Coconut Grove and Coral Gables
Once famous—or infamous—as a hangout for some notorious “cocaine cowboys” in the early 1980s, The Mutiny Hotel (2951 S. Bayshore Dr., Coconut Grove, 305/441-2100, from $189 d) is a great option for non–drug smuggling travelers looking for a charming, stylish, and affordable place in Coconut Grove. The furnishings are intentionally dated, reflecting the nautical and Caribbean colonial theme of the property’s name, but they’re also well-maintained, clean, and quite comfortable. All of the guest rooms are large suites with full kitchens, and the Mutiny’s location right on Biscayne Bay makes for some beautiful scenery.
For travelers who want some of the stylishness of a South Beach hotel but can do without the space constraints that come with art deco architecture, the 179 guest rooms at Coconut Grove’s Mayfair Hotel & Spa (3000 Florida Ave., 305/441-0000, from $399 d) manage to exude a bit of boutique-style hipness while also being exceptionally large. Still, the size and beauty of the guest rooms don’t quite justify the high room rates—after all, you’re in Coconut Grove, not on Collins Avenue—but if a bit of low-key relaxation is in order, the sumptuous guest rooms and 4,500-square-foot spa may be just the ticket.
The Sonesta Bayfront (2889 McFarlane Rd., 305/529-2828, from $179 d) offers standard mid-scale accommodations as well as one- and two-bedroom suites in a contemporary high-rise building that overlooks Biscayne Bay. Guest rooms are modern and well-maintained, if unspectacular, and there is a pool, a rooftop fitness center, and two squash courts on the premises.
Mistaking serenity and solitude for isolation and exclusivity, the Grove Isle Hotel & Spa (4 Grove Isle Dr., Coconut Grove, 305/858-8300, from $399 d) purports to be an intimate escape, but thanks to its island location in Biscayne Bay and a generally insulated atmosphere, one gets the sense that most visitors to the Grove Isle are content to come and stay for their entire Miami vacation without venturing past the security gate until it’s time to depart. While that’s certainly understandable given the gorgeous views, comfortable guest rooms, and ample facilities that include tennis, an exceptional spa, a very nice restaurant, and a private beach, the Grove Isle feels more like a gated community than a hotel.
The St. Michel Hotel (162 Alcazar Ave., Coral Gables, 305/444-1666, from $185 d) is a small European-style hotel with an excellent location in the middle of downtown Coral Gables, just a couple of blocks from the Miracle Mile. The 27 cozy guest rooms are decked out with beautiful antiques and turn-of-the-century decor that’s heavy on the dark wood and brass. The effect is sublimely romantic and utterly transportive. Although the restaurants along the Mile are just a few steps away, the hotel’s restaurant is excellent, and a small lobby-area lounge is a great place to unwind with a glass of wine after a hard day of shopping.
The first time I set foot in the historic Spanish-style Biltmore Hotel & Resort (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables, 305/445-1926, from $299 d), it was for a good friend’s wedding, and I honestly could not imagine a more gorgeous or romantic place for a couple to start their new life together. On my return visits, though, I also realized that the Biltmore is far more than just a picturesque location for a wedding; it is a superlative and classic hotel that excels in every respect. From exemplary front-door service and sumptuous public areas to modern well-appointed guest rooms and exceptional golf, tennis, and recreational facilities, the Biltmore maintains the same level of quality it did when it opened in 1926.
The only drawback to staying at the Biltmore is its location; it’s really not convenient to anything. However, with four restaurants, four bars, 10 tennis courts, a golf course, and even a wine cellar on-site, it’s quite possible that you’d never even want or need to leave this postcard-perfect property. Two things worth noting: It’s said that the spirit of Al Capone is one of several ghosts that roam the halls, especially near the suite that bears his name; also, the enormous swimming pool is the largest in the United States and the site where Johnny Weismuller broke a world record and was fired from his job as a swimming teacher for running around the hotel naked one night.
If the Biltmore is a budget-buster, the David William Hotel (700 Biltmore Way, 305/445-7821, from $179 d) is an excellent alternative. The David Williams is a sister property to the Biltmore, and guests have access to the Biltmore’s fitness center, spa, tennis courts, pool, and, most importantly, golf facilities. While not as architecturally stunning as the Biltmore, the David William has plenty of character, and with only 65 guest rooms, you’re far less likely to get lost wandering the halls.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition