A real South Beach original with its pink stucco facade and striped awnings, the Clay has had a colorful history since the 1930s: Al Capone ran gambling out of here; Desi Arnaz launched the rumba craze; and showbiz has found it a tasty backdrop for TV shows and music videos, from Miami Vice onward. Its location is especially appealing for the little pedestrian lane alongside, Española Way, possibly Florida’s most charming, European-feeling stretch, lined with fetching restaurants and boutiques (meanwhile, on Washington Avenue, a cafe called Delicious serves meal specials for Clay guests). For years this seven-building complex was a mix of hotel and hostel, and although the dorms are now reserved for language-school students, the private rooms are still among the best deals in town, starting at $100 per night. For its mix of comfort, ambience, location, and affordability, this is a primo SoBe bet. Tips: To cut down on dining bills, efficiencies are also available, and to cut down on noise at bedtime, request a room away from Española and Washington.
- David Paul Appell