So many influences are evident in the architectural styles and layouts of Miami's hotel buildings, none more so than in the classic Art Deco hotels of the 1930s and 1940s, preserved and largely restored in recent years to become the iconic face of South Beach.
The range of hotel accommodations in Miami is as diverse as the city itself. You'll find everything from dormitories for backpackers to the high-end, luxury hotels with amazing sea views, so you won't be stuck for choice. Where you stay depends on what you are looking for from your visit and the decision is generally a trade-off. To enjoy the beach and party scene on Ocean Drive, and be right at the heart of the action, you'll find mostly older, but wonderfully individual, boutique hotels with smaller rooms. If you're seeking a little more peace and quiet (and it can get VERY noisy on the oceanfront late at night) and perhaps a little more space, then you'll need to look further north, or inland from the Atlantic Ocean, for hotels that are a cab ride (or cheap bus fare) away.
That said, not many people come to South Beach for a get-away-from-it-all relaxing break. It's a party town and this is reflected by the fact that many of its top nightclubs are in the hotels, with live music and DJs pumping blaring music long into the night. Some hotels even leave earplugs in guest bedrooms for that very reason.
Head back over the causeway from Miami Beach, to the luxury hotels of the up-and-coming downtown area or the beautifully landscaped suburbs of Coconut Grove and Coral Gables, if tranquillity is important to you, or you can only take so much partying before you need a rest.
Things to consider before booking
- Hotel rates in Miami tend to rise and fall with the two seasons (hot and very hot). Peak season is December to Easter, when festivals almost every weekend, covering everything from food and wine to music and art, send demand for rooms, and prices, soaring. You'll want to book early for this period if a certain hotel is a must because sell-outs are common and the place gets really crowded.
- As the temperature and humidity climb from the start of hurricane season (June 1) and the snowbirds head home to New York and Canada, rates do start to dip, although a steady flow of European visitors keeps occupancy levels reasonably high. It can get blisteringly hot during the day, so if you must stay outside it's worth considering a hotel with lots of shade and a good-sized pool.
- Miami hasn't been hit by a hurricane for six years, but there's always the threat during the summer months so be prepared to be evacuated if one comes close to the shore. Even without a hurricane, tropical storms can be pretty miserable and during the height of the rainy season, from late May for the next two or three months, it's not uncommon to see sustained downpours almost every afternoon.
- Driving, and parking, are a nightmare on Miami Beach, particularly on Ocean Drive. Hotels make big money out of valet parking and will charge anything up to $40 a night. This is rarely included in the ubiquitous "resort fee", which most places tack on for such amenities as internet access, bottled water, beach towels etc. You can save a small fortune by staying at hotels that don't automatically charge this, or offer WiFi for free. Drivers can park in the generally secure, covered public car parks dotted around South Beach, from $20 to $30 per night.
Many hotels also offer pre-paid packages that include parking, and/or breakfasts. Remember that Miami is a very pricey city and that the cost of food and drink (especially cocktails and bottled water) bought in the hotel can mount quickly.