On a recent jaunt to sexy South Beach to soak up some sun and take in the world-class action at the Sony Open tennis championship, I decided to visit two of the town’s hottest hotels, the Delano South Beach and the Hotel Victor. The former has long reigned as the coolest hotel on the beach, and the latter just reopened after $8 million in renovations, instantly becoming a hit with the in-crowd.
The Delano, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, is one of the original boutique properties that spearheaded the revival of South Beach as a luxury destination in the ‘90s. Opened by Ian Schrager, co-owner of the original Studio 54 and founder of the Morgans Hotel Group (which he sold in 2005), it was one of famed French designer Philippe Starck’s first high profile projects in the U.S.
Housed in an Art Deco style building, the Delano, dating back to 1947, is credited by many as the country’s first true urban resort, incorporating all elements of the luxury lifestyle from suites to dining, drinking, spa, fitness center, pool and beach. It became the gold standard for such properties and established a new hospitality category since imitated many times over, though as the saying goes, never duplicated. Credit the pure genius of Starck’s design, which still looks fresh, cool and modern 20 years later after fairly subtle alterations.
Acres of crisp white cotton canvas and linen anchor the Delano’s airy spaces offset by swathes of rich wood and Carrara marble, while Starck’s signature statement pieces from plush leather chairs to quirky rough-hewn tables are artfully placed like actors on a stage, with just a hint of surrealism.
The hotel was renovated in 2011 and designer Tim Andreas of Banjo AD enhanced and updated Starck’s original scheme, adding a few more textures and layers plus pops of bright green inspired by the apples placed in each guest room every day. There is nothing dated about the hotel’s technology; each room features an iPad Concierge, allowing guests direct access to hotel services including in-room dining, housekeeping, valet parking, hotel information and of course, the Internet. Walking into the Delano still feels like arriving at an exclusive club, and there are always plenty of beautiful people on hand. Newer, bigger, and busier hotels have been built and rebuilt on Collins Avenue but none have eroded the Delano’s cachet.
Aside from its 194 rooms and suites including eight bi-level poolside Bungalows, a posh 1,700-square-foot Penthouse Suite and a 1,300-square-foot Apartment, each with its own ocean view balcony, there are plenty of reasons to visit the property. The Delano has two highly-praised restaurants, an underground nightclub, a cocktail lounge, poolside beach bar, private media room, curated lifestyle shop, rooftop wellness retreat and solarium, and a lushly planted orchard. Indoor and outdoor spaces flow seamlessly into one another, extending the concept of easy, chic open-air living that permeates the place. And of course, it also has one of the very best swathes of beach.
Around the corner on Ocean Drive, the newly revamped Hotel Victor South Beach, though not nearly as large or quite as exclusive as the Delano, also gets its share of accolades. Formerly part of the Thompson Hotels group, it was acquired last year by a company affiliated with New York’s Nakash Family which owns Jordache Enterprises and subsequently purchased the legendary Versace Mansion next door (now also a boutique luxury hotel).
The Nakash group brought in one of the hottest design firms in the hospitality business, Yabu Pushelberg, which also designed The St. Regis Bal Harbour and the Four Seasons in Toronto. Having originally been built in 1937, The Victor was later restored by acclaimed French architect and designer Jacques Garcia, best known for his work on ultra-cool Hotel Costes in Paris.
The Victor has 91 stylish rooms finished in a casually elegant mix of sleek wood, and nubby linen with natural leather details and marble baths. The palette is neutral and soothing, while artwork like prints of skulls with Playboy bunny ears, is quirky and cool. Many have balconies ranged above the elevated outdoor pool which offers a prime people-watching perch above Ocean Drive overlooking the beach and ten new spacious cabanas for indulgent lounging.
Soon to come is a 10,000-square-foot V Spa and Sushi Couture by Mikasa serving up Asian delicacies. Breakfast is served in the BiCE restaurant adjoining the fashionable lobby. There are retro-style bikes available for guests to cruise around South Beach — though we preferred to travel in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT Roadster.
While the trend in South Beach has been toward ever-flashier properties, the Victor’s brand of laid-back cool is quite refreshing. Without a nightclub of its own the atmosphere is a little more relaxing for guests who don’t have to worry about being elbowed aside in their own lobby by gaggles of inebriated girls in six-inch Louboutins. However its prime location makes it the perfect spot from which to venture forth and explore everything South Beach has to offer, which we did in spades. Closer partnership with its stylish sister property next door will enhance the Victor’s appeal in months to come, but for now it’s a great place to establish a base in what’s easily one of the country’s most fun cities to visit.
Jared Paul Stern
Jared Paul Stern has written for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, the New York Times' T magazine, GQ, WWD, Vogue, New York magazine, Details, Hamptons magazine, Playboy, BlackBook, the New York Post, Bergdorf Goodman magazine and Luxist among others. The founding editor of the Page Six magazine, he has also served as a judge for everything from the International Best Dressed List to the F...(Read More)