Miami Beach ’s Mondrian (100 West Ave., 305/514-1500, from $345 d) is only the third hotel to bear the name, and unsurprisingly it both meets and exceeds the expectations people tend to have about this stylish brand. Just opened at the beginning of 2009, the Mondrian doesn’t mimic its Los Angeles forebear but instead embraces its South Beach  environment with billowing cabana-style tents, gorgeous views of the bay from its Sunset Lounge (the Mondrian isn’t located on the beach), and a stylish neotropical decor that’s as bracingly modern as it is sumptuous and comfortable. The Marcel Wanders–designed hotel even features an enormous vending machine in the lobby that, instead of chocolate bars or sundries, dispenses jewelry, Rolls Royce rentals, and designer sunglasses.
There is one holdover from the original Mondrian, though, in the form of the renowned Asia de Cuba restaurant, which has found considerable success in its other locations but seems oddly at home in Miami . The guest rooms are, of course, breathtakingly modern, with whimsical design-forward features accenting luxury touches like flat-screen TVs and down-stuffed duvets.
Guest rooms at The Tides (1220 Ocean Dr., 305/604-5070, from $499 d) are among the most expensive in South Beach, but they’re also some of the largest. The 12-story art deco building houses only 45 guest rooms, all of which are oceanfront suites. The guest rooms are decadent and luxurious, with large flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations, and in-room espresso makers. The smallest guest rooms—the lower-floor studio suites—are still quite spacious at 550 square feet. The Tides’ art deco charm is present in all the guest rooms courtesy of faux-vintage furnishings (all of the style, twice the comfort), but in the larger suites the amenities and square footage increase, with some including Sub-Zero refrigerator–equipped kitchens, advanced audio-visual technology, and individual decor touches.
Although the stark white decor, haughtily glamorous staff, and sky-high rates at the Delano (1685 Collins Ave., 305/672-2000, from $650 d) have come to define the South Beach  hotel experience, they’ve also become a somewhat worn cliché. The well-heeled still pack the hotel almost every night, but much of the electricity of South Beach has moved to smaller, hipper, and yes, friendlier places. Still, if you’ve got money to burn—a lot of money to burn—and take pleasure in burning it conspicuously, the staff at the Delano will gladly (or at least quickly) take it from you. Despite their monochrome color scheme, the guest rooms feel rather cramped, and unless you’re a high-roller on a regular basis, you’ll likely be wondering exactly what you’re spending all that money on.
The beautiful guest rooms at the all-suite The Sagamore (1671 Collins Ave., 305/535-8088, www.sagamorehotel.com , from $375 d) are a far better investment, and they’re a half-block away. Although it is still quite pricey, the staff at the Sagamore actually seem glad to see you, and when you step into your suite you’ll feel as if you got your money’s worth. Like a true boutique hotel, the Sagamore is impossibly stylish, with public areas that blend dark wood floors, stark white furnishings, and contemporary sculpture, and guest rooms that feature large flat-screen TVs, whirlpool baths, tile floors, and upscale appointments. Celebrity sightings are quite common, but even without the A-list the Sagamore’s bar is a pleasure to hang out in, especially early in the evening before the crowds descend.