Miami's splashy South Beach serves as a hotel mecca for travelers. Every two steps you take, you stumble on a boutique inn, a shiny high-rise, or a Bohemian hostel. How do you know which ones are fabulous and which are, eh, frumpy? We've done the legwork, visited dozens of lodgings, and uncovered some great as well as affordable places. Here's what we found.
Courtyard by Marriott Miami Beach Oceanfront
For travelers who prefer a bit of familiarity in their lodging, opt for this year-old chain hotel. You'll find that it's sophisticated and comfortable, with an added touch of liveliness that you'd only find in Miami.
Originally built in 1940 as the Cadillac Hotel, this 14-story property offers 263 rooms and suites with the amenities, such as free high-speed Internet, that you're used to finding in a Marriott. The hotel sits in the heart of Miami Beach, which means you'll be within walking distance of everything unusual, colorful, and fantastic. The best part? You're mere steps from the beach. 3925 Collins Avenue; (305) 538-3373, 1-800-228-9290, or www.marriott.com/miabh. Rates: start at $119.
You can feel rhythm buzzing through this tropical boutique property, which only makes sense because Latin singing sensation Gloria Estefan and her husband, Emilio, own the Cardozo.
This 43-room place is lavishly decked in leopard and other ethnic prints. You'll find that wrought iron furnishings and canopied beds make for an exotic getaway. Keep an eye out for celebrities, as they often stay here or eat in the Café Cardozo when in town. And the staff rates as one of the friendliest on the beach. 1300 Ocean Drive; (305) 535-6500 or www.cardozohotel.com. Rates: start at $195, but are lower during the hotel's off-season (June-October).
Leave the red fruit punch at home when you stay at the Whitelaw Hotel. Each of the 49 rooms here comes decorated in hues of calming and luxurious white. That's right, an all-ivory hotel. From the retro patent leather couches in the lobby to the fluffy down comforters in the guest rooms, everything here is as pristine as a man's tailored shirt.
By night, the Whitelaw atmosphere revs up as a deejay steps in and the lobby turns into a trendy and happening bar. Complimentary cocktails in the lobby every night from 7 to 8 p.m. contribute to the party. Request a room away from the lobby to ensure a good night's rest. 808 Collins Avenue; (305) 398-7000 or www.whitelawhotel.com. Rates: start at $90 during the hotel's off-season (April-September) and $145 during the in-season (October-March).
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This article is from the April 2005 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.