There are plenty of fabulous Miami Beach resorts so large you could get lost inside (think the Fontainebleau). At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are quite a few equally noteworthy South Beach boutique gems. Case in point: Situated right on the Atlantic shore,
the Hilton Bentley Miami South Beach is so tucked away, you'll have to pull your car down a cul-de-sac at First Street and Ocean Drive to enter the bronze- and gold-hued lobby. Europeans and South Americans wanting to soak up the sun pay the Bentley a lot of attention. Lounging on lobby couches with seahorse-embossed pillows, and it’s clear they’re right at home in smaller surroundings — a very European concept, I’d say. Listen for Portuguese as guests visiting from Brazil ask the multilingual concierge for the best places to shop and dine on nearby Lincoln Road. Recently, the Bentley received national notoriety when reality TV celebutantes Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian called it home. The diva sisters took residence in the ultra-swanky penthouse suite with a wraparound oceanfront balcony for E! network’s Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami.
Despite the boutique hotel’s smaller size, all of the rooms — from studios to one- and two-bedroom options — are designed as suites with living rooms. Plus, you score a turnkey kitchen (or kitchenette). With a fridge for your mixers, you can whip up cocktails at any hour. Forgoing a clever SoBe decor, the Bentley rooms lean tastefully toward the traditional, all sunny and bright with lots of pretty yellow hues. Oceanfront suites are your best bet; grab a chair and hang out on the terrace where you can watch a parasail catch the wind over the waves.
If you’ve never stayed in the South of Fifth neighborhood (aka SoFi), where South Pointe Park claims the southern tip of Miami Beach, you’ll find this stretch much less frenetic. The streets really aren’t swarming with pedestrians, and the beach here has an air of serenity. Some of the most sought-out foodie destinations — Joe’s Stone Crab and Prime One Twelve steakhouse — are mere minutes away by foot. Doug Rodriguez, a chef with a strong local following, runs his new De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean from the premises. The restaurant has a boutique quality that echoes the Bentley’s charm and an intimate setting with deep wood tones and palms. Scattered throughout are rustic folk- art mermaids designed by local artisans. Tables outside near the pool deck enjoy balmy breezes and are in demand. Here, the full soaking-up-the-sun experience includes dining on sugar cane tuna while sipping mojitos.
This boutique hotel is even equipped with a spa. The tranquil yet tiny space includes an outdoor massage cabana that’s perfect for couples. Ask for Iris — she customizes all treatments. Three ladies in the elevator, fresh off the sand and heading for the fourth floor for pampering, are all smiles. The beaming blonde from Chicago in a floppy sun hat was at the hotel on business but was ready for a “me day,” which included a facial at Spa 101. More R&R space can be found in the hotel’s outdoor hide- away niches, with flowing fountains just off the spa’s entrance.
Before hitting the beach, you’ll want to snatch one of the oversize daybeds, resting on their own plat- forms by the pool. It’s a primo spot for taking in the scene. When you’re ready, step beyond the pool, past the white gate and onto the winding boardwalk that leads to the beach — the ultimate nirvana. It’s here that the Bentley Beach Club attendants roll out bold blue and yellow loungers that make quite a splash against the sand. Beach butlers, as the attendants are called, do everything, from replenishing towels on the plush chaises to serving rum-marinated smoked marlin malanga-shell tacos paired with icy sangria filled with fresh fruit. As for the Hilton Bentley overall, know that it’s just as sizzling-hot on the sands of SoFi as anywhere along Ocean Drive, but the vibe here is simply cool sophistication, scaled down to the perfect boutique size.
More Great Boutique Hotels
A stroll through the British Colonial-style, 162-room Seagate Hotel & Spa requires a stop in the lobby to view the coral reef aquarium; the ocean theme reappears in colorful sea-anemone light fixtures and a jellyfish tank at Jellies bar.
The charming Mediterranean-style Inn on Fifth, with 87 rooms, is elegance personified.Its enviable location on Fifth Avenue, the trendiest lane in Naples, puts it steps from chic boutiques, great eats and art galleries. Choose a room with a view of either the pool or the streetscape. So come morning, linger in your Moroccan cotton waffle-weave robe on the romantic Juliet balcony.
The swanky, modern Hotel Duval in downtown Tallahassee has a happening rooftop lounge called Level 8. Settle on the terrace’s cushy couches for some skyline views of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and the Florida State University campus. Ask for the suite where country diva Carrie Underwood stayed, for its equally stunning views and luxe bath.