How to Have 8 Totally Different — but Equally Amazing — Types of Vacations in Miami
Miami draws travelers of all kinds with its art, food, shopping, beaches, and party scene. Its vibrant cityscape seems to be changing daily, so where do you begin when planning a trip? I spent a week on the ground finding the best hotels and restaurants for every personality type, interest, and mood. From newer options to the oldie-but-goodies, this guide will help you choose the best spots for just the type of Miami vacation you’re looking for.
Old-school Miami Glam
Hotel: Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club
Miami’s heyday was defined by decadence and glamour with The Surf Club being at the epicenter, opening its doors in the 1930s. A destination where celebrities, aristocrats, and statesmen of old including Winston Churchill congregated,The Surf Club has been able to preserve that special time while building on tradition and blending it with continued glamour and luxury. Defined by Italian marble, fringed palms, and a bespoke champagne bar, Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is much more than a hotel. The property has an unparalleled ability to transport you to another time and place while showcasing all of Miami’s best features. Tucked away from busy South Beach on Miami's North Beach, the rooms feature unobstructed views of the ocean draped in a calming, neutral decor with marble features. Outside, the hotel recently revamped legendary Cabana Row, a staple of old Miami culture, outfitting them with tropical rattan furniture and the comforts of air conditioning and a full bathroom, still honoring their heritage as havens of discretion, nestled within the oceanfront gardens of Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club.
Restaurant: Le Sirenuse Miami
There’s no need to leave this property for old-school glam. Le Sirenuse Miami Restaurant and Champagne Bar sits in a gloriously restored ballroom right inside The Surf Club. The first American outpost of the famed Le Sirenuse on Amalfi Coast, the restaurant transports all that Mediterranean magic right to south Florida. Serving genuine southern Italian cuisine with high service standards that generations of guests have learned to associate with the celebrated Italian hospitality legend, you’ll leave with bellies full of langoustine, lamb, tiramisu, and more, plus an Amaro menu to write home about.
New Miami Luxury
Hotel: The Faena
The Faena is a transformational force in Miami, providing a new-age luxury and decadence that is unique to Miami and its art scene. Defined by maximalist rooms with leopard couches and gold fixtures as well as iconic, Instagram-worthy installations, Faena offers a multisensory approach to travel that seems to have created its own culture around the hotel. With penthouse and residences designed by Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin and most recently a sexy cabaret and modern bazaar, Faena delivers on all levels of new age luxury combined with art deco that is quintessential to Miami.
Swan oozes cool. Groot Hospitality's David Grutman opened Swan in partnership with Pharrell Williams last Fall 2018, in the heart of Miami’s Design District. The 250-seat restaurant introduces executive chef Jean Imbert’s modern-chic cuisine. The interior space features an upscale, trendy, and sophisticated environment, but this restaurant packs a serious punch in the food department, too. Don’t leave without getting the hamachi tartare, little gem caesar, and my favorite, the Corn Corn Corn.
Hotel: Mandarin Oriental Miami
Away from the hustle and bustle of South Beach, located on Brickell Key, the Mandarin Oriental Miami offers an island sanctuary for their many celebrity guests with all the privacy and seclusion they could ask for, making it the ideal romantic getaway. This striking hotel sits directly on the waterfront with its own private beach and infinity-edge swimming pool — both with sweeping views of the Miami skyline — making it the perfect setting to get cozy under the umbrellas and palm trees and just soak in the city. The Mandarin also offers a 15,000-square-foot, tri-level spa with holistic treatments for body and mind in 18 treatment rooms, including a digital detox treatment geared toward the busy jetsetter who just needs to log off for a weekend. Six private treatment suites have views of the bay, making the spa a great place for couples’ massages for a romantic occasion as well.
Restaurant: Casa Tua
Serving delicious Northern Italian cuisine and fine wine, Casa Tua (meaning “Your House” ) is set in a Mediterranean villa surrounded by inviting gardens and special decorative touches that set the scene for a magical night. Whether you’re sipping cozy cocktails in the library or in the glow of the lantern-lit trees in the lush garden, Casa Tua offers unforgettable moments. From homemade pastas to fresh fish dishes to the impressive wine list, Casa Tua serves romance on a plate.
The Miami Detox
Hotel: Carillon Miami Wellness Resort
If your dream getaway to Miami includes working on your wellness, the Carillon is the ultimate destination for you. Much more than just a spa, the resort focuses on aligning physical, mental, and spiritual health under one luxurious roof. Upon arrival, you receive a menu of spa offerings and schedule of more than 20 fitness classes per day and wellness classes taught by world-renowned experts. In addition you’ll find services including a team of integrated health professionals ranging from practitioners of Chinese medicine to life coaches, nutritionists, and more.
I spent the day with one of their holistic therapists, Elaine Kroytor, who taught me more about my body in the first 20 minutes of our session than I had learned from years of visiting doctors. A holistic path forward was outlined for me addressing diet, blood type, stressors, and more, and this is exactly why people come here. It’s a true hands-on, personalized experience addressing all aspects of your lifestyle. Kroytor introduced me to a few of their must-try treatments including Electro-Lymphatic Drainage Therapy, which uses a gentle, high-frequency sound pulse to loosen stagnation and assist your body in decongesting your entire lymphatic system. Do not leave without checking out their nine-station hydrotherapy circuit with an igloo and an on-site anti-aging doctor.
Restaurant: Delicious Raw
After a day at the spa or a workout session, Delicious Raw is the perfect sanctuary for anyone who wants to improve their wellbeing and quality of life from the inside out. Described as “healthy haute cuisine,” its elevated plant-based menu consists of wellness shots, juices, smoothies, and delicious superfood bowls that make it a hot spot for Miami locals. With favorites including their avocado toast, called “LeMash,” which consists of freshly smashed avocado infused with truffle oil and lemon served on artisan, vegan, gluten-free bread and topped with herb-roasted cherry tomatoes, microgreens, pumpkin seed dukkah, and freshly shaved parmesan, this place is packed with healthy, guilt-free surprises.
Miami for Creatives
Hotel: Soho Beach House
Soho Beach House is a hotel and private members’ club from Soho House & Co that opened in 2010. The House occupies an oceanfront building that was previously home to one of the last Art Deco hotels in Miami, The Sovereign Hotel, dating back to 1942. It’s known for being a haven for like-minded creatives in industries including film, fashion, advertising, music, art, and more in the heart of Miami Beach. Members and hotel guests get access to all the facilities at the House, which include club space, a screening room, gym, spa, pool, beach bar, and beach club area. A visit will likely have you wanting to join to be a part of it all, which includes a curated calendar of events. These events range from panel discussions and live music sessions to workshops and yoga/fitness classes and more.
Located in the heart of Miami's most creative neighborhood, Wynwood, Bakan is the newest restaurant concept from famed Jaguar Hospitality Group and Grupo Gavall. The 6,972-square-foot indoor and outdoor restaurant transports guests to Mexico with its earthy, artsy, and modern space; wide variety of authentic regional dishes (get the ant egg taco); expansive mezcal and tequila offerings; fresh, local ingredients; and handcrafted tortilla selection. Every month, Bakan works with a different village in Mexico to source an ingredient. I walked out of here having had the best taco of my life (the langosta con chorizo) and a new love for mezcal. Every inch of the space is fun, lively, and warm, from the open-view kitchen allowing guests to witness the art of tortilla making, to the four-tiered glass case filled with more than 400 mezcals and tequilas. Bakan is open for lunch and dinner daily.
Miami for Groups
Hotel: The Mondrian South Beach
Set on the waterfront of Biscayne Bay, the Mondrian South Beach is a staple known for its pool parties and is one of the places to see and be seen during Miami’s top events including Ultra, Art Basel, and more. Paying homage to “Sleeping Beauty’s Castle” with whimsical design elements including a floating staircase, this property attracts a young, fun crowd that keep this property buzzing. With poolside DJs and no shortage of bottles to be popped, this hotel is perfect for groups and parties and a must for a true South Beach experience.
Brickell hotspot Komodo is a three-story indoor/outdoor eatery and lounge that serves contemporary Southeast Asian cuisine with a South Florida vibe. Excellent for groups looking to have a fun night out, this 300-seat restaurant and lounge offers several unique multi-level dining options including three bars complete with a handcrafted cocktail menu as well as the signature outdoor floating “birds nests” seating. A night here means groups, bottles, and plenty of yummy dishes with signature favorites including the Peking duck, Tuna & Toro Roll, and Lobster Dynamite.
Brunch: Kiki On The River
A must for brunch, Kiki on the River serves up beautiful people, great music, and excellent food. Serving lunch and dinner daily and a lively weekend brunch, Kiki offers a selection of time-honored Greek favorites and innovative dishes, all made from scratch in-house. You can expect tables filled with gorgeous seafood dishes set against the backdrop of the river with boats docking regularly to join the party. At night, this open-air hot spot dims the lights and breaks out the sparklers for a good time you don’t want to miss.
Hotel: 1 Hotel South Beach
1 Hotel South Beach was designed with comfort, luxury and nature in mind. Inspired by Earth’s natural beauty, 1 Hotel South Beach gives you a sense of renewal as soon as you enter this plant-filled palace. From small details like custom organic cotton bedding to bigger ones like the ocean views from the hotel’s spacious rooms, everything about this hotel is “one” of a kind. While green juices are flowing from the lobby cafe, the rooftop offers a full bar and restaurant with great music and beautiful views of the city. Other onsite amenities include the Bamford Haybarn Spa, Anatomy Gym, a SoulCycle Studio, Salotto Salon, and of course, four different oceanfront pools and a private beach.
Restaurant: Plant Miami
Plant Miami is a certified kosher restaurant located in the tropical garden of The Sacred Space Miami. Taking a modern plant-based approach with an emphasis on organic, living foods, Plant Miami sites the South Florida landscape as their point of inspiration. Diners overlook a gold-tiled reflecting pond, a guava grove, a meditation garden, and an outdoor lounge while enjoying dishes including beet tostadas, cauliflower steak, jackfruit tacos, and more.
Miami but Worlds Away
Hotel: Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club
Located in the heart of Miami Beach, the luxurious Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club offers guests an experience that seems to transport you to the Italian Riviera, creating a European sensibility and feel throughout the property. A part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club is recognized as one of Miami Beach’s original and historic Art Deco properties and has undergone a multimillion-dollar renovation. From its open-air restaurants to its two beautiful pools, a modern, Mediterranean influence can be felt throughout the hotel. Special touches such as shaved ice carts by the pool and extensive Rose wine menus make this property a must to escape the madness.
Restaurant: Chotto Matte Miami Beach
Chotto Matte offers the best of Japanese and Peruvian cultures through high-quality Nikkei cuisine, swanky cocktails, and top-quality sushi, all on Miami Beach’s famed Lincoln Road. Featuring design elements that highlight the brand’s signature Tokyo vibe together with Miami's tropical lifestyle, a focal point of the space is a fully retractable roof for year-round al fresco dining. Do not leave without getting the Nikkei sashimi.