Miami, Florida

This month I made the 2,334-mile journey from Los Angeles to a city that simmers in gorgeous people, warm ocean waters, and good times. Whether you’re looking for relaxing retreat or a sizzling rendezvous at the trendiest nightclub, Miami has got you covered! Bienvenidos a Miami!

LAX to MIA
I flew American Airlines from LAX to MIA, Miami International. The thing to remember about MIA is that the North Terminal arrival gates and baggage claim, which American and American Eagle service, are split up by a tram system. So keep in mind as you arrive that you may have to take the Skytrain to baggage claim and to exit the terminal.

Where to Stay
Miami has no shortage of exciting places to stay, from classic art deco hotels on South Beach to quaint boutique hotels away from the bustle. Miami does have a shortage of parking, however, so take that into consideration if you’re planning on renting a car while you’re in town. If you’ll be visiting Miami without a car, I recommend planning where to stay based on where you want to spend your time, so you can either cut out or reduce the amount you’ll spend on cab fare.

I had the opportunity to check out two Hilton properties during my stay: DoubleTree Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay and Hilton Bentley. Each offers fantastic options for every traveler’s needs no matter what you’re planning to do during your stay in Miami.

DoubleTree Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay
Located a quick 15 minutes from all the nightlife on South Beach, this Hilton property is close to the ports and the burgeoning art scene downtown. It’s perfect for those wishing to check out one of the fabulous off-Broadway performances at the Adrienne Arsht Center, catch a Miami Heat game at the American Airlines Center, or hop a cruise to the Bahamas.

Travelers checking in to the DoubleTree can look forward to a warm, fresh check-in cookie. Yes, you read that correctly–they give you a yummy cookie with your room key. After the four-hour flight from Los Angeles, the check-in cookie immediately endeared me to the DoubleTree. I was equally impressed with the lovely, super-clean room, pillow-top mattress, and large marble bathroom. The DoubleTree Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay has rates from about $129 to $329. (Tel.: 305-372-0313)

Tony Chan’s Water Club
If you’re looking for a laid-back dining experience without the hassle of parking or finding a cab, look no further than Tony Chan’s Water Club. Located just a quick elevator ride away from your room and inside the DoubleTree lobby, this restaurant offers delicious Hong Kong-style Cantonese cuisine. You might be at a Chinese restaurant, but you’re still in Miami, and the good bartenders at Tony Chan’s whip up a can’t-miss Mojito! (Tel.: 305-374-8888).

Hilton Bentley
For Miami visitors looking for something on the glamorous side, you can’t beat Hilton Bentley. Where DoubleTree will give you a cookie, Hilton Bentley will give you champagne. While checking in I was treated to a glass of the bubbly and found out that this AAA 4-diamond retreat is where the Kardashian family stayed while filming part of their reality series in Miami.

It’s good to know the A-list treatment isn’t just for the rich and famous, though. You’ll feel like a celebrity lounging in one of the free pool-side cabanas or being treated to the great on-the-beach cocktail service. (Hilton Bentley is one of the few hotels permitted to serve drinks on the beach.)

The Hilton Bentley is where you want to stay if hitting the nightclubs is number one on your to-do list. Located within walking distance of all the most desirable restaurants and nightclubs in the world-famous South of Fifth neighborhood, you’ll get to party the night away and sleep in luxury when it’s all over.

All the rooms at Hilton Bentley are smoke free and immaculately clean. You’ll feel slightly royal surrounded by the baroque furnishings and Italian marble floors. You can expect rates from around $249 to $799. (Tel.: 305-938-4600)

De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean
Get the party started at De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean. Located steps away from the Hilton Bentley lobby, it serves all the tasty fare Cuba has to offer. Their seviche was voted the best in Miami, and you have to try the watermelon seviche. Also, don’t miss the smoked marlin tacos or anything made with pork. Chef Douglas Rodriguez makes the most succulent smoked pork you’ll eat this side of Havana. Order a Pink Elephant at the bar and let the Miami night take you away.

Spa 101
After a night out, your body might need a rejuvenating massage before hitting the beach. Check out Spa 101 on the 4th floor of Hilton Bentley. It’s a small spa that’s big on relaxation. Treatments range from $35 to $140. I highly recommend the sugar scrub. My skin was feeling a bit neglected with all the sun I was exposing it to, and the sugar scrub put the glow back in my skin.

Anchors Aweigh
Spend a day at sea with a chartered boat for you and your entourage. Whether you’re surrounded by family or friends, everyone will enjoy this leisurely celebrity house tour on Biscayne Bay.

I recommend chartering your tour with Captain Nick (Tel.: 786-267-0655). A tour with him is like having a friend with a boat take you on a private tour of all the stellar mansions lining the bay. Drinks and lunch can be arranged, as can a stop for swimming. I was excited to see dolphins hanging out about 30 feet from the boat when I went swimming. Captain Nick says on occasion the dolphins will even swim right up to the boat to check things out. Bring some sunscreen and relax on the warm open waters for an afternoon. There’s not a better way to explore the posh Biscayne Bay lifestyle.

Tips and Discounts
Who doesn’t love a good deal? Here are a few tips to keep on your radar as you plan your perfect Miami escape.

‘Tis the Season
Keep the seasons in mind as you make your travel plans. This can save you money if your schedule is flexible. In Miami, low season starts after Memorial Day and goes through the end of October. Hotel rates tend to be lower in the low season because of the possibility of inclement weather such as hurricanes and tropical depressions. Rates start to go back up after Thanksgiving since Miami is fortunate to typically have warm winters.

Although hurricane season is officially June 1 through November 30, storms can develop after November. Miami hasn’t been directly hit by a hurricane since the 1960s, but it is something to keep in mind as you plan your vacation.

Stay and Play
Much like Las Vegas, Miami operates on a stay here, play here mentality. So if there is a pool, nightclub, or day spa you really want to visit, try to stay at the hotel that hosts that particular amenity. So if you want to catch a glimpse of a Kardashian lounging by the pool, you have to stay at the Hilton Bentley, since Bentley guests get into the Bentley pool.

A Note on Coffee
Coffee, or as it’s known in Miami “café,” can sometimes be construed as espresso. So if you’re hitting up a local coffee house instead of a Starbucks, to save time and maybe a little confusion, order a “café con leche” and you’ll get a regular cup of coffee.

Free iPhone App
For more information on fabulous Miami, check out the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. They offer a fee iPhone app you can download that features a walking tour of the Art Deco District and quick reference to local special offers and deals.
Go Miami Card: save 10% instantly on 3, 5 and 7 day cards!

NOTE: This trip was sponsored in part by DoubleTree Grand Hotel Biscayne Bay & Hilton Bentley

Crystal Reel

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