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After an action-packed two-week trip to Asia, TPG is back home in the USA, so we decided to feature his current hometown as our Destination of the Week: Miami Beach.
With sun, surf, a tasty foodie scene, fabulous shopping, and gorgeous hotels, Miami Beach is one of the all-time great vacation destinations. Here are some of TPG’s personal picks on what to do, see and eat while you’re there, as well as tips on earning and burning your miles and points.
WHAT TO DO/EAT/BUY
We went right to the source and got some top picks from TPG for restaurants shopping and spas for your next trip to Miami.
For strictly points-earning reasons, he recommends Mr. Chow at the W and Bond Street at the Townhouse Hotel for sushi since they are both part of Rewards Network and you can double-dip for points. Casa Tua has “amazing Italian,” while Juvia is the “hottest spot in town,” according to him, where the drinks are great and the food is even better. Of course, no visit to South Beach would be complete without a stop at Joe’s Stone Crab for some of the famous delicacy, but don’t skip Macaluso’s for its renowned Italian meatballs, and try the low-key Latin eats at Jimmy’z Kitchen for something more casual. For coffee, TPG recommends Panther Coffee for a good, strong cup of java, and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink for some hearty farm-to-table fare.
Check out Babalu for a hip shopping experience right on Lincoln Road, and a high-end boutique called The Webster on Collins Avenue, then follow up your retail therapy with some spa therapy at either the Standard or the Setai (see below). The Standard has a coed hammam for relaxing in the steam, and pre- or post-treatment, you get access to the pool and facilities, which usually host a fun party scene.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
Miami International Airport (MIA) is located about 12 miles from the Miami Beach/South Beach (~$35 cab) and is South Florida’s main airport. American Airlines makes Miami one of its largest hubs here and serves most of the major cities in the U.S. non-stop from here. Delta, United, U.S. Airways all serve their hub cities from here as well. Delta was beginning to increase its presence at Miami, however they are discontinuing their non-stop Miami-London Heathrow flight. If you do fly Delta to Miami, be sure to check out their uniquely designed Sky Club at the airport.
Since low-cost carriers like Southwest and JetBlue don’t service Miami (they do fly into nearby Ft. Lauderdale, though), ticket prices can be expensive at peak times, positioning it a great destination to use miles. American Airlines awards start at 12,500 each way for a MileSAAver Off-peak award or 25,000 miles for a one-way AAnytime Award.
Another way to get to Miami is to use British Airways Avios miles, which are distance-based. 7,500 Avios would get you a one-way ticket from New York to Miami on American since they are a Oneworld partner and you can even score last-minute tickets without incurring huge fees. With the current American Express Transfer Bonus you could transfer 5,000 American Express points for 7,500 Avios miles, so for a roundtrip ticket requiring 15,000 Avios, you would only need 10,000 Membership Rewards points.
Miami has many international airlines that serve the city as well including Aerolineas Argentinas, Air Berlin, Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, Iberia, LAN, Lufthansa, Swiss and Virgin Atlantic, making it a popular destination for many international visitors.
As we mentioned, Miami has been one of the great jet-set destinations for over 50 years now, so there are no shortage of great hotels, many of which will let you rack up or use up those hard-earned points.
Hilton Bentley Miami: This hotel has 109 suites features studios, 1- or 2-bedroom and penthouse suites. The rooms start at 320 square feet and go up to 3,000 square feet and feature 42 inch LCD TV’s, Italian marble flooring, and kitchenettes. Guests have access to the Bentley Beach Club, which has lounge chairs, umbrellas, beach cabanas and water sports equipment. There is an outdoor pool, fitness center, and the hotel’s Spa 101 features Asian-inspired treatments. The hotel’s multiple dining outlets include Prime 112 steakhouse (across the street), Prime Italian and De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean.
The Penthouse is currently undergoing restoration work and is expected to be completed by late April 2012. Rates in April start at $284 a night, or 50,000 Hilton HHonors points since it’s a Category 7 Property.
Crowne Plaza South Beach– Z Ocean Hotel: Located on South Beach’s main drag, Collins Avenue, this all-suite boutique hotel has 79 suites. They feature floor-to-ceiling windows, mahogany wood furniture and accents, and marble bathrooms. For the technophiles, the hotel has iPads in the lobby for guests to use. There is an outdoor pool, whirlpool and fitness center as well. The hotel’s restaurant is The Front Porch and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rates in April start at $299 or 25,000 Priority Club points a night.
South Beach Marriott: On Ocean Drive in Miami’s SoFi district (South of 5th Street), this beachfront hotel has 228 rooms including 8 suites. The boutique-style guest rooms start at 250 square feet and feature flat-panel TV’s. The hotel also offers a concierge floor located on the 11th floor with a club lounge that serves complimentary breakfast, snacks, hor d’oeuvres and desserts. The pool deck was recently renovated and features infinity-edge heated pools and a whirlpool. There is also a fitness center, and on-site all-day dining at the hotel’s main restaurant is Deco Blue. Rates in April start at $359. This is a Marriott Category 8 property, and requires 40,000 Marriott Rewards Points (35,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
Eden Roc, a Renaissance Beach Resort & Spa: Located in Miami Beach, this landmark hotel has 535 guest rooms and 92 suites. The lobby was recently renovated, and the modern rooms feature flat-screen HDTV’s, iPod docking stations and WiFi. The hotel has a full service ELLE Spa, oceanview fitness center and outdoor infinity-edge swimming pools. The hotel’s main restaurant, 1500 degrees, serves lunch and dinner, and the hotel also has the Cabana Beach Club and a poolside bar. Rates in April start at $349. This is a Marriott Category 7 property, and requires 35,000 Marriott Rewards Points (30,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
Courtyard Miami Beach Oceanfront: The 252 guest rooms and 10 suites start at 350 square feet, with vibrant color schemes, and have 32-inch plasma TV’s and complimentary wireless access. There is a heated outdoor swimming pool, whirlpool, and fitness suite. The hotel also has three restaurants including an oceanfront tiki bar. The hotel has beach chairs, umbrellas and cabana rentals available. Rates in April start at $249. This is a Marriott Category 6 property, and requires 30,000 Marriott Rewards Points (25,000 with PointSavers) for a free night redemption.
Ritz-Carlton South Beach: The Ritz-Carlton South Beach lies near Lincoln Road, a 10-block pedestrian esplanade at the heart of South Beach. It’s one of the bigger properties, with 375 rooms and suites, and occupies a restored 1953 Morris Lapidus-designed landmark building. Rooms here range from 375-450 square feet and have views of the ocean, pool or south beach. Furniture is constructed from dark cherry wood, and the décor palette is ocean-inspired with blue, green and gold. Rooms have large work desks, iPod docks, laptop safes, king or double beds. Guests staying in Club Level rooms have access to a dedicated concierge, as well as the club lounge with continuous offerings throughout the day including breakfast, light snacks, hors d’oeuvres, beverages and sweets. The hotel’s restaurants include the oceanfront DiLido Beach Club for lunch and light dinner, Bistro One LR for contemporary American bistro fare, the Lapidus Lounge for cocktails, light bites and sushi, and the lobby bar for snacks and cocktails. The 16,000-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Spa has 14 treatment rooms and uses Carita products. Rates in April start at $$499 a night, or 60,000 points (50,000 PointSavers) because it is a Tier 4 property.
W South Beach: This resort features 312 guest rooms ranging from Wonderful Studios to Private Bungalows and everything in between. Check out this heated Flyertalk thread on the upgrades SPG Members have received here and the hotel’s uneven upgrade policy. Guest rooms have 37-inch flat screen TV’s, private balconies and Cippolino marble bathrooms with walk-in showers. The hotel has a beautiful outdoor pool with private cabanas and a lively pool scene. The resort has a Bliss Spa, SWEAT gym, water sports rentals, and complimentary Acura car service which chauffeurs guests around the South Beach area. The hotel is also home to Mr. Chow, a sophisticated Asian restaurant whose original location is in Beverly Hills. Rates in April begin at $559. This is a SPG Category 7 property requiring between 30,000-35,000 Starpoints for a free-night redemption.
St. Regis Bal Harbour: It’s not in Miami Beach, but this recently opened property has been generating a lot of magazine and blog buzz, so we thought we’d include it. The 243 guest rooms and suites were designed by Yabu Pushelberg, and feature floor-to-ceiling windows, glass-walled balconies with rattan recliners or lounges, and an ocean-inspired palette of blue, grey, gold, purple and cream, as well as carpeting and fabric with coral patterns. Beds feature the signature St. Regis pillowtop mattress and 400-thread-cout Pratesi linens, while all rooms also contain 46-inch LED HDTV’s, iPod docks, Blu-ray players, Remede bath amenities, in-mirror televisions in the bathrooms, and complimentary high-speed internet. For families, there’s also the St. Regis Kids’ Club. The St. Regis Beach Club is right on the shore and also includes the hotel’s two heated saline pools—the Tranquility pool for adults and the Main Pool for the while family. Umbrellas cost $25 each, and there are also private cabana rentals. The hotel has a Remede Spa and an expansive fitness club, as well as the St. Regis Bar & Wine Vault for tapas and drinks, the Fresco Beach Bar and Grill by the Main Pool for Latin-influenced outdoor dining, Spanish-influenced cuisine at Atlantico, and the J&G Grill based on the cuisine of Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Rates start at $589 in April. This is a SPG Category 7 property requiring between 30,000-35,000 Starpoints for a free-night redemption.
Four Points Miami Beach: Located in Miami Beach between the ocean and Collins Avenue, this hotel offers 216 guest rooms. They feature the signature Four Comfort Bed, 42-inch LCD TV’s and complimentary high-speed internet access. There is an outdoor swimming pool and fitness center. The hotel has an on-site restaurant, Sungrass Café, serving all day dining. Rates in April begin at $215. This is a SPG Category 4 property requiring 10,000 Starpoints for a free-night redemption.
Other Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.
TPG has plenty of other favorite hotels around Miami Beach, as well, that aren’t part of the major chains. As we mentioned above, one of his favorite spas in the city and a great pool scene can be found at The Setai though they recently underwent a rather sudden, major management change (we’re talking forcible removal!), so things there might be a little touch-and-go for a while. The The Standard is another great choice, especially if you’re looking for an all-day-and-all-night party vibe. For visitors who crave a little more understated South Beach elegance, the boutiquey King & Grove Tides South Beach has a 60’s jet-set vibe and is an excellent choice, while families might prefer the noise and bustle of the landmark Fountainebleau Miami Beach, which reopened back in 2008 after a jaw-dropping $1-billion renovation with two new towers, a 40,000-square-foot spa, eleven restaurants and lounges, three nightclubs and an enormous free-form pool. Yeah, it’s enormous, but Miami doesn’t do anything on a small scale.
Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.