Walking down Collins Avenue in South Beach last weekend, thefirst thing that came to mind (besides not getting the memo about wearingfive-inch-heels) was that—minus those name-bearing neon signs—the hotelsessentially look the same. This didn’tcome as a surprise, of course, since the art deco style of the 1940’s has beenso well preserved—but I’d neverreally thought about how hard hotels need to work to distinguish themselves onthe inside.

It was with this in mind that I stepped into the gleamingwhite lobby at the Shelborne South Beach,a landmark hotel since 1940, when Ava Gardner was a regular. It recently reopenedfollowing a $20 million renovation spearheaded by hotelier Keith Menin (whose unclehas owned the hotel since 1983). Some highlights: 50 redesigned rooms (50 morewill be completed this spring), GuyandGirl Boutique (selling South Beachessentials like sunglasses, swimwear, and eco-friendly sunscreen), and thespeakeasy-style VesperCafé (the only way to enter is through the kitchen).

It was a bit early for dinner at Vesper Café (another Miami memo: don’t go out to eat in South Beach until 9 p.m.), so I had theentire 70-seat restaurant to myself in which to sip something from the JamesBond–themed cocktail menu (try the Octopussy, with Cîroc red berry vodka, limejuice, blackberry purée, and prosecco). The food wavers between heavy comfortfood and more delicate fare; I went for a combo: chicken wings and tunatartare; followed by shepherd’spie of Kobe beef, whipped potatoes, and melted cheese; and Chilean sea basswith bok choy. The finale was a very "light" dessert of doughnuts and fried Oreos.

I somehow fit into a bathing suit the next day to take advantageof the new infinity pool, lined on one side with private cabanas. Theblue-and-white, wood-paneled hideaways—yours if you commit to spending $250 onfood and drinks—come complete with private bathrooms and showers. The pool’splaylist is what my friend aptly described as “tranquiltrance”—perfect for napping or mingling. The music picks up at around 5 p.m.—but we didn’t stick around for happy hour: I had somehigh heels to buy before my last night on the town.

Booking Tip: For the best rates at the Shelborne (notto mention all Menin Hotels), check out

Other Hot Hotel Openings in Miami:

SLS Miami
A dream team of hotelier Sam Nazarian, chef José Andrés, andPhilippe Starck are behind this highly anticipated property that’s opening in April. Lenny Kravitz evenlent his hand, designing the penthouse suite and a bungalow overlooking thepool.

This 186-room oceanfront property is technically not new,but it reopened in December as a Kimpton (it was previously a Doubletree) afterundergoing a top-to-bottom renovation. 1717 Collins Ave; 800-994-6103.

The St. Regis, Bal Harbour Resort
Opened on Jan. 19, this grand, design-centric resort (rock-crystalchandeliers; antique mirrors; godflower marble) has 243 rooms and suites, allwith ocean views; a Remède Spa; and a first-class art collection. 9703Collins Avenue; 305-993-3300.

Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.