From the time I entered the cruise industry in 2007, I’ve been traveling to Miami several times a year for meetings with cruise line reps and to cruise out of the Port of Miami.
Until my most recent trip to Miami, I’d pretty much avoided going to South Beach. Through 20+ trips to Miami, I had not stepped foot in South Beach since Y2K New Year’s Eve.
Over the last couple of years, I’d been reading about huge investments being made in South Beach to restore the original Art Deco Hotels. Rumor had it that these investments in historical hotels and along with several years of residential development attracted lots of new fine-dining and shopping options.
Last month, I took it upon myself to venture down to South Beach for 48 hours to confirm these rumors.
My 48 Hours South Beach Review:
Highlights with more detail below:
– Stayed at the newly renovated Gale Hotel. The Gale is a modernized 1940s boutique hotel located in the heart of South Beach.
– Toured The Ritz Carlton and National Hotel. The National and Ritz Carlton are beachfront hotels located near the Gale Hotel.
– From South Pointe Park, I watched cruise ships depart Miami.
– Ate dinner at Red, The Steakhouse. The best Steak and Calamari I’ve ever eaten.
– Ate Breakfast and Lunch at Dolce Restaurant. Italian Reataurant locate on Gale Hotel Property
– Ate dinner at Cvi.che 105, an authentic Peruvian restaurant located over the bridge near the cruise ship terminal.
– South Beach Shopping: I checked out the shopping and restaurants on Lincoln Street which is walking distance from all three of the mentioned hotels.
– Relaxed on the beach for an hour and then enjoyed a beer at the Surfcomber beachside pool.
The Gale Hotel, South Beach
I stayed at the Gale Hotel located in the heart of South Beach at the corner of 17th Street and Collins Avenue.
The Gale Hotel, originally built in 1941, has been successfully renovated to keep it’s original tropical art deco style while adding today’s most modern luxuries.
As a regular cruiser, I am accustomed to small accommodations and my room in the boutique Gale Hotel was fairly small – but as you will see in my quick Gale Hotel Room Tour video, my balcony was HUGE!
The Gale Hotel Room Tour Video:
The Gale Hotel Service
The initial draw to the Gale Hotel may be the history, style, location, and uniqueness of the property, but it is the service that will bring me back.
It started before I got there. First, after I made my reservation, they gave me a free upgrade for just Tweeting that I was going to stay there. I guess that is how got the big balcony.
I’m not a big fan of receiving texts from businesses… however, right before boarding my flight to Miami, I received a text from the concierge desk asking when they could expect my arrival. After I replied back with a time, they let me know my room may not be ready due to the early arrival but not to worry because I could leave my bags while I went shopping nearby, ate lunch or went to the pool.
My room was ready when I checked in.
I liked this use of business texting because the texts were not automated. They came from real person with the purpose of improving my experience. I received two more text during my stay just checking into to see to make sure everything was perfect.
One evening, I had a knock at my door. To my surprise, it was the Champagne Cart offering me a complimentary glass of Champagne. A memorable touch.
FREE South Beach Transportation: The Gale Hotel has partnered with an electric cart service that offers Free Rides almost anywhere in South Beach. At checkin, I was given the dedicate phone number to the driver. Southpointe Park [a great spot to watch the cruise ships depart Miami] and Red, the Steakhouse is about 1.5 miles from the Gale. I used this service at least 6 times in 2 days.
The Gale Hotel has a $25 daily resort fee per couple. The Resort Fee covers the Wi-Fi, Beach Chairs and Towels, $15 credit at Dolce Restaurant, and the ride service.
Since the Gale Hotel is not directly on the beach, they have partnered with the Shelbourne Hotel to offer free beach chair and towel service. It is a short walk to the Shelbourne from the Gale Hotel.
The Gale Hotel Pool
Another highlight of the Gale Hotel is the fabulous rooftop pool on the 5th floor. Thanks to not having any high-rise neighbors, the pool gets sunlight all day and has partial view of the ocean.
Gale Hotel Pool Photo:
The National Hotel, South Beach
Across the street from The Gale Hotel is the Oceanfront National Hotel. While in South Beach, I received a full tour of the the newly renovated National Hotel.
When the National Hotel opened it’s doors in 1939, it was one of the grandest, most luxury hotels in South Beach. Over the last 4 years, this historic hotel has received $24 million in renovations. Through the renovation, The National Hotel received recognition for it’s historical perseverance by the Historic Hotels of America.
Similar to the Gale, when I stepped into the National Hotel I felt like I was stepping back in time…the renovation brought in many of today’s modern luxuries while staying true to it’s 1940’s style.
The 2o5 foot infinity pool practically runs from the back door of the main tour to the sandy beach with 36 Cabana Rooms with balconies running along the side of it. The main tower offers 116 newly designed city and oceanview rooms.
National Hotel Infinity Pool Photo
National Hotel Cabana Room Photo
36 Cabana rooms line the infinity pool. Here is a peak inside one a Cabana Room:
The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach
The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach is on the same block as the Gale and National Hotels.
The Ritz-Carlton is a historic South Beach hotel designed by famed postmodern architect Morris Lapidus originally opened in 1953 as the DiLido.
The Ritz-Carlton offers large, luxurious suites with amazing views of the pool and beach. It is also home to the DiLido Beach Club, the only oceanfront restaurant in South Beach offering local seafood, salads, sandwiches, and homemade Sangria.
View from the Ritz-Carlton South Beach Oceanview Club Level Suite
South Beach has done an excellent job implementing laws and policies that require the preservation of the original structures of these historic art deco hotels. These rules can make it challenging when renovating a property, but this history and style makes South Beach a destination unlike any other. The Gale Hotel, National Hotel, and Ritz-Carlton have all successfully kept their original style while making the properties more luxurious and contemporary.
Red, The Steakhouse
Does Red, The Steakhouse have the best steak in South Beach? I’m not sure…. All I know is that it is THE BEST steak I’ve ever eaten.
Not only was the NY Strip the best ever, but the Calamari was also the best Calamari I’ve ever had. It was so tender, lightly breaded and perfectly seasoned.
Red’s NY Strip Photo:
While eating this meal of a lifetime, Executive Chef Peter passionately told me about his commitment to only sourcing the finest ingredients. For example, I learned that the best squid for calamari in the world is fished off the US coast but there is no longer any US based squid fishing companies. He purchase it from an Italian company that fishes squid off the US Coast.
For the Creamed Corn side dish, Red slices the corn off local corncobs and makes homemade cornbread just for the purpose of using the delicious breadcrumbs on top of the creamed corn. Absolutely delicious.
Red is also the number 1 seller of Certified Angus Beef ® brand Prime steaks which are the world’s most luxurious steaks representing the top 1.5% of steaks. In addition to the finest food, Red’s wine selection is quite impressive.
Cvi.che 105 – Miami
One evening, I did head over the bridge out of South Beach to Miami to have dinner with Jason, our Carnival Sales rep for dinner. Off of a tip from one of his foodie friends, we ended up dining at new spot called Cvi.che 105.
Cvi.che 105 is a chic authentic Peruvian Restaurant that did not disappoint.
As we ordered, we asked our waiter for a list of the most authentic Peruvian dishes.
I order the Mi Favorito, ¡y lo dice Juan aka My Favorite because Juan Says So! which is the grilled churrasco steak and traditional green noodles.
Jason ordered the most authentic Peruvian seafood dish:
The Beach at South Beach
It is called South Beach…so how is the beach? It is beautiful. The beach is public, but out in front of each hotel there is a branded cabana with beach chairs, towels, umbrellas, and cabana boys/girls.
Years ago, the ocean came all the way up to many of Hotel’s pools. Now the manicured white sand beach is much wider providing plenty of space for sunseekers to lounge on their comfortably padded beach chairs.
The Beach Photos:
The Ritz-Carlton Cabana and Beach Chairs:
After an hour relaxing on the beach, as I took the short walk from the Gale’s Beach Cabana at Shelbourne Hotel back to the Gale I passed by Surfcomber Hotel. With a live DJ spinning poolside, The Surfcomber opens it’s pool and pool bar to the public. So, I headed in for cold draft beer.
If you stay at the Gale Hotel like I did, you can still enjoy the convenience, energy, and beverages of the beachfront pool at Surfcomber Hotel.
Pool Photo of SurfComber Hotel:
South Pointe Park, South Beach
At the southern most point of South Beach where the Intercoastal Highway meets the ocean is South Pointe Park.
At South Pointe Park, you’ll find local walking their dogs and exercising, restaurants perfectly situated for watching the cruise ships sailaway, a historic pier recently reopened after a $4.8 million renovation, and beautiful sunsets.
I found South Pointe Park to be the perfect spot to practice my new drone gopro hobby. This video was take from South Pointe Park.
GoPro Drone Video from South Pointe Park:
Do I recommend South Beach for Miami Pre-Cruise?
Short answer: Yes!
Slightly longer answer:
The investments that continue to pour into South Beach like the restoration of many of the Art Deco Hotels, South Pointe Pier, and the beach will make it an ever more popular international vacation destination.
Going forward, for my pre-cruise stays, I personally will be in South Beach. The beach, excellent dining, newly renovated historic hotels, parks and shopping all within 1.5 miles is how I want to kick-off my next cruise vacation.
South Beach Interactive Map
Here is a South Beach map showing South Pointe Park, The Gale Hotel, and Red, The Steakhouse. CLICK HERE for the South Beach Interactive Map.