Miami Beach; endless white sand, swaying palm trees, jogging on the boardwalk OR Coconut Bay; azure blue marina, rooftop pool, frozen cocktail in hand. It’s a tough choice but luckily one I didn’t have to make – I did both!
The Palms Hotel and Spa, Miami Beach
It’s pretty obvious why they named this place The Palms. Sprouty, green heads on chunky trunks line the beach and are sprinkled around the pool area. From my window on the 16th floor the pool and beach are almost completely obscured by the Palms’ swaying arms; a hint of turquoise and a flash of white the only clues to what lies below. Above them spreads the royal blue ocean, stretching for as far as I can squint.
The white Art Deco building of The Palms dates from the 1930’s, but the interior underwent a $20 million restoration in 2009. The lobby is a grand high ceiling-ed area with whirling, wooden ceiling fans which give it a exotic and colonial feel. The Essensia restaurant, which has hosted Tom and Katie for tea, sits near the pool area and hotel guests may choose to take their breakfast pool side in the mornings. This would be a wise decision as pool side of a morning stands the ‘waffle man’ – as I affectionately named him! Whilst a buffet ranging from muesli to meat and bagels is spread inside the restaurant, outside you will find the added temptation of freshly prepared omelettes or waffles with your choice of toppings. I layered my waffles with berries and cream and got so distracted from my pastries that a cheeky bird swooped down and claimed the remains for his own consumption.
Between the pool-side loungers, pool bar and Tiki cabanas (which come with wifi and iPod docking stations) in the gardens there are plenty of peaceful areas to relax around the hotel. There are also some beautiful areas to get married in if you so wish – I spotted an intimate wedding ceremony in part of the garden over the weekend and pressed my nose against my bedroom window so I could discreetly watch!
Stepping through the garden gates takes you directly onto the Miami Beach boardwalk where the more active residents jog their worries away each morning. I headed towards the ice cream coloured beach hut which hands out hotel towels in matching colours. Even in January the sun was warm enough to lie out in, just not quite warm enough for me to brave the ocean waters this time. Stroll along the expansive and immaculate beach for long enough and you will find yourself in South Beach and can check out the Art Deco District and do some people watching on Ocean Drive.
Getting into bed was quite novel, the mattress was so high I had to take a run and jump so that my 5ft 4 frame could climb on-board. The humongous pillows which had been decorating the bed earlier had kindly been removed by the maid and replaced by 3 truffles individually wrapped in recycled paper. I found the toilet rather novel too – it was in a separate room to the shower and had it’s own little sink in the top of the basin. Very cleverly the taps came on each time the loo was flushed, no excuses for unhygienic bathroom practises here! The main bathroom was filled with delicious Aveda products, the same brand as used in the hotel Spa.
Between the Spa, the beach, the pool, the food (‘waffle man’!) and consistently spectacular service; I was enjoyed a honeymoon period during my stay – regardless of the wedding not having been mine.
Sonesta Bayfront Hotel , Coconut Grove
After a short scenic drive to the Miami mainland we arrived in upmarket Coconut Grove and I was met with one of the most jaw dropping views from a hotel room I have ever witnessed. That view in the background of the picture is not super imposed, I didn’t mock it up in MS Paint – it actually looks like that. The Sonesta Bayfront Hotel is all about the view – the bedrooms, the pool, the restaurant, bar and meeting rooms all make the most of it – as they should! In the bedrooms the Biscayne Bay becomes a part of your room, a stunning extension to the bed.
On the 8th floor the ocean visually flows into the pool; watching the yachts in the marina from the Jacuzzi tub, cocktail in hand, feels more than a little indulgent.
The hotel restaurant is also on the 8th floor offering views over the pool, the Bay and a choice of indoor or outdoor dining depending on the time of year. As I discovered in other parts on Miami the restaurant cuisine is also spiced with Latin American influences, we enjoyed a breakfast of mini pancakes and eggs Benedict with a Peruvian twist.
The Sonesta hosts a lot of corporate functions who come to enjoy the service of the hotel and its proximity to the Biscayne Bay. Often starting their meetings early so they can finish early, hire a boat and get out to the ‘city on the water’ – in summer boats gather at familiar sand banks in the Bay and burger and ice cream vendors float out there to refresh visitors.
Back on land the hotel is located in the upmarket residential area of Coconut Grove – think Beverly Hills of Miami. CocoWalk offers an array of drinking and dining options but not to be missed is Jaguar restaurant. The menu at Jaguar is also heavily influenced by Latin American flavours amongst which is their well known Ceviche, allowing you to try delicious concoctions on porcelain spoons. An informed waiter can help you choose between their options from the grill but from what our group tasted it seems it would be hard to go wrong whatever you choose.
After visiting two different sides of Miami and getting to stay at two different superb hotels I feel very glad I got to do both. How about you? Are you more a fan of the beach or the bay?
KLM operates four weekly flights from London Heathrow to Miami via Amsterdam Airport Schiphol with lead in fares from £448 return including all taxes. Rooms are available at the Palms Hotel from $275 per night and at The Sonesta Bayfront Hotel from $169 per night.