Miami is a big city and there are a ton of different regions and neighborhoods to stay in and explore so trying to figure out the best place to stay can be a little tricky.
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Here’s the first big distinction: there’s Miami and then there’s Miami Beach. They’re actually two separate cities. The city of Miami is on the mainland of the Florida peninsula and it’s what you’d think a big city would be like (large downtown, nice waterfront areas, shopping, arts, sports, etc.).
Miami Beach is a barrier island off the coast of Miami and it’s-not surprisingly-where the beach is. Packed with resorts, hotels, and restaurants, it’s definitely a tourist’s paradise. Even though Miami Beach is a beach town, it still has a city feel.
Sidenote: Want to know more about Miami and Miami Beach? Including what I REALLY thought about my trip there? Read my laid back guide to Miami Beach here.
So let’s start this guide off with Miami Beach. The 10 mile long barrier island lined with golden sand beaches is a mix of a few different communities/areas that are all considered Miami area beaches. Starting from the southern end of the island, in the city of Miami Beach you’ve got South Beach, Mid Beach, and North Beach. Past North Beach there’s the town of Surfside and then Bal Harbor-both of which are pretty exclusive. Over the bridge onto the next island you’ll come to Sunny Isles Beach, which is considered the last of Miami’s beaches before you start to get into the Fort Lauderdale area.
I’m also going to include Key Biscayne (a small island south of Miami Beach) in this post because it’s considered the Miami area as well.
Each of these areas is pretty distinct, and I think the key to having a good vacation in Miami is picking the right area to stay in (that meets your expectations).
Let’s start from the south end of the island and move to the north…
Where to Stay in South Beach, Miami
Easily the most famous area in Miami, South Beach is what most people think of when they think of Miami. Party scene 24/7, super interesting outfits (or lack thereof), art deco architecture, Miami Vice. I guess South Beach is something you have to see if you’re coming to Miami, but it’s honestly not anywhere I would want to stay.
I would actually break South Beach down further into three different sections:
South of 5th (Sofi) is a place I would actually consider staying. It’s super close to the party scene, but it’s crazy what a difference just a block or two makes. It feels much more local south of 5th and towards the south end there’s actually quite a few modern luxury towers. Also, the beach at Southpointe Park is the absolute prettiest I saw in Miami Beach.
The Savoy Hotel: If you’re after some old world vibes, The Savoy Hotel will not disappoint. With a history spanning back almost a century, this glamorous beachfront hotel has great historic Art Deco architecture and I’m pretty much ready to move into the lobby. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
5th -15th is the area of South Beach that I personally would avoid at all costs. Ocean Drive Avenue is lined with historic Art Deco hotels and they’re surprisingly ground zero for the Miami Beach party scene. I’m talking about parties that roll until 5AM every night. You don’t stay in this area to sleep or relax. Go during the day to see the architecture and the beach scene.
The Goodtime Hotel: Pop by Pharrel William’s The Goodtime Hotel on Miami South Beach for…well, a good time! Characterised by eclectic design elements, contrasting themes and enough insta-worthy spots to make you giddy, this luxurious hotel isn’t where you go to relax…it’s where you go to party! I’m not really a partier, but this place looks so dreamy that I just might be tempted to check it out. On a weeknight. In the offseason. ; ) Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
15th to 23rd is still considered South Beach but it’s where you’ll start finding more resorts.Things start calming down as you go further north but hey, this is still Miami ; ) All four of these picks are solid places to stay in Miami if you want to have the Miami experience but still stay somewhere “nice” that’s not a party hotel.
1 Hotel South Beach: 1 Hotel South Beach operates on the belief that travel needs to be sustainable and its design surely reflects that. LEED certified, with dozens of green elements like living green walls and the grotto garden in the lobby make this a must-visit for the eco-conscious traveler. Napa-style furnishings like paned walk-in showers and rustic copper fixtures make this as much a luxurious stay, as it is a sustainable one. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Loews Miami Beach Hotel: Loews Miami Beach Hotel is a family-friendly beachfront resort offering fun for every age group. Private beach access, a kids’ club with daily activities, the extremely popular Exhale Spa, and stylish rooms with the latest tech like iHome docks – what’s not to love? Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Ritz-Carlton South Beach: Stay at Ritz Carlton South Beach to experience Miami glamour at its finest. This newly renovated 5-star hotel features amenities including a full-service spa, an elevated pool that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, and on-site dining with Mediterranean and Latin American cuisine. Book directly with Marriott here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.
The Setai: Influenced by Art Deco and Asian elements, the tranquility The Setai offers its guests is unrivalled. Sleek, modern and capable of evoking a feeling of deep calm, this luxury hotel features a zen-inspired lobby, Asian artifacts, temperature controlled infinity pools, and state-of-the-art DUXIANA beds for the best sleep you’ll ever have. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Where to Stay in Mid Beach, Miami
The raging party scene that you’ll find in South Beach shifts once you head north towards Mid Beach. This isn’t completely accurate but the best way I can describe it is…South Beach is the college party scene and Mid Beach is where the millennials have moved in to party in a more high dollar way. Think more lavish resorts, Michelin star dining, high end clubs, etc. I think it has more of a Vegas feel which goes along with it being a city that just happens to be on the beach.
Mid Beach is roughly 23rd to 44th (just past the Fountainbleu at Indian Beach Park). The resorts in this stretch have a little more room and the beach is definitely less crowded as you move up this way.
The Edition: This is where I stayed on this trip. I chose it because I liked the Mid Beach location, it seemed like a trendy but lowkey place to stay, and it’s a Marriott Bonvoy property (rewards). Overall, I thought it was a great place to stay and would definitely recommend it. The vibe is very light, airy, and modern. It has a luxe but comfortable feel (it doesn’t feel snooty or sterile) and while I wouldn’t consider it a full service resort, I was more than happy with it as a city-type hotel.
Things I loved about this place: It has a great location in Mid Beach. Miles away from the South Beach party scene but still very much in the middle of Miami Beach in terms of things to do, restaurants, etc.
Chair and umbrella setup is included on the beach and there was a little snack shack there as well.
The pool area was relatively quiet and usually had plenty of chairs (the pool attendants were good about monitoring which chairs were taken and which were available). I never saw a rule anywhere but it seemed like kids mostly stayed in the pool to the south (not sure if the pool attendants monitor that or if it just naturally happens).
The Matador Room is a decent hotel restaurant and I especially liked the atmosphere outside on the terrace.
Insider tip: coffee is free at the takeaway counter in The Market until 9AM.
The rooms were clean and modern and had one of the best lounge chairs I’ve seen anywhere. Like seriously, where do I buy one?
Things I didn’t love: Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t consider this place a full service resort. To clarify that…this isn’t a place you could stay for several days and never leave the property. But I feel like this is probably true of MOST hotels in Miami Beach. Mostly it’s because of the food situation. There was a lack of places to grab something quick. The Market was open for breakfast and until 6PM but it’s mostly a sit down restaurant. We didn’t know until the second day (when we saw people lined up at the counter) that you could order drinks, pastries, etc. to go. They don’t really tell you. There was a little refrigerated section with a few bottled drinks, fruit parfaits, etc but it all closed by 6. Bonus though is that there’s a Starbucks directly across the street.
Also didn’t love that there was a decent amount of seaweed in the water and along the beach the whole time we were there. It wasn’t just in front of the Edition (it seemed to be the whole Mid Beach and South Beach area), but that was kind of a bummer.
This didn’t bother me, but depending on your travel party situation…there’s not really a door to the whole bathroom. There’s a door to the toilet and a door to the shower, but when you step out of the shower the bathroom area is pretty open. There’s a sliding door that closes off part of it to the bedroom but the other end is wide open. Like I said, not a problem for me but something to be aware of.
Also, most rooms in the main building/tower don’t have balconies. You’ll need to book one of the bungalows (a smaller tower) if you want one.
Faena Hotel: Situated right on the beach, Faena Hotel features unique decor, an emphasis on art and eccentric design, live music, an energetic ambiance and great food. “Extravagance” is the word that comes to mind when visiting this luxury hotel for the first time. The gold accents present throughout, coupled with its top-notch customer service will have you feeling like royalty. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
The Confidante: Retro, colorful, and fabulous. This place has a bit of a party vibe but it’s not in the middle of the South Beach party scene so it’s a bit more refined. It’s an Instagramer’s paradise and so chic. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
The Fontainebleau: Famous as one of the original mob run hotels and a hangout spot of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, The Fontainebleau is still an icon on Miami Beach. The hotel itself has everything you could want from a beachfront hotel: a huge pool tucked into the gardens, a luxurious spa with steam baths, a salon, and even LIV, the club that is a nightlife hotspot among locals and tourists alike. The on-site signature restaurants are also worth checking out, especially the famous Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan, serving Cantonese cuisine. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
RELATED: Miami Art Deco Walking Tour
Where to Stay in North Beach, Miami
If the difference between South Beach and Mid Beach is dramatic, the difference between Mid Beach and North Beach is even more dramatic. North Beach feels largely residential and while the beach is still lined with condos and a few hotels, the restaurants and other development starts feeling a lot more scarce. While I don’t mind a quiet and laid back vibe, for me North Beach has a weird more residential vibe but not the kind I really like. I don’t think I would stay in this area.
Where to Stay in Surfside, Florida
Surfside is its own town that’s known for being pretty quiet and family friendly. It’s definitely more upscale than North Beach and also feels like more of a community. The beach is pretty uncrowded, and there’s a nice little main street area. Surfside is for sure an area you could come and have a relaxing beach vacation. There are some wonderful resorts in the area, and you’re still not far away from Miami Beach if you want to run down for dinner.
Four Seasons Hotel at the Surf Club: While I didn’t overwhelmingly love Miami Beach, I would hands down come back to Surfside JUST to stay at this Four Seasons. I don’t know exactly what the style of this place is, but I want a house just like it. Sophisticated and luxurious but still so inviting and laid back, you could easily spend a few days here lounging around the pool and beach. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Grand Beach Hotel Surfside: The Grand Beach Hotel Surfside is an elegant property with amenities for days. A rooftop pool, beachside pools, hot tubs, a lobby bar, a gelato bar, tennis courts and even a nearby water slide – this place has it all. The rooms are chic but subtle. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Where to Stay in Bal Harbour, Florida
If Surfside is upscale, Bal Harbor is downright ritzy. Like, where the 1% of the 1% go. Like Crazy Rich Asians rich. I walked around some of the resorts and oggled as well as checked out the Shops at Bal Harbor. It’s noteworthy that this is the only real shopping area I came across on Miami Beach but it’s suuuuuper upscale. If you’re anything like me and you like beachy style, head into the St Regis and check out their little boutique. They had quite a few great beach brands and it’s a great little shop.
St Regis Bal Harbour: Head to St. Regis Bal Harbor if you’re looking for a getaway filled with pampering and overindulgence. This family-friendly resort offers all its guests balconies with ocean views, two pool areas, an elegant spa, a kids’ club, a kids room service menu, and a signature on-site restaurant serving Greek food. If you want to go the whole nine yards, book yourself a suite and receive butler service as well as a Nespresso machine added to your room!
Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbor: Just a short way off from the upscale shopping at Bal Harbour shops, yet hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city, is the serene Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour. With an Exhale spa, an award-winning fitness Center and only two elegant rooms per floor equipped with stand alone tubs and terraces, you’ll really get to experience what 5-star luxury is all about! Book directly with Ritz-Carlton here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.
Where to Stay in Sunny Isles Beach & Adventura
Across the bridge from the island that’s home to Miami Beach, Surfside, and Bal Harbor, this next long island leads into Fort Lauderdale. Actually, if you’re staying up here you’re probably better off flying into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) instead of Miami International (MIA). I haven’t been up to this area yet, but there’s two places to stay in this area that I seriously have my eye on.
Acqualina Resort: Situated about 12 miles outside the excitement of Miami Beach, Acqualina Resort offers its guests giant ocean-view rooms, three pools, a Beach Club Pool where everyone loves to laze about, and signature restaurants serving up delicious food from different cuisines. This self-contained oasis is a breath of fresh air to those looking for some blissful alone-time. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa: JW Marriott Turnberry Resort & Spa is the perfect getaway destination for families. The room rates at this unique resort include admission to the on-site Tidal Cove Waterpark. Yup, you heard that right – waterpark! That’s not all, the luxurious property also offers up two golf courses, four restaurants and a spa. It really is a holiday island unto itself – sans the beach. Keep in mind that since the resort’s facilities are open to the public, it can get a little crowded sometimes, especially near the entrance areas. Book directly with Marriott here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.
Where to Stay in Key Biscayne
Okay, skipping way back south because I think I’ve saved the best for last. I say “think” because I haven’t stayed there yet but I have a good feeling and it’s the next place I’ll be going in the Miami area.
Key Biscayne is a small island south of Miami Beach but it feels a WORLD away. Key Biscayne vibes more like the Florida Keys than anything in the Miami area. With the southern end of the island being Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and the northern end being Crandon Park, the middle part of the island is fairly compact and manageable. If you want a true beach getaway, close to the Miami area, Key Biscayne is your spot.
Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne: This is the first place I’m heading when I come back to the Miami area. Conveniently located right off Downtown Miami and south of Miami Beach, this small island feels more like you’re in the Florida Keys and the Ritz-Carlton here looks absolutely perfect. A full service beach resort, it’s got everything you’d ever want in a vacation. Great island vibes, luxury, and a laid back atmosphere. Book directly with Ritz-Carlton here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.
Where to Stay in Miami (the Mainland)
The city of Miami is HUGE and there are a ton of neighborhoods to stay in. Here are some of my favorites:
Four Seasons Miami: I love the Four Seasons and while this one isn’t on the beach, it’s close to the water in downtown Miami. Perfect if you’re coming to the city for an event or even on a layover heading for the Caribbean. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
JW Marriott Marquis Miami: There’s so much to do in Miami besides the beach, and this is a great place to set up your basecamp for exploring. It’s got city vibes, but it’s still grand enough to feel like you’ve had an escape. Book directly with Marriott here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.
Hotel Colonnade: Sophisticated and a little bit trendy feeling, this posh place is the perfect spot to stay if you want to feel like you’re staying in a cute neighborhood and less like a big city. It’s also part of Marriott Bonvoy so you can use your points. Book directly with the Colonnade here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.
Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove: You can’t go wrong with a Ritz-Carlton and this one located on the water in Miami’s oldest neighborhood is a cool (but not too trendy) place to stay. Book directly with Ritz Carlton here or click here to read hundreds of reviews.