The upper-middle-range Pelican Hotel is a boutique property set in a classic piece of Miami Modern architecture and owned by Italian fashion brand Diesel. Its the quirky and kitsch interiors that really steal the show, brimming with hand-picked one-offs and retro props that make this one of Miami's most original hotels. Although some are starting to look a little shabby, the 30 themed guest rooms are witty and fun with genuine vintage antiques; some offer ocean views though most overlook neighboring buildings. While facilities are limited, the street-front cafe and bar are popular and buzzy, plus free cocktails can help guests get in the mood. If lack of pool is a deal breaker, however, check out the more minimalist, party-focused Shore Club hotel up the coast.
Quirky boutique hotel with kitsch retro vibe owned by a fashion giant
The Pelican is a true South Beach original. Discovered by Renzo Rosso, owner of Diesel Jeans, this quintessentially Mimo (Miami Modern) building dates back to 1948, with the facade remaining unchanged since. A $4 million overhaul directed by Swedish designer Magnus Ehrland transformed the interiors into a colorful explosion of playful retro kitsch -- after a seven-month trawling of Florida flea-markets, garage sales, and antique stores -- with the hotel opening its doors in 1994. Out front, the near-legendary Pelican Cafe takes the place of a typical hotel entrance with the lobby tucked behind. Reception, dining areas, and guest rooms are awash with cool retro furnishings, vintage one-of-a-kind props, and a Fellini-inspired array of mid 20th-century flourishes. Dimmed cage lighting in the hallways and elevator, however, are a stark contrast to the bright, sunny surroundings outside the hotel. The young, Diesel-clad staff lack the snappy service you'd find at your typical Marriott, though they are attentive in a laid-back and friendly manner. The unconventional, relaxed atmosphere attracts its share of the hip music and fashion set, as well as younger couples looking to soak up some of the hotel's cool, quirky vibe.
Prime SoBe setting on Ocean Drive opposite Lummus Park and beach
The Pelican is located in the middle of the madness on Ocean Drive, across the street from Lummus Park and the beach. The street is lined with restaurants and their hostesses, and you'll hear a soundtrack of motorcycle engines revving and subwoofers slowly rolling by, caught in thick South Beach traffic. Its prime "SoBe" setting also puts it just a block from the start of Collins Avenue -- one of Miami's major shopping drags, with stores ranging from Ralph Lauren to Urban Outfitters. A 10 to 15 minute drive will take guests to the Miami Beach Convention Center, Miami Beach Golf Club, and Jungle Island. Miami International Airport is a 20-minute drive away, and Fort Lauderdale International Airport is 35 minutes by car.
Unique themed rooms with vintage furnishings and retro amenities
Not only are guest rooms individually decorated, they're also uniquely themed, each providing its own flashy personality. The "Best Whorehouse" -- the hotel’s most popular room -- has the feel of a flamboyant bordello, while "Psychedelic-ate Girl" combines trippy wallpaper, a glittery armoire, and retro lighting for a sixties vibe. Some of the rooms are starting to look a little shabby, though several "Executive" Rooms have been updated in 2017 with a fresher less-cluttered feel and themes reflecting specific decades. Amenities in these newer rooms include flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and phone-charging docks, while many of the rooms feature "vintage" technology such as VCRs and old tube-style TVs. Though color schemes vary, bathrooms are probably the most uniform part of the hotel. All tiled nearly floor to ceiling, the bathrooms have walk-in, rainfall showers, hairdryers, and C.O. Bigelow toiletries. While the decor is never the same and room sizes vary (with some rather small), they all come in two basic configurations: standard rooms with either two twin beds or a queen, and suites with king-size beds. Standard rooms face buildings to the side with restricted views, while suites overlook Ocean Drive with sea views. Rooms are also prone to some street noise, especially over high season.
Free breakfast and expertly mixed cocktails, plus Wi-Fi all the way to beach
The Pelican is pretty bare-boned when it comes to features, with no pool and no gym -- but the beach is right across the street and free beach towels and chairs are provided. For dining, the Pelican Cafe offers a buzzy, friendly vibe, an alfresco street-front terrace, and a great Italian fusion menu with a seafood focus that's popular with both guests and locals. A decent hot breakfast with six options is included in the rate, plus a reasonably priced a la carte breakfast menu is served until lunchtime, with healthy options next to bacon-and-egg combos and breakfast cocktails. Yet for many visitors, the bar is an even bigger draw offering an impressive cocktail list freshly made by a resident mixologist. Drinks are all half price during happy hour, and guests are even offered two free daily cocktails. Wi-Fi is available free of charge throughout the hotel and even stretches to the beach. The Pelican also provides free passes to Equinox gym, a high-end fitness center about four blocks away.
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