Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Though undeniably gorgeous and filled with thoughtful details, the Setai’s somber décor and understated exterior feel more super-luxe urban high-rise than beachfront resort.
Ultra-sleek style and an attentive, discreet service ethic characterize the Setai, which has been called one of the "Sexiest Hotels in America", according to Forbes.
Opened in 2005 on the site of the 1930s Art Deco Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel and since April 2012 managed by Dallas-based Trevi Luxury Hospitality Group, the Setai says it strives for an "Art Deco fusion" design concept; lead designer Jean-Michel Gathy used antique gray bricks imported from Shanghai (indeed another capital of Art Deco architecture), Burmese teak latticework handmade by Chinese craftsmen, and a bronze Balinese fireplace to achieve this effect in the hotel's two lobbies (one for the original Art Deco hotel building, and one for its construction, a 40-story residential tower ).
But The hotel arguably missed the mark in terms of embracing local color. "South Beach is a resort town, a confection of ice cream flavored Art Deco," says another reviewer. "But not the Setai. The front door looks like a service entrance -- without much service."
Indeed, the Setai looks more like an anonymous office building than an Art Deco landmark. The original white and cream building has no noticeable signage, and without the ring of luxury cars parked in front, you probably wouldn't recognize it as a hotel.
The hotel's carefully manicured grounds, lined with sweeping palm trees, a lush, walled-off pool complex, and a spotless beach, more successfully balance relaxation with the colorful South Beach surroundings.
The Setai attracts a well-heeled international clientele, including families, singles, and stylish business travelers. It's also popular with celebrities (see below) and even has a recording studio designed by Lenny Kravitz.
In northern South Beach, where the new scene makers dwell.
The hotel is between the Bass Museum of Art and the equally trendy, slightly louder Shore Club Hotel. Restaurants and shops like Nobu, Ago, Bond St. Lounge, Atrium, Scoop, Sky Bar, Mynt and Rok Bar are located within half a block.
The hotel is about a 25-minute, $32 cab ride from the airport.
Considering how crowded South Beach can get, the Setai's amazing beach is almost shockingly empty. Teak lounge chairs (covered in plush, slate-colored cushions) are spread a comfortable distance apart.
The army of attentive staffers will keep you refreshed with misty spritzes of Evian water, and is of course happy to deliver cocktails and snacks so that you never have to lift a finger except to venture into the surf. Other service items include towels, magazines, and even iPods.
While the staff works to keep non-guests off the beach (and out of the fancy chairs), there's little it can do to shut out noise from nearby hotel beaches, particularly the livelier Shore Club next door.
Luxurious suites are enormous and richly decorated. Dark teak floors, a built-in couch with ash-colored micro-fiber cushions, a black granite soaking tub, and a heavy, brown Oriental rug are high-end, but decor is uncommonly dark for the area's usual beach-y vibe.
The dark, heavy mood continued in the bathroom, where the enormous and strangely austere rain shower featured floor-to-ceiling black tiles. Sexy? Definitely. Especially if you don't want to really see your partner.
The Setai's grounds are possibly the most beautiful in South Beach. Without three beachfront pools -- yes, three -- how else would you be able to swim first in a pool of 75 degrees, then 85 degrees, and finally 90 degrees?
While much of South Beach is crawling with celebrities, the plush, discreet Setai just might be their mother ship.
Celebrity sightings at the Setai, where the enormous rooms easily accomodate a posse, are really too numerous to mention. Everyone from Jay-Z to Cat Power has laid down tracks at the Lenny Kravitz-designed recording studo.
The Setai welcomes kids. The hotel's website. features a great section on children's attractions, but it's also the kind of place where nannies are usually around to keep the high spirits slightly in check. Rollaway beds are also available (fee).
The hotel's main dining spaces exhibit some of the best restaurant design in Miami; the food impressive and often excellent, but also overpriced. Ditto for the informal dining area behind the pools.
Paradise doesn't come cheap. Striking but sober mood-lit design; impeccable service; huge, immaculate rooms; three pools, each a different temperature; and a prime beachside location make the Setai one of the best hotels in Miami. Its restaurants are more about design than food, but several of Miami's best restaurants are just half a block away.