Cool, sassy and fun, the W South Beach is without doubt one of the highest-profile hotels in Miami and not without good reason. The most impressive aspect of the hotel is its $60 million collection of contemporary art alongside its impressive range of high quality facilities such as its bar, restaurants and pool. It is also located on the beach in a quieter part of SoBe. The hotel is one of the largest in the city and so lacks a little intimacy. A major downer however, is that the rooms severely lack ergonomics and the high quality finish that is expected for the prices charged. Otherwise the gimmicky hotel is fun, young and dynamic and is ideal for a wide-ranging clientele from groups of friends to families and couples.
The W is located in South Beach, or SoBe as it is known, but further up Collins Avenue, which is the main road that runs across Miami Beach up to Aventura. The hotel is thus not located at the heart of the Art Deco district - guests need to travel via taxi in order to get to the centre of South Beach as it is about 20 minutes' walk away. Downtown is a 20 minute taxi ride away and the airport is 30 minutes away by car (traffic-depending). The hotel is however located across the promenade that lines Miami Beach and has its own private access to the beach meaning that guests don't have to walk all the way around to get there. There isn't much in the way of things to do in the surroundings.
If you are planning on visiting Miami by car, do enquire about parking beforehand as it can be extremely expensive in Miami (up to $40 a day!). Hotels usually have their own car park and the cost depends on the season. Wi-Fi access comes at a charge in rooms but is free in the hotel's public areas. The hotel also has a separate pool that can be privatised.
If all things glam are your cup of tea, then try and coordinate your stay with one of the events organised at the hotel - the hotel's fashion director (yes, it has a fashion director), Amanda Ross, organises various fashion launches. Music launches also unravel here on occasion. The W South Beach can be proud of being at the centre of Art Basel, one of the highest-profile art events in the world, when hotel rooms will be hard to come by, but when there will be lots of glitzy events happening putting the glam back into Miami!
The hotel is one of the largest in South Beach, with over 400 rooms, meaning that if you are looking for an intimate boutique hotel, this isn't the place. If you are looking for an original Art Deco gem, then the newly-built W flagship hotel isn't for you either. However, if your thing is partying well into the early hours of the morning at one of Miami's most high profile venues, then this is the place to be!
As you walk into the hotel lobby, don't be afraid if you are greeted by at least seven people or 'talent' as the company likes to call its staff, before even reaching the front desk. We didn't like being spoken to at every turn, but if feeling noticed helps you have the best possible holiday, then the W-elcome will be right up your street. As for the 'Whatever, Whenever' service the brand has put in place at reception gets annoying after a while, especially as staff have to say "Whatever Whenever" at the beginning of practically every sentence. Staff seems to be attentive, but in reality they have a robotic manner which wears thin quite quickly.
The big advantage of the hotel is that it will make you 'ooh' and 'aahh' at every turn because of its über-contemporary decor, and it has to be said, the W looks smashing! From its art laden lobby to its Living Room bar, which is worth dropping in for a drink or two from 11:00pm onwards when the atmosphere really gets lively. Art fans should drop by in the day to fully appreciate the original Hirsts, Warhols and Basquiats on show. The hotel owners, Aby Rosen (owner of The Lever Art Collection) and David Edelstein (developer), have made sure the W South Beach lives up to its flagship status. Our favourite area of the hotel however, is the outdoor garden between Soléa, the hotel's signature restaurant and the hotel pool, which is pretty cool in itself. Dotted with smart cabanas all around the water and a large beach bar with a view onto the beach that comes alive at night is a real plus point.
The garden is the most intimate place you will find at the hotel. With its shabby chic clearings of deck chairs and lanterns, it is the ideal place for a candlelit moment with your loved one. Otherwise in terms of facilities, there is the largest BLISS 'spaaah' on the ground floor and a Mr Chow's (make sure you have a reservation way ahead of time!). You will also find the SWEATFitness Centre and a tennis court.
The W South Beach is one of those super-contemporary hotels where the rooms are white from top to bottom except for (tacky) gold fruit bowls and other decorative objects as such. They all have the latest modular furniture too. However, the false draw came apart when we tried to find spoons in the kitchenette - and the worst thing is, that it was obvious someone else had a go because they have done a botched job at gluing back together. And we never found spoons anyway because housekeeping had forgotten them. The room's finish was of a low standard when you have a closer look. The rest of the room was difficult to use; the lights were impossible to switch off once cosy in bed and ready to have a good night's snooze and the toilet roll holder fell off the wall. We felt that for such a high room rate and its position on the luxury market, the W standards were disappointingly low.
In terms of categories, the hotel has more than we have fingers and toes, but the standard room is big enough for your budget if staying at the W is something you have been dreaming about since its opening in 2009. There are 408 rooms, starting at 600 sq. ft. There are also two and three storey bungalows with private pools. What we liked a lot however, was that each room has a couple of limited prints of what the hotel calls 'Rock'n'roll Images' by renowned photographer, Danny Clinch, including 'Brazilian Girls' and some chilled all-America, surf scenes features Jack Johnson.
The hotel has one restaurant, Soléa, as well as the much-acclaimed Mr Chow's, which is run independently. There is also the beachside cabana bar and the smashing Living Room bar, all on the ground floor. Soléa is open for all three meals. It has beautiful outdoor seating on the deck which is surrounded by vegetation, softening the hotel's hard contemporary lines. The service is friendly and efficient, although if you like being left to your own devices; you may it a little too much. To the far corner of the restaurant you'll find the restaurant bar which has its very own mixologist preparing unusual cocktails like the Conquistador, the main ingredient being gazpacho. The meal started with an amuse bouche of poached mussel and caviar, followed by langoustine and scallops. The seafood wasn't fresh, which was a little disappointing, but this was reflected in the prices, which could have been a lot higher. The extensive wine list is also worth checking out. Breakfast was our favourite meal; guests can choose something from the buffet or from the menu. In daylight the floor to ceiling windows let in plenty of sunshine. The view of the garden helps to wake up gently after a long night of surfing Miami's social scene. The restaurant is otherwise attractive, with wine racks full from floor to ceiling. Oversized limestone pillars dress the otherwise plain room. The only clue to Miami's Art Deco past (and present) is the enormous UFO chandelier, which shines soft light on the rest of the room, giving it a cosy atmosphere. For those of you who aren't fans of air-conditioning, make sure you grab a light sweater for dinner as it can get a little chilly.
We highly recommend dropping into the Living Room bar, which is already one of Miami's hottest addresses. Gawp at the original contemporary artworks casually nestled among the modular leather furniture and animal skin rugs. The bar really gets going after 11:00pm.
The beach is right across the promenade that lines Miami Beach. The hotel has its own access leading to the beach. The beach is clean, wide, golden, sandy...all the things one would expect from Miami! The water is clean and calm, so there is little risk for the yung'uns, although that is not to say that they should not be supervised! The hotel has a designated beach area where guests have access to sun loungers and parasols (beach service is included in the room rate).
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