Nora Winsberg Bio photo


The Mandarin Hotel Miami

 An oasis of tranquility in the Miami madness.  On a small key separated from the mainland by a single causeway, you relax as soon as you step into the lobby and hear the soft music playing.  The world class spa is serene beyond expectations. The treatments are awesome, although expensive.  They have a treatment room (you have to ask for it) which looks out onto the water (you have your eyes closed most of the time though) where dolphins play in the surf.  I didn’t see any though because I was in a total dream state!Miami ocean

The Peruvian cuisine restaurant on property is terrific and a great change of pace from other restaurants in Miami.  The food everywhere on property was great, even at the pool.  The pool is small but lovely.  There is a small man made “beach” near the water with bar service and lounge chairs for those who want to feel sand between their toes.  But no access to actual water,since it’s not a real beach.  Again, lovely and peaceful. 

Lots of international visitors there.  There is a giant, I mean giant, mall being constructed  across the water that will bring massive amounts of South Americans to the area to shop, I was told, but the Mandarin is on it’s own little island so sit hould not be effected except occupancy rates will probably soar.  Advisor tip: Don’t go there for the “scene”, go there to escape it.

mandarin bathroom miami It’s  15 minute drive to South Beach FYI. The rooms are big and gorgeous.  Again, they are going for serene and they achieve this perfectly.  The colors, fabrics and tile all fit the theme.  There are some enormous suites there.  Book one with a full size balcony to enjoy the fabulous Miami ocean fresh air.

 Miami Facts:

 Wow what a construction boom.  You can’t look in any direction without seeing a construction site and a crane or three. That’s a warning for travelers because you must check to make sure you will not be terrorized by construction noise while trying to enjoy a day at the pool. 

 Aqualina Hotel:  I did a site visit at the amazing and wondrous Aqualina Hotel.  More on that hotel later, but I want to say  there is construction next door.  The sales manager, a thoroughly charming woman by the name of Alina, stated it will be finished in June 2015, so book there anytime after that.  There is so much construction it’s hard to find a spot without it. I did note a sign that construction is coming to Brickell Key – the island the Mandarin is on, but perhaps not for some time, they will be developing a small park into residences.  So just check before booking Miami for someone who is touchy about noise.

 Back to the Aqualina hotel!  Wow- what a spot.  It’s in Sunny Isles, north of Miami Beach.  They are in direct competition with the Bal Harbor, and having been to both of them for site visits, I would recommend the Aqualina.  The Bal Harbor has the same feel with large apartment style rooms with a modern sleek Florida feel.  But it doesn’t have that amazing beach that goes on and on as the Aqualina has.  Aqualina is a big property- 2 towers of condos and the hotel tower in the middle.  The rooms are awesome because it was originally built as condos too- but at the last minute they decided to open a hotel, she says.  A lot of families stay there because, as I said, it’s on the beach in Sunny Isles with lots of shallow water that goes far out.  Pluses- a beach that goes on  forever and direct access verses having to go through a dune like area to get to the beach.  It’s far from South Beach, but for some people that would be the point.  It’s very near the Adventura shopping mall.  The Bal Harbour, as I said is a comparable property- it is across the street from the Bal Harbor shops.  So they both have shopping nearby, although I really liked the Aqualina  much better.  It has a warmer feel too, caompared to Bal Harbor.

I went for a walk on Ocean Drive last night and gawked like a tourist at the scene.  It’s one nasty hookah bar after the other with a lot of public drunkenness and other things too.  Is my age showing?  Police parked across the street on the lawn of the Miami Beach park act as a deterrent for potential trouble.  They looked really outnumbered to me.  It is Goodies in Room Champagne in bucketunique, that’s for sure. 

 The Thompson Miami on “Mid-beach”

Site visit given by Ligy Alarcon

Size wise, It’s a mid sized hotel compared to some others- only 380 rooms-in Mid Beach Miami. Opened in November of 2014,  it has  1950’s architecture and original art deco features and a “brand new” feel..  Although, not over the top luxury, the guest rooms are very fresh looking and “Miami Beachy” in tone. Extremely pleasant feel.  Modern decor with a 50’s flare abounds, including a cocktail cart in every room.  The Beach View with a balcony is an obvious best choice.  The balcony is large enough for lounge chairs and table (as opposed to the rooms that are not facing the ocean and have balconies that face the building next door.)

The restaurant on property was so good!  It’s called Seagrape.  A “Floridian Brassiere” by famous James Beard Award winning chef Michelle Bernstein.  Locally source ingredients means lots of delicious seafood and produce.  There is indoor seating and out, we choose the out and at the conclusion of the meal we walked out towards the 2 matching heated pools to take a look at them the evening light.  Very lovely. On the way we stopped in at an actual 1930’s house that was built as a single family that they relocated when they took over the property- it’s an avante guard type of cocktail den now- very cool vibe-and part of the historic preservation that the hotel was required to do when they took over the property.

One unique hotel feature of note is their outdoor fitness center.  It was raining during my site visit so I saw the negative aspect of it being outdoors.  However it must be great in the sunshine!

The property does have an  Ocean front access to the beach.

 The Miami Beach Edition: site visit given by Mayeka Lanza

Located  in mid Beach it feels much larger than the Thompson, although the number of rooms is similar–294.  It has a distinctly different vibe.  Even the driveway up to the property feels very Miami and very international too.  I heard many different languages being spoken in the lobby, which is a busy place. The lobby is all marble and very white with extra high ceilings.  It’s cavernous and impressive but in a good way.  After sunset the lighting in the lobby is lovely.

Should I start with the best first?  The food!  Dinner at the Matador was amazing.  Do not miss it!  The set up is very Miami, even with the “Matador” themed art on the walls in the bar area.  They lead into the dining room and it’s “sunken”, like those retro living room set ups from the 50’s and 60’s.  The service was perfection.  Loved our waiter and the standout menu item believe it or not was the guacamole with fresh peas (sounds weird but was really good!).  Michelin starred chef Jean-George Vongerichten is talented.  Advisor Tip: Be sure to give yourself enough time to enjoy a  delicious cocktail before dinner as we did on the terrace overlooking the pool area before being shown to your table.  This will make you feel like you are really on vacation.

Nora at Miami beachProperty unique features include one of the most beautiful spa waiting areas I have seen in Miami.  Candle and ambiance and fainting chairs, oh my!  If the spa services are anything like that waiting room, I want to go back and try them all.  The basement of the hotel is also a remarkable feature.  It has a nightclub, a bowling alley with just a few lanes (the kids love it) and an Ice Skating Rink (I kid you not).  Multi colored lights illuminate them all.  The ice rink has appeal to the kids mostly, it’s very small but apparently it’s a hit with those who loved the movie “Frozen”.

Rooms are spacious.  The “I have died and gone to heaven” Bungalow Ocean View Suite with private balcony and plunge pool is the room to covet.  All in all, a high end, Colony Hotel sign Miamifashionable hotel choice with lots going on.  Great access to the beach, with fabulous pool areas too.

The SoHo Beach Club

Manager Guy Chetwin

I saved my favorite for last.  Perhaps not fair to the others because I stayed there for 5 nights so I really was able to appreciate it thoroughly.  This is a tiny hotel (40 rooms) sandwiched in next door to the Fountain Blu.  In fact, I walked over to the Fountain Blu often while staying at the SoHo when I wanted a bit of 1950’s Miami “Glam” and lots of hub bub.  The SoHo itself is so laid back and has it’s own very, very cool vibe.  Great food (SoHo’s are known for their attention to food) and intimate in feel.  The desk staff the bellman and the dining room staff know you by name immediately.  The rooms are all different, there’s quite a range to choose from for such a small hotel, but all have that cool “post industrial” decor with a Miami Beach flare thrown in for good measure.  The property manages to squeeze in a lot of stuff in a very small footprint!  Two  pools to choose from (the tiny rooftop adults only pool with double width loungers and drink service on demand is heavenly), direct beach access from the ground floor, 2 restaurants on the first floor, a club level restaurant on the 4th floor and spa and gym.  Lots of activities for guests and club members go on at the SoHo, and we went to a Meditation class and a movie in the private screening room while there (they have a calendar of events that members of the SoHo Club and hotel guests only can attend).  Overall, a terrific retreat from the crazy Miami scene while simultaneously making you feel like you are totally cool for staying there, no matter how nerdy you may actually be back home (not the reader of course, I meant me!).