Once inside, you get the familiar feeling of being inside a W property—the bowl of apples on the front desk, the familiar signage. But the soaring ceilings, expensive-looking art, and posh light fixtures all say: “You thought the W was minimalist? Not in South Beach, baby!”
Check-in time is at 4 pm but at 7:30pm our room still wasn’t ready. Our friendly front-desk clerk said he’d find us one that was, and set about punching keys and frowning. As we waited, we asked if the hotel had been busy. “We’ve been sold out every weekend since we opened about six weeks ago,” was the proud answer. Still not finding a room, he joked, “We might have to upgrade you.” But of course, after consulting with his fellow front-desker he unblocked our original room, and the upgrade vanished into thin air. (Note to hotels everywhere: do not joke about upgrades. We do not find it funny when you don’t follow through.)
We already knew that our Wonderful Studio would be on a low floor with only a partial ocean view, but if this is the bottom of the barrel, we’ll take it. The “studio” is huge—800sf, way bigger than most rooms down on Ocean Drive or in a Deco hotel. You see that impressive tiered light feature as soon as you walk in—and the white/beige/black and dark wood palette of the rest of the room is somehow both beachy and urban at the same time.
Then there’s the balcony: even though our room was on the 6th floor and at the “back” of the building, we had a gorgeous view of the ocean in one direction, and one of the sun setting over downtown Miami in the other. Look straight ahead, however, and you see a parking lot surrounded by a wire fence, and the Days Inn.
You can tell that the views from higher floors, rooms closer to the beach, and the direct-ocean-facing suites must be insane. But you have to give the W kudos for this angling business that means every room has an ocean view.
The bed looked big and comfy (it was), and the L-shaped couch in the sitting area was also a great place for a disco nap. (Perfect for room-crashing friends.) The mini-bar had your standard W-issue collection of cool but overpriced nibbles and booze. There were two HD flat-screen TVs, a microwave and coffee machine, ample closet space, and a desk with an uncomfortable chair—but, seriously, who comes to South Beach to work?
It’s a W so the products are from Bliss, which makes us happy. The Bliss Spa here doesn’t open until December, however, for a spa-oriented line you’d think they might consider throwing in a face moisturizer to go with the foaming face wash. (Also: cotton balls and buds.) You also get the lemon and sage soap, body butter, shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel.
The bathroom itself is huge, with a double sink, and a massive shower with two extra jets strategically placed to hit your back and head/neck, depending on your height. All had fantastic water pressure, and the DIY water-massage even made us forget for a second that the Fabulous Studios come with an additional outdoor rain shower.
We didn't bring our laptop with us but if we had, signing on would have cost us $14.95 a day. And it was wired, not wireless. Grr. If you want wireless access, you have to shuffle down to the lobby. Although, we do give the W kudos for putting iMacs in their business center.
Restaurants Mr Chow and Solea, the Living Room lobby bar, and the Wet pool deck area are all on the ground level and flow on from each other. It makes for a bustling scene during lunch and dinner hours, with top people-watching ops. On Friday night, the entire lobby was jammed with the rich and the fabulous: tall dudes who had to be athletes, women in 4-inch heels and teensy tiny dresses, and, milling about the Mr Chow entrance: ladies in floor-length gowns.
The pool is gorgeous—but surrounded by lush greenery so you can’t see the beach just behind it. It starts out mellow, but gets busy by noon, when guests nurse their hangovers by standing in the water and staring into space behind their sunglasses. There are tennis courts, a gym, and a miniscule business center, all of which were empty when we took a peek.
Friendly and helpful, true to the “Whatever/Whenever” ethos of the chain. (Stay tuned for a post on the Concierge next week.)
What We Liked
The space and stylish design of the rooms, the view from the balcony, and the spicy Bloody Mary served at Wet, by the pool. Also: having the property to ourselves early on a Saturday morning when all the revelers were just going to bed.
What We Didn't Like
The inescapable party crowd that meant we couldn’t find a spot at the bar—however, it was Friday night and we were traveling solo. Mr Chow not being open for lunch, and being ridiculously priced. In the room: no sugar for our coffee, and the Herculean effort it took to get our window blinds down, and to get the sliding door to lock. The 10-minute walk down to Lincoln Road, which in August left us sweaty and disheveled.
If you’re traveling with friends or a significant other and you want to party SoBe style without mingling with the more down-at-heel tourists trawling Ocean Drive, this is the place to do it. If you’re on your own and are looking for a quiet retreat, you can find it here if you stay in your room or if you wander the grounds before 10 am. But for $389 a night plus taxes, you’re better off unwinding elsewhere.