HOTEL REVIEWS

Miami at a Price That's Right

While not a cheap date when it comes to lodging, Miami does have a handful of hotels that are centrally located, tastefully attired, and surprisingly affordable. Follow our booking strategies, and then stay at one of our top picks.

By Jane Wooldridge, Monday, May 4, 2009, 5:06 AM

Some booking strategies

Timing matters. In sun-drenched Miami, lodging prices soar as temperatures plummet across the rest of the U.S. At most hotels, rates return to normal after Easter and rise again around Thanksgiving. The weather in early summer is surprisingly pleasant, so you may want to bypass spring and visit the city in June or July. Farecast Live Search, a website that tracks trends in hotel and airfare prices, predicts that Miami hotels will charge an average nightly room rate of $156 this summer—not bad, and with a little persistence, you should be able to find even cheaper rooms. But be careful of extending your booking into the midsummer and fall hurricane season.

If your heart's still set on a winter break, expect to pay upward of $274 per night on average. Mid-January often yields the best winter deals.

Be flexible on your travel dates. During the Art Basel fair, the Miami International Boat Show, the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament, and other major events, hotels can charge pretty much whatever they want. Try alternate weekends to find cheaper digs, or call a hotel directly to inquire about package deals.

Be aware of hidden costs. Ask about any mandatory resort fees, which can add up to $20 a day to the bill. Expect hotel room taxes of 13 percent. And factor in transportation costs: Mass transit is limited to the downtown business corridor, and some hotels charge between $15 and $40 per day for parking. Taxis in this town are reasonably priced for short runs, but not for long distances.

Location matters. It's not worth it to book a hotel that's cheap if it's too far from the action. Key neighborhoods to look for include South Beach (ideal for people-watching by the water and in the clubs), Mid-Beach (close to the nightlife, but quieter), Downtown (flush with new restaurants and upscale hotels, and near the Port of Miami, where cruise ships dock), Coconut Grove (noteworthy for its café scene), and Coral Gables (chock-full of historic mansions and fine dining).

CIRCA 39
'Hood In Mid-Beach, just a few blocks south of the chicly renovated Fontainebleau Miami Beach (famously featured in the movie Goldfinger), nestled on a quiet row of art deco and '50s hotels that run parallel to the shoreline. Livelier South Beach is a short taxi ride away.

The vibe The lobby's color-changing panels and fireplace flanked by red wingback chairs pull this 1930s-era complex into the 21st century.

Rooms White duvets, silvery diaphanous drapes, and pastel throws brighten up the 100 airy, compact rooms (with Aveda toiletries). Note: Some bathrooms have no tubs.

Plus In the courtyard between the hotel's two wings, guests can swim in the pool, play board games like Miami Beach Monopoly, and sip mojitos or other cocktails from the stylish bar. Also: The hotel is very close to the beach, separated from it only by Collins Avenue.

Minus Popular with TV production crews, the hotel is sometimes surrounded by lights, cameras, and (noisy) action.

Free Wi-Fi Hotelwide starting in 2010. Currently available at the pool, in the lobby, and in public areas.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 3900 Collins Ave., 305/538-4900, circa39.com. Doubles from $89, plus a mandatory $10 surcharge, which covers use of its private chairs on the beach.

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HOTEL ASTOR
'Hood South Beach, on a stretch of Washington Avenue that's two blocks from South Beach proper—and not far from the underappreciated Wolfsonian-FIU museum, home to retro design exhibitions.

The vibe An inviting, art deco hotel tucked discreetly behind a hedge. The small, sparkling lobby is accented with clean, spare notes like low white chairs and floral artworks encased in glass cabinets.

Rooms The 40 beige-on-beige rooms are more spacious than those you'll find in a typical South Beach hotel. Tasteful black-and-white photographs and marbled bathrooms with tubs and showers class things up.

Plus The staff at Hotel Astor (and its well-regarded restaurant) is truly polished and meets the standard of a multistarred hotel—which the property is.

Minus Some of the carpets are ready for replacement. Also: There's no pool.

Free Wi-Fi Yes; included in the resort fee.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 956 Washington Avenue, 305/531-8081, hotelastor.com. Doubles from about $139, plus a $12 per room per day resort fee, which covers beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels.

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HOTEL ST. MICHEL
'Hood Coral Gables, an upscale district about a 20-minute drive from Miami Beach. Some neighborhood highlights/mainstays: The ArtSpace / Virginia Miller Galleries, independent retailer Books & Books (well regarded for its reading series and live jazz), and JohnMartin's Irish Pub & Restaurant (beloved by locals).

The vibe In this 1928 building, leaded-glass front doors open into a bar illuminated by chandeliers and furnished in a way that evokes a postwar Paris bistro.

Rooms Unlike many period hotels with stylized, reproduction furniture, this hotel feels like the real thing. Most of the 28 rooms feature actual antique furnishings and armoires.

Plus In Coral Gables, it's a rare hotel that feels this intimate and old world—especially in the heart of the business district.

Minus The parquet floors in several rooms have scars that need refinishing, and the hallways deserve brighter lighting. Also: The hotel is not on a beach and does not have a pool.

Free Wi-Fi Yes.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 162 Alcazar Ave., 305/444-1666, hotelstmichel.com. Doubles from $135.

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HYATT REGENCY MIAMI
'Hood Downtown Miami, which recently transitioned from a dead-after-business-hours district to a lively neighborhood with sky lounges atop glassy towers, luxury hotels like the Four Seasons, and posh restaurants such as P.F. Chang's.

The vibe Low, Asian-style furnishings and a profusion of orchids are a calming influence in the busy lobby of this 26-year-old hotel, conveniently located near the city's main cruise ship terminal.

Rooms The 612 rooms, renovated in 2008, have upgraded amenities that aim to please corporate road warriors, such as granite tabletops and iPod-friendly stereos.

Plus Accessible by covered walkway, the free Metromover rail shuttle takes you to the restaurants on Brickell Avenue, the shops at the Bayside Marketplace, and the shows at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami/Dade County.

Minus When a convention is being hosted in the on-site facilities, this hotel is loud and a little uptight. Also: The property is not near the beach, and the pool is small.

Free Wi-Fi No; a charge of $10 covers 24 hours.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 400 S.E. 2nd Ave., 305/358-1234, miamiregency.hyatt.com. Doubles from $109.

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INDIAN CREEK HOTEL
'Hood Central Miami Beach, one residential block from the boardwalk and overlooking the pretty Intracoastal Waterway. Getting to the South Beach scene requires a taxi.

The vibe In the cozy lobby, piped-in chamber music and colorful canvases on the corn-silk yellow walls create the impression that you've stepped off Miami's streets into a country B&B.

Rooms The 66 studios and one bedrooms are painted in happy shades of pale blue and yellow, and decorated with white bedcoverings and wave-colored runners.

Plus The hotel has a swimming pool, a leafy tropical garden, and the popular restaurant Creek 28 (which serves affordable Mediterranean dishes). In addition, 4 one-bedroom units are available.

Minus Uses window-based air-conditioning units, which can be noisier than a central system. Also: Located two blocks from the beach, by day this is a high-traffic zone.

Free Wi-Fi No; a charge of $6 per day applies for Wi-Fi in rooms and public spaces, but you can print out airline boarding passes from a hotel computer at no cost.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 2727 Indian Creek Dr., 305/531-2727, indiancreekhotel.com. Double rooms from $109.

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SONESTA BAYFRONT HOTEL COCONUT GROVE
'Hood Coconut Grove, a harbor-front neighborhood with a hippie past, clings to a no-worries attitude despite a sprinkling of new condo developments.

The vibe Decidedly posh. An eighth-floor outdoor pool overlooks a sailboat marina. Meanwhile, cream-colored leather sofas huddle beneath attractive contemporary artwork in the lobby.

Rooms Decked out in beige drapes and dark-wood furniture, the 209 rooms available for nightly rental in this condo-hotel are located on floors 9 through 21.

Plus Families can book a spacious suite or a pair of adjoining rooms. Upgrades to rooms with kitchenettes and full kitchens are available, too.

Minus Rooms facing the CocoWalk shopping complex can be noisy; ask for a room facing the marina.

Free Wi-Fi Yes.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 2889 McFarlane Rd., 305/529-2828, sonesta.com. Doubles from $139.

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TOWNHOUSE HOTEL
'Hood South Beach, sharing a trendy block with sleek hotels that look like something straight out of CSI.

The vibe In this spare 1930s building, white-on-white couches, floral armchairs, and red bicycles stationed in the terrazzo-floored lobby conjure up a beach-house vibe.

Rooms The 69 minimalist rooms are whimsically accented with beach balls and baby-blue round rugs.

Plus Within a Frisbee's toss of the ocean. Also: home to Bond St., an evenings-only lounge serving inventive sushi dishes created by chef Mike Hiraga.

Minus No pool. Also: Bathrooms are tiny and few have tubs.

Free Wi-Fi Yes.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 150 20th St., 305/534-3800, townhousehotel.com. Doubles from $99.

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VILLA PARADISO
'Hood In the heart of South Beach. Club-hoppers are within stumbling distance of Ocean Drive, and celeb watchers are within strolling distance of the anything-goes café scene on Lincoln Road.

The vibe It feels like walking into a secret garden. A narrow, leafy courtyard encloses this small, onetime apartment building. The staff can arrange for your VIP entry to a few semi-exclusive clubs.

Rooms All 17 studios and one-bedroom apartments have kitchens, hardwood floors, curved couches, and walls painted in bright, sunny colors. Bathrooms are tiny and spartan, though.

Plus A surprisingly quiet atmosphere, given the neighborhood's party-all-night reputation. Also: a block from the beach.

Minus This is a guesthouse, so the office is open only from around 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. No pool.

Free Wi-Fi Yes.

Credit cards accepted AmEx, MC, Visa.

Details 1415 Collins Ave., 305/532-0616, villaparadisohotel.com. Doubles from $90.

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AFFORDABLE MIAMI