We’ve been to South Beach before. In fact, this was our third vacation there in six years. The first time, we stayed at the Avalon. Two years later, we stayed at the Chelsea Hotel. After considering several possibilities, for this trip we decided to stay at the Winterhaven.
Since we were going to be there for New Year’s Eve, we didn’t expect a bargain rate. And there were many things that we liked about the hotel. First of all, there’s location. You walk out the front door, cross
Our daily routine involved getting up in time to have breakfast, read the paper, and sip some coffee. Then we would take a long walk on the beach. The weather was beautiful, hot, and humid, so after our walk, we’d change into our swim suits, grab our beach chairs and towels and relax for a couple of hours on the beach. After baking in the sun, we’d go back to the hotel, take a shower, then head out for shopping and lunch. We’d get back to the hotel in time for the happy hour, have a drink and relax. Then change clothes and head out for dinner. The Winterhaven was a comfortable home base for this schedule.
But, with just a few tweaks, I think the Winterhaven could be a fabulous place to stay. I think about the great time we had at the Serrano Hotel in
I honestly can’t say what what’s the difference. The staff is friendly enough. The lobby and front porch are attractive places to hang out. But somehow, it just isn’t conducive to encouraging the guests to socialize. We did meet some very interesting people at the Winterhaven – a couple, he’s from
Now, before I get to my restaurant reviews, I have just a few miscellaneous observations about our vacation on
It’s really a great international gathering place.
We thought that there was less glamour than our previous vacations. You still see the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other exotic cars cruising
We also thought the music was different from our previous visits. Techno is the universal sound of the
The restaurant scene is fantastic. I’m really kind of amazed at the generally high level of quality at really reasonable prices. As you walk along
Most of the restaurants automatically add a tip to the bill. For our meals, it ranged from 15% (for lunch one day) to 18% (most places for dinner). I assume it’s because so many Europeans travelers are used to ‘service compris’ at their restaurants. I think it’s handled very effectively. When you look at your bill, the gratuity is clearly marked, and there’s an additional line for any extra you might want to give your server.
Two days before New Year’s Eve, they closed off most of
New Year’s Eve was lots of fun. We had a late dinner. After dinner, we walked on the boardwalk along the beach, past hotels with sounds of uninhibited partying. At midnight, there were fireworks on the beach (though it was a pretty short display). Then the partying continued on
So all in all, it was a great vacation. Hot, wonderful weather. Fun, funky hotel. Great food and restaurants. Relaxing atmosphere (I left my BlackBerry at the office). Wild partying. But I didn’t expect to see signs of poverty on the beach. There were many young women who apparently couldn’t afford tops for their bikinis. (So sad.)