Boutique on the Beach: A Review of the Betsy Hotel South Beach, Part of Hyatt
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A companion and I were heading to Miami for a long weekend and keen to stay in South Beach for one night before the weekend. I've been disappointed in my Marriott Ambassador status this year and, having already requalified for Platinum next year, decided to focus my efforts on World of Hyatt for the rest of 2019, where it makes sense.
Hyatt does not have as broad a footprint as Marriott in Miami's South Beach, but their awesome new partnership with Small Luxury Hotels provided two interesting possibilities: The Plymouth and The Betsy. I chose the latter because of location and did not regret the decision.
Built in the early 1940's by Lawrence Murray Dixon, the hotel is named after the supposed seamstress of the first American flag, Betsy Ross, and the US Army spent some time here toward the end of World War II. This rich history is reflected all across the hotel in the artwork, the architecture and the signage.
To earn Hyatt points at qualifying SLH hotels, guests need to book directly through the Hyatt website. In this case, the rate on Hyatt's website was about $15 more expensive than booking directly through The Betsy's website, though all members who book through Hyatt are entitled to complimentary continental breakfast for two, a one-category upgrade at check-in (if available), early check-in and/or late checkout and points.
This property is a Category 6 in the World of Hyatt award chart, meaning a free night will cost you 25,000 points. Given that Hyatt is a 1:1 transfer partner with Chase Ultimate Rewards, it's easy to earn the points you need for free nights. If you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, you can earn a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months from account opening. From this sign-up bonus alone, you'll earn more than enough points for a two-night stay at this property.
Considering these benefits I deemed the extra $15 worthwhile and paid $229 plus taxes and fees. I put it on my Citi Prestige® Card to earn a total of 1,086 Citi ThankYou points along with 1,374 Hyatt points, which included a 20% bonus based on my Explorist status. The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
The Betsy did tack on a dreaded $35 resort fee, which they tried to justify by writing out a slew of benefits that the hotel probably always offered, the only one of which I'm guessing was incremental was the free use of loungers and umbrellas on South Beach, which I'd peg at a $40 value, since chairs cost $20 per lounger for the day.
Do note the hotel is pet-friendly, so it's a good choice if you're traveling with your four-legged buddy.
The Betsy is at the north end of Ocean Drive, with easy access to all that South Beach has to offer: nightlife, dining and, of course, the beach directly across the road.
It was about a 45-minute ride from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which we flew into, while Miami International was a bit closer, about 25 minutes away.
Related: Guide to Airline Companion Tickets
The boardwalk and the beach was a one-minute walk right across Ocean Drive, and we found the included loungers for hotel guests handy. You definitely do not need a car if you are staying in the area, and we really liked the location, since it was extremely walkable but not too noisy or chaotic.
Twenty-four hours prior to check-in, I received an invite to preregister for my stay.
I could pay to upgrade my room and was offered other upsells like early check-in or later checkout for $96.
Only the superior pool-view double ($25 upgrade for a $299 room), deluxe ocean-view king ($55 for $339) and deluxe ocean-view double ($75 for $389) presented a good value based on the rates that the rooms were currently selling for and my initial rate of $229.
I appreciated the ability to customize my stay, and preregistering only took a minute, though the pricing wasn't enticing enough to make me want to pay for any ancillaries.
We arrived to the hotel at around 5pm and made our way straight to the check-in desks.
The lobby had a colonial feel and reminded me of the Westin Moana Surfrider. There was live music in the lobby a few nights a week.
The area in front of the check-in desks was slightly cramped and got full when there were more than four guests in the area.
The agent was friendly and noted our booking was made through Hyatt. He mentioned we were upgraded one category from a classic king to a superior king with a courtyard view. He also said that breakfast would be served until 11am at LT Seafood and Steak, adjacent to the lobby, and gave us directions to our room.
We did notice as we were checking out that many guests were being offered prosecco on arrival, which we never received. Nonetheless, the process was quick, and we were on our way about five minutes after arriving.
Our room was actually in the old Carlton Hotel, right behind The Betsy on Collins Avenue. They used to be two separate art deco hotels, though a recent 2017 renovation project brought the hotel under the same ownership. There was a skyway disguised as an orb that connected the two buildings on the third floor.
The hallways were dotted with awesome vintage Beatles and Rolling Stones photos from Bob Bonis' collection, all of which were for sale. Our room had a very homey, Scandinavian beach vibe.
I loved the light colors, books and even the fan above our bed, which I have seldom seen in a hotel room.
Though the room felt airy, the bathroom was extremely cramped, and I didn't like how the shower was not fully enclosed. The hotel stocked Malin+Goetz toiletries in environmentally friendly refillable bottles.
There was a small minibar inside one of the end tables next to the bed. Also for sale in the room were hotel-branded coffee cups, a beach tote, refillable water bottle and cookie jar.
The view from the room overlooked the hotel courtyard, which wasn't too exciting but helped keep the room relatively soundproofed from the party scene on the street at night.
The room was nice and almost felt more like an Airbnb with its homey elements -- the ceiling fan, books and cozy decor.
Food and Beverage
Shortly after arriving at the hotel, we grabbed a drink and a sushi roll from LT Steak and Seafood in the lobby of the hotel. We found an open seat on the verandah out front, and it was a great place to people-watch on Ocean Drive. The vibe was a lot more elegant than some of the other bars on the strip. The yellowtail sushi roll and Hemingway daiquiri were top-notch.
Our included continental breakfast was served at LT as well, which was decent though very carb-heavy. Guests had their choice of a pastry, bread, juice, coffee, tea and either yogurt and granola or ancient-grains oatmeal. The yogurt and coconutty granola was pretty good.
There were two other restaurants on site, which we didn't try. One was a quick-service pizza and gelato stop called Ventanita, and the other was The Alley, which served homemade pastas, pizzas and cocktails with table service.
There were two pools on site at The Betsy, one in the courtyard of the original Betsy and the other on the roof. There were always chairs available at both, though the courtyard pool didn't get as much sunlight, so won't be as useful if you're working on your tan.
We found the pool on the roof barren and too urban. A few hedges or at least some greenery on the roof would have gone a long way to improving the feel of the pool deck, and when the sun was high there was very little shade to be had.
Guests had access to Boucher Brothers loungers on South Beach, which was a nice perk for beach bums like myself.
The hotel also boasted a small but well-equipped gym with two Peloton bikes. The only morning I visited, there were two other guests there.
On the second floor was a library where guests could relax. A soothing, air-conditioned space, it had plenty of comfy seating and a well-curated collection of books.
Wandering around, we also found a few trendy event spaces and meeting rooms covered in art. They're sure to be crowd pleasers if you're looking for an event space in South Beach.
This was my first experience at a property that is part of Hyatt's SLH partnership, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I do love boutique hotels, but the points-and-miles game generally steers me away from them. Based on this experience, I would definitely seek out more hotels that are part of this partnership, where you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
I liked the historic feel of The Betsy, the location right on South Beach and the food and drinks at the hotel. If you are looking for a big family resort or a spot to party at, you'll probably be disappointed, but the hotel is a classy place to relax at and enjoy all that South Beach has to offer.
All photos by the author.