You don’t want to go shirtless in the lobby at the classy Betsy South Beach

Betsy South Beach
A stylish suite at The Betsy South Beach.

A stylish suite at The Betsy South Beach.

While rainstorms accompanied my week-long Miami visit, the clouds cleared as soon as I checked into The Betsy South Beach. I take it as a sign.

This historic boutique hotel—located on famed Ocean Drive in South Beach—is a true gem, because we all know what the Ocean Drive hotels are like (if you don’t, let’s not go there). The Betsy is unarguably one of the best urban resorts in the city, offering an amazing experience for highbrow guests that book here.

The Betsy was originally built in 1942 by famed architect L. Murray Dixon, who’s responsible for Art Deco classics like The Victor, The Raleigh, The Tides and The Regent; you can still feel history resonate within these walls, and it’s rare in Miami.

The 128-room luxury hotel merges world-class sensibilities with Miami soul in an effortless way, so be prepared to be awed. It’s obvious the staff love working here (which is definitely not a common trait at Miami hotels), which I like to think gives the hotel that “good energy.” It recently expanded (it took over The Carlton last year, which doubled its room inventory) so there’s plenty more room to love.

Wow factor: Honestly, it’s the little things that stand out. Smiley doormen (I never once touched the front doors), hidden nooks and benches, an outdoor spa, Malin & Goetz amenities at the pools (and toiletries in the rooms), a tucked-away library chockfull of excellent books and hallways that moonlight as gallery exhibits.

There was so much thought put into the hotel. I loved that it managed to preserve it’s colonial-style design for its main wing, which truly roots the hotel in place. The new Art Deco wing in the former Carlton Hotel, facing Collins Avenue, embraces an Art Deco theme, and here you’ll find 70 new rooms and suites, 30 of them with balconies, the Skyline Deck rooftop pool, a Conservatory and access to Collins Avenue.

The hotel has two pools, each with their own unique vibes, which was also a huge bonus. What Miami hotel has two pools? Very few.

Ruby chilling out in our suite. The Betsy South Beach is pet-friendly. 

Ruby chilling out in our suite. The Betsy South Beach is pet-friendly.

Service and facilities: As I mentioned earlier, the staff is excellent and it’s obvious they’re happy to be here. The service was a little slow some times at the signature restaurant LT Steak & Seafood but never long enough for me to raise an eyebrow, and you know I love raising eyebrows.

There’s a bustling indoor seating area, though I opted for the outdoor patio, which I highly recommend for perfect Ocean Drive people watching.

The new rooftop infinity pool on the Skyline Deck is stylish but if you’re looking for less of a scene, head to the ground-floor pool which is quieter and tucked away behind the restaurant. It’s 8-feet deep, a rarity for South Beach hotel pools. I was here every day, and most of the time, I was alone, so it felt very private.

Getting bored at The Betsy is impossible, further proof with a lobby salon with live jazz, a library, an outdoor atrium and a private section on the beach.

Room: My Atrium Double Balcony Suite located in the new Art Deco Wing was a nice 540 square feet with a cozy bedroom, bathroom and a separate living area. It had a king bed with fluffy pillows, large TV, a sofa bed, desk and a huge double balcony that looked out into the atrium.

Views weren’t exactly amazing but I spent most of my outdoor time at the pool decks.

Interestingly, there was an elevator in my suite. I’m sure it’s dedicated for high-level guests who have the perk of their own private elevator, though it wasn’t activated during my stay, so I was like “Do you know who I am??” Alas, I may be Brad Pitt-level famous, but I was totally fine taking the public elevator.

Food/beverage: The food and beverage revolves around LT Steak & Seafood, The Betsy’s signature restaurant from award-winning chef Laurent Tourondel who famously helms BLT (I just found out that BLT is actually an acronym for Bistro Laurent Tourondel, not Bacon Lettuce Tomato.. duh). It’s a hot spot in Miami, packed steady throughout my stay, and it definitely served up memorable sushi rolls, which I had for lunch.

Sushi at The Betsy South beach makes everything better. Also, can we talk about my awesome sunglasses?

Sushi at The Betsy South beach makes everything better. Also, can we talk about my awesome sunglasses?

Drawbacks: Guests booking here should know that rooms in the main building do not have balconies. It’s weird, because MIAMI, but who spends the entire day inside their room?

Because the intimate hotel is only three-stories high (five stories in the new Art Deco wing), you don’t have views of the beach like many South Beach tower hotels. With the new Art Deco wing, the hotel now feels a little disjointed (there are so many elevators) in a labyrinth sort of way, though I actually loved this as it felt like an old European hotel.

Is this hotel right for you? The hotel is great for honeymooners, couples, gay travelers, girlfriend getaways and solo travelers.

The hotel is not exactly family friendly (most of the highlights are adult-geared, like the gallery, library, restaurants, rooftop pool, etc), so if you bring your kids, load up that iPad.

It’s also extremely pet friendly (the hotel has a pet mascot), which made my dog Ruby feel welcomed. Also, unlike other hotels on Ocean Drive, The Betsy is more of a buttoned-up experience. I wouldn’t dare walk through the lobby in just swim shorts… I threw on a T-shirt or tank top before I entered as the hotel has that sort of vibe. Nobody wants to see this body, anyway.

But, the takeaway: Dress code is not enforced but it’s not the type of place you’d want to stroll in shirtless or in a bikini.

If you can believe, this bridge is the infinity pool that now connects the Art Deco Wing to the Colonial Wing at The Betsy South Beach.

If you can believe, this bridge is the infinity pool that now connects the Art Deco Wing to the Colonial Wing at The Betsy South Beach.

Accoladates AAA-Four Diamond, Forbes Four Stars, 2017 Conde Nast Traveler Gold List, 2016 Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards, BCA 10: Best Business Partnering with the Arts in America (Americans for the Arts)

Rates: Rooms can go as low as $325 for a classic room and $575 for an Atrium Balcony Suite.

Final thoughts: The Betsy South Beach delivers an excellent urban-resort/five-star hotel experience. It has an unmistakable sense of place, and it’s extremely low key and high end for Ocean Drive.

If you plan on visiting Miami with a loaded itinerary, it would be a shame to book here and miss out on the amenities and facilities. The hotel is a destination unto itself, so book away!

See below for images of The Betsy South Beach.

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Jimmy Im has traveled to 113 countries, stayed at over 600 hotels and clocked millions of air miles. He currently lives in New York City.

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