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.
Something for everyone: a world-class golf; a full-service spa; a 125-foot waterslide. And it's all graced with warm, friendly service in a scenic resort setting. Just know that you're isolated on-site, you're nowhere near the beach, and everything costs extra -- often quite a bit extra. Expect prices to rise even more after a $200 million renovation in Fall 2013.
Built in 1926, the iconic Biltmore (a national landmark) brings timeless luxury to a hotel scene overwhelmed by skin-deep glitz. Though far from any beaches, it offers doting (tip-free) service, a miraculous pool, a prestigious golf course and a catalog of amenities. Unfortunately, its residential neighborhood can get boring.
A clean, lively beachside resort in sleepy Miami Beach, the Palms takes style lessons from the hip boutiques -- think poolside house music, a fun tiki bar, updated rooms, and an Aveda spa. But for nightlife, revelers must head to South Beach, a five- to 10-minute taxi ride away.
Located inside "the Grand" -- a business district complex of offices, condos, convenience shops, and five so-so restaurants -- the 152-room Doubletree is a good but not great choice. It has an Olympic-size pool, a huge Jacuzzi, and a modern gym, but cleanliness is questionable and the rooms are mediocre. Nearby, the similarly priced Hyatt Regency offers bigger, cleaner rooms.
Completely renovated in December 2008, this towering, 601-room Downtown Marriott caters mostly to business travelers. The pool, brand-new fitness center, business center, and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel make it a great pick. Though more stylish, the Epic and Intercontinental hotels both have similar amenities, and often cost considerably more.
Renovated in 2004, the South Beach Marriott meets the standards of its parent company (clean, comfortable rooms; competent service) while providing a few pleasant surprises of its own (an aviary; a scenic patio), all in a hip SoBe neighborhood. But for the price, you can usually find a South Beach hotel that also offers doting service and innovative design.
Comparable to its next-door neighbor the South Beach Marriott in both price and quality, the Bentley places stately decor (marble floors, fringed drapes) within beachside condo-style suites -- a curious combo. The amenities are nice, but if you're looking for quiet luxury in South Beach, take that $300+ a night and head 15 to 20 blocks northward.
The Marriott's 363 guest rooms are clean and comfortable and it offers a free shuttle to Miami International. But nice touches -- in-room air purifiers/humidifiers and hypoallergenic upgrades, a large pool and fitness center, a quality restaurant, sports bar, and a Starbucks -- make it a cut above. But breakfast and Wi-Fi both cost extra.
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