- Best Historic Hotel: With a guest registry that reads like a who's who of history crossed with an engrossing whodunit, Miami's monumental, Mediterranean Revivalist-style Biltmore Hotel (tel. 800/727-1926 or 305/445-1926) opened its doors in 1926. Guests ranging from Al Capone to the duke and duchess of Windsor loved the stately hotel so much that they never left, so say those who claim the hotel is haunted. Ghosts aside, this national landmark boasts the largest hotel pool in the continental United States as well as a 300-foot bell tower modeled after the Cathedral of Seville.
A close second is Palm Beach's landmark The Breakers (tel. 888/273-2537), built in 1896 by Standard Oil Company magnate Henry Flagler.
- Best Cheap-Chic Hotel: West Palm Beach's Hotel Biba (tel. 561/832-0094) is a funky, single-story, converted 1940s motor lodge-turned-boutique hotel featuring an oversized swimming pool, Asian gardens with sitting areas, a reflection pond, and the ultrahip Biba Bar. Rooms start at $100.
The Catalina Hotel & Beach Club (South Beach; tel. 877/SOBEGRP [762-3477] or 305/674-1160): Affordable and hip, the Catalina is a retro fab stay with stylish rooms, Swedish Tempur-Pedic mattresses, a hot bar, and VIP hookups at all the clubs in South Beach.
- Best Hotel Transformation: In its past life, Miami's Hotel Urbano (tel. 888/384-2997) was a Hampton Inn. Today, it's a hip, 65-room boutique art hotel that's the antithesis of its former identity.
- Best Celebrity-Saturated Hotel: The W South Beach (South Beach; tel. 305/938-3000): Although it's hardly the first in the chain of hip, trendy hotels, the W South Beach is considered the brand's signature showpiece and for good reason. All 312 rooms in this visually arresting, Bali-meets-Miami Beach resort boast ocean views and all the trappings of modern hipster society. The hotel's bar and restaurant scene are among the city's hottest thanks to a celebrity clientele who flock to Mr. Chow and Wall nightclub. The W Fort Lauderdale (tel. 954/414-8200) isn't too shabby on celeb sightings either, hosting everyone from Pamela Anderson to the Real Housewives of [insert your favorite city or county here]. And for, dare we say, publicity-shy celebs, the low-key, luxurious Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach (tel. 954/655-7740) is very Beverly Hills.
- Best Out-of-Place Bed-and-Breakfast: Located on the outskirts of gritty, bustling downtown Miami is the historic Miami River Inn (tel. 800/468-3589 or 305/325-0045), housed in five restored clapboard buildings dating back to 1906. By the looks of this place, you could swear you were somewhere in New England -- until you step out for a breath of the balmy air.
- Best Hotel in a League of Its Own: Jules' Undersea Lodge (tel. 305/451-2353) in Key Largo really gives you the low-down on the full Keys experience by requiring all guests to scuba 30 feet underwater to get to their rooms, which are literally located under the sea, in the mangrove habitat of Emerald Lagoon.
- Best Art Deco Hotel: The Raleigh Hotel (tel. 800/848-1775 or 305/534-6300) in Miami is the reigning diva of Deco, dating back to 1940. It features one of the most photographed palm-lined swimming pools, reminiscent of the days of Esther Williams.
- Best Spa Hotel: The Standard (tel. 305/673-1717) in Miami Beach is a wholly holistic experience located right on Biscayne Bay. In addition to dolphin sightings, there are Turkish hammams, an outdoor yoga lounge, and even a mud lounge where getting dirty was never so cleansing.
- Best Hotel Lobby: A tough call between the dreamy Alice in Wonderland-meets-South Beach sleek at Mondrian (tel. 305/672-2662), the luxe living-room-style lobby of the W South Beach (tel. 305/938-3000) with its tufted leather ottomans, dark wood floors and velvet curtains, and the W Fort Lauderdale (tel. 954/414-8200) in which you can look up and see into the pool, for better or for worse.
- Best Hotel Pool: The Raleigh (tel. 305/534-6300) always wins this one for its most photogenic Esther Williams-era pool, but we'd also give props to downtown Miami's Viceroy (tel. 866/720-1991) and Coral Gables' Biltmore (tel. 800/727-1926 or 305/445-1926) if just for sheer size alone.
- Best Beach Hotel: Miami's Ritz-Carlton, South Beach (tel. 800/241-3333 or 786/276-4000) is a lot more than just a drop in the sand thanks to its DiLido Beach Club, providing stellar food, drink, entertainment, and beach toys whenever and wherever you feel like it. Coming in at a close second is its Key Biscayne sibling, The Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne (Key Biscayne; tel. 800/241-3333 or 305/365-4500).
Two hotels with outstanding off-property beach hotels are the Boca Raton Resort (tel. 888/495-BOCA (2622) or 561/447-3000), whose recently revamped beach club features a half-mile of private beach, watersports activities, pool, bar and restaurant; and the Brazilian Court Hotel & Beach Club (tel. 561/655-7740), featuring private beach, pool, food, drink, and spa services.
- Best Inexpensive Hotel: It's hard to find a hotel on South Beach with both good value and excellent service, but the Chesterfield Hotel, Suites & Day Spa (South Beach; tel. 305/673-3767) delivers as one of Miami's best bargains as well as coolest hotels.
In Key West, the Grand Guesthouse (tel. 888/947-2630 or 305/294-0590), despite its name, will not leave you with a huge tab at the end of your stay. The rooms in this hotel are bright and airy and the proprietor works hard to keep you happy.
- Best Hotel in an Empty Condo: The Viceroy (Miami; tel. 866/720-1991): Amidst the staid buildings in Miami's so-called financial district lies this tastefully trendy, edgy Kelly Wearstler-designed hotel whose crown jewels are the mammoth pool deck and 50th floor restaurant, lounge and lap pool.
- Best for Families: On South Beach, the Loews (tel. 800/23-LOEWS [235-6397] or 305/604-1601) is known for its Loews Loves Kids program of activities for kids and kids at heart including Dive-in Movies at the pool, salsa lessons, and bingo.
In Fort Lauderdale, Marriott's Harbor Beach (tel. 800/222-6543 or 954/525-4000) has a Beachside Buddies program for children ages 5 to 12, offering half-day and all-day children's activities that range from seashell collecting to hula-hoop contests.
The Boca Raton Resort & Club (tel. 888/495-BOCA (2622) or 561/447-3000) has activity programs designed for distinct age groups. Upon registering children in the program, each parent is given a beeper with a 60-mile radius so that each may be contacted by the children at any time.
- Best Hotel for Foodies: The Fontainebleau, in Miami Beach (tel. 305/538-2000) has not one, but three star-chef-helmed restaurants: Scott Conant's Scarpetta, Alfred Portale's Gotham Steak, and Alan Yau's Hakkasan, the first Michelin-starred haute Chineserie outside of the U.K. The Boca Raton Resort & Club (tel. 561/447-3000) is another gourmand's favorite, with South Florida's only offering from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in the form of the Morimoto Sushi Bar as well as a branch of NYC ice cream parlor Serendipity and Meat Packing District landmark, Old Homestead.
- Best for Romance: Imagine an intimate haven on your own private island and you've got Little Palm Island (tel. 800/343-8567 or 305/872-2524), located just 3 miles offshore in the Florida Keys, accessible only by boat or seaplane, and quite possibly the closest thing to paradise, with only one telephone on the entire island.
Although it's 2 blocks from Duval Street -- Bourbon Street South -- The Gardens Hotel (tel. 800/526-2664 or 305/294-2661) is Key West's most romantic, Eden-istic hideaway that's worlds away from the madness.
In Palm Beach, modeled after a quaint English inn, the Chesterfield Hotel (tel. 800/243-7871 or 561/659-5800) is absolutely seductive, thanks in part to its sexy, sultry Leopard Lounge, its cozy fireside library, and Churchill's Cigar Room.