Four beautiful pools -- some for adults, some for kids
Some of the best service in Miami
Fast, free Wi-Fi in rooms
No nightlife in or around hotel
Intercoastal rooms face a busy, noisy street
$100 fee for pets
Four pools, great Italian cuisine, a luxurious spa, 98 huge, modern rooms, and some of Miami's most attentive service -- this is Sunny Isles' best hotel. For families looking for a relaxing beach stay, this a superb luxury pick.
A grand, suburban beach resort that's more condo than hotel -- 98 guest rooms and 188 residences -- but doesn't skimp on luxury.
The Acqualina's vibrant orange and yellow stucco building rises more than 50 stories high. Built in May of 2006, it's one of the tallest buildings in suburban Sunny Isles, casting a long shadow over the ocean. The lobby is supported by faux red marble columns and the two-story ceiling is festooned with multiple chandeliers. The look: Tuscany by way of Las Vegas.
Everything seems bigger here. The standard, Deluxe Intercoastal Room I stayed in was 740 square feet, about three times the size of rooms at most boutique hotels in South Beach. Even the minibar isn't mini, selling 375-ml bottles of booze.
The large rooms, beautiful beach, and four pools attract mostly well-heeled families. I saw Italian clans drinking Veuve Clicquot under cabanas at the beach, and dads on Blackberrys at the pool with a nanny and baby by their side. During my stay, the children tended to be well behaved -- not quite the same high-energy romping you'd find at the Loews hotel in South Beach.
Unlike most other hotel/residency hybrids, like the Churchill Suites Crown Miami Beach, guests here still get the top-tier service of a luxury resort, not an apartment complex. Guests are greeted with a welcome cocktail and an ice-cold towel. Staff members, typically dressed in crisp polo shirts and white shorts, are quick to ask guests how their day is going and are ready to help in any way they can.
I was chatting with some residents one night at the AARIA Bar and Lounge when their preteen son came down in his pajamas with a hankering for sushi. That, in a nutshell, is the sort of place the Acqualina is -- fancy enough to have a standby sushi chef, casual and family-oriented enough that a kid in his pajamas at the bar doesn't raise an eyebrow.
The Acqualina staff see to it that guests never lift a finger, making it one of Miami's most service-oriented hotels.
At the Acqualina, the effortless service seems almost magical. Bags transport themselves to rooms. A woman roams the beach handing out free mango smoothies just as your thirst comes on. As soon as you enter the beach or a new pool zone, someone asks if you need anything. It could be almost too much, but it's done with a casual grace that makes everyone feel at ease.
I wheeled my suitcase up the front drive, having walked over from the Trump resort next door. I expected that my arrival in this backpackerish manner might make for a lukewarm greeting, but it didn't. A bellman walked up to greet me and grabbed my bags.
At the beach, when attendants seat guests on one of the resort's bright red chaise lounges, they plant a flag in the sand for guests to raise when they want service. It's an elegant system -- the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne uses the same one -- and a guarantee that guests never wait for anything.
In sleepy, scenic Sunny Isles, the resort has one side on a calm, beautiful beach and one side on a busy, six-lane suburban thoroughfare.
The Acqualina is located among Miami's northern beaches, in upscale suburban Sunny Isles. Like the Trump a half block away, it sits right on the beach with its entrance on Collins Avenue. This stretch of Collins Avenue is far different from the more pedestrian portion in South Beach. Here, it's a busy six-lane road that can only be crossed at a stoplight at the end of the long block.
Aside from the beach, there's little to explore on foot around the hotel. A large, not-too-lively strip mall across the street has a number of casual restaurants ranging from kosher to all-you-can-eat sushi. None of them is particularly charming -- they all look out onto a huge parking lot -- but they're there. There's a also a Publix supermarket across the street.
From the square footage to the toiletries to the not-so-mini minibar, everything about the rooms is big and grand.
Decorated in a chic, light style to evoke the Mediterranean, the rooms are elegant and all feature balconies. The standard intracoastal rooms average 740 square feet -- about three times the size of most Art Deco boutique hotel rooms in South Beach. But intracoastal rooms have less-than-inspiring views of busy Collins Avenue and suburban sprawl, plus a bit of street noise (even from upper floors).
For an extra $100, Deluxe Intracoastal Rooms are on Floors 18 to 28. They're the same inside as the standard Intracoastal rooms, just on a higher and presumably quieter floor. For an extra $200, you can upgrade to a room with an ocean view and avoid the noise. Rooms do not feature kitchenettes, but the one-bedroom oceanfront suites and deluxe one-bedroom oceanfront suites have full kitchens with full-size refrigerators and gas ranges. Standard rooms have elegant sofas that pull out to queen beds.
Beds have luxury bedding and are quite comfortable, though they lack they feather beds of the Regent Bal Harbour. In all rooms, huge bathrooms feature stunning whirlpool tubs and ESPA toiletries. There's even a little Acqualina rubber duck awaiting guests in the tub.
Other impressive room features include Bose iPod docks and shiny Illy espresso machines. Control panel phones allow guests to turn on their "do not disturb" signs with the touch of a button. Free Wi-Fi is provided in rooms, which is fast and easy to set up.
In addition to the multiple pools, there's a top-notch spa and small but lovely fitness center.
One of the hotel's standout features is the 20,000-square-foot ESPA spa. The treatments, from holistic facials to a 90-minute maternity massage, don't come cheap, but they never do. However, a number of the spa's beautiful facilities, including Finnish saunas, crystal steam rooms, experience showers, ice falls, and single-sex relaxation rooms with LED lights, can be used for free by hotel guests. The facilities are truly stunning, and for a beachside hotel, they're rivaled only by the spa facilities at the Canyon Ranch (also free) and the Fontainebleau (where a spa pass runs $40). Guests must be 16 years or older to use the facilities.
The fitness center isn't huge, but it's perfectly clean and offers some views of the ocean. LifeFitness cardio machines face a mirror, not the ocean, but the room does have large windows along the back walk with great views, as well as double doors that lead out onto a patio area. Each cardio machine has its own private cable television, and free headphones are provided. Bottled water, fruit-infused water, and fresh fruit are also provided.
The hotel sits directly on a lovely stretch of public beach, but with the hotel's attentive service, it feels like a private club.
The hotel sits on a quiet stretch of Sunny Isles Beach, easily accessed by walking past the main pool. Like everywhere in Miami, it's a public beach, but the hotel claims a stretch of it as its own, with chaise lounges, towels, and food and drink service just for guests. The beach lacks the crowds and frenetic energy of South Beach, and to most guests, that's a good thing.
The beach scene feels far more luxe than at the Trump resort next door, with families drinking Veuve Clicquot under cabanas and beach attendants bringing rounds of free mango smoothies in the afternoon. While beach service at the less expensive Trump is good, it's not quite as tight as at the Acqualina.
Sand is soft, like anywhere in Miami, and there's just a bit of dried kelp and seaweed at the waterline (but not much). It's one of Miami's cleaner, calmer beaches for swimmers and sunbathers alike, and a safer beach for young children.
Though the beach is public, it's quite quiet and guests are mostly undisturbed. This is Sunny Isles, not South Beach.
With a branch of New York's famed Italian restaurant Il Mulino, even locals come to the hotel to eat.
Eating at Il Mullino, which also has outposts at the Caesars Palace hotel in Las Vegas as well as in New York and around the world, is an experience, and a delicious one at that. Delights don't come cheap, with pastas in the mid $20s and proteins in the $30s. Still, portions are large. The restaurant also serves breakfast and lunch and offers outdoor seating.
AQ by Acqualina is a casual on-site eatery that serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes and hand-crafted cocktails at the bar.
Lunch is also available at the poolside/beachfront Costa Grill, while the hotel bar, AARIA, serves small plates, sushi, and signature cocktails until late. Room service is available 24 hours a day.
Piazzetta Marketplace and Restaurant, the hotel's Tuscany "town square"-inspired marketplace and restaurant, opened in 2012. Piazetta is a casual, ocean-side market with lighter fare like paninis, crostinis, and salads, as well as brick over pizza and grilled tiger shrimp.
A great luxury pick for families, the resort features a zero-entry pool, a superb AcquaMarine Kids Program, children's menus in both restaurants, and large standard rooms with pull-out sofas.
Over two-thirds of the building is dedicated to residences, not hotel rooms, so the Acqualina comes with a relaxed, family-focused air. The hotel's kids' program, AcquaMarine, is available for children ages 5 to 12. The kids' room features a complete computer center. Activities focus on all things oceanic, from learning about the Coast Guard to science projects about waves. However, unlike at the Trump next door, kids' club activities at the Acqualina aren't free. Prices vary depending on the season.
Standard rooms have elegant sofas that pull out to queen beds. Roll-away beds and cribs are both available at no extra charge. Adjoining rooms are available but not between two standard rooms. Classic suites can be connected to oceanfront rooms, and one-bedroom suites can be connected to intracoastal rooms.
Both Il Mulino and Costa Grill offer children's menus.
Four beautiful pools range from family-friendly to peaceful to adults-only. All have views of the ocean, but there's not much of a party scene.
The hotel features four separate pools. The largest of the four, the Beach Club Pool, butts right up to the beach and sits alongside the Costa Grill for beach and poolside dining. It features a sloping, "zero-entry" area, making it great for young children.
The Recreation Pool sits at the center of the hotel's grounds, its long rectangular shape providing a symmetrical anchor to the property. Slightly elevated, it offers stunning views of the ocean. It's quite pretty but used only sparingly -- its purpose is more visual than recreational, despite the name.
The Tranquility Pool sits on the other side of the property from the kid-friendly zero-entry pool. Guests must be 18 years or older to use it, making it much quieter than the Beach Club Pool. However, it was also the only pool where I ever heard music -- random European techno tunes.
An even more tranquil, and little-known, fourth pool can be accessed via the ESPA spa. It sits slightly above and to the side of the other pools, making it feel truly relaxing. Since guests must be 16 or older to use the spa facilities, it's also kiddie-free.
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