Full of stunningly beautiful people and places, Miami lures with its bright sunshine and shimmering ocean. Yet within this continental Caribbean city, few spots hold the glamour, history, and appeal found at the many pools that sparkle behind Miami's grandest hotels.
To See and Be Seen
When The National Hotel wanted to put a pool in its South Beach backyard, few could have imagined how perfect it would come out. An infinity pool, its shallow recesses are shadowed by lush palm trees as it stretches a canal-like 205 feet. Built in 1939, the hotel itself stands as an Art Deco masterpiece. The pool retains the building's original jazz-age character and attracts, quite naturally, a sophisticated set ranging from Harrison Ford to Ricky Martin. Dip tip: Rent a room in the recently renovated Cabana Wing, which will give great views of celebs by the pool.
For the Water Bug in Your Family
Squeeze into your gold lamé muumuu, and get thyself to the grotto at Fontainebleau Hilton Resort on Miami Beach. Once the city's hippest lodging, the Fontainebleau served legends John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe and can be spotted in movies such as Goldfinger and The Specialist. Sadly, numerous "renovations" have left the rooms and lobby somewhat muddled and tired looking, but the pool is tops if you have young ones to entertain. The tropical gardens behind the hotel house the Lagoon Pool, which is often serenaded by a calypso band and the screaming children at Cookie's World. In a bizarre twist of Hilton logic, Cookie is a 100-foot-long octopus that covers a children's wading pool and 260-foot spiral water slide. Dip tip: Renting a poolside cabana for $50 a day is far cheaper than renting a room at the Fontainebleau. Both allow full access to the fabulous pool facilities.
For quiet romance and excellent service, slip out to The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, and ease into the hotel's infinity pool. Unlike many of the hotels in the area, this pool has a commanding view of the beach and ocean. It's the perfect place to lounge in privacy and beautiful seclusion. Dip tip: Wait until sunset, and head to the gazebo near the adult pool. It may be one of the most romantic spots in Florida.
The National Hotel: (305) 532-2311 or www.nationalhotel.com. Fontainebleau Hilton Resort: 1-800-548-8886 or www.fontainebleauhilton.com. The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne: 1-800-241-3333 or www.ritzcarlton.com.
You Ought To Be In Pictures
If you secretly lust to be a movie star, swing by Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Just strolling down the central Palm Promenade tricks most visitors into thinking they're on a film studio back lot. Impatiens bloom in every corner. Deck chairs are filled with everyone from big, bald, stogie-smoking men who look like adventure-flick producers to water lovers such as 9-year-old Megan from Houston, Texas, who says she "feels cool at this pool." Megan's advice? "Jump in and look at all the different kinds of people to see." 1601 Collins Avenue, (305) 604-1601 or www.loewshotels.com.
With all the men wandering around in golf pants and sporting computer-monitor tans, it might be easy to dismiss the Doral Golf Resort and Spa as a corporate hangout that's anything but cool. Yet their Blue Lagoon is the spot to take your tots. This 85,000-gallon, zero-entry pool contains a gorgeous cascading waterfall. There's a Tadpool for wee ones ages 3 to 5. For older kids, the 125-foot water slide, The Blue Monster, thrills. If you're trying to avoid the squeals of youngsters, the Doral also sports an adults-only lap pool and heated outdoor pool. Dip tip: This month don't miss the hotel's Dive-In Movies, where filmgoers can grab a raft and watch old flicks such as Jaws. 4400 NW. 87th Avenue, (305) 592-2000 or www.doralresort.com.
Grand doesn't even begin to describe the magnificent pool at The Biltmore Hotel. Resplendent in its 1920s glamour, this Coral Gables landmark recently underwent a thoughtful restoration that took the old lady back to her former glory. Order up a Mojito at the bar (under the old diving platform) and gaze out at 23,000 square feet of the wet stuff. It is here that Esther Williams once starred in her famed aquatic shows. Johnny "Tarzan" Weissmuller was a swimming instructor among the Greek statuary and verdant bougainvillea. Sunset lights up the old hotel in brilliant golden hues while spotlights illuminate the pool and surrounding palms. Its beauty and size are legendary and attract even non-tourists such as William, a Miami resident, who says, simply, "It's my favorite pool in the U.S." 1200 Anastasia Avenue, (305) 445-8066 or www.biltmorehotel.com.
This article is from the June 2003 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.