There are by now an awful lot of pretty great—even splendid—luxury hotels throughout Miami’s Brickell Avenue/financial/office district just south of downtown. But the one I still find among the most “contemporary Miami” in spirit (despite its Asian origins) is the cool wedge-shaped property a quick pop over the bridge on Brickell Key. This island locale allows the Mandarin to be the only downtown hotel to offer something resembling a sandy beach—and a thrilling urban view of the skyscrapers (not to mention occasional dolphin sightings, like I had on my last visit). Luxury, serenity, discretion (a plus for the celebs that pass through) pretty much sum it up here, whether in the wood-and-stone lobby, superb two-story spa, pair of restaurants (one the nouvel Peruvian La Mar, the other the contemporary fusion Azul, both among Miami’s top destination dining spots), or elegant, pale-yellow rooms—all not just with water/skyline views but also balconies. If you’re a spa fan, by the way, this one’s worth a special visit, even if you don’t stay here.
- David Paul Appell