Luxury hotel Faena Miami Beach is a dazzling return to the maximalist glamour of the 1950s, delivering a lavish experience fitting of Hollywood’s East Coast hangout. With decor that’s bold, indulgent and borderline theatrical, you feel as if you’ve strayed onto the set of a silver-screen classic – which makes a lot of sense considering the interiors were overseen by director Baz Luhrmann and his wife Catherine Martin, the lead costume designer on his biggest films. In the rooms, the whirl of lipstick-red leather, gold leaf and leopard print could have been lifted straight from his kaleidoscopic adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. There are three restaurants (two by famous chefs), several bars, a theatre, an expansive spa and almost 10,000sq m of private beach. It’s excessive; it’s indulgent; it’s Miami at its gilded best.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £308.90 ($388), including tax at 14 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $39.90 per room per night on check-out.
Room rates don’t usually include breakfast or the $39.90 a room nightly resort fee, which covers access to the wet spa and fitness centre, chaise lounges at the pool and beach, a welcome drink, access to the house car and an art tour of the hotel.
If you’re wondering how Damien Hirst’s gilded mammoth found its way into the hotel’s garden, it’s because the hotel’s co-owner is billionaire Len Blavatnik, who bought the work when Hirst auctioned it off for charity in 2014.
At the hotel
Private beach, gardens, theater, spa with hammam, sauna and treatment rooms, gym, spacious lounge area, laundry services, free WiFi throughout, unlimited local calls, free digital newspapers. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities, free bottled water and bath products by Tierra Santa.
Our favourite rooms
With bespoke art deco furniture and Carrara-marble bathrooms, even the entry level Bay View Rooms are indulgent...but hell, you’re on the beachfront in Miami, and those ocean-view rooms have a sweet siren call.
Sat between the hotel and it’s own stretch of private beach, the cross-shaped pool looks like it was plucked from the grounds of an art deco mansion. It’s surrounded by bright red sunloungers and the hotel’s signature candy-cane-esque striped parasols, some of which are shaded by tall palms. There are two Jacuzzis off to one side and a poolside bar to keep the cocktails coming.
Spanning 2000sq m of the third floor, the Tierra Santa Healing House is more pared back than the rooms, but it’s still lavish and a little eccentric. Guests are advised to arrive at least an hour early so they can make the most of the impressive lounge, designed to transport spa-goers to South America with its vibrant decor. No less impressive is the sauna, with its curving wooden benches and dramatic lighting, or the hammam, which is centered around a hexagonal block of multi-coloured marble. Designed in collaboration with Alan Faena’s personal shaman, the treatments are influenced by ancient South American healing techniques; the facials, on the other hand, are as high-tech as they get.
All that is bold, bright, patterned or patent.
All of the hotel’s common areas are wheelchair accessible. Certain rooms are ADA-certified, including several Bay View Rooms, Partial Ocean View Junior Suites, Premier Oceanfront Junior Suites and the Premier Oceanfront Corner Suite.
All ages are welcome. Baby cots are available on request. In-house babysitting can be arranged for $35 an hour (minimum booking four hours). The hotel also has its own kids’ club.
In Los Fuegos, the leopard-print banquettes are the place to be if you’re with friends or family. In Pao, you can’t go wrong with one of the booths just beneath Hirst’s unicorn.
Don't hold back – take that velvet dinner jacket or glittering cocktail dress for a spin.
You’ve got three restaurants to choose from, two of them carrying illustrious names. Los Fuegos is the creation of famed South American chef Francis Mallmann, an expert in Argentina’s time-honoured asado grilling tradition, making this the destination for those seeking perfectly seared steaks and seafood. The decor is as impressive as the dishes, with leopard-print banquettes, white-and-gold curtains and tables of polished walnut. Pao, Paul Qui’s restaurant, is equally imposing on the looks front: the gilt unicorn of Damien Hirst’s ‘Golden Myth’ stands over the half-moon booths and mid-century modern furniture. Born in Manila and trained in Japanese and French cuisine, Qui’s is modern, creative and boundary-crossing, never quite conforming to one style. The last of the restaurants is Veranda, open for leisurely breakfasts among the palm-strewn gardens. Snag a seat on the ocean-facing terrace (there's indoor seating for rainy days), and try the South Beach scramble of local crab, avocado and chimichurri, and fresh fruit; for something sweet, go for the dulce de leche French toast. Breakfast is also served in the sumptuous interiors of Francis Mallmann’s Los Fuegos.
The subterranean Saxony Bar is the place for late-night decadence, with art-deco-style wall murals, a golden ceiling and a bar topped with oversized crystal decanters. The soundtrack is DJ-driven and the crowd often star-studded; booking is essential. The Tree of Life is more laid-back, taking inspiration from nature’s bounty with shell-encrusted pillars, dangling palm fronds and pineapple-shaped table lamps. The outdoor seating overlooks the pool and ocean beyond, making this an excellent daytime spot. Attached to Los Fuegos, the Living Room is filled with exotic animal-prints, red velvet and bronze statues. Alongside the drinks, the menu includes a selection of premium cigars – a finish to a smoky meat dish from Mallmann’s restaurant. Last but not least is the Faena Theatre, the hotel’s opera house-inspired performance space, complete with a balcony, leather booths and a vast chandelier. Cabarets and other avant garde shows are the order of the night.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 11.30am. Los Fuegos is open for lunch from 12 noon to 4pm; dinner is from 6.30pm to 10pm (until 11pm on Friday and Saturday). Pao is open for dinner from 7pm to 11pm (12am Friday and Saturday).
The hotel sits on the oceanfront in the Faena District, a $1billion development that’s put Miami’s Mid-Beach area back on the map.
Miami International Airport is a major hub; flights land there from all over the US and many larger European airports. It takes 20 minutes to drive from the airport to the hotel. The Smith24 team can arrange flights and transfers; call anytime, day or night.
The city’s Amtrak station is a 25-minute drive from the hotel, and is the southern terminus for the Silver Star and Meteor services, which come all the way from New York, passing through Washington and Orlando on the way. There’s also the Tri-Rail line connecting Miami with beach towns along Florida’s southern coast.
The car is king around here, and the traffic confirms this – particularly at the weekends, when roadtrippers descend to make the most of the bars and beaches. That said, a car is the best way visit the verdant Everglades or the island city of Key West. The hotel offers valet parking for $60. Should you wish to hire, the Smith24 team can arrange it.
Worth getting out of bed for
When your hotel has its own stretch of private beach, it can be tempting to stay put for your entire stay, but it’s worth taking a stroll along the Miami Beach Boardwalk. It runs along the oceanfront for 40 blocks, flanked by tropical greenery and art deco buildings on one side and the Atlantic on the other. If you’re the sporty type, join the locals who use it for their morning run; the stretch below 21st Street is bike friendly too. The Architectural District on Ocean Drive is where you’ll find most of the city’s famous art deco hotels. You can still see the façade of the Sunray apartments, where Tony Montana had his brush with chainsaw-wielding gangsters in Scarface. Equally famous is Gianni Versace’s former home, Casa Casuarina, which has since turned into a boutique hotel. For retail therapy, head to the city’s most famous department store, The Webster, a three-floor luxury fashion emporium housed in an art deco building. Within the Faena District itself you’ve got the Faena Forum, a performance and arts space designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas. The line-up changes constantly, ranging from art exhibitions to one-off dance performances.
If you find that you just can’t get enough of the Faena things in life, pay a visit to Casa Faena, the hotel’s Spanish-style sister property just down the road. With a laid-back and homely feel, it’s a stylish spot for a long brunch before wandering down to the beach. With a sunken, oval-shaped dining room lit by a grand chandelier,Matador Room recalls the fashionable supper clubs of the Fifties. Helmed by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the kitchen shows influences from Spain, the Caribbean and both Latin and South America. For warm nights, the restaurant also has a large, pergola-covered terrace filled with tropical plants. Upmarket Italian Cecconi’s is in the courtyard of Soho Beach House, which has a pergola wreathed in greenery and golden lights. With dedicated breakfast, all-day, mid-afternoon and cocktail menus, this place is abuzz from first till last light. The Maine lobster spaghetti is a firm favourite.
Unlike most of my recent jaunts out of town, this one had a somewhat challenging mission: escape heartache. My best friend had been going through some distressing romance drama, so I suggested we get away on a quick gals’ trip to Miami. Or, more specifically, to Miami Beach’s Faena Hotel, where ‘escaping’ from one’s quotidian, everyday life is no question given the opulent, cinematic setting (much of which was designed by the film director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, the costume designer Catherine Martin).
From the moment guests enter the hotel’s intoxicatingly-scented soaring entry hall (aka ‘the Cathedral’) and catch sight of the artist Damien Hirst’s glass-encased golden skeleton of a woolly mammoth – by far one of Faena’s most-Instagrammed features – in the distance, there’s an immediate feeling of being transported someplace spectacular. And that kind of diversion was exactly what my ‘Mrs Smith’ needed on this trip.
Our ocean-facing corner suite came decked out in a palette of ruby, aquamarine and gold, with velvet furnishings, two balconies, a freestanding bath tub, dual shower and a walk-in closet (that could have doubled as a spare bedroom). Here, we felt like two giddy kids who had been charged with housesitting some imaginary film star’s Hollywood pied-à-terre. You could say we were on cloud nine up there on the eleventh floor.
After a quick jog on the boardwalk that runs along the beach, we showered and changed into some fun dinner outfits before heading down to Pao by Paul Qui – one of the hotel’s three onsite restaurants. Pao’s menu is most easily described as Asian fusion; however, there’s a thoroughly modern mix of international – even Mediterranean – flavours and influences threaded throughout the courses. Mrs Smith and I have fairly similar food preferences, so we happily shared an assortment of plates: a flavorful cobia and coconut milk crudo, and sea urchin paired with a smoky grilled-corn pudding, were two particular stand-outs.
That next morning, Mrs Smith took another run while I went to a barre class at a nearby fitness studio, before we reconvened over breakfast: hearty slabs of egg-topped avocado toast and an overflowing plate of exotic and tropical fruits, served on Faena’s outdoor verandah. The day’s weather forecast wasn’t looking terribly optimistic, but we were able to squeeze in an hour of sunbathing, albeit a cloudy one, before the rain started. Back in the room we decided to make the most of the grey, wet day and spend it in the spa, appropriately named the Tierra Santa Healing House, where hotel guests have access to the sizeable, beautifully-appointed wet spa, including an exquisite Turkish-style hammam and steam room, sauna, and ice chamber. After rotating through all the different rooms, I left Mrs Smith languishing in the hammam, for my deep-tissue massage I’d booked earlier. An hour later, I emerged, healed and relaxed, smelling faintly of sandalwood and other woodsy scents from the oil blend my therapist used. Rain or shine, this should be a must-visit for any hotel guest, even if it’s just to try out the wet spa.
For dinner, we headed out across the waterway to Mandolin, a charming Aegean bistro on the edge of Miami’s burgeoning Design District. Thankfully, the rain had subsided, allowing us to sit outside under hanging tree-lights where we feasted on a spread of Turkish dips, Greek salad, pickled beets, and grilled octopus – all light yet full of flavour. I can’t think of a better meal after a day at the spa.
We had a few hours the next morning before checking out and – hurrah! – the sun emerged. After breakfast, we re-situated ourselves by the pool, reading and dozing off under the hotel’s trademark red-and-white-striped umbrellas. For lunch, we wanted to try the hotel’s other restaurant, Los Fuegos (known for its open-flame cooking), so we chose a few light plates to share: a salad of giant grilled prawns sitting atop a bed of fresh greens, beet tartare with studs of avocado crema, and a delicious, zesty yellowtail-tuna crudo. We loved everything, most especially the crudo, and agreed that even if a stay at Faena isn’t in the books for our next trip to Miami, we’d have to at least return for a meal. This two-day jaunt proved the perfect aid to soothe one’s heartache. Even if just for a spell, it was a magical one, indeed.