The Heat Is On

Florida’s Hotel Selection Is Starting to Sizzle

Florida’s always fighting against its reputation, partly earned, partly exaggerated, as a place to be regarded with at least one eyebrow raised. The constant swirl of critique it endures hasn’t stopped Florida from remaining a major travel destination, though — one that’s increasingly in demand by Tablet clients, and one with increasingly more to offer than just beaches and sunburned skin.

Case in point: it was announced this month that, for the first time ever, Florida will be featured in the Michelin Guide. The 2022 guide will include the most impressive restaurants in Miami, Tampa, and Orlando — a signal that the state’s culinary scene is flourishing and that its cultural offerings are evolving. And just as it’s always done with hotels, Miami leads the way, continuing to grow beyond its reputation as an oceanside party palace, blossoming into a bona fide hub of arts and culture.

That’s enabled Miami to secure the most spots in our Florida hotel selection, but the rest of the state is starting to awaken, and — as you’ll see in the list below — unique hotels are popping up in places that previously didn’t have the need or the desire, with many more in the works. We’ll be keeping an eye out.

 

The Collector – Luxury Inn & Gardens

St. Augustine, Florida

The Collector - Luxury Inn & Gardens

You might think the oldest city in America would be somewhere in the vicinity of Plymouth Rock, but you’d be wrong. St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida long before the Mayflower arrived. And by those standards, the lovingly restored homes that make up The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens are relative newcomers — it’s not every day in the United States that you can sleep in a structure that dates back to the 1790s.

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The Marquesa Hotel

Key West, Florida

The Marquesa Hotel

In all the noise being made about the new Miami, it’s easy to forget that the classic Florida holiday destination still lies two hours’ drive from the mainland. Like any travel town in America, Key West has its charmless and overdeveloped side; but Old Town, home to the incomparable Marquesa Hotel, belongs to the locals, and to history — this is the Key West of Hemingway, of Tennessee Williams, an oasis of old-world refinement at the edge of the crass desert that is today’s Florida.

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The Perry Hotel

Key West, Florida

The Perry Hotel

On Stock Island, so close to Key West’s eastern shore that you could literally throw a stone from one to the other — you’ll find something that’s not just new, but impressively well-crafted as well. The Perry Hotel was recognized right out of the gate as one of Architectural Digest’s best-designed new hotels, and while they’re certainly not wrong about that, the architecture and design are only part of what makes the Perry special.

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Hotel Haya

Tampa, Florida

Hotel Haya

With its multicultural origins rooted in immigrant ownership centered around a once-thriving tobacco industry, there’s nothing else in Florida with a flavor quite like Tampa’s Ybor City. The boutique Hotel Haya, a recent addition to the neighborhood, offers updated accommodations in rooms it paints as “playfully nostalgic.” The rooms’ chic décor is full of references to local history, all courtesy of local artisans.

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Kompose Boutique Hotel

Sarasota, Florida

Kompose Boutique Hotel

In Sarasota, on the Gulf Coast, a place like the Kompose Boutique Hotel is novel indeed. The rooms dispense entirely with tropical motifs and Art Deco, opting instead for an industrial-chic look, complete with raw concrete and minimalist built-in storage. There’s a pool, a sauna, and a fitness center complete with Peloton bikes, as well as an in-house bar and café, and plentiful flexible workspace; there’s even a podcast studio.

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WaterColor Inn & Resort

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

WaterColor Inn & Resort

Set on the sugar sands of Santa Rosa Beach, WaterColor Inn & Resort blends the charm of an old-fashioned beach house with the comforts of a contemporary luxury hotel. The 500-acre estate encompasses lakeside parks and gardens, four restaurants, a boathouse, tennis courts, bike trails, a spa, seven pools, a fitness center, and, of course, a private beach with direct access to the Gulf of Mexico.

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The White Elephant

Palm Beach, Florida

The White Elephant

The White Elephant Palm Beach is pure South Florida: a century-old Mediterranean Revival structure containing just 32 rooms and suites, all of them renovated in a contemporary-luxe style that’s tailor-made to complement the architecture. There’s an outdoor pool in the charming palm-lined courtyard, and a shuttle service connecting the hotel with the town’s public beach, and the neighborhood, in the historic town center, is impressively walkable.

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The Ray, Curio Collection

Delray Beach, Florida

The Ray, Curio Collection

Delray Beach, some fifty miles up the coast from Miami, has been up-and-coming for a while, and with the arrival of a boutique hotel from Hilton’s Curio Collection, it just might have officially arrived. The Ray was designed by Virserius Studio in a Tropical Modernist style that’s freed from the Art Deco demands of its southern neighbors; here the rooms and suites are crisp and contemporary with relaxed, eclectic accents.

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Esme Miami Beach

Miami Beach, Florida

Esme Miami Beach

For travelers of certain tastes, the big, established Miami Beach boutique hotels, with their see-and-be-seen atmosphere, can sometimes feel a bit much. Just one block from the Collins Avenue hotel strip, hiding in plain sight at Washington Avenue and Española Way, is something a bit subtler: Esmé Miami Beach is a Spanish-Mediterranean gem whose bohemian-luxe interiors establish a warm and slightly retro mood.

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Palihouse Miami Beach

Miami Beach, Florida

Palihouse Miami Beach

In the Pali world, a Palihouse is somewhat more luxurious than a budget-friendly Palihotel — though, compared to the state of the art in South Beach, you’ll find the Palihouse plenty accessible. The rooms and studios have a residential feel, and many come with kitchenettes for a bit of self-catering. They’re low-key but quite stylish, and though they avoid all the clichés of Miami hospitality design, they certainly don’t feel out of place.

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Faena Hotel Miami Beach

Miami Beach, Florida

Faena Hotel Miami Beach

The Faena District occupies an eight-block stretch of prime oceanfront real estate. There are condominium towers, a high-end design bazaar, and a cultural center, but for the moment, the knock-out highlight is the hotel. Alan Faena enlisted a dream team of designers, including architect Rem Koolhaas, to bring his fantasies to life, and the result is fanciful indeed.

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Hotel Greystone

Miami Beach, Florida

Hotel Greystone

The historic 1930s Art Deco façade of the Hotel Greystone looks brand new — and after a vast renovation, what’s inside looks more or less like the last word in contemporary South Beach boutique luxury. The location, right on Collins Avenue, is just about as central as it gets, but the Greystone’s interiors offer immediate relief from the bustle outside; in the lobby, soothing cream tones dominate, accented by living greenery and subtle Deco reverberations.

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The Miami Beach EDITION

Miami Beach, Florida

The Miami Beach EDITION

The EDITION is located on the largest piece of beachfront property in town, with an enviable address on Collins Avenue. In keeping with the EDITION ethos, the architecture reflects the destination. Instead of tearing down the location’s original hotel, the vintage Seville Beach Hotel, the architects retained the striking sixties-style porte cochère, bringing in the design firm Yabu Pushelberg, high-end hotel specialists, to reimagine the interiors.

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1 Hotel South Beach

Miami Beach, Florida

1 Hotel South Beach

There was a time when the eco-friendly ethos and recycled/reclaimed décor on display at 1 Hotels South Beach would have been a tough sell in ultra-decadent Miami. But as jet-setters increasingly trade conspicuous consumption for conscious consumption, hedonism has taken a wholesome, almost virtuous turn. All of which is to say: the 1 Hotels approach suits modern Miami Beach just fine.

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The Setai

Miami Beach, Florida

The Setai

The long-awaited opening of the Setai was some of the biggest news to hit the South Beach hotel scene in a while. This is a town that’s not exactly hurting for over-the-top luxury accommodations, but the Setai manages to set itself apart by being even more over-the-top than the competition.

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The Betsy – South Beach

Miami Beach, Florida

Amanpulo

In Miami the flash hotels arms race has escalated to a point where a hotel like the Betsy — South Beach is almost shocking in its restraint. We’re almost tempted to call it conservative, but with a disclaimer: the Betsy’s pre-Deco style means it’s got a personality all its own, and can’t help but stand out from the poolside fashion shoots and celebrity-thronged nightclubs of its more attention-starved neighbors.

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Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove

Miami, Florida

Mr. C Miami

The C in Mr. C, as you may know from outposts in New York and Beverly Hills, stands for Cipriani, the famous family of restaurateurs. To their restaurant in Downtown Miami you can add the brand-new Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove, on Biscayne Bay just to the south of the city proper. Here, a bridge or two from the painstakingly preserved history of Miami Beach, there’s room for something entirely new, and Mr. C Miami – Coconut Grove is certainly that.

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