South Beach, Miami Travel Guide
South Beach Summary
- Great food and bars within walking distance of every hotel
- 100-yard-wide stretch of soft white sand with topless sunbathing
- Celebrity-grade clubs and lounges, open until 4 a.m. or later
- Innovative fusion restaurants
- Affordable Cuban eateries like Puerto Sagua
- Ample 24-hour dining
- Design museums like the Bass Museum of Art and the Wolfsonian
- Relatively safe streets, with typically only petty crime
- 20- to 30-minute $32 flat-rate taxi from Miami International Airport
- Colorful Art Deco architecture
- Thriving LGBT community
- Sunny beach weather year-round, especially from March to June
- Booming music and loud traffic all night
- No private beaches
- Difficult, expensive parking
- Unreliable public transportation
- Kid-un-friendly storefronts -- thongs inscribed, "It's not going to lick itself"
- Panhandling is common (though rarely aggressive)
- Club beats blasting from every pizza shop, elevator, and pharmacy
- Occasional chilly days from December to February
- Sweltering humidity in the summer, especially August and September
- Slight hurricane potential from June 1 to Nov. 30
What's it Like?
Quaint, neon-lit South Beach (or "SoBe") might be the sexiest beach town in America. Just imagine: modeling agencies beside a broad topless beach. Outdoor bars and cafes line Ocean Drive's historic Art Deco District, where people watching is the draw -- flashy cars, Rollerbladers, rainbow flags, and plenty of fake-boob bikini bodies. Chic clubs with especially discerning bouncers draw the fashion-industry elite, the occasional celebrity, and plenty of 20-somethings ready to party. Every local seems to be a model, DJ, publicist, broker, or homeless eccentric. It's not all glitz -- cheap Cuban sandwich joints, fishbowl-size discount margaritas, and Bud Light-slinging dive bars peacefully coexist with the posh hotel lounges and famed fusion restaurants.
Where to Stay?
Packed with colorful Art Deco boutiques from the '30s and '40s, where the rooms are small and the bathrooms are even smaller -- even at some of the priciest hotels. Some of the swankiest hotels line the beach along upper Collins Avenue (north of 15th Street), like the Philippe Starck-styled Delano, the exotic Setai, and the freshly hyped Gansevoort. But there's also family-style luxe at the Loews mega-resort -- South Beach's less hip outlier. For most tourists, the action is further south, where Manolo Blahniks turn into leopard-print platforms. Freshly revamped historic stunners like the Betsy and more affordable boutiques like the Strand line noisy Ocean Drive, across the street from the beach. Off-beach bargains like the Albion are just around the corner. Even further south, the crowds disperse in up-and-coming SoFi ("South of Fifth Street"), which sports some of Miami's most acclaimed restaurants like Joe's Stone Crab and rowdy, be-seen hangouts like Nikki Beach Club. Far off the beach, there are uncommonly serene bayside hotels, like the Standard and the sleek newcomer, the Mondrian.
South Beach Hotel Guides
At Oyster Hotel Reviews, value is the most important factor we consider when evaluating a hotel. South Beach is the hottest area in the city to stay, but there are plenty of great values to be had. After sleeping at more than 60 hotels in South Beach and comparing them against one another, we are uniquely able to differentiate between the real value hotels and the cheap, seedy dives.
Miami's known for its historic Art Deco hotels, but a 1930s construction typically means cramped quarters. After sleeping at the the highest and lowest hotels throughout Miami, we've compiled a list of hotels that have the very best rooms in South Beach. In these hotels, even the standard room is big, with a posh bathroom, modern electronics, a superb bed, a well-stocked minibar, and great freebies to boot.
Just because it's an upscale hotel doesn't mean the service is great. Here's our list of the most attitude-free hotels in South Beach, Miami, where you will be waited on hand and foot throughout your stay -- from check-in to checkout, from the beach to the pool, and from your room to the restaurant.
Miami's South Beach is one of the most gay-friendly destinations in the country, so any hotel in this neighborhood is a pretty good bet. But location, as they say, is everything, and hotels near the gay beach at 12th St. or near hot gay clubs have a slight edge over the competition.
There's a reason South Beach has a diet named after it; Miami is known for the buffed and bronzed bodies strutting along its beaches. But even the tiniest of bathing suits is too restricting for some, so we've compiled a list of the best hotels to bare it all in -- places where the tops come off poolside or where everything comes off in the steamy, coed spas.