The mercury may finally be hitting the 70s and 80s in the rest of the country, but in Miami and South Beach, it's always summer, and not just because of year-round balmy temps. The capital of Art Deco architecture is chock-full of gloriously retro hotels that are like tropical summer in building form -- think beachy motifs, ice cream color palettes, neon lights, and dazzling white, porthole-windowed exteriors that look like on-land ocean liners. We pinpointed 21 boutique hotels (and we could have kept going!) that are terrific testaments to the sunny, streamlined, eternally appealing Art Deco designs of the 1930s and '40s. Viva la vintage!
Originally the Traymore Hotel, this restored property blends its Art Deco roots with modern features. The hotel’s 1930s style is readily apparent, as seen in the lobby’s furnishings — white columns with attached gray bench seating, funky light fixtures affixed to the pistachio-colored walls, and terrazzo tile flooring. The design and color scheme extends to the first-floor Traymore restaurant and the 72 stylish rooms — all of which are outfitted with 42-inch flat-screen TVs, minibars, Nespresso machines, and free Wi-Fi. Free bottled water and nightly turndown service are extra perks. COMO’s other amenities include a pretty main pool and a rooftop hydrotherapy pool (part of the elegant spa), beach service, and Traymore Bar, where the gin list has 40 artisanal options.
Three blocks from the beach, Vintro Hotel South Beach is a quirky, upscale boutique hotel that opened in 2014 after renovations to the historic Art Deco property. Vintro, whose name is a clever mash-up of “vintage” and “retro,” puts a cheeky spin on the vintage Miami look, with lobby decor that includes displayed cigars, Hollywood (and nude) photography, toy cars, model airplanes, and bell jars. The adult-only hotel has 50 guest rooms, each one with citrus-hued furniture, a flat-screen TV, an Illy espresso machine, and a rainfall shower. Vintro has an undoubtedly fun, sexy vibe and attracts primarily couples who like to party, but don’t mind being a tad removed from the hubbub of the South Beach scene.
Delano South Beach Hotel’s hip factor may be waning, but its style and sophistication is pretty much timeless. Originally built in 1947, the gleaming white building with its crownlike cap an Art Deco masterpiece. The hotel’s interior design holds its own against the classic architecture, from the beautiful Philippe Starck-designed lobby to the crisp, all-white rooms. Vibe-wise, it’s not as crazy as you might expect for a hotel originally dreamed up by Ian Schrager, the man who brought Studio 54 to the world. Yes, there are live DJs and exorbitantly priced cocktails, but the crowd is mostly just well-off 30-somethings who paid good money for a room with some bragging rights. Delano sits in the center of Miami’s Art Deco Historic District, and in every direction are dozens of bars, restaurants, and attractions, all within easy walking distance.
Designed in 1940 by Lawrence Murray Dixon, the architect behind most of Miami’s Art Deco Historic District, the Raleigh Hotel lives on as an Art Deco icon. The hotel has been earning accolades since Life magazine dubbed its pool the most beautiful in America in 1947. Today, scenesters love free-to-use vintage bikes, old-school coffee shop, iconic Martini Bar, and poolside service — plus private access to South Beach, but nobody appreciates the daily resort fees and small rooms (part of the retro charm?).
The Marlin Hotel’s intricate 1939 facade in sorbet colors has made it a darling of Miami’s Art Deco cityscape. Inside, there are still some Art Deco touches, such as the lobby’s terrazzo floors and the occasional geometric element worked into the design, but most of the three-story boutique — which was renovated in 2016 — is thoroughly contemporary. After a management change, the hotel ditched its famous on-site recording studio in favor of nine extra rooms. (The South Beach Studio once cut tracks for artists like Bob Marley, Beyoncé, and Pharrell, but memorabilia from the legacy remains only as decoration.) The lobby also got a makeover — now there’s a stylish bar with craft cocktails and an extensive wine list — and Osteria del Teatro, a Northern Italian restaurant with an emphasis on seafood and homemade pasta, was added down the hall. Free continental breakfast is included, but there’s no direct beach access here (or spa, or pool…), so guests will have to walk two blocks to the white sands of South Beach.
Nearly 75 years after its 1940 opening date, the Shelborne South Beach received a $150 million renovation that combined its Art Deco roots with contemporary design. The 200-room hotel is painted the typical Miami white, so it blends in seamlessly with its prime location on Collins Avenue in South Beach. Inside, the large lobby is filled with tan leather couches and coffee tables with photography and fashion books, all under starburst chandeliers. Rooms have vintage-car-inspired decor and stocked minibars, and some come with balconies. But standard rooms are on the small side, as are most bathrooms — which have plush robes and custom toiletries but no bathtubs. Shelborne’s features are outstanding: There’s beach access and service (no umbrellas, though!), a heated pool, a spa and fitness center, and numerous food and drink spots — including the fantastically ’40s Drawing Room and the fine-dining Sarsaparilla Club restaurant. Rates here are pretty competitive for an upscale beachfront option in South Beach.
A classic example of 1930s Miami “ocean liner” architecture with porthole windows and the curved shape of a ship’s prow, the Albion anchors a street corner in a residential area that offers a welcome respite from the chaos of Ocean Drive. Inside, sunlight pours from striking two-story windows into the cheerful lobby, where navy couches with white piping and beige club chairs with chrome accents are set around vintage-style round cocktail tables. Clay-colored terrazzo floors are also in line with the hotel’s Art Deco origin, and the rest of the space is stylish and appealing, with an orange-red accent wall covered in original artworks owned by the Rubell family — best known for its Studio 54 connection. The 100 modern, stylish rooms have a nautical navy-and-white color scheme, plus great amenities, like flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and free Wi-Fi (but sadly, no coffeemakers). The pool is a lovely spot for a quiet day in the sun, and the lounge offers poolside food and drinks service until the late afternoon. All in all, this is one of the best values in South Beach.
The 80-room Essex House Hotel is a bastion of Art Deco architecture and decor — so much so that guided tour groups regularly tramp through its painstakingly restored lobby on guided tours, where it’s easy to feel as if you’ve been transported back to the hotel’s 1938 open date. The earth-tone color palette and jazzy fabrics on boxy club chairs blend with original features, like the speckled terrazzo tile floors, hexagonal windows, and an immense polychrome mural depicting the Florida Everglades above a curved marble fireplace. (Rumor has it that Al Capone and his gang liked to play cards in the game room off of the lobby.) The decor in the rooms is much more drab — there’s a lot of pea-green and brown — but still, the modern rooms are nonetheless among the nicest for the price in South Beach. Plus, Essex has a tiny pool in a lush, tropical courtyard — a feature that many South Beach hotels lack. Generous freebies include a basic continental breakfast, happy hour cocktails, and fresh towels to use at the beach across the street. Considering the location in the heart of South Beach, this hotel is a terrific value.
When it opened in 1941, the Cadet, like several other Miami hotels, was used by the Air Force to house one of its squadrons. (That group was led by Captain Clark Gable. That Clark Gable.) With classy, 1940s-inspired decor — taupe velvet furnishings, a crystal chandelier, marble flooring with an inlaid compass — this independently owned hotel has an intimacy that most of its counterparts over on Ocean Drive sorely lack. Ultimately, the Cadet offers a different type of South Beach experience — its vibe is more bed-and-breakfast quaint than SoBe cool. Welcome fruit, fresh flowers, lovely garden, and live evening music from the grand piano in the lobby add to the property’s charm — and compensate for the lack of ocean views and party scene.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Savoy Hotel is a picturesque, 75-room hotel with Art Deco architecture that harmonizes with the tropical South Beach surroundings. In the 1980s, the hotel — a merger of the 1941 Arlington Hotel and the 1937 Savoy Plaza Hotel — was purchased by investors, including Rolling Stone’s Ron Wood. Outside, the turquoise Miami sky and blue lounge chairs, umbrellas, and canopy beds pop against the hotel’s white exterior. The two lagoon pools are surrounded by tropical foliage, and more than enough loungers to go around. The hotel’s quiet atmosphere and outdoor facilities appeal to families and couples. Rooms are decorated with light, beach-house-style decor, and most have kitchenettes and balconies with ocean or pool views — but cramped proportions in Standard rooms and mandatory resort fees detracts from the hotel’s otherwise charming character.
Popular with vacationers in town for the sea, sun, and party vibe of South Beach, The Hotel Of South Beach is an upscale boutique hotel that was designed by American fashion designer Todd Oldham. It’s actually made up of two separate buildings: a main Art Deco building on Collins Avenue, and a newer oceanfront annex on Ocean Drive. The main building is a three-story box with a few Art Deco elements, including a tall spire with the words “Tiffany” emblazoned along its length (referencing a former name for the hotel). The 73 modern rooms all come with minibars, Keurig coffeemakers, and bright bathrooms with rainfall showers and funky retro-1970s colored floors and trim. (Note that multiple past guests have complained of thin walls.) For a hotel of its size, The Hotel of South Beach offers a good amount of features, including two restaurants (one set in a garden), a lovely rooftop pool and bar, a well-equipped fitness center, and a boutique.
The Beacon is a South Beach “postcard hotel” — a term used to describe the routinely photographed Art Deco buildings that line Ocean Drive. And if a trip back to 1930s Miami sounds like a cool idea, this 75-room hotel delivers. Certain shortcomings are inescapable: Rooms and bathrooms are cramped, there’s no outdoor space, and the non-stop party on the street below may disrupt your shuteye. Freebies that include breakfast and beach chairs are a nice touch, but there is no pool.
This historic Art Deco hotel on Collins Avenue got a breath of new life when it reopened as a stylish 87-room boutique in late 2012. Retro-chic rooms have black-and-white, 50s-era photos on the walls and polished blue-and-white decor; all units have whopping 55-inch flat-screen LED TVs and sleek bathrooms with walk-in showers (but no tubs). Studios are tiny, and all rooms lack good beach views. The sunny rooftop pool and clubby cocktail lounge are both draws — as is the basement nightclub, though it may mean sleepless nights (and bass-quaking walls). Also note that Gale’s signage can be confusing — it says The Gale on the front and The Regent on the back, as the two historic hotels were combined to form the current property.
With its 1936 Vitrolite wall panels, graphic marble floors, wrought-iron railing, and a cut coral facade, this mid-range boutique hotel tons of character and style. The 42 rooms and suites have blond-oak floors, white bedding, and a serene minimalist vibe. A daily resort fee provides in-room Wi-Fi, housekeeping, beach towels and chairs, beach cruiser rentals, and continental breakfast at Astor’s on-site restaurant, which has indoor and outdoor seating. Those who want quiet should request an upper-floor room, as the hotel’s cocktail bar and dance club, The Downstairs, can be noisy in the evenings. The Upstairs bar provides pastel outdoor seating amid palm trees and tropical plants during the day.
Located just north of Lincoln Road on Collins Avenue, Sagamore Hotel is in the thick of high-rise party hotels, and has direct access to Lummus Park’s boardwalk and beach. The self-proclaimed “art hotel” doubles as a gallery for the owners’ personal art collection. In fact, stepping into the large, open lobby feels like walking into an art opening. Colossally tall ceilings and vast white walls showcase an eclectic collection of modern art. Elsewhere throughout the hotel are huge studios, suites, and bungalows with cream-colored decor and flat-screen TVs, but just about everything else about the Sagamore pales in comparison to its retro facade, artsy aura, and prime SoBe address. The zero-entry pool, which the hotel’s website describes as “beachfront,” is pretty but small, and while the ocean provides nice background sounds, it isn’t visible from the pool itself. Towels are available and the pool bar offers poolside service.
Serious question: Has a cuter-looking hotel ever existed? Leslie Hotel’s sublimely sunny 1936 facade earns it a Most Adorable Hotel of All Time nod. Decor in the 35 rooms is mostly in grays and golds, with splashes of rich purple — the overall look stylish and sophisticated, with a touch of Deco glam. High-end textiles and quality warm woods look smart alongside dark, subtly patterned period wallpaper that almost makes the large flat-screen TVs disappear (when they’re off, of course). Attractive gilded mirrors and Deco-influenced light fixtures complete the look. The hotel’s sidewalk Cala Cafe serves Mediterranean food with organic options (so South Beach), and guests who want to get away from the street scene for a while can lounge by the rooftop pool, which has views of the beach and ocean. While the pool isn’t large, it is exceedingly stylish, with plenty of shade, white couches, cabanas, and cocktails. The Leslie Hotel is on South Beach’s Ocean Drive, in the center of the Art Deco Historic District.
The 75-room Congress Hotel South Beach is spread across four separate buildings on Ocean Drive, and surrounded by throngs of tourists and expansive views of Lummus Park and the beach. As with many Ocean Drive hotels, there’s no grand entrance; instead, you’ll find busy outdoor restaurants and cheesy souvenir shops in front of the hotel. Congress’s 75 modern and massive kitchenette-equipped suites and its rooftop pool and sundeck with panoramic views make it a clear winner over other Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive. But Ocean Drive comes with hard-core dance beats well into the night, and the Congress is no exception.
A two-story building constructed in 1937, St. Augustine stands out for its brilliantly white Art Deco facade with classic vertical lines and ornate silver details. With only 24 studio-style rooms, St. Augustine is a small hotel with a bed-and-breakfast vibe and a design that embraces minimalism over fussy kitsch. Large rooms have spartan decor, plus minibars, flat-screen TVs, and open bathrooms with impressive walk-in steam showers. There’s no pool, but the hotel will supply guests with beach towels before they make the short jaunt to the beach — this far down, the broad white-sand beach looks like it’s out of a dream-vacation catalog. Given the hotel’s small size, calm surroundings, and low-key clientele, St. Augustine can feel like a home away from home (excepting the fact that few homes are this spotless and tidy).
The Crescent Resort On South Beach is an affordably priced hotel whose 1938 style is still in tact: neon light details and porthole windows blend into the lively Miami setting. Its front porch overlooks the palm-shaded park and beach across Ocean Drive, with beach-ready tourists cruising by. Views of Ocean Drive and the sea can also be seen from the rooftop terrace. One- and two-bedroom suites and a penthouse have flat-screen TVs, kitchens, and whirlpool tubs, but decor can be on the plain side (though artistic details such as colorful paintings and blue accent walls are nice touches). Overall, the atmosphere is relaxed, if not particularly stylish. More upscale hotels can be found in South Beach in this price range, but Crescent’s in-room kitchens give it an edge.
For travelers seeking a prime South Beach location on a budget, Hotel Shelley is ideal. The three-story 1936 hotel on Collins Avenue is just a few-blocks walk of South Beach nightlife and the ocean. The small lobby bar features DJs, hookahs, and free-drink happy hours. Contemporary rooms have flat-screen TVs, stereos, minibars, and safes — but they can be tiny (common for older buildings in the area). Even with the daily resort fee (covering Wi-Fi and airport shuttle service), this is one of the most competitively priced hotels in the area for this caliber.
Exemplifying Miami’s historic Art Deco architecture, the Ocean Surf Blue has a pink, yellow, and blue pastel exterior and porthole windows. The hotel was built in 1940 by architect Anton Skislewicz, who also designed the Plymouth, Breakwater, and Lord Balfour hotels. Unfortunately, the hotel could use a renovation to bring it back to its original glory. Ocean Blue’s carpeting is worn, its furniture stained, and its appliances out of date (some rooms still have tube TVs). On the plus side, some rooms have balconies or porthole windows with ocean views. And the location is stellar, across the street from a great stretch of beach and within a short walk to a bus stop.
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