Travel

The Absolute Best Hotels in Miami

From boutique hotels in Wynwood to luxurious properties in Miami Beach, these are the best places to lay your head.

Photo courtesy of Arlo Wynwood
Photo courtesy of Arlo Wynwood
Photo courtesy of Arlo Wynwood

Miami will always be a vacation destination. Built on the grand dreams of Henry Flagler, John Collins, and other snowbird tycoons, Miami made its name as a vacationland for wealthy northerners, but has grown to become a vibrant, diverse playground for people all over the world. With all that notoriety comes a sea of fantastic hotels, ranging from grand luxury properties to cool boutiques in lesser-known neighborhoods ensuring that whatever your flavor, Miami has a hotel you’re going to love. So whether you’re visiting our city or live here and just want to get out of your house for a while, here are the best hotels in Miami for exploring, luxuriating, or immersing yourself in the local scene.

Photo courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Residences
Photo courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Residences
Photo courtesy of Acqualina Resort & Residences

Acqualina

Sunny Isles
If it’s luxury you’re after, swipe your card at Acqualina. The Mediterranean-inspired Sunny Isles highrise feels like a villa on the Cote D’Azur was transported a couple dozen stories over the Atlantic Ocean. The oversized rooms (the smallest start at 750 square feet) emanate European elegance, and the ocean views somehow feel more exclusive than they do at sand level. Still, you’d be remiss to skip a meal at Costa Grill, where you can enjoy a beachside view of the ocean. For something more posh, do dinner at Il Mulino New York’s lone remaining Miami outpost, or sample the Beverly Hills hit Avra and its take on Greek fine dining.

Photo by The Dana Agency, courtesy of Arlo Wynwood
Photo by The Dana Agency, courtesy of Arlo Wynwood
Photo by The Dana Agency, courtesy of Arlo Wynwood

Arlo

Wynwood
Wynwood’s first full-service hotel is already turning heads, as it’s been more or less booked solid since it opened last fall. The colourful highrise blends in as seamlessly as a skyscraper can with the murals on ground level that bring the neighbourhood’s famed street art to everything from the common area walls to the multi-coloured restaurants. Rooms are a calming tableau of light woods and whites, with floor-to-ceiling views out over Miami’s art district and skyline beyond. Downstairs, you can enjoy food from noted local chef Brad Kilgore, who’s latest creation Mary Gold’s Florida Brasserie is already a citywide sensation. If you’d rather eat a little lighter, hit Higher Ground, a third-floor bar set among banyans and banana plants with crudos, oysters, and salads on the menu.

Photo courtesy of The Biltmore
Photo courtesy of The Biltmore
Photo courtesy of The Biltmore

The Biltmore

Coral Gables
Every city with an iota of history has that storied old hotel with decades of tradition-and in Miami, that hotel is the Mediterranean marvel The Biltmore. The Coral Gables landmark was originally built as a centrepiece for George Merrick’s master planned community. One hundred years later, it maintains ornate ceilings, grand archways, and an iconic exterior that’s visible from most elevated vantage points in the city. A stay at The Biltmore is a taste of what old money in Miami experienced, with one of the grandest lagoon pools in the world and an adjoining 18-hole golf course.

Photo courtesy of The Carillon
Photo courtesy of The Carillon
Photo courtesy of The Carillon

Carillon

Miami Beach
If you’re looking for a rejuvenating stay on the water where you can pamper yourself all day and gaze out at the tranquil turquoise ocean in the evening, book a couple of nights at the Carillon. The wellness-themed hotel is home to one of the best spas on the planet, where you can alternate between massages and touchless treatments like floating in a silent salt bath or resting in a deep sleep chair. Rooms are more like oversized apartments where you can sprawl out in luxurious robes between spa and beach sessions, then hit the upstairs saltwater pool with elevated views of the Atlantic. Carillon also recently opened Tambourine Room, an intimate six-course dinner experience complete with a wine pairing that’s already one of the toughest tables in the city.

Photo by Richard Powers, courtesy of Citizen M Brickell
Photo by Richard Powers, courtesy of Citizen M Brickell
Photo by Richard Powers, courtesy of Citizen M Brickell

Citizen M Brickell

Brickell
For visitors looking to get the most bang for their buck, Citizen M’s Brickell outpost is a sure pick. The impressively efficient Danish room design is cozy and welcoming, where a bed wedged into a windowsill and a shower that shares space with a toilet somehow still feel spacious. The accommodations may be snug, but you won’t want to spend much time in your room anyway. The ground floor features an art gallery and the upstairs common areas begin to feel like a luxurious youth hostel where you might miss the party if you go back to your room. The hotel’s bar is always buzzing, so get there early to snag one of the outdoor bar seats with a bird’s eye view of Mary Brickell Village. Oh, and things are only getting better, the Citizen M will soon add a rooftop bar and pool literally taking the views up a notch.

Photo courtesy of Faena Hotel Miami Beach
Photo courtesy of Faena Hotel Miami Beach
Photo courtesy of Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Faena

Miami Beach
Lovers of fine art, top-notch food, and brilliant design may never want to leave after checking in to the Faena. The rich red walls and intricate paintings inside the entrance make guests feel like they’re spending the night inside a faberge egg. That’s not to say the Faena is over the top, it’s just to say that art dominates everything, from the Instagrammable mammoth skeleton in the back to the performances inside the Faena forum. The hotel is also home to a few luxe restaurants including Pao by Paul Paul Qui and Frances Mallman’s Los Fuegos. Those seeking something more casual need only cross the street to the Mexican estate-themed Casa Faena, where Tulum transplant Gitano and its rooftop margaritas await.

Photo by Christian Horan, courtesy of Four Seasons Surf Club
Photo by Christian Horan, courtesy of Four Seasons Surf Club
Photo by Christian Horan, courtesy of Four Seasons Surf Club

Four Seasons Surf Club

Surfside
No hotel in Miami combines our 1930s grandeur and 21st century cool quite like Surfside’s Four Seasons. Built atop the historic Surf Club, this luxury property pays homage to the wealthy guests of yesteryear, where a stroll through stucco porticos and under restored frescos feels like a trip back to the heyday of Henry Flagler. Belly up to the brilliant pink pastel and palm tree Champagne Bar, then settle in for a meal at Thomas Keller’s Surf Club restaurant, or at the Italian hit Lido. After, retire up to your room of pure modern elegance, where floor-to-ceiling windows look out on the Atlantic, and technology dominates everything from the bathroom lights to the flat-screen TVs.

Photo courtesy of Kayak Miami Beach
Photo courtesy of Kayak Miami Beach
Photo courtesy of Kayak Miami Beach

Kayak

Miami Beach
Travel giant Kayak’s first-ever hotel transports guests from present day Miami Beach to a jungle safari in the 1950s. The rooms are done up in teak-inspired woods, with old time radios and woven fabrics giving the spaces serious Out of Africa vibes. The jungle safari immersion continues at Layla, the stunning onsite restaurant that serves Middle Eastern fare next to the Collins Canal. For intrepid travellers, the hotel feels like a base camp for exploring the wilds of South Beach. But fear not, with a rooftop bar and private pool it also offers a solid dose of seclusion.

Photo courtesy of Kimpton Surfcomber
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Surfcomber
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Surfcomber

Kimpton Surfcomber

South Beach
To the untrained South Beach eye, differentiating between the towering properties along Collins Avenue can be difficult. But the Kimpton Surfcomber has shot itself to the top of the list thanks to a massive renovation and creative new restaurant. The Surfcomber feels just as luxurious as some of its high-priced South Beach neighbours, with poolside cabana rooms and a long resort pool. Its nightly social hour brings guests together for a free drink in the evening before they move on to dinner at the Social Club. The chef-driven restaurant boasts some of the most original food in South Beach, with dishes like Sweet Potato Gnocchi with duck confit and a mango-filled Tuna Tartare.

Photo courtesy of Life House, Little Havana
Photo courtesy of Life House, Little Havana
Photo courtesy of Life House, Little Havana

Life House Little Havana

Little Havana
Miami’s onetime Cuban enclave is the odd Miami neighbourhood that’s managed to add popular new bars and restaurants without losing its soul. That’s why Little Havana’s lone boutique hotel fits the neighbourhood seamlessly, where small, thoughtfully designed rooms offer a comfortable place to retire and recharge yourself (and your phone). While the lively common areas and prime Little Havana location make it an ideal place to land, what sets Life House apart is its rooftop bar. Terras uses ingredients from its sunny garden to flavour cocktails crafted by local drink maven Gio Guttierrez, and the views of the skyline and sunset make it one of the sexiest places to drink in Miami.

Photo courtesy of The Pelican Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Pelican Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Pelican Hotel

The Pelican

South Beach
This recently revamped Ocean Drive hotel is easily the most creative new property to hit South Beach in years, offering 32 themed guest rooms that use much of The Pelican’s original mid-century modern furniture. You can sleep like Don Draper in the Sixties Executive Suite, or surround yourself in repurposed aeroplane parts in the Up Up In The Air suite. Other themes include Vegas, Zebra, Bamboo, and the rattan fantasy “Go Bananas.” Downstairs, the Pelican Cafe serves Ocean Drive’s best Italian food, which may sound like a low bar, but trust us: it’s already landed itself on our list of Miami’s top restaurants.

Photo by Moris Moreno, courtesy of The Thesis Hotel
Photo by Moris Moreno, courtesy of The Thesis Hotel
Photo by Moris Moreno, courtesy of The Thesis Hotel

Thesis

Coral Gables
Rare is the Miami hotel that’s as much a destination for locals as it is for visitors. But Thesis has struck that magical blend, where you’ll find Gables locals and UM students enjoying the amenities as much as out-of-towners. Much of that is thanks to Niven Patel’s stewardship of the Thesis’ restaurants, with the Michelin-rated Orno offering an upscale, wood-fired option and tropical-themed Mamey giving guests a brilliant taste of Miami’s diverse culinary influences. The rooms are nearly as exquisite as the restaurants they sit above, with sleek, modern design and provocative art lining the walls.

Photo courtesy of The Vagabond Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Vagabond Hotel
Photo courtesy of The Vagabond Hotel

The Vagabond

MiMo
Don’t tell anyone, but the coolest stretch of Miami right now sits along Biscayne Boulevard and points west. And if you’re looking to explore the neon motels of MiMo and the live music and funky restaurants of Little River and Little Haiti, the place to stay is The Vagabond. The converted roadside motel has one of the coolest pools in Miami, complete with a mermaid painted on the bottom. Mr. Mandolin set up shop in the lobby, offering the same groundbreaking Greek and Turkish menu that made the original Mandolin a local legend. Hang around on weekends, and you might also stumble upon one of the best pool parties in Miami. It’s not the rager it was a few years ago, but it’s still quite the scene.

Photo by Chris Carter, courtesy of W South Beach
Photo by Chris Carter, courtesy of W South Beach
Photo by Chris Carter, courtesy of W South Beach

W South Beach

South Beach
Getting access to the W South Beach’s verdant backyard and sprawling pool is enough to make you book a room on its own. But the rest of the newly renovated hotel promises a luxurious environment with a dose of playful fun. Each room is downright sexy thanks to a welcoming sea of plush white furniture, expansive spa-like bathrooms, and balconies that are shifted toward the ocean for epic views no matter where your temporary home sits. The museum-like lobby showcases a sizable collection of Andy Warhol originals, so don’t miss taking a look as you run off to your beach cabana or session on the rooftop tennis and basketball court.

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Matt Meltzer was formerly a staff writer with Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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