a shop selling water toys, the Family Pool is kiddie paradise.
Ritz Kids, the resort's children's program for ages 5 to 12, gives moms and dads full- and half-day breaks. It's pricey, but kids are entertained with everything from tennis tournaments to island treasure hunts.
Both the on-site restaurants Cantina and Cioppino have scenic outdoor bars. The lobby features a lovely indoor bar called Rum Bar with a colonial theme and tropical fans. It's a bar by night and a coffee bar with pastries and light breakfast items by day. There's also a lounge area in the lobby that has small bites and sushi on some nights.
One of the most elegant (and costly) venues in Miami
The Ritz is one of Miami's most luxurious hotels, and it's weddings uphold the brands' standards of service and all-around opulence. Of course, it's also one of Miami's most expensive venues -- dinners are costly per head, about on par with the most historic, the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
A tranquil 450-room island resort off the Miami mainland on Key Biscayne, the Ritz provides some of the traditional "Ritzy" benchmarks -- impeccably kept grounds, huge pools, a brilliant spa, a world-class tennis center, a kids' club, and elegant (if generic) interiors. Too bad service is uneven and the sliver of beach is covered in seaweed.