January 11, 2023
Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting boutique hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. For over twenty years we’ve scoured the earth, evaluating hotels for every taste and budget, creating a hand-picked selection that’s proven and unforgettable. Now, we’re the official hotel selection of the legendary MICHELIN Guide.
If you’re expecting The Standard Spa, Miami Beach to be a carbon copy of the LA Standards, you’re in for a bit of a surprise. Still intact is the Standard’s house brand of low-key luxury — itself enough to raise an eyebrow or two in shamelessly glam Miami Beach — and unique to this particular Standard are a few novel solutions to the problem of shoehorning another big-deal hotel into the already packed South Beach scene.
First, the hotel is located off the main drag, on the quiet and mostly residential Belle Isle, along the Venetian Causeway just short of Miami Beach proper. You can find yourself very much in the thick of it within minutes, but The Standard makes the most of its slight remove, such that it may furnish the kind of peace and tranquility that’s long since departed Collins Avenue. Well, relative peace and tranquility, anyway — The Standard’s typical guests are not exactly wallflowers, and there’s always something going on in the bar; but compared to South Beach proper, this is practically transcendental meditation.
With its multicultural origins rooted in immigrant ownership centered around a once-thriving tobacco industry, there’s nothing else in Florida with a flavor quite like Tampa’s Ybor City. The boutique Hotel Haya, a recent addition to the neighborhood, offers updated accommodations in rooms it paints as “playfully nostalgic.”
The rooms’ chic décor is full of references to local history, all courtesy of local artisans. Suites, in particular, feature exposed brick from the original building which stood on Haya’s site, as well as walkout balconies overlooking 7th Avenue. Bistro dining is available at the Haya’s own Flor Fina, while guava pastelitos, empanadas, and other casual Cuban dishes are available at Café Quiquiriqui.
Though it’s a sister to the Nantucket hotel of the same name, the White Elephant Palm Beach is pure South Florida: a century-old Mediterranean Revival structure containing just 32 rooms and suites, all of them renovated in a contemporary-luxe style that’s tailor-made to complement the architecture.
There’s an outdoor pool in the charming palm-lined courtyard, and a shuttle service connecting the hotel with the town’s public beach, and the neighborhood, in the historic town center, is impressively walkable. Lola 41 Palm Beach, the restaurant, is another Nantucket import, sister to the highly regarded Northeastern eatery.
In all the noise being made about the new Miami, it’s easy to forget that the classic Florida holiday destination still lies two hours’ drive from the mainland. Like any travel town in America, Key West has its charmless and overdeveloped side; but Old Town, home to the incomparable Marquesa Hotel, belongs to the locals, and to history—this is the Key West of Hemingway, of Tennessee Williams, an oasis of old-world refinement at the edge of the crass desert that is today’s Florida.
The Marquesa is one block off bustling Duval Street, on Fleming — just close enough to be convenient, and far enough to serve as a sanctuary from the gift shops and corny tourist traps of the main drag. This block belongs to a different era, and the hotel itself is an assembly of four separate buildings, varying from the rustic charm of the original 1884 conch house to the sleeker (yet still elegant) modern additions.
You might think the oldest city in America would be somewhere in the vicinity of Plymouth Rock, but you’d be wrong. St. Augustine was the capital of Spanish Florida long before the Mayflower arrived. And by those standards, the lovingly restored homes that make up The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens are relative newcomers — it’s not every day in the United States that you can sleep in a structure that dates back to the 1790s.
The nine historic buildings are divided into 30 rooms and suites, in a style that’s perhaps best described as contemporary colonial, where modern luxuries and historical atmosphere go hand in hand. If your only experience of Florida involves Miami or the big resorts, you’re in for quite a surprise. Despite its location in the center of town, The Collector feels like a little village unto itself, and the word “gardens” isn’t in the name just for decoration.
When it comes to a romantic spot for a special occasion in Florida, we would urge you to consider the following boutique hotels.
Isla Bella Beach Resort
The Collector - Luxury Inn & Gardens
Kimpton Lighthouse Hotel
Cool is in the eye of the beholder, but the various design, artistic, and architectural choices of the following Florida boutique hotels always catch ours.
The Ray, Curio Collection
The Perry Hotel Key West
Whether it has baby sitting services, a separate pool for adults and children, extra spacious rooms or particularly kid-friendly activities, plenty of the best Florida boutique hotels are excellent for families. Below are some of our favorites. Be sure to contact our Travel Specialists for specific details.
The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
Watercolor Inn & Resort
Casa Marina Key West, A Waldof Astoria Resort