Amid Miami's honed-and-toned, bikini-clad good looks, it can be hard to stand out. But with its come-hither, red-and-white façade, Casa Faena isn't short of attention. Assured of her attributes, she stands on the shores of Mid-Beach, fanned by swaying palms. The man on her arm is Argentinian hotelier and developer Alan Faena, who first transformed the tired docklands of his hometown Buenos Aires, with a hotel, arts centre, bars and restaurants, and has since been doing the same to Miami's eponymous Faena District. Casa Faena is an integral part of the whole concept, with a Latin-influenced restaurant, wrap-around veranda and blushingly beautiful pink-and-white rooms, proving there's substance behind this casa's striking Spanish exterior. When she passes by, you can't help but look.
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A welcome drink at check-in and a room upgrade, subject to availability
Noon; earliest check-in, 3pm. Both flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £142.24 ($195), including tax at 14 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $14.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude Continental breakfast (US$15 each). Hot à la carte dishes such as eggs, chorizo, home fries and frittata can be ordered from US$12.
An airy inner courtyard with curved rattan chairs, sculptural plants and luxurious rugs, the Living Room hosts sought-after events, particularly during Art Basel.
At the hotel
Private beach club, lounge, library, veranda, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, tea and coffee-making facilities, CO Bigelow toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
With their ornately carved beds, Argentinian textiles, antique carpets and restful soaking tubs, Casa Queen rooms make a cosy retreat after long days at the beach; ask for one on the top floor. Oceanfront California King rooms are the most spacious, with views of the Atlantic and balconies or patios where you can savour the breeze. All rooms are airy and elegant, with crisp Frette linens, blush-pink curtains and cool terracotta floors.
Casa Faena encourages artists, writers and photographers to use its spaces for creative work, so bring a sketchbook to blend in with the crowd.
Casa Queen and Casa King rooms are accessible for wheelchair users.
Pooches are welcome, with no extra charge. The hotel can provide free dog beds, small chew toys and bowls, as well as food and water for US$10 a day. See more pet-friendly hotels in Miami.
All ages are welcome. A roll-out bed is provided for little ones at no extra charge (except in the Casa Queen rooms). High chairs and a children’s menu are available in the restaurant and the hotel can organise babysitting from US$20 an hour.
Make the most of the fresh air from a spot on the sun-basked terrace.
Breezy does it: sandals, maxi dresses and boho cover-ups.
Tucked behind luscious plants and carved wooden screens, Café Faena serves fresh, flavoursome food in a laid-back setting. The menu has a South American spin, with Wagyu beef empanadas and Ecuadorian-style ceviche, served up alongside Floridian classics of Key lime pie. The adjoining veranda with its red-and-white parasols and chairs, makes for a romantic backdrop, day or night.
The bijou central bar is a handy spot for a pre-dinner cocktail: pair a zingy blood orange and basil margarita with some tantalising tapas (truffled arancini, chorizo sliders) for a very happy hour indeed.
Breakfast is served 7am–11am, lunch noon–3pm, dinner 5pm–10pm.
A pared-down restaurant menu is available in room from 7am to 10pm.
Set a block back from the beach, just minutes from the historic Art Deco district, Casa Faena is at the heart of the Mid-Beach action on Collins Avenue.
Miami airport is a 25-minute drive away. Flat-rate taxi transfers cost US$33. The airport is an international hub, with flights from London, New York and various other American cities. Additional flights operate into Fort Lauderdale International Airport, a 40-minute drive away. Contact the Smith24 team to arrange flights or transfers.
Roads can be congested in Miami and the hotel's central location means you don’t need a car to explore the area, but hiring one is the best way to explore the Keys or the northern suburbs. Valet parking is available for US$55 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
In the heart of up-and-coming Mid-Beach, Casa Faena represents the starting point of the Faena District – an ambitious project of hotels, shops and cultural spaces, conceived by the hotel's eponymous co-owner, Alan Faena. Amble down to the Atlantic to sample Miami's beach scene: the hotel’s private beach club (9am–6pm) has free towels and chairs for guests, as well as umbrellas and cabañas for rent. A cab ride or gentle stroll away, buzzing South Beach beckons. Browse quirky boutiques on pedestrian Lincoln Road, take in a performance by the Miami City Ballet or visit Oolite Arts, a thriving hub for local artists. Another major cultural draw is The Bass, Miami Beach's Sixties-era contemporary art gallery, that's recently relaunched with double the exhibition space, thanks to a sweeping transformation by architects Arata Isozaki and David Gauld. For an open-air take on the city's cultural happenings, join the Wynwood Art Walk, which skirts past the Wynwood neighbourhood's famous street art, graffiti and murals. Wynwood Walls also has details on how to go it alone.
A couple of blocks away, you'll find the main Faena Hotel and its signature Los Fuegos restaurant, where head chef Francis Mallmann cooks up Argentinian classics of lomito (fillet steak) and choripan (sausages sandwiches) on an open-fire asador (grill). For Asian flavours, there's also the award-winning Paorestaurant, manned by Filipino chef Paul Qui. Traymore’s outdoor tables at Metropolitan by Comoare worth bagging too: the menu focuses on classic Floridian seafood, such as stone crabs and yellowtail snapper. For boozy, mimosa-filled lunches, South of Fifth bolthole Sense Beach House also has a delightful veranda, with rattan chairs and long blond-wood tables. Finally, you can't leave Miami without tasting its Latin flavours: laid-back Cuban hangout Havana 1957serves up lashings of atmosphere, alongside dishes such ascamarones al ajillo (prawns in garlic).
Set around a slim octagonal pool, Spire Bar is one of the best rooftop spots in South Beach. The cocktail list is extensive: try the Blue Miami with coconut rum and curaçao, or the champagne mojito, which comes with illuminated ice cubes. For a hip cocktail den on Indian Creek Drive, head to Freehand Miami and its award-winning Broken Shaker bar, where cocktails are crafted using herbs from the surrounding garden.
Walking into luxury hotel Casa Faena was much like entering the stately residence of an Argentinean abuelita (grandmother)… One whose lengthy arm of hospitality was extended even before I’d attempted to drag my suitcase up the stairs.
I arrived by Uber chariot, stepped out onto the sidewalk and positioned myself out of eyeshot (or so I thought), as I performed the unglamorous duty of rating my driver before making my grand entrance. Busted – a dashing, suspender-clad bell-boy materialised. Despite the slight drizzle, he greeted me warmly and offered to give me a hand with my luggage. I accepted (gladly) and we dashed for cover as the rain intensified.
I was admiring – and, admittedly, stroking – a pair of soft, mustard-hued, be-tasselled velvet curtains when I was offered a glass of Perrier Jouët in an sparkling coupé – just what I needed after realising that my hopes and dreams of a deep Miami tan had been dashed by Mother Nature. Yes, abuelita always knows the tonic to cure your ills. Check-in was a breeze, and friendly front-desk clerk Oliver promptly whisked me up to my King Suite – a very welcome surprise upgrade. This meant sprawling digs on the top floor with a soaking tub and privileged access to the hotel’s sweeping ocean-view terrace… Are you there, Sun? It’s me, Céline.
Oliver left me and my glass of champagne to our own devices after a brief and very informative rundown of the property and its surroundings. I took this opportunity and revelled in my solitude: poking my head out onto the terrace to gauge whether or not I could get away with leaving the door cracked open for a bit of fresh air. The thin veil of a curtain blowing softly in the breeze and Instagrams successfully posted, it was time to check out that first-floor restaurant and its pretty wallpaper.
Over a nice kale salad and a happy-hour cocktail (cut-price mojitos and more from 4pm to 7pm daily, folks), I admired the wallpaper and elegant decor choices from my blush-hued settee perch, while attempting to get work done (a fruitless task when one is surrounded by artwork curated by the Faena crew: Manuel Velaztoy’s voluminous, pink, hand-cut-fabric installation cascading from the ceiling; or Juan Gatti’s otherworldly anatomy-inspired prints…) My mind drifted from the task at hand to the history of the property, a rabbit-hole down which I eagerly dove in the name of immersive travel. The building's doors first opened in 1918 as the El Paraíso Apartments; ultimately the Casa became a genteel destination for the well-to-do of the Twenties and Thirties before a spectacular third act – reopening with a jaw-dropping new look as part of the esteemed Faena complex, masterminded by hotelier Alan Faena. Vintage accents, reminiscent of the hotel’s first incarnation, are peppered throughout in true Mediterranean Revival fashion. There are modern touches around every corner too, and if ever there were a hotel lobby worthy of my admiration, it’s the extravagant space here – especially in the evenings when they light candles. Nothing like a bit of mood lighting to bring out the best in a crushed-velvet couch.
Mornings are particularly magical at Casa Faena, especially for those who enjoy a hearty breakfast with a side of natural light and an unadulterated view of palm trees and, what’s this? Yet another terrace to sunbathe on. Now, about the beach… Tassel-tipped, red-and-white-striped umbrellas mark out the intimate area reserved for guests; in case you were wondering, the sun did come out and boy, did it have me humming Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina to myself as I reclined on a shoreside chaise-longue.
But alas, one cannot remain exposed to the elements for too long (‘one’ being me and my translucent skin), so I rounded up my Miami squad and checked a few things off the South Beach to-do list. Mid Beach’s location proved central to many of Miami’s top restaurants and happenings, so we made sure to hit El Tucán for dinner and drinks – then, a few more drinks and a show. Stephen Starr’s the Continental restaurant is a must-try. I never thought lettuce wraps could bring a tear to my eye, but I’ve been known to be wrong about a few things.
As you can imagine, tacos are plentiful ‘round these parts’, so Taquiza was my next stop for the best blue-corn chips of my life. Bodega Taqueria y Tequila ranks high too, but it’s best saved for after dark – pull up a chair in their secret bar; it’s hidden behind the blue outhouse door to the right of the entrance. There’s so much more to experience, but that itinerary gives a taste of Miami in a taco shell. As does Casa Faena, the arch-doorway-ed haçienda of your wildest artsy dreams, where – if you can bear to drag yourself off property – plentiful food and fun is just a ‘cha cha cha’ away.