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.
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.
The Setai’s clean, quiet patch of beach is as posh and exclusive as it gets in South Beach. Attendants deliver luxurious loungers and spritz guests with Evian on request.
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.
The hotel’s 85 rooms may lack SoBe flavor and direct ocean views -- but they're gorgeous, gigantic, and filled with luxurious amenities like deep soaking tubs.
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.
Rooms start at an astounding 600 quare feet, and the 45 suites in the residential tower range from 900 to 3,500 square feet.
With three splendid pools, a world-class spa, and a state-of-the-art gym, Setai guests want for nothing. Oh, and did I mention the recording studio?
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?
A spacious gym includes a Pilates studio and personal training sessions
A Lenny Kravitz-designed recording studio, located in the Art Deco building
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 accommodate 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 studio.
The hotel regularly plays host to major fashion and entertainment events.
Massive rooms, fantastic service, a relatively tame party scene, and its incredible pools and beach make the Setai a great choice for families without budget limitations.
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).